The information is everywhere- eat a balanced diet including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. It’s one thing to read and hear it over and over, and a whole other ballgame to put it into practice. Everybody runs into a food rut, and that lack of excitement about flavor can lead to making less-than-ideal food choices that can sabotage a weight loss plan. Here are 8 recipes that include foods that will benefit your body, and ideas on how to switch up the ingredients to keep things interesting.
Chicken Quinoa Bowl
Quinoa is a whole grain that is loaded with vitamins and protein. It can be incorporated into almost any dish- salads, soups, side dishes, etc. In this dish, quinoa served with spinach, veggies, and chicken. Avocado is included, which provides a serving of healthy fat (read more about the difference between dietary fats here). What’s nice about this dish is that once you have the equation of grain+protein+veggies+dressing, you can rotate out the ingredients to keep things exciting. This is a fantastic option for pre-making lunch dishes; keep a few variations in the fridge and you have a healthy option when hunger hits.
Greens, Sweet Potato, and Fried Egg Bowl
Eggs are often overlooked as a healthy food because of the long-lived message that they can be detrimental to cholesterol levels. The foods people typically eat with eggs, such as bacon, sausage and ham, may do more to boost heart disease risk than eggs do. But, the way eggs are cooked, especially if fried in oil or butter, may play more of a role in the increased risk of heart disease than eggs themselves do. Recent studies show that most people can safely incorporate eggs into their diet with no detriment to their cholesterol levels (check with your provider). They are a great protein source, easy to cook, and add such a delicious element to foods. This bowl also has sweet potato, which is full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and is known to promote gut health. Top a bowl of greens with a fried egg (use peanut or olive oil as a healthy alternatives to butter or high-saturated fat choices.).
Caramelized Onion Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is a nutrient-dense food, meaning it’s low in calories but high in several key vitamins and minerals. In particular, spaghetti squash is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B6. This vegetarian dish is loaded with vitamins and minerals with the addition of kale and mushrooms; mushrooms contain a powerful antioxidant called selenium, which supports cell and tissue health. You could also add some grilled chicken or tofu cubes sauteed in peanut oil for an additional protein kick.
Cowboy Caviar Dip
Cowboy caviar is loaded with healthy ingredients- beans, corn, tomato, celery, just to name a few. The dressing for this dip is made from scratch, but you can also use lite Italian salad dressing. If you opt for the store-bought dressing, one tip we have to cut the calories, fat, and sodium is to replace 1/4 of the total amount of liquid with water. While this is a dip, it can also be used as a salad topper, over rice, or with any protein.
Barley, Broccoli and Chickpea Salad
Barley is a whole grain, full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A nutrient-dense food, barley will help keep you full for longer, and is easy to incorporate into any recipe that calls for a grain. This recipe also contains broccoli, which is considered a super food, full of protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The chickpeas are high in protein, making this dish a great option for filling you up without loading up on calories. Try adding nuts to this dish, which have been found to help weight loss. It’ll add a crunchy element that includes vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Rainbow Stuffed Bell Peppers
Stuffed bell peppers are easy to make and incorporate several staples of a healthy, balanced diet; protein, vegetables, grains, and flavor! Use ground turkey, which is leaner than ground beef, to get a serving of protein in your meal without loading up on excess fat. Keep the cheese on the lighter side to cut down on calories. This recipe contains black beans, which provide fiber and protein, and you can substitute brown rice or barley for the rice called for in the recipe for the added benefit of the whole grains. Fun fact? Red,orange, and yellow bell peppers contain 3x more Vitamin C than an orange!
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
A Mediterranean diet is one that focuses on incorporating plant-based foods, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy dietary fats. This recipe is meant as a side salad, but can easily be incorporated with other elements like a grain (try barley, quinoa, or even brown rice) or a protein like grilled chicken or fish. It is incredibly easy to make, is full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and can be made and stored in the fridge, ready for use in a variety of dishes. The dressing is a refreshing combination of lemon, olive oil, and garlic, topping red bell peppers, celery, and herbs. You can swap out the type of beans in this recipe, or adjust which veggies are added. Get creative!
Adobo Lime Chicken Skewers
Does anybody else run out of ideas of how to make chicken? Being a lean source of protein, chicken is one ingredient to always have on-hand, but falling in a flavor rut can make it hard to look forward to using it in yet another recipe (same goes for any food!). This recipe is packed with flavor, only requires a few ingredients, and is delicious right off the grill, or from the fridge, added to a salad or in a lettuce wrap. The avocado ranch that is suggested with this recipe uses sour creme and mayonnaise- but try using non-fat, plain Greek yogurt to still enjoy the creamy texture of the dressing without the added fat and sodium.
Although these are just a few ideas, they set the framework for how to keep switching up the menu at home. Change just one ingredient in a recipe, and the flavors take on a whole new spin. Keep the general framework of the recipe, but use only what you have at home- you’ll be surprised by how much you can make with what you already have on-hand! Take the time to vary what you eat and incorporate beneficial ingredients and not only will you find yourself looking forward to new flavors, the bonus is that it can also be healthy and benefit your overall wellness!