Dietitian Diana Steele shares her secrets to eating well as well as some easy-to-prepare recipes
Eating a healthy diet can help prevent illness and lower your risk of developing chronic diseases. Food provides the nutrients our bodies need to boost immune function and fight infections keeping us healthy and strong. I like to think of each meal and snack as an opportunity to get these nutrients.
Research has shown that eating patterns, such as the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) and the Mediterranean Diet—that emphasize vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, dairy, fish and healthy fats from nuts and olive oil—can help prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and some types of cancer.
At home, I try to include one new recipe a week. Getting the kids to help choose the recipe helps ensure I’ve got "buy in" from them. I find that having a list of the five or six dinners I will cook that week and writing a grocery list based on those meals helps ensure I only need to shop once a week and reduces food waste.
Here are three of my go-to recipes to keep my family healthy...
1. Avocado, Mango and Black Bean Salad on Wilted Kale
One of the ways I incorporate these eating patterns is by finding delicious ways to fill half my plate with vegetables. I love making meal-in-one salads like this Avocado, Mango and Black Bean Salad on Wilted Kale by Avocados from Mexico. I always buy two bunches of kale when I do my grocery shopping on Saturdays. When I get home, I wash it, cut off the tough stems and tear it into bite-sized pieces. I keep this in my fridge for the next three or four days and top it with different proteins such as beans, salmon or chicken and vegetables like tomato, peppers and avocado for quick weekday lunches. Eating leafy greens can also help reduce the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
- ½ medium bunch kale, stems removed and finely chopped
- 1 14-oz (398 ml) can black beans (no added salt), drained and rinsed
- 1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
- ½ medium red onion, diced
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
- 2-3 tbsp crushed unsalted peanuts
- Juice of one lime
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp honey
- 2-3 dashes Tabasco (or desired spicyness)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, olive oil, honey, tabasco, salt, and red pepper flakes.
- Remove the stems from the kale and discard. Finely chop the kale (the smaller the better).
- Wash the kale and spin dry. Place dried kale into a large salad bowl. Add about one-third of the dressing to the kale and toss with salad tongs or massage with hands for about 1 minute. Make sure it is evenly coated. Let the kale sit in the fridge while you do the next step.
- Drain and rinse black beans and place in a medium sized bowl.
- Remove skin and pit of mango and dice.
- Remove the outer skin and ends of the onion and dice.
- Add the mango, onion, and the remainder of the dressing to the black beans and toss until ingredients are evenly distributed. Remove the kale from the fridge. Place the bean mixture on top of the kale. Sprinkle the diced avocados over the bean mixture and then the crushed peanuts over the whole salad.
2. Mint Basil Guacamole
I find having homemade salsa or guacamole in the fridge is an easy way to get my kids eating more vegetables. Mint Basil Guacamole served with tortilla chips, cucumber rounds and bell peppers is the perfect after school snack to tide them over until dinner. Just mash the avocado with a fork and add your favorite herbs, spices and lime juice. This recipe also calls for soft tofu and some seeds for added protein.
- 4 ripe avocados
- 3 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1½ limes, juiced
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for sprinkling
- 1½ teaspoons Himalayan or sea salt
- Small handful pumpkin seeds
- Small handful sunflower seeds
- 150g container of soft tofu (optional)
- Tortilla chips
- Cucumber slices (optional)
- Mix all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl using two forks. Add the soft tofu if you prefer a 'lighter' guacamole. Sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika.
- Serve with tortilla chips and/or cucumber slices (another light option, if you prefer).
Courtesy of Avocados from Mexico; credit Erin Ireland
I also try to find creative ways to serve fish a couple times a week. Fish tacos are a big hit and another great way serve salsa and this guacamole. Omega-3 fats from fatty fish like salmon and trout can help reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol levels.
3. Spanish Bulgur
I like to include more plant proteins such as nuts and legumes in my family’s meals. Veggie burgers made with lentils and Spanish Bulgar with chickpeas are delicious recipes found on the free Cookspriation app that help boost protein and fibre without saturated fats.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup carrot, thinly sliced
- ½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 ¼ cup coarse bulgur
- 1 19-oz can (540 ml) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juice
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried tarragon or oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ¼ cups hot vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup green or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup cooked canned chickpeas, rinse and drained
- ½ cup chopped soy nuts
- In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic, carrot and onion for 5 minutes. Add bulgur and sauté for about 3 minutes or until bulgur is coated with pan juices.
- Stir in tomatoes with juice, paprika, tarragon, salt, pepper and stock; bring to a boil. Stir in celery and green pepper; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until bulgur is almost tender.
- Stir in chickpeas and soy nuts; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until bulgur is tender and juices are absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.