A healthy meal has a variety of whole foods
A healthy meal is based on whole foods. The foundation is a variety of fresh vegetables. Best is a mix of both raw and cooked vegetables. Most should be complex carbohydrates rather than starches. This will give the highest nutrient density to any meal.
Leafy greens supply many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They are a fantastic anti-inflammatory food. Raw salad is a good source of leafy greens. Cooked greens, such as beet greens, kale, collards and Swiss chard add their own flavors and textures to a meal.
Legumes have a place on every plate. These can be cooked dry beans like lentils or fresh beans like edamame or green beans or snap peas. It is even better to feature both. Legumes are a great source of protein that is easier on the kidneys than animal protein.
Whole grains contribute to whole food health. A serving of whole grain on every plate adds many nutrients to a meal. Many fast and delicious whole grain options are available.
Adding more nutrition to a healthy meal
There are easy ways to add even more nutritional value and variety to a healthy meal. Including other food groups adds their unique nutrients to a solid foundation. It all contributes to a healthy whole food diet.
Nuts promote health and longevity. They can sprinkled onto a salad. Nuts can be added to a whole grain pilaf. Having a bowl of nuts on the dining table invites nibbling on a few during each meal. My favorite nuts include Brazil nuts(especially high in selenium), walnuts, almonds, cashews and peanuts. I like to slip in some pistachios, hazel nuts, pecans and macadamias occasionally. Nuts are also a great addition to many desserts.
Seeds supply all of the nutrients to get a whole new plant off to a good start in life. Eating them does the same for us. Hemp hearts, chia seeds and sesame seeds can be sprinkled on most any dish for a nutritional boost and added texture and flavor. Whole celery, cumin, caraway, coriander and mustard seeds do the same for legumes and whole grains when added to the cooking pot.
Mushrooms belong to an entirely different category of plants than vegetables. They contribute nutrients unique to the fungi family. Eating more mushrooms can particularly strengthen the immune system. Mushrooms are also a good source of phosphorous. Include mushrooms when cooking greens, vegetable stir-fries, legumes and whole grains.
Fats are a must for a healthy meal. Many vitamins and some minerals and other nutrients are only absorbed properly when eaten with fats. Getting enough fat is easy. Use a little avocado or coconut oil to stir-fry or saute the veggies. Top the salad with fresh avocado or just have it on the side. Lightly drizzle the salad with avocado, almond or extra virgin olive oil for flavor. Add good fats by adding a few nuts. Flavor the whole grain pilaf with truffle oil or herb-infused olive oil.
Herbs and spices are packed with anti-inflammatory compounds. That is why they are so aromatic and full of flavor. Use as many as possible in every dish to enhance nutrition and health. I love having fresh basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, parsley and cilantro available from the backyard garden or windowsill pots. Fresh or ground turmeric and ginger root is a daily part of my diet. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and black pepper all enhance flavor and health.
Tea, especially green tea, is also a proven health and longevity enhancer. Adding a few slices of fresh ginger root and lemon to the brewing water makes it even better. Hot and cold teas are a healthier alternative to soda or fruit juices. Why drink something that makes you sick when you can drink something that makes you healthy instead?
Use healthy diet tips to make every meal a healthy meal:
*Add vegetables to everything. Five or six different vegetables added to a whole grain pilaf, potato or pasta salad, meatloaf or other recipe increases nutrients and fiber.
*Use fermented vegetables as a condiment or accent. A small portion of raw(unpasteurized) sauerkraut or kimchi on the plate packs in a lot of immune-boosting good bacteria. These bacteria also produce small amounts of vitamin B12 as a fermentation by-product.
*Use fermented dairy to make sauces, dips and dressings with a probiotic punch. Tzatziki and variations use yogurt and can be served as a cold soup, as a sauce or as a dip. Kefir works well as the base for probiotic salad dressings and sauces. Either can replace sour cream in recipes like Stroganof or bisque or tetrazini.
*Spices and herbs are important sources of vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory compounds. Use turmeric, ginger, black pepper, dried red chiles, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and others as much as possible. The same goes for fresh and dried herbs.
*Seeds are packed with nutrients and are easy to add to many recipes. Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and as many more as you can find add nutritional value to hot porridges, pilafs, casseroles, baked goods and other items. Seeds are also great sprinkled on salads and tossed into stir-fries.