10 Food Improvements for Healthy Eaters

Upgrade a meal’s nutrition by eating more! Boost the benefits of everyday dishes with these simple and tasty add-ons

January 6, 2012
woman eating healthy foods
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You already start your day with a well-rounded breakfast and load up on veggies at lunch, but that doesn't mean you should rest on your salad greens. Instead, try making these tweaks, suggested by Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet, to the healthy foods you're already eating. (Video: How to Organize a Healthy Kitchen) Not only will these upgrades give you more nutritionally, but also elevate run-of-the-mill meals to tastier, more satisfying dishes.

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1. Oatmeal

Add: Low-fat cottage cheese
Blend cottage cheese into your oatmeal for a creamier, heartier dish. "People usually are still hungry after a bowl of oatmeal. The protein from the cottage cheese will help you stay fuller longer," Gans says. You'll be bulking up your breakfast with about 16 g of protein (Calculate your daily protein needs) and 10% of your daily calcium requirement per half cup, for about 90 calories. Use small-curd or whipped varieties for best results, Gans suggests.

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eggs and spinach
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2. Eggs

Add: Spinach
Dr. Seuss had the right idea--green eggs really are better, if their emerald hue is from nutrient-rich spinach. Stuff your plain or cheese omelet full of the leafy stuff, or mix it in as you scramble eggs. Either way you'll be fortifying your meal with loads of vitamin K, which promotes a healthy liver, as well as vision-enhancing vitamin A and immunity-boosting vitamin C.

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3. Yogurt

Add: Sunflower seeds
Sprinkle sunflower seeds into your yogurt to give it a little crunch, Gans recommends. An ounce of sunflower seeds supplies 13% of your recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber, which is important because yogurt doesn't have any fiber. You'll also get about one-third of your recommended allotment of vitamin E and selenium--which lowers the risk of some cancers--from the little guys, as well as substantial amounts of manganese, which aids digestion and metabolism, and phosphorus, which promotes bone health.

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4. Cereal

Add: Ground flaxseed
A tablespoon of flaxseed pairs seamlessly with cereal and delivers 2,338 mg of omega-3 fatty acids--about twice as much as you'd get from 4 ounces of salmon. You'll also be adding 13% of your daily fiber intake and 2 g of protein to your morning meal. Just be sure the seeds are ground, as the nutrients in crushed seeds are more easily absorbed by the body.

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5. Pasta

Add: Artichoke hearts
By mixing artichoke hearts into your favorite pasta dish, you'll end up eating less pasta and consuming fewer calories. Half a cup of artichoke hearts contains about 35 calories, but delivers more antioxidants than most other vegetables, as well as healthy amounts of vitamin C, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber. When using canned artichoke hearts, be sure to rinse them under water to remove excess salt.

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6. Soup

Add: Potato
To make a broth-based soup more filling, just add spuds. Gans suggests quartering a baked potato, skin and all, and mashing it a little bit at the bottom of your bowl. You'll have a more satisfying meal and also reap healthy benefits from potassium, which may lower your blood pressure, and vitamins B6 and C, which support your nervous system and immune system.

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7. Sandwich

Add: Roasted red peppers
"Any sandwich gives you an opportunity to add lots of vegetables, which provide more fiber to help fill you up, and vitamin C, which is good for immune function and can help prevent different cancers," Gans says. Roasted red peppers are excellent because they inject maximum flavor into whatever you're eating, but few calories. A half cup contains approximately 25 calories, but sets you up with about 80% of your recommended daily vitamin C allowance and 30% of your vitamin A intake.

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8. Salad

Add: Nuts
A salad can help you load up on fresh, raw veggies, but it could be even more healthy and satisfying when they include a handful of nuts. In addition to cutting your risk of heart disease, the MUFA-rich nuggets help boost your HDL (good) cholesterol, lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and have been shown to help control belly fat. Not to mention, they'll enhance your leafy greens and veggies with a necessary dose of protein (about 4 to 6 g per serving). Gans suggests adding slivered almonds or chopped walnuts--just be aware of portion size. A single serving is 1 ounce.

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baked potato
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9. Baked Potato

Add: Fried egg
Forgo the usual fixings (butter, sour cream, cheese) for a fried egg, which will pump your potato up with about 6 g of protein, making for a more fulfilling meal, according to Gans. Research has indicated that eating eggs aids in weight loss by promoting satiety throughout the day. Plus, each egg is only 70 calories (though slightly more if you're frying it in oil or butter) and packs plenty of nutrients, like selenium, choline, and vitamin B12.

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10. Chicken or Cheese Quesadilla

Add: Avocado
Avocados are a natural fit with Mexican cuisine--not to mention they'll endow your average chicken or cheese quesadilla with monounsaturated fatty acids, which support healthy HDL cholesterol. The green superfood also contains 10 g of dietary fiber to help with satiety and delivers traces of folate and vitamins C and K. However, despite all of its good qualities, one fruit has more than 200 calories, so limit yourself to about a quarter or fifth of a whole fruit.

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