“Eating clean” is easier said than done; sometimes it’s hard to make the transition right away. With a healthier diet you will find you have more energy to make better choices. You will probably get used to the taste of nutritious foods and even find yourself craving them once you cut out all the unnecessary sugars and fats from your meals. Until then you may have to trick yourself every now and then to make sure you’re still eating right. Fortunately, clean eating is a lot easier than you might think! Below are six subtle ways to put some extra nutrition into what you eat without even noticing.
Throw a handful of greens in your smoothie
Next time you make a delicious fruit smoothie, consider adding a handful of greens to the mix. To hide a little extra fiber and nutrients in your snack use something mild like baby spinach and blend smooth with a little bit of water before adding your fruit and other ingredients and you will barely notice it’s there. Try adding other vegetables or leafy greens like celery or parsley to the mix to add a surprisingly refreshing kick along with those extra vitamins.
Start baking with whole wheat pastry flour
When you use processed, white flour you are missing out on most of the nutrients contained in wheat. An obvious option is to switch to using unbleached, whole wheat flour but that can give your food a stronger ‘tannic’ flavor and cause your baked goods to come out denser than they normally would with typical all-purpose flour. A good middle ground is using whole wheat pastry flour instead. It is finer than all-purpose flour which will help with the consistency and it still contains the germ and bran of the wheat which is where many of the nutrients come from.
Use pureed dates as a substitute for sugar
It may not come as a surprise to hear that dried fruits are usually packed with sugar. However, if you’re planning to eat a sugary treat anyway you might as well take it with some extra fiber and phytonutrients. Dried dates are very sweet and mild. You can puree them in a food processor and add them as a sugar substitute to baked goods or smoothies.
Use apple sauce (with the peel!) instead of butter
This is an old trick to eliminate extra fat from your recipe. Be careful with this one though, most of the nutrition is in that colorful apple peel which is usually removed to make apple sauce. If you have the time, you can make your own and leave the peels in. If you don’t have time, simply cut up an apple, leaving the skin on, and puree it. That should achieve the same effect and give a healthy boost to your baking.
Choose plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
Plain Greek yogurt is higher in protein and often lower in fat than regular sour cream. It has a similar taste and texture but can be used in a number of other things as well (add cucumber and some lemon juice and you have tzatziki sauce for gyros or blend it up with some frozen fruit!). Whether you are using it to make a dip or putting it directly on top it is generally the healthier and more versatile option. You can even get yogurt with live cultures and add some probiotics to taco night.
Use black or kidney beans where you would use ground beef
Not that there’s anything wrong with eating meat, but when you compare beans to beef it’s no contest. Beans are lower in fat and contain most of the vitamins found in beef (some even in higher quantities). Beans also have fiber which isn’t in meat at all. When you want to add some protein, flavor and texture to your meal, black or kidney beans are a great substitute for ground beef. You can just add a can of beans right into a stir fry or casserole, no browning required. You can even use beans to make ‘meat’ balls or burgers and we all know that beans are a key element of a good vegetarian chili.