Did you know there are little things we can do to boost the nutritional value of the foods we eat? In today’s post I’m covering 12 easy ways to eat healthier with some very clever nutrition hacks!
I think we can all use some nutrition ‘hacks’ sometimes. You know, little things we can do to boost the nutritional value of the foods we eat and to make healthy eating easier overall.
As a nutritionist these types of tips make me pretty excited. I mean, who knew putting a lid on your herbal tea while it steeps could preserve its beneficial qualities? I learned this a couple of years ago and it’s a cool little fun fact. But read on to learn more, my friends, because I’ve got 12 hacks to share with you.
1. Use Vegetables as a Base
It’s easy to use pasta, rice, and bread as our base for many meals. I love my rice and spaghetti, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s nice to switch things up and use vegetables in place of those items. Here are some of my favourites:
- spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for pasta (I have this handheld spiralizer)
- cauliflower for rice or pizza crust (almond flour is also a great option)
- sweet potatoes for your starch
This is a great way to reduce excess refined carb intake and increase our fibre.
2. Soak or Sprout Legumes & Grains
Legumes and grains contain specific types of enzyme inhibitors (that prevent proper absorption of nutrients) that are released through soaking and sprouting. By doing this, it can make them easier to digest. If you have a sensitive stomach, give this a try.
If you’re in a pinch, you can also buy some items pre-sprouted such as quinoa.
3. Grind Flaxseeds Only As Needed
When buying flaxseeds, opt for whole instead of pre-ground. Flaxseeds contain delicate oils that are sensitive to heat, light, and oxygen once they’re exposed by grinding. Instead, buy them whole and grind them only as needed in your blender or coffee grinder to prevent oxidation. I sometimes have a small jar of flax that I ground myself and store in the refrigerator, but I make sure to use it up relatively quickly.
4. Steep Tea With a Lid
Did you know that some of the beneficial components of herbal teas can be lost in the steam? To preserve their goodness, steep your herbal teas with a lid on. This is especially important for our more ‘medicinal’ teas like peppermint or green tea.
5. Let Some Veggies “Rest”
Sounds strange, but here’s the idea behind letting some vegetables “sit” for a few moments. Foods like garlic, onion, broccoli and kale contain specific enzymes that are activated after they’re chopped and allowed to sit for 10-15 minutes. These enzymes help enhance the nutritional quality of the food. Broccoli and kale for example contain the enzyme myrosinase which slowly converts some of the plant nutrients into their active forms. Pretty cool!
Pro tip: Vitamin C also increases the myrosinase enzyme, so trying adding some lemon juice to your recipes that contain those veggies.
6. Combine Vitamin C with Iron
Speaking of vitamin C, combining it with iron-rich foods enhances the absorption of iron. Add a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to a spinach salad or toss diced apples into a lentil-based dish. Or, if you’re in need of supplementation due to low iron levels, look for an iron supplement that contains added vitamin C. I like AOR, but always speak to your healthcare provider first.
7. Eat Enough Fat
Fat is my favourite macronutrient (you can read more about why that is here!) It’s essential for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and nutrients like beta carotene found in carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. It’s also critical for hormone health and blood sugar balance — so make you’re you’re getting adequate amounts in your diet each day from sources like fish, eggs, coconut oil, avocado and olives.
8. Combine fat, fibre, protein.
As mentioned, fat helps balance our blood sugar. But for optimal blood sugar balance, combine it with fibre and protein. These 3 things are the trio of satiation, especially when combined alongside meals containing higher levels of carbohydrates. For example:
- oatmeal with nut butter
- fruit smoothie with hemp seeds or protein powder
- pasta with added veggies and lean meats
- rice with chickpeas and avocado
9. Make Smoothies
I know smoothies are nothing new, but it’s worth mentioning here. Smoothies are the ultimate ‘nutrition hack’ because they’re such quick, easy nutrition powerhouses. Whip them up in the morning or pre-make some and blend as needed. Boost them with nutritious add-ons like:
- hemp, chia, or flax seed
- frozen cauliflower or zucchini as an ice replacement to add creaminess
- collagen peptides
- nut or seed butter
10. Swap Out Your Cooking Oils
If you’re currently using margarine or vegetable oils like canola that come in clear plastic packaging, now’s the time to make some swaps. A good rule of thumb when cooking is to use oils that are generally solid at room temperature. This indicates a higher saturated fat content and means they’re more stable to higher heat cooking. Butter, ghee or coconut oil are great options. Extra virgin olive oil, while not solid at room temperature, is also a good choice.
11. Steam More Often
When it comes to cooking methods, steaming definitely takes first place over boiling or frying in a pan. I love my stir fry’s, but try steaming more often to avoid overdoing it with oil in the first place.
You can simply use a mesh steamer or add a small amount of water to a skillet, or even try using broth for more flavour. Pop a lid on top and steam until al dente — a little firm and not mushy. You want your veggies to still have some bright colour to them.
12. Chew Your Food
If you’ve watched my video or read my blog post all about Digestion 101, you’ve heard me say this before: chew your food thoroughly. But the reason why this can help us obtain more nutrition is because chewing increases the surface area of food, allowing enzymes to break it down easier so we can better extract nutrients. Simple, but an important one!
Check out my Nutrition Hacks video below: