Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sharing 10 Ways of Making Your Favorite Foods Healthier

Food... it is all around me all day as a SAHM. It is in the title of my blog, and it is my passion.

Sadly, it is also my downfall. Do you relate? I have never been good about staying away from food. This girl loves to eat! So, instead I am constantly working to make the most out of every bite. It is the least I can do for myself and my family, right? My top 10 tips are not revolutionary. They are small and simple, but little by little they add up to a healthier way to eat and enjoy food. Want to see my list? Sure you do!

1. Portions - As I mentioned I love to eat! I hate to go past a dip bowl or tray without sampling something. Unfortunately that something often becomes a little bit of everything... or two. Yikes! Food is not necessarily bad, but the amounts I consume can be. So my current mission is to limit the portions of what I eat. I adore spinach artichoke dip and made a bunch for my daughter's first birthday. Instead of parking myself next to the crock pot, I had a little bit and then moved on. I didn't try to stay away from it. I enjoyed it, but in a smaller amount than normal. See? Anyone can try that..

2. Don't deny yourself - This is a big one for me. It has taken me years to realize that saying no to foods will send me straight to half the dish late at night. I love to bake and I do it often. It can be a fun treat. Now, that doesn't mean I can't make smarter choices like frozen fruit treats or homemade sorbet, but I do not need to cross dessert or snacks completely off my list.

3. Make Your Plate Colorful! - I love this one. My grandpa used to insist that we eat every color, every day. Now, I don't always succeed, but I do try! There is such a beautiful rainbow of foods out there to enjoy that I don't think there is ever an excuse to have a boring monochromatic plate. The best part is that colorful foods are rich in nutrients. Yum. So I have been known to dress up my peach cobbler with a handful of blueberries or some halved cherry tomatoes on my scrambled eggs. Have fun with it!

4. When in Doubt, Sneak It In. - Yeah, I cheat. What is a Mom to do? My favorite comfort food is lasagna. My problem was it was greasy and caused me heartburn when I made it. So, I gave my recipe a little make over. I took the basic recipe and took out the meat. Instead I added sauteed eggplant. Then I threw some soft tofu into the ricotta cheese for added protein and mixed in some frozen & chopped spinach. Add a layer of steamed broccoli and zucchini and my favorite meal was something I could be proud of. Yes, my family noticed the steamed veggies, but no one ever notices the tofu or eggplant. Most family members are surprised to find out just how much I sneak into this classic dish. And heartburn? Forget aboudit!

5. Add A Little More Spice (or Herbs) To Your Life - Nothing is better than taste! My husband likes to say that the cheapest way to make something taste good is fat and sodium. But, since we know that doesn't make anything healthier how about using real herbs or spices to give your mouth a zing? My go to is almost always garlic, but I know not everyone is as crazy as me. Other options include Mrs. Dash Seasoning... which have many options for a wide variety of flavors, or fresh herbs. Now that we moved out here to the farm I have a nice garden with a corner devoted to fresh herbs. It saves me a bundle and they require very little. Even in an apartment I kept a container herb garden with a few staples. I had oregano, thyme, chives and rosemary. With more space I have added basil and there is no going back! I add them to everything. Whether it is my basic marinara or on my bread as it is baking. I swear nothing beats the taste of good taste.

6. Try a new Food - This one can also be a lot of fun. It can be as easy as letting your kids pick out a new vegetable or fruit in to produce section. Things like star fruit might be new to them and will give them another serving of fruit. Discover a food not currently in your repertoire and add in some new nutrients.

7. Keep it Simple - Frying can be so time consuming let alone not as healthy for you. Breading again takes time. But, if you keep your food simple it can save you time and be healthier. One of our favorite dinners is baked lemon chicken with dill orzo. All you need is chicken (skin on), lemon wedges and garlic. Toss them all with a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes at 450 degrees. Does prep get much easier than that? What a simple a healthy way to prepare chicken for your family.

8. Eat Local - Since my husband is a farmer, this is his favorite tip. If food is grown locally and picked when ripe it doesn't have to travel as far. This food is picked at it's peak as nature intended with all the nutrients from ripening in the sun and soaked up from the soil. It doesn't cause as much pollution either when it makes a shorter which is healthier for everyone. Win - win! Remember that local produce has a face to it, get to know your local farmers and they can help steer you to the best of the season. Who knows, this may be another great way to find a new favorite food.

9. Substitute - When baking you can bump up the nutrition by substituting either applesauce or bananas for oil or butter. It is amazing how well this has worked for me in muffins and even spice cookies. Instead of making a normal sugar cookie, I turned mine into spice cookies with some of my homemade applesauce and a bit of cinnamon. And guess what? My kids don't miss the butter!

10. Go Ahead, Throw in Some Fiber! - Grain can be our friend. Not only can it help us feel full faster, but it adds important fiber into our diet which aids in digestion. Simple things like switching from white to wheat flour or throwing in oatmeal or brown rice can be a big help. My parents always made their meatloaf with crackers. This was not a huge switch to use oatmeal since you hardly notice the crackers anyway. We also add old fashioned oats into our cookies instead of quick oats. If you are switching from whole wheat flour, try substituting half at first and working your way up in a favorite recipe. You won't miss the white stuff!

Wow... that was quite a list. Did you find any things you are already doing? I bet you even have a few things to add to my list. I would love to hear them. As always, I love reading your comments. Yes, food to me is a constant battle between love and hate, but when I stick to my own healthier guidelines it is a better experience all around. I doubt I will ever say goodbye to brownies or warm dips forever, but I can be smarter about when and how I indulge. Not only is my body image at stake here... but I am now a role model for my little girl. I hope that she will grow up enjoying these healthier foods as her favorites. As always happy noshing!

I would like to thank TwitterMoms & Weight Watchers® Smart Ones® for the great discussion idea. Check out TwitterMoms for more great submissions on this topic.

Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and WeightWatchers SmartOnes blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here
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