We’re into week 4 of Nutrition Month, where the theme is “Try Something New!” I’m all for that. In weight loss studies, adherence predicts maintenance. In other words, if you’re still following the diet a year later, you’re more likely to keep the weight off. And you know what it takes to stick with it? Enjoyment. Not willpower, but actually loving the food.
So in the spirit of cultivating enjoyment, here are some of my favourite health-promoting foods that I rarely see on food records.
- Skyr – Greek yogurt is so yesterday. Bring on the Icelandic yogurt. The plain versions are pretty much nutritionally equivalent – high in protein, low in sugar (Skyr is a bit lower). Where Skyr stands out is if you prefer favoured yogurt – vanilla, berry, etc. Flavoured Skyr has 2-3 teaspoons less sugar per serving than flavoured Greek. And you won’t miss it. It’s so thick and creamy you could ice a cake with it. (Disclaimer: I stole that line from dietitian Vincci Tsui’s sister. But I think it might just be true! I’m going to try it one day and see if the kids notice.)
- Chia seeds – These little nutrition powerhouses have been getting more popular for the past few years. What’s all the fuss? They’re a good source of fibre, protein, minerals, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. They cost $10-15 a bag, but you don’t use much. Just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds will gives you 5g of fibre! You can add them to smoothies, yogurt, cereal and more. One of my favourites: energy bites/balls, like this nut-free one I often send to school with my girls: Super Seed Chocolate Protein Bites from Oh She Glows.
- Bulgur – Wheat gets a bad rap because they strip out the good stuff and then use the white flour for everything from 350+ calorie muffins to 1700+ calorie piles of spaghetti. Intact whole grain wheat foods, like bulgur, freekeh, farro, and wheat berries are different. Bulgur has more fibre than quinoa! The glycemic index is respectable (46-53) and it cooks in under 15 minutes. You’ve probably had it if you’ve tried tabbouleh. You can add a handful to salad, soup, or chili, or try this pilaf-style side dish.
- Swiss Chard – The Nutrition Action Health Letter ranked swiss chard as the fourth healthiest vegetable, after kale and spinach, and before broccoli! (That’s based on content of five nutrients plus carotenoids and fibre. While these rankings are interesting, go for a variety of vegetables rather than limiting yourself to the few at the top.) The point is, in our quest to get a dark green veggie every day, swiss chard is a colourful, tasty addition to the mix, and you can probably grow it in your backyard (we do). What to do with it? Lightly pan-fry and tuck into eggs, burritos, or pasta. If you prefer a recipe, these are two of my favourites: Chick-Peas and Swiss Chard at Epicurious.com (simple) and Slow Cooker Squash and Chickpea Curry from Canadian Living (more chopping).
- Tofu – Okay, I know tofu isn’t new, but I rarely, if ever, see it on food records. If you’re trying to eat more plants and less meat, for health or environmental reasons, you might find you actually like tofu, if you get the hang of cooking it. Sometimes I’ll put out a plate of pan-fried tofu with a sprinkle of soy sauce before supper, and it disappears before I can say “dinner’s ready.” And did you know that some tofu preparations have more calcium than milk? Recently I made the apparently famous Glory Bowl from the Whitewater Cooks book and loved it. When I said so on Instagram and Facebook, several friends came out of the woodwork to say it was one of their favourites. Who knew?
Have you tried Skyr, chia seeds, bulgur, swiss chard, or tofu? What did you think? What would you add to this list? Come on over to the Sweet Spot Facebook page. I’d love to hear what you think.