From Everyday Health, By Melissa d’Arabian
Are your January resolutions starting to wane? Work is back in full swing and family commitments often leave us too busy to think about those big healthy eating goals we set just a few weeks before. Ambitious year-long goals may be hard to commit to, but you can still make small steps toward a healthier lifestyle. In my kitchen, it’s all about small, manageable changes that up the nutrition of my family’s meals, without costing me precious time or money. Here are seven of my favorite healthy tricks to try this week.
Add Beans to Your Smoothie
I make smoothies probably more than anyone I know — the blender is by far the most used appliance in my kitchen! I like knowing that I’m getting so much nutrition — fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, antioxidants, complex carbs, and protein — in one easy-to-sip package. My whole family loves them! One of my favorite ways to up the protein is to add a couple spoonfuls of beans to my smoothies — they boost the creaminess and add an extra dose of protein and fiber, without adding a “bean-y” flavor.
Invest in a Set of Mason Jars
Another healthy habit I love: Building one meal a day around a nutritious salad. For easy grab-and-go lunch or dinner options, build a variety of salads in mason jars. It’s a smart way to ensure you always have a healthy meal on hand whenever the need arises. I prepare several jarred salads over the weekend to have at the ready for the week to come. To build the perfect mason jar salad start with dressing on the bottom, add hearty fillers like cooked meat, veggies, and grains, then add leafy greens, and finish it off with healthy toppers like nuts or a sprinkle of cheese.
Try an Out-Of-The-Box Salad Green
Speaking of salads, go ahead and switch out your go-to salad greens for something new. What’s in season is plentiful and therefore usually least expensive — so you can expand your healthy eating horizons while also spending less. In the wintertime, hearty greens like kale and spinach are better deals than tender butter lettuce or baby arugula. Not only can making a swap save you money, but it can breathe new life into your salads. One of my favorite swaps: Trade traditional salad greens for hearty and nutritious thinly sliced, raw Brussels sprouts for an extra protein boost.
Fool Your Family with White Whole-Wheat Flour
White whole-wheat flour is not bleached wheat flour. It is flour milled from a variety of wheat that has a lighter color and less pronounced flavor than the more conventional variety used for whole wheat — and it’s a must in my baking toolkit. This flour works great in baked goods since it has a soft texture and white color similar to traditional all-purpose flour. The best part: Using white whole wheat flour in your baking means you can serve whole grains to your family (without the picky eaters even realizing!) and enjoy better-for-you dessert indulgences.
Bulk Up Your Egg
I always have a carton of egg whites in my fridge. Anytime I use eggs in a recipe or make an omelet (or Dutch Baby for my kids!), I swap out a couple of the eggs for the equivalent amount of egg white to keep the saturated fats down a bit. Another egg trick: For lunch, I’ll make a sunny-side up egg and I’ll pour in a bunch of egg white to bulk up my one egg yolk. You end up with what looks like a huge egg with just one yolk in the middle. I love the silky sauce from the yolk — just a little satisfies!
Fill Your Freezer with Bananas
I buy 20 or 30 bananas at a time (stock up when they are on sale!), let them ripen and then peel, slice in half, and store in a large freezer bag. This way, I always have them at the ready to use in a variety of ways. Some of my favorite uses: Toss half a banana, ice, and low-fat milk in the blender for a banana “ice cream”, spread a tablespoon of almond butter or peanut butter on a frozen banana half for a sweet treat, or add frozen bananas to kale or spinach smoothies.
Make Mustard More Than a Condiment
I always keep a high-quality Dijon mustard in the fridge — the flavor you get is worth the few extra pennies spent. And there are countless ways to incorporate it into healthy meals. Use it as a base for salad dressings — it will help emulsify a vinaigrette that is water-heavy. To make a dressing start with a hefty spoonful of mustard, then add 1 part vinegar, 2 parts water, and 1 part olive oil. For a meat rub that really ups the moisture and flavor, mix mustard with some chopped herbs and use it to coat chicken or pork. Another idea: Whisk it into sauces at the end of cooking for a creamy texture that adds few additional calories.