Some people think that healthy food is bland, tasteless, and not much fun. But a plate loaded with fresh vegetables can be satisfying to the palate and nourishing to the body. It just takes a little know-how and creativity to turn your produce into something with real taste appeal — no matter what your taste preferences are. UW health uconnect is a resource that offers fun and inspiring ways to add variety to your diet.
1. Green Salad
Chopped iceberg lettuce with a little bit of salad dressing is good for a quick, simple lunch. But why not spruce it up with the addition of the greens you buy at the grocery store? Switch out your iceberg lettuce for romaine, spinach, radicchio or some other kind of green and use a different dressing that compliments the flavor of the greens.
Serve any kind of beans on their own or in combination with another vegetable for a satisfying side dish or vegetarian main course. The healthiest choices are dried beans, which have more fiber and cost less per serving than their canned counterparts. Soak dried beans overnight, drain and cover with fresh water in a pot the next day. Cook until tender but firm, usually about an hour and a half. Add salt to taste during the last few minutes of cooking.
Whether you’re dining on a meatless Monday or want to add more protein to your diet, eating healthy doesn’t have to mean completely giving up animal products or eating things that don’t taste good together. Try serving eggs over spinach instead of breakfast cereal and pair grilled chicken with mashed potatoes or pasta for a satisfying meal that won’t leave you feeling deprived of your favorite foods.
Instead of getting your whole grain carbs from a bagel or a slice of white toast, try eating another grain like bulgur wheat. This ancient, gluten-free grain is made from the green wheat plant grown in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago. All you have to do is soak the wheat overnight, remove it from the water and then cook it like rice or pasta. It’s tasty served as a hot cereal with milk, cinnamon and sugar in the morning or as a side dish with fish or chicken at night.
Whether you’re purchasing basmati rice or a more nutritious brown rice, the grain is a versatile side dish that works well with just about any main course. Try making Mexican-style rice by adding lemon juice and spices or stir in a little soy sauce for an Asian-inspired flavor.
6. Fruit Snacks
It’s pretty easy to use your favorite fruits to create healthy snacks and desserts. Fruits like apples, pears, bananas and berries are all available year round so don’t hesitate to take advantage of their versatility when it comes time to put together a meal or sweet treat.
Bread is not just for meals. You can use the whole grain loaves to make sandwiches and fill them with your favorite vegetables, meat or cheese for a quick snack on the go or to use in place of crackers for dipping in hummus.
8. Go Gluten Free!
Try going gluten free if you suffer from wheat sensitivity or celiac disease. Many people are unsure of how to make their own gluten free bread but it’s actually very easy and a great way to get more fiber into your diet since so many other foods contain gluten, too.
You can turn fruits into dessert, snacks and more with a little know-how and a few simple kitchen appliances. Making homemade jams, chutneys and jellies is a great way to use excess fruits that may not be sweet enough for the dinner table. Try squeezing the juice from the fruit for some fresh taste in water, or blend it with yogurt to add some creaminess.
10. Artificial Sweeteners
If you’re watching your weight or don’t tolerate sugars well, artificial sweeteners are a good alternative as long as you use them in moderation. Splenda, for instance, has the same number of calories as sugar but is approved by the FDA. And if you’re looking for sugar-free alternatives, Splenda Sweet’n Low and Equal are all equal in sweetness and just as effective in canceling out the high taste of artificial sweeteners.
11. Olive Oil
Oil adds flavor to foods but also serves as a medium to carry other beneficial ingredients like vitamins A and E. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that make it heart healthy and are associated with more stable cholesterol levels. The health benefits of olive oil include protecting against some cancers including breast cancer and reducing the effects of heart attacks.
12. Maple Syrup
Sugar-free maple syrup doesn’t taste quite as good but it does have health benefits. If you’re watching your weight, switch from sugar to maple syrup for a sweet treat without the added calories or sugar spike. It’s also perfect for making healthy desserts like crepes and pancakes with just a touch of maple flavor. And you can use it in place of honey in baked goods because it has the same amount of calories and won’t change the consistency or sweetness of your sweets.