by Lindsay Martin, MS, RDN, Hilton Head Health
It can be easy to eat the same foods day after day. Let’s face it—most of us want a simple , quick meal plan that requires as minimal preparation and as few ingredients as possible. However, there are specific foods or ingredients that most of us neglect because we either don’t know what to do with them or we’ve only had them prepared by our grandmothers. It is time to get creative, think outside the box, and incorporate some highly nutritious foods that give your go-to recipes a huge flavor boost. The following foods and ingredients are literally the BEST foods you aren’t eating!
Different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Have you ever tried broccoli rabe or purple potatoes? What about dried goji berries? Most of us recognize the benefits of fruits and vegetables: high fiber, high water content, loaded with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, E, K, potassium, folate, etc. Try incorporating different varieties of fruits and vegetables that you recognize. They provide similar nutrients, but a different texture and flavor profile.
Beets. It’s time to turn up the beat in your kitchen by using purple and yellow beets in your regular meal plan. Beets provide high amounts of naturally occurring nitrates that allow your body to better utilize oxygen…pretty cool, right? They are also loaded with anthocyanins, an antioxidant, that assist in lowering inflammation. Try grating or shredding beets into a vegetarian inspired wrap or roast beets and toss with a citrus vinaigrette and top over fresh arugula.
Seeds. What is good for your heart is good for your brain. We know nuts are heart healthy, but seeds tend to be an item we forget to grab at the grocery store. Purchase a variety of seeds such as chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and ground flaxseed. Chia seeds, high in plant omega-3 fatty acids and iron, work great in oatmeals, smoothies, and whole grain pilafs. Pumpkin seeds, high in vitamin E and fiber, provide a nice crunch to salads or work great in homemade granolas. Ground flaxseed, high in dietary fiber and plant omega-3 fatty acids, is great over roasted vegetables as well as blended into smoothies or salad dressings.
Herbs. It is easy to dismiss the herbs in the produce section. However, start thinking of herbs as miniature vegetables. They provide flavor to food without using a heavy hand with the salt shaker. Net result? Less sodium, higher flavor, and more antioxidants added to your meals.
Lentils. I don’t know one person that has tried lentils and not enjoyed them. It can be easy to grab a can of beans and use those in tacos, soups, etc., but lentils can be used the same way as beans and still provide protein, fiber, iron, folate, and more. Try making lentil salads with fresh herbs, lentil soup with carrots, celery and onion or a lentil patty that replaces your standard burger.
Shallots. This vegetable is a milder relative of an onion. Onions add a ton of flavor to your soups, sauces, sautéed vegetables, and more. The same application goes for shallots. They cost more per pound and are worth every penny because of their sweet yet subtle onion flavor and nutritional components such as potassium, fiber, flavonoids (antioxidant), vitamin A, and folate. Use these in dressings, sauces, and sautés!