Creative Combinations

By Corinne Easterling

September 19, 2014 5 min read

It can be frustrating when a nutritious recipe ends up unsatisfying or bland. But there are ways to improve your old favorites with simple ingredient swaps or additions. The next time you're at the supermarket, toss some healthy options in your cart to have on hand the next time you cook and keep our simple tips in mind to make healthy eating easier!

--Boost healthy fats. Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, fiber and healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Try sprinkling them into your oatmeal, over salads, blended into smoothies, mixed into baked goods -- the possibilities are endless! Additionally, chia seeds are hydrophilic, meaning they draw in water and become gelatinous, and are great for thickening soups, gravies and sauces.

--Get more fruits and veggies. Fruit can be added to your breakfast cereal or yogurt for an antioxidant boost. Try topping your morning toast with nut butter and fiber-rich bananas instead of your usual butter. Low-fat ricotta cheese and fresh berries are a healthier alternative to cream cheese. This increases the nutrient density of your breakfast and gets your day off to a more wholesome start. For lunch, add avocado rather than mayonnaise on your sandwiches containing plenty of leafy greens. If you didn't grow up a veggie-lover, you can disguise their taste by pureeing and stirring them into sauces and soups for dinner. Additionally, chopped or pureed mushrooms can replace a meat in a recipe without lessening the hearty taste.

--Opt for whole grains. Choose whole-wheat products for their ample fiber and B vitamins. Look at the food label to ensure that 100 percent whole wheat (or any whole-grain) is the first ingredient. It's as easy as opting for brown rice instead of white or oatmeal instead of sugary cereal. You can also amend baked recipes by substituting all or a portion of your usual all-purpose flours with whole-wheat or other whole-grain flours.

--Increase fiber. Abundant in fiber and protein, Beans, peas and lentils can be added to any soup or stew. Use lentils as a substitute for meat, and peas are great mixed in with mashed potatoes. Did you also know you could even puree beans to use in place of butter in cookies, cakes and brownies? Refer to a recipe for a proper ratio, but this replacement could help lower your cholesterol by preventing excess saturated fat absorption. Quick and painless swaps, like choosing a sweet potato over a white potato or eating whole fruits rather than drinking fruit juice, can also enhance your fiber intake.

--Lower saturated fat. Select leaner cuts of meat. Low-fat ground turkey or chicken can replace ground beef, and healthier versions of sausage and bacon are made from poultry rather than pork. Sirloins and round steaks of beef generally have less marbling and therefore less artery-clogging saturated fats. Consumption of porterhouse, T-bone, rib-eye, filet mignon and fatty strip steaks should be limited. No matter the cut, trim as much excess fat as possible. Furthermore, ground oatmeal can replace a portion of meat in a recipe without significantly altering its hearty taste.

When preparing meat, oven frying over deep frying can drastically reduce the fat. Use olive oil instead of butter to cut back on saturated fats and increase your healthy, unsaturated fat intake. Baking, grilling, roasting, sauteing and poaching are also tasty, lean options of preparing meats and poultry.

If appropriate to your recipe, you may also consider substituting seafood. Fish are high in protein and rich in healthy, anti-inflammatory fats. Seafood is delicious used when used in pastas, salads and even on burgers and sandwiches.

Furthermore, select lower fat dairy options -- instead of buying whole milk, opt for 2 percent, 1 percent or skim, and look out for low- or non-fat yogurts and cheeses.

--Cut back on salt. The easiest way to reduce your sodium intake is by avoiding processed foods. Processed foods can be a tremendous source of sodium and added sugar in your diet and should be eaten in moderation. Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Look for low-sodium sauces and seasonings when possible and experiment with adding lemon juice, different herbs and spices, onions, garlic, vinegar and hot peppers to add flavor without sodium. Lemon juice is a rich source of vitamin C while onions and garlic boast a wide variety of healthy benefits.

Creative yet simple alterations can take your favorite recipe from indulgent to nutritious. Get inspired, and don't be afraid to experiment with your food.

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