Slipping in healthful nutrients here and there can transform an ordinary diet into a nutritional all-star. We polled experts for tips on giving family meals nutritional oomph and good flavor.
A few slices of avocado can add healthful monounsaturated fat and a dose of cholesterol-lowering beta-sitosterol.
Shred a small zucchini into marinara sauce, says University of Pennsylvania nutrition education specialist Lisa A. Hark, Ph.D., R.D. You'll add 1 gram fiber to the sauce, along with 20 milligrams vitamin C, 142 micrograms beta-carotene, and 2,500 micrograms of lutein. Or keep adding chopped veggies, such as onions and peppers, and call it primavera sauce.
Give meat loaf a new identity by substituting 1 cup of black or pinto beans for the beef. You'll add 12 g fiber but subtract 5 g saturated fat.
Thicken creamy sauces and soups with silken tofu, says Terri Simonton, R.D., clinical dietitian at Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Just dice and puree, then stir into the liquid. Each slice of tofu contains 4 g lean protein. CookingLight.com: Power up your plate
Add fresh fruit to plain yogurt to gain more vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, Hark says. Not sweet enough? Stir in a spoonful of all-fruit jam.
Add chopped, slivered, or sliced almonds to hot and cold cereals, salads, and casseroles to net 9 mg of vitamin E for every ¼ cup of nuts, Simonton says. You'll also gain good-for-you mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Stir a cup of yellow corn kernels into soups, pasta dishes, or corn bread batter. The corn contributes almost 2,000 mcg lutein, an antioxidant that can help prevent age-related vision problems, says Kathleen Cappellano, M.S., R.D., nutrition information manager at the Jean Mayer usda Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Double up with nonfat milk powder. Stir 1 tablespoon into puddings, smoothies, and milk shakes to add 100 mg calcium, says Seattle, Washington, sports nutritionist Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D.
Stir ground flaxseed into toppings for fruit crisps or use it in recipes that call for breadcrumbs to tap into the seeds' heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids -- 4 g for every 2 tablespoons. CookingLight.com: Test your knowledge of star nutrients
Add a few slices of avocado to sandwiches and salads for healthful monounsaturated fat and a dose of cholesterol-lowering beta-sitosterol, Cappellano says. Bonus points: Studies show avocados help boost absorption of other antioxidants in the meal.
Color yourself healthy
When it comes to choosing fruits and vegetables, simply picking produce of a brighter color can help you automatically increase your nutrient intake.
Grapefruit: Choosing ruby-red over plain white adds nearly 50 times more beta-carotene, plus 1,700 times more lycopene, a carotenoid that's been linked to heart-disease prevention in women and prostate protection in men.
Lettuce: Cup for cup, romaine's darker leaves have nearly four times more vitamin K and folate, seven times more lutein, and eight times more vitamin C than pale-green iceberg.
Peppers: Any green bell pepper will eventually change color; red and yellow peppers are simply mature green ones. And maturity counts -- a medium-sized red pepper contains twice as much vitamin C, four times more vitamin E, and eight times more beta-carotene than a green one. E-mail to a friend