Top 12 SUPER Foods: Super Easy, Super Nutritious, Super Transportable and Super Kid and Adult Friendly
We love lists! Super foods, cancer fighting foods, nutrient dense foods, and anti-inflammatory foods. It is fun to read why certain foods are so good for us. A more simple approach to a super, nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory, phytochemical and antioxidant rich healthy diet is to choose a variety of colorful foods from the earth that you prefer and enjoy, and make half your plate veggies.
1. Leafy greens:
Always have leafy greens in your fridge. It is the number one food you can eat to improve your health. Most are rich in vitamins A, C, and K and folate, calcium and fiber. Buy the large organic tubs from the grocery store and they will not go to waste. Make spinach, kale or arugula salads. Sauté in olive oil and garlic for a hot veggie. Add some as a sandwich topper, throw some in a soup, add a handful to your favorite fruit smoothie or bake kale for kale chips.
Packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals, they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. They are anti-inflammatory and inflammation is a key driver of all chronic disease. Choose any berry and you are choosing wisely. Choose blueberries for the most powerful punch. Kids love berries. Add them to smoothies or carry cleaned and in tupperware for a quick and healthy snack.
3. Bananas and apples:
Bananas get a bad rap. Known by dieters as a high glycemic food, they ban bananas from their diet. It is not the banana that is making us gain weight. They may taste like creamy ice cream when sliced and frozen (then slightly thawed just before eating), but are actually a healthy real food option rich in potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Easily transportable, they are a healthy option for you on the go instead of a processed and packaged breakfast/granola bar! They taste great with peanut butter and in fruit smoothies. Apples are another winner and on the go food. There are more nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals in an apple than you will find in anything made in a factory. Make these your grab and go choices.
4. Sweet potatoes:
High in fiber, rich in potassium and vitamins A and C. This is a quick and easy snack or side dish and a healthier option than a white potato, including a lower glycemic index. Bake, or if you are crunched for time, poke with a fork and microwave 2-5 minutes. Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and if you like, a little brown sugar.
Scientists use the egg as a “reference” protein. This means it is used as a standard for measuring protein quality in other foods, because it is a complete and excellent source of protein. Proteins are the building blocks of your body, control hormones and are necessary for growth and sustainability. Have eggs for breakfast and feel satisfied all morning, pack a boiled egg (keep chilled) for a healthy snack, or have breakfast for dinner! Make a Fritatta or don’t forget your kids favorites; french toast or homemade pancakes for healthy options. Choose eggs with added DHA for omega-3 bonus. We like Egg-land’s Best eggs, based on the added DHA and the price. One large egg has 6 grams of protein and only 70 calories and 4 grams of fat. Unless you have high cholesterol or are a vegetarian, eggs are a great addition to any healthy diet.
6. Nuts and seeds:
A handful of nuts or seeds provides protein, healthy fats, vitamin E, and is a satisfying snack. Walnuts and almonds top the nutritional list although I have not met many kids that enjoy walnuts. Enjoy them all; they all come with benefits; pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. Buy in bulk, and make your own snack size portions for transport. Nut butters are a great option too. Check the ingredients and choose those with only the nut, and nothing other than salt; no palm oil or hydrogenated oil. Try some roasted or pan toasted nuts or seeds and tossed in salads.
This is one canned food, out of only a handful, that I will support. Why? It makes eating salmon easy and convenient. Salmon’s omega-3 fatty acid content has it on every super foods list. Omega 3’s are attributed to lowering heart disease, helping arthritis and preventing Alzheimer's, although your entire diet contributes to disease prevention and not only one food. It is a rich source of protein (3 oz. has 7 grams) and vitamin D. Fish, in general has sustained the test of time, known as a “brain food” for as far back as I can remember. You can add salmon to leafy greens and have the heart healthiest salad in minutes, or easily make salmon cakes. Keep frozen filets in your freezer for quick and easy grilling, pan sautéing or baking.
8. Whole Wheat Bread:
Bread, like bananas get a bad rap. Why did we add it to this list? Because, a homemade sandwich with a side salad or any vegetable is a fast and healthier option than ordering a pizza or stopping for fast food. Toast and sandwiches are easy and transportable. 100% whole wheat is the label you are looking for. Bakery bread options are sometimes a better choice than the bread aisle breads; considering the number of ingredients store bought bread is made of. The ingredients list on breads does concern me. Sprouted grain breads are a great flourless option with a lower glycemic index. If you are looking for a flourless option and a lower glycemic index, we like Ezekiel Bread.
Choose low-fat yogurts sweetened with nothing other than fruit. That means no artificial sweeteners or added sugar. Read the ingredients panel and not the food label. This is a calcium and protein rich snack and easily transportable. We like Chobani because it tastes good and it is a healthy choice. One 6 oz. Chobani yogurt has 14 grams of protein. Add fresh fruit for an added nutritional punch.
10. Beans and Peas:
Both a protein and a vegetable, low in fat, full of fiber for a filling, nutritious, inexpensive, easy to prepare and satisfying meal, side or snack. A bag of dried beans costs about $1.00. Soak beans overnight or use quick soak method. Make homemade hummus out of garbanzo beans for a healthy snack all week long. A good habit is to make a pot of beans every week for a healthy and economical go to food.
11. Cherry Tomatoes:
There is nothing better to see your child walk by the fruit and veggie bowl and pop a few of these in his mouth. Rich in lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamin C, tomatoes make both superfood and cancer fighting food lists.
Baby carrots rock. This colorful veggie is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene. Although, carrots are on the high glycemic food list due to the sugar content, consider the fine print beyond beta-carotene making the high glycemic argument in this food case seem illogical; the carrot is also a source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Manganese, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Potassium. All of that! Carrots are great dippers for hummus or nearly any dip for that matter, and easily transportable.
You are on your way home at the end of a busy day, the kids have practice or you have a meeting, and you haven't planned or prepared for dinner. The infamous question, “What am I making for dinner?” is overwhelming at this point. Time is running out, and the next thing you know, you find yourself stopping for take-out. This typically means spending money on less than healthy food.
What one thing could you do differently, that would most influence your ability to provide healthy weekday dinners for your family? Changing one behavior for a healthier outcome can create an entire cascade of positive consequences.
Following one or all 10 ways to Healthy Meals will save you time and money. Most importantly, you will more efficiently create healthy habits and healthy meals for you and your family.
1) Plan your meals for the following week
Planning is key. Write it down and stick with your plan. Add those needed ingredients to your grocery list. Goal oriented.
2) Grocery Shop Friday on your way home from work
Shopping on the weekend is a two hour ordeal. Shopping on a Friday afternoon gives you weekend time back and it may actually shorten your shopping time. There may be less people shopping on a Friday, and you will move faster; ready to be home and start your weekend! Use the time on Saturday or Sunday to meal prep for the week. Efficient.
3) Keep your pantry and fridge well stocked
Even with the best intentions, we run out of time. Having frozen vegetables in your freezer are a quick side to complete any protein or whole grain. Simple.
4) Prep for your upcoming week's planned meals
Clean and cut up fruits and vegetables from your Friday grocery run on Saturday or Sunday. This also provides healthy snacks for your family to munch on. Studies show, for us to eat healthy foods, we need to prefer that food, have it available and have it offered. Smart.
5) Prepare salad dressings and marinades for your meats and salads
It is easy to squeeze a lemon, mince garlic and olive oil when you have a minute. You may not have that extra minute during a busy week. By preparing your marinades and salad dressings on the weekend, you can grab a handful of spinach or other greens, throw in some cherry tomatoes and add dressing for a healthy and fast salad any day. Staying away from store bought prepared marinades is a healthy choice. Healthy.
6) Make two starches for sides and keep in fridge for easy heating
Think whole grain penne pasta and brown rice. As you are going through your week, imagine having your chicken already grilled, your rice is cooked; heat up and just add salad. Brilliant.
7) Prepare this week’s go to food
The goal is to have that healthy option available when you walk in the door ravenous and you need 100-200 healthy calories to hold you over until dinner. Choose beans or vegetables in the form or salsa's, salads or dippers. Make your own hummus for dipping your cut up fresh veggies, or make a bean or beet salad or salsa for example. I sometimes make brussels sprouts to have throughout the week. Whatever works for you is what it should be. This keeps you from eating less healthy foods before and after dinner, and helps you have reasonable portions at dinner. Satisfying.
8) Keep it simple
Marinade enough chicken to have leftovers to throw on top of a salad or to mix with the whole grain pasta and spinach later in the week. As part of your well stocked pantry and fridge, you will find having frozen vegetables on hand allows for no excuse to pick up less healthy choices. Practical.
9) Preference matters
If your children do not like what's for dinner, or any of you for that matter, then it takes some of the fun out of dining. It is nice to have something for everyone at each meal. Having the pasta or rice already made makes for an easy offering. Teach children that we eat our veggies because “fill in the blank”. At some point they will eat them because they love them or because they know that is what we do. Food should be nourishing and satisfying. I am OK with one person choosing salad and one choosing to eat baby carrots. The goal is to be healthy and create healthy habits. My guess is that at one point in the child rearing process, many of us have had one child at the table with chicken nuggets, while others are eating grilled chicken. That side of vegetables gives a mother a peaceful mind. Flexible.
10) Prepare tomorrow’s meal the night before
It is not that you cannot prepare a healthy dinner...it is the time constraints and timing that is the problem. By the time you get home, you are running out the door to the extracurricular activities. There isn’t even time to boil water! Cook extra during the week for leftovers, or make your spaghetti and salad for tomorrow...tonight. Just because you have prepared for the week, doesn’t mean your child will dish up a healthy plate. Kids tend to hit the pantry, or at least mine do, when I am not around. Don’t forget the one minute cooler for a healthy transition to meal time. Prepared.
Obey food safety rules. I do not recommend science experiments for meals. Use your freezer to prevent waste and to save time preparing meals in the weeks that follow.
My passion and purpose is helping people reach their full potential and master their wellbeing.
Disclosure: Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before beginning any diet or exercise program and ask whether you are healthy enough to engage in a diet and exercise program. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider concerning your overall health and wellness, including your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. It is your choice to follow the suggestions, opinions and advice given by a Health Inspires wellness coach.