7 SMART CONVENIENCE FOODS
To create and maintain good gut health – and a happy microbiome, opt for whole foods and by whole I mean minimally processed, unadulterated and not created or “enhanced” in the lab. Meals made with simple, nutrient-dense ingredients, as close to the vine as possible will deliver the maximum benefit to your belly, brain, heart and just about every cell in your body. Your body deserves and will run a lot better on good fuel, so don’t settle for a so-so tasting, take-out dinner that’s loaded with unhealthy fats, salt and hidden sugar(s). Instead, head to the kitchen and whip up something that is delicious and nourishing.
No time to cook? As a busy person with a family, business and a home to run believe me, I get it. I know that for many of us, there are a lot of weeknights when the thought of washing, chopping and cooking makes you just want to pick up the phone and dial for your dinner. But wait! Next time the take-out urge strikes, take a step back, head to the fridge or panty and combine a few smart “convenience foods” to cut culinary corners the healthy way.
Here’s a few of my favorite convenience foods – whole foods that check all the good-for-you boxes – serving up the things that help a body thrive, including essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber, plus meal-stretching volume and great taste. Stock up so they’re always within easy reach!
1) Frozen veggies – adding frozen butternut squash, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach to your plate is an effortless way to add color and fiber to every meal – even breakfast.
2) Washed, bagged salad mixes are healthy time savers, but make your own light dressing with lemon juice, spices and olive oil – and skip the croutons, get your crunch with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds instead!
3) Canned beans (in BPA-free cans) are an instant fiber upgrade to any meal, with black beans, kidney beans and white beans topping the list of meal-stretching, nutritionally-dense add-ins.
4) Frozen berries make chopping fruit for smoothies a thing of the past – and if your smoothie is a little larger than needed, just pour the extra into ice cube trays and freeze until you need them for your next one!
5) Hummus – such a wonderful, simple and easy-to-make snack. The perfect “dipping sauce” for crunchy fresh veggies or nutritious condiment if desired.
6) Bean and vegetable pastas solve the gluten problem for many people but better yet, they’re fiber-packed and cook in about half the time (or faster!) of traditional pastas.
7) Canned fish is the ultimate, no-cook time saver, taking just seconds to go from can or bottle to plate. My go-to’s are wild salmon, skipjack tuna and sardines because they’re rich in good fats, protein and flavor.
8) Tofu is a versatile and protein-packed favorite that lends itself to everything from stir-fry’s to soups to sauces and spreads.
And, on those occasional, last resort nights when you really want to treat yourself to a take-out meal, check out my post "10 WAYS TO UPGRADE TAKE-OUT DINNERS… WITH HEALTH!," and get creative!
By Kathie Madonna Swift, MS RDN LDN FAND EBQ with additional reporting by Kate Doyle Hooper