We’ve all been there – trying to accomplish some sort of health, weight, or strength goal and finding that the things we’re ‘allowed’ to eat are pretty mundane and limiting. The usual go-to’s are chicken dishes, salads, wraps, and snacks like yogurt, trail mix, dried fruits, or granola bars. Of course, while that list isn’t extensive, it probably rings a bell for specific diets and to eating healthy during the busy holiday season. And when it comes to drinks, you probably feel like you can only have water, black coffee, diet or sugar-free sodas (which have their side effects), protein shakes, or organic fruit/vegetable juices.
If you were eating whatever you wanted before, a diet or nutrition change like this could be challenging, to say the least, so today, we’ll be talking about different ways to implement fun ways to get those essential nutrients.
Growing up, oatmeal probably just meant instant oats with very little added to enhance the dish. Nowadays, oatmeal can refer to substantial dishes that satisfy many nutritional needs depending on the recipe. At the bare minimum, oats are gluten-free whole grains, making them a great source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Not only that, but oatmeal is very filling, which ends up meaning that you eat less throughout the day because you don’t feel a need to snack later.
Oats are merely a vehicle for layering other nutritious foods. Some additions you may want to consider include:
- Peanut or other nut butters – rich in healthy fats!
- Fruits – jam-packed with antioxidants, vitamins like vitamin c, potassium, etc.
- Dark chocolate – loaded with minerals with moderate amounts of sugar added.
- Various spices – like cinnamon, an anti-inflammatory spice with many other healthy properties.
You have the room to make every batch of oatmeal unique, tackling your main food groups and nutritional needs in a straightforward dish. Plus, if you stick to using whole ingredients like some of those mentioned, you avoid getting a bowl doused in added sugars instead of having the sweetness come from natural sources like fruits and spices.
Smoothies got a bit of a bad rap there, with many joints serving up blends with tons of added sugar, making them seem nutritious when you’re getting more of a sorbet. However, there are places and recipes out there doing the smoothie thing the right way, with whole ingredients, no added sugars, and nutritional boosters, so you’re getting a complete meal’s worth of benefits in the palm of your hand.
Smoothies are easy vessels for superfoods galore, from a hearty Greek yogurt base (high in calcium, vitamin D, and protein), to leafy greens (low calorie, with nutrients galore) to berries and fruits (hello, vitamin C!) to nuts and seeds (rich in those healthy fats!).
Homemade Trail Mix
Store-bought trail mixes follow the same pattern as ‘famous’ smoothie joints, empty in terms of nutrition but perceived as healthy by the general populace. The key here is to make your own mix and source your ingredients! Many local food markets and natural grocers have sections where you can fill recyclable bags of the ingredients you want, from dried fruit, nuts and seeds, granola, cheese, to even chocolate and sweet clusters. If you make your own, you’re more likely to end up with a healthier, less candy-like mix than those that you’ll find off the shelf at your local supermarket.
We’ve covered the nutritional benefits of these ingredients above, so a word of advice here, opt for more filling mix-ins rather than favorites. If it’s more filling, you won’t be inclined to absently snack more than you need. These ingredients may not be the lowest in calories, but sometimes, nutritional properties outweigh that arbitrary number in the grand scheme of health and wellness.
If you’re not a big fruit or veg person because of their textures, throw them in a blender or food processor and you can have yourself a smooth, creamy, hearty soup chock full of all the healthy stuff. Not only that, but soups are comfort food; they warm you inside out, they fill you up, and there are TONS of soup recipes out there for you to enjoy. Canned options too! Check the label first to make sure it’s not full of potatoes or cheese, or other empty filler ingredients. And, if you’re making soups yourself, make conscious decisions to use things that have nutritional benefits and use a light hand in regards to agents like milk, heavy cream, cheese, and supplementary vehicles like crackers or bread.
Soups, snacks, smoothies, all are ways you can sub in healthier ingredients and higher-quality nutrition into your day-to-day diet without sacrificing flavor or fun. Not to be cliche, but you’ve only got one life, so to live it to the fullest, you should be enjoying what you eat. That doesn’t have to mean always turning to your favorite junk foods or desserts; it can mean enjoying healthy, nutritious dishes and drinks that taste great and give you precisely what your body needs to keep kicking.