Written by Janice de Boer, Registered Dietitian Photos by Paul Buceta
This year, give your eating habits a healthy boost in five simple steps. Make this your healthiest year ever, starting with what’s on your plate. Just a few simple tweaks to your diet is all it takes to help your body function more optimally, so you feel rejuvenated and energized all year long.
1. COUNT COLOURS. NOT CALORIES. Admire all the colours, flavors, and textures that vegetables and fruits add to your plate. They provide nutrients and antioxidants that help protect your health and defend your body’s cells from damage. Whenever possible, try to choose local, seasonal ingredients. Make it your goal for 2014 to be more adventurous in the produce section! Each week, try a new vegetable—or one that you haven’t had for a while.
TRY IT: BEETS! Beets owe their gorgeous crimson hue to anthocyanins: compounds that act as antioxidants in the body and help fight inflammation. To preserve maximum colour, flavor, and nutrient density, roast beets in the oven rather than boiling them.
HOW TO: Wrap whole beets in foil and cook at 375-400 °F for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the beets. If the lengthy cooking times deter you from making beets a part of your nutrition plan, cook a large bunch in advance and store them in the refrigerator. After allowing them to cool, the skin peels off easily (just wear gloves to avoid stained fingers). Beets are delicious reheated or can be tossed cold in a salad.
2. ADD A LITTLE SPICE. Did you know? Herbs and spices are loaded with health-boosting antioxidants and minerals. They’re also a sodium-free way to add tons of flavor, from sweet to heat, without using salt or sauces. This year, take pride in a well-stocked, colourful collection, starting with these spice rack superstars:
OREGANO. Compared to other herbs, oregano has some of the highest levels of antioxidant activity. It contains several potent antioxidants, including thymol and rosmarinic acid. It is also incredibly versatile – you can add it to almost anything!
TRY IT:Use oregano to perk up pasta sauce, add a twist to eggs, and enliven sandwiches.
TURMERIC. Although turmeric is a daily staple in India, it has never really caught on as a part of our Western culinary habits. It’s a shame, because turmeric contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and has been linked to improved liver function and even cancer prevention. Have fun experimenting with a variety of ways to include this vibrant sunset-colored spice.
TRY IT: Sprinkle turmeric on roasted cauliflower or add it to rice dishes.
3. DON’T AVOID BEANS (AND LENTILS!) They may be tiny, but don’t judge legumes by their size. Nutritionally speaking, these little guys are giants in the plant-food world. They are loaded with protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (called catechins.) They’re also extremely versatile, so you can get creative with them. Add beans to any of your favorite soups, stews, salads and even wraps, for an extra hearty texture and flavor.
TRY IT: GUILT-FREE HUMMUS. In a food processor or blender, combine one 15oz-can of drained, rinsed chickpeas with 3-4 cloves of garlic, 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste), 2 tbsp olive oil, and 2 tsp lemon juice. Puree until smooth and serve with chopped veggies, whole grain crackers or as a spread in wraps and sandwiches.
4. MAKE MONDAYS MEATLESS. After the weekend, give animal proteins the day off! Experiment with different vegetarian recipes (or make your favorite meat dishes, like chili, vegetarian for a change). Let beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds be the centre of attention, and discover how simple and satisfying plant proteins can be. Combining multiple sources of plant protein is a great way to ensure you indulge your taste buds while getting all of the muscle-building amino acids your body needs.
TRY IT: CRISPY BAKED TOFU. Cut 1 package extra-firm, pressed tofu into thin slices. In a shallow dish, combine tofu, 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 2/3 cup water, 1 tbsp minced fresh garlic, 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger and 1 tbsp canola oil. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours. Spray a 9” x 13” baking pan with canola oil and arrange tofu in a single layer. Pour remaining marinade over top and sprinkle evenly with 1 tbsp sesame seeds. Bake at 400 °F for 30 minutes. Serve with steamed veggies, rice pilaf, or a leafy salad.
5. EAT FISH ON FRIDAYS. AND WEDNESDAYS. The best way to get enough EPA and DHA, two types of omega-3 fatty acids, is to eat at least two servings of fish per week. Choose any two days of the week that work for you and stick with them! When possible, opt for oily fish varieties such as salmon, trout, mackerel and tuna. Fatty fish is an easy health-booster to add to your diet, even if your goal is to tighten up a bit in 2014. Why? Omega-3s have been shown to burn stored fat for energy.
TRY IT: BASIL-INFUSED BAKED SALMON. Place 2 salmon filets in a shallow dish with 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp canola oil, 1 tsp minced fresh garlic, and 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour. Bake at 390°F for 30 minutes.
Happy New Year!