To get healthier this year forget the fad diets and turn up the vegetables in your meals and put some under-rated but all-star foods on your plate.
All Star - Beans (also known as legumes)
Beans are nutrition superstars rich in protein, fiber, complex carbs, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. A diet rich in legumes can help to lower LDL [low-density "bad" cholesterol] and raise HDL [high-density "good" cholesterol].
These are foods that give you gas, especially if you are a new bean eater - so start off slowly with small amounts - some are gassier than others - so resist the urge to start off with veggies and hummus dip for a snack, followed by lentil soup with salad at lunch and then a more bean that meat chili for supper…you might regret it….
Lower the sodium in canned beans thoroughly rinse the beans in water.
Toss these nuggets into soups, stews, salads, grain medleys, or greens or create a veggie dip by pureeing beans and adding your favorite seasoning, like hummus made from chickpea
All Star - Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash
Sweet potatoes and butternut squash are nutritional all-stars and two of the best vegetables you can eat. Not only are they a great source of beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, but both of these are so versatile.
Slow-bake a sweet potato and top it with black beans and salsa. Other options: Mash it or slice into fries and oven bake until golden brown.
Slowly steam a butternut squash in a slow cooker. When its soft to the touch, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Mash the squash with a sprinkle of cinnamon, applesauce, and crushed pineapple…Yummmmmy :-)
All Star - Red Cabbage
This cruciferous vegetable is a great source of fiber, vitamins A, D, and K; folate; and lots of trace minerals and antioxidants. This veggie can boost cancer-fighting enzymes.
Eat it raw, cooked, sweet, savory, stand-alone in a dish like coleslaw, or add it to almost anything from soups, salads, casseroles. Make this braised cabbage side dish to compliment any meal:
Braised Purple Cabbage with Apples
2 tbsp. butter
1 large red onion, sliced into thin crescents
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
¾ cup water
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 head purple cabbage (about 2 pounds), sliced into ½-inch strips
1 large firm apple, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
In a wide heavy sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, brown sugar, caraway seeds, and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened. Add the water, vinegar, cabbage, and apple. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and braise for 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat for a few minutes until the juices have reduced. Season the dish to taste with salt and pepper.
All Star - Canned Tomatoes
Everyone thinks fresh is best but processing tomatoes helps release some of the disease-fighting lycopene so it is better absorbed. A study in the 2009 Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that a diet rich in tomatoes may help prevent prostate cancer and that lycopene, a strong antioxidant, may also help prevent other types of cancer. Of course, many other lifestyle and genetic factors also affect cancer risk.
Stock your pantry with canned tomatoes for pizza, spaghetti sauce, and home-made salsa or toss a can into soups, stews, casseroles, greens, or pasta dishes. Look for the low sodium and no added sodium versions.
1 cup peeled butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup fresh or frozen cut green beans
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 Tbsp each chopped fresh oregano, fresh basil and fresh dill
1 (14 oz.) can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp each onion powder and garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
canola oil cooking spray
3 Tbsp. Romano or Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place all ingredients, except cheese, in large bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to sprayed 7 in. x 11 in. baking dish. Cover with foil and bake until veggies are just tender, about 60-75 minutes. (Remove foil cover for the last 30 minutes, if desired.) Remove from oven; turn broiler on high. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil until cheese is browned and bubbly.
All Star - Plain, Nonfat Greek Yogurt
This is my personal current favourite! Of all the many yogurts on the market, plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is a standout. All yogurts are excellent sources of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. What distinguishes Greek yogurt is its thicker, creamier texture because the liquid whey is strained out. It also has twice the protein content of regular yogurts - which might help you feel full longer.
Mix this thick, tart tasting yogurt with the natural sweetness of fresh fruit or your favorite whole grain cereal. YUMMY!