Sneak veggies into pasta
Eating well doesn’t have to mean switching up your entire diet. Small changes can have a big impact, without sacrificing taste, flavor, or the foods you love. For example, go ahead and eat that plate of pasta—you won’t even remember these healthy special ingredients. “A great menu makeover item is spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, replacing half the meat in the sauce with more vegetables such as mushrooms, or adding mushrooms and lentils,” says Laura Moore, RD, director of the dietetic internship program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. You can also use whole-wheat pasta and even pastas made from chickpeas or beans. This method, she says, adds protein and fiber which keeps you satisfied, but reduces the saturated fat. “Alternatively, if you purchase your sauce, buy low-sugar sauce and add pureed carrots,” she says, which is a healthier way to add sweetness. Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, has another suggestion: Simply chop up a tomato and add it to pre-made sauce for added fiber and volume. Bonus for busy families: A recent Australian study showed that eating three to four servings of veggies a day can reduce stress levels. Here are 30 more healthy eating tips that will change your life!
Make over meatloaf and other comfort foods
If “healthy eating” sounds like you won’t be able to indulge, try making some easy swaps to get more nutrients out of your comfort foods. For meatloaf, an easy change is the addition of ground turkey, according to Jeanne Piga-Plunkett, RD, co-director of the dietetic internship program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. “This can decrease the fat and maintain the mouthfeel that so many enjoy when eating meatloaf,” she says. Plus, “adding oatmeal that’s been soaked in water or milk in place of breadcrumbs increases the fiber,” Moore says. Try incorporating veggies, mushrooms, or lentils here as well, with a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce to maintain the savory taste. If you’re ready to go meatless, a study from the University of Minnesota showed that bean-based meatloaf was just as filling and satisfying as a beef-based one. But even if you’re not willing to go that far, any amount of veggies can be added to just about any comfort food to up the nutrient value: grilled cheese, casseroles, burgers, and mac and cheese are great places to hide them. Find out the 10 comfort foods professional chefs always cook at home.
Switch out your sides
You probably don’t want to give up your starchy side dish—for many of us, it’s what leaves us feeling full and satisfied. But, you can make it a little healthier by gradually swapping out white rice. “We recommend starting with a blend of white and brown rice, or white rice and lentils or quinoa,” Moore says. “The lentils and quinoa add more fiber and protein, reducing the transit time and slow the rise of blood sugar—while still keeping the taste of white rice.” Quinoa sounds fancy, but it’s just as easy to make as rice—and studies have shown that molecules abundant in quinoa called flavonoids have antioxidant properties. A dash of herbs like parsley or thyme ups the flavor (fresh is best, but you can also use what you have on your spice rack). Other healthier side swaps include sweet potatoes instead of white, or you can mix them if you prefer. A better option for “fries” is regular or sweet potatoes roasted in the oven, dipped in marinara sauce instead of sugary ketchup—a great way to get kids to eat them. Check out these 15 creative recipes for quinoa.