Small Steps to Eating Better

good start

food5Being a busy mom of multiples, it is very easy to grab that fast food or Hamburger Helper box to save time and energy in the kitchen — but at what cost?  This was a hard lesson I learned after my husband and I built our home ourselves while grabbing meals on the fly.  After getting ill and surgery two weeks later, I found out the toll this can do on a body.  By no means does this mean I don’t stop for fast food every once and a while but I try to limit stops or make healthier choices when I do stop.  Eating healthy goes beyond our main food choices. Our bodies crave the minerals and vitamins it so desperately needs.  Just by adding herbs, spices and certain foods to the daily routine we can improve our health substantially.

Ever wonder why we use spices and herbs?  Yes, they flavor the food — but they also provide a greater role in our diets than we give them credit for.  Cinnamon helps with diabetes, garlic with heart health, parsley can help memory, ginger for nausea, cilantro is a great source for Vitamin K and the list just continues.  By no means am I suggesting you run out to the pharmacy and start buying supplements without discussing it with your doctor first.  Consider the take-out burger you may have had last night: it was probably seasoned with salt and packed with extra calories. In comparison, making a burger at home and adding some parsley, a touch of basil, garlic powder (not garlic salt), and black pepper will reduce the salt needed to flavor that same burger and these spices don’t add any unnecessary calories to the food.

eating betterSimple food choices or exchanges can be beneficial too.  Bagged salads are super easy but iceberg lettuce does not have as many vitamins as romaine or spinach, so occasionally switch out for the mixed blends. Or add some baby spinach to your salad and maybe a few chopped leaves of fresh basil which will take a salad to a whole new level of flavor.  Note that a little fresh basil goes a long way, so don’t add too much.

Also you can consider using foods that are packed with vitamins like avocados, beans, blueberries and spinach, which are just a few worth mentioning, but again you don’t have to sit down and eat the entire bag of spinach.  Spinach releases its magnesium better in our systems which many of us are lacking.  Magnesium is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in our body so adding in a little spinach can go a long way.

Now, I know you are thinking, I do not want to cook two meals every day because my kids will not eat anything healthy.  Remember that most kids are only as picky at the things they can see.  Here are a few tips and tricks I have kid-tested on my own twins using meals you probably already make at home.

eating betterFor example, lasagna is a heavenly dish that can be packed full of vitamins. You can add a dash of garlic, basil, oregano, parsley to the sauce; I prefer fresh herbs but dry is fine too. If you like your spaghetti sauce a little sweeter, try adding a sprinkle of fennel seeds to the sauce next time instead of sugar.  Since having toddlers I found my food processor is my best friend! You can mince onion and bell pepper to the “unable to pick out” size and add to your sauce.  Spinach is usually a make or break deal for kids so I toss about two cups into the processor with a half of cup of parmesan cheese and process until it just looks like green parmesan which you can sprinkle on each layer or mix into the ricotta.  It gives lasagna a fresh taste without being too much for kids.

food3-1For taco night, I use a half pound of ground beef and a can of chick peas or black beans which reduces the fat and provides nutrients for a healthy digestive tract (and chick peas can help lower cholesterol!)   I also love chopped radishes and carrots on my tacos.  Add some cilantro and a few drops of lemon juice to your chopped tomato to add Vitamin K and makes the tomatoes stay fresher if you have leftovers.  Let’s go back to the Hamburger Helper on the nights you just have to use it. Try adding on steamed veggies in the mixture after it is done or garnish with leftover spinach parmesan.  Even Jell-O is not safe at my house — adding tiny bits of cabbage, carrots, and pineapple are a huge hit!

food4-1Breakfast and snacks can even have vitamin and mineral upgrades.  If you are serving oatmeal add in a little cinnamon, dried apples or fresh blueberries.  Waffles and pancakes can have a teaspoon of wheat germ or flaxseed added along with some cinnamon.  Top with fresh fruit or applesauce and enjoy!   With our scrambled eggs we add a little garlic powder or onion powder and parsley added to reduce the salt.  Also try a little avocado or spinach with your morning eggs to give it a healthy boost for the morning.  Our family’s favorite snacks are Zucchini Banana Apple Muffins and Pumpkin Carrot Mini Muffins which are packed with vitamins and minerals (which you can find recipes for on my blog.)  You can add additional fiber by adding a tablespoon of flaxseed or wheat germ to most muffin mixes, even the store-bought ones.

If you make that small effort each meal it adds up in your overall intake of these important nutrients.  Adding herbs, spices, and super foods into your diet won’t make you lose thirty pounds in ten days but you should see a change in your overall health. Maybe you will get a little more energy or find yourself not catching every cold from the grocery store!

carolyn christensenCarolyn Christensen is a working mom of toddler twins and dedicated wife of 12 years.  After serving eight years in the Army Reserve she became the office manager to a small construction firm where she is blessed to work with her husband and bring her twins each day.  She loves writing, cooking, organizing, building things, supporting other MoMs through social media and most of all being frugal.  She hopes to continue to write and one day publish a book. Find more recipes at:  http://ourbunch2011.wordpress.com/category/recipes

Top photo courtesy of iweatherman on Flickr.

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