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8 Easy Ways Parents Can Eat Better Without Even Trying

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Since having a baby, the kind who’s not into naps, I’ve been finding it hard to eat well. For a while, I was entirely dependent on string cheese, since it could be eaten with one hand. Then I discovered sprinkles. Not the rainbow colored ones you put on ice-cream (I wish!) — the chia and flax seed kind. They have fiber, Omega-3s, and other good stuff. I keep them in the fridge in shaker bottles and sprinkle them onto yogurt, oatmeal, cold cereal, soup, and even my PB&J sandwiches. It takes maybe five seconds, I don’t even taste them, and I get an extra shot of nutrition.

For more no-brainer ways to health up my diet, I consulted Angela Lemond, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Plano, Texas, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She gave me eight ideas for what she calls “food boosters” — ones you add to stuff you’re already eating to get more nutrition bang for your buck. As she says, “These foods help [parents] maintain steady energy levels throughout the day, while also making them feel good about their food choices.” I’ll eat to that!

Food booster: Baby spinach

Why it’s good for you: “Spinach is one of the most nutrient-rich, common foods in the grocery store,” says Lemond. “It is an excellent source of 13 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium. And it packs a dozen different anti-cancer properties.”

Goes great with … “Spinach is such an easy power substitution for iceberg or romaine lettuce on sandwiches and wraps,” she notes. “You can also add the sautéed kind to your morning scrambled eggs.” And of course, add some spinach leaves to whatever salad you’re eating.

Food booster: Pumpkin seeds

Why it’s good for you: “Compared to almonds, pumpkin seeds are lower in calories and carbohydrates,” says Lemond. “They are also higher in minerals such as potassium and iron.”

Goes great with … Yogurt and salad.

Food booster: Wild blueberries

Why it’s good for you: “Find these berries, grown commercially in Maine, in the freezer section in the store,” says Lemond. “They give a big anti-cancer punch.”

Goes great with …  Cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt, and frozen yogurt. During the holidays, add 1/2 cup per serving of eggnog.

Food booster: Chickpeas

Why it’s good for you: They pack protein, fiber, and key nutrients including iron, folate, and zinc.

Goes great with …  Salads and veggie sides. “I like to toast them,” says Lemond. “Just spread drained and rinsed chickpeas on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until crunchy. Sprinkle with spices and add to salads or trail mix.”

Food booster: Mushrooms

Why it’s good for you: “This is the only produce item that naturally contains vitamin D, which is a nutrient of concern for most Americans,” says Lemond. “Portobellos have the highest amounts.”

Goes great with …  Salad, soup, and beef dishes including burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs.

Food booster: Pistachios

Why it’s good for you: Like most nuts, pistachios have protein and fiber; unlike most nuts, they contains the same amount of potassium as half a banana.

Goes great with … Casseroles or baked fish — just sprinkle chopped ones on top. “After a workout or for a snack, I love to eat pistachios with a banana or a handful of raspberries,” says Lemond. “You can also serve a mix of pistachio kernels and dried cranberries as a colorful appetizer during the holidays.”

Food booster: Lentils

Why it’s good for you: They deliver protein, fiber, potassium, and folate.

Goes great with … Salads and soups. “Lentils make a delicious dip — blend them with olive oil and spices much like you do with chickpeas when making hummus,” says Lemond. “Or blend lentils into meat to add a dimension of texture and nutrition to entrées.”

Food booster: Trail mix

(OK, technically not something you add to food but: yum!)

Why it’s good for you: It packs protein and healthy carbs, delivering a serious shot of energy.

Goes great with … Sleep-deprived, no-time-to-eat parents! A recipe that’s a fave of Lemond’s clients: Mix 1 cup regular, low-sugar, whole grain Cereal O’s; 1 cup whole-grain cheddar crackers or pretzels; 1/3 cup your favorite nuts or seeds; and 1/3 cup dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries. Shovel into your mouth whenever possible.

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