A boost of goodness

Simple ways to introduce good nutrition into your family’s favourite meals and treats

By Edie Shaw-Ewald

Improving your family’s eating habits doesn’t have to mean doing away with family favourites and a total upheaval of your family’s diet. I like to think in terms of additions to a diet rather than taking away. That’s a more positive approach.

These nutrition boosters are not meant to sneak and hide healthy food inside sauces and soups. Kids should learn how to eat healthy. How can they learn if they don’t know what they are eating?

I know there are some real challenging picky eaters out there and a concern to provide them with the nutrients they need, even if it means disguising a few veggies in their favourite foods. As parents, we have to do what works for our child.

Try these nutrition boosters in your usual fare. You may find that they will naturally mean fewer requests for desserts and sweet snacks because the meal has been so satisfying and energy sustaining.

• Grate extra vegetables into sauces. Carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, and zucchini are great in a spaghetti sauce. Cooked and mashed sweet potato or butternut squash can replace some of the cheese in macaroni and cheese. 

• Try spaghetti squash? You can use spaghetti squash in place for pasta. Cut it in half, lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Put it cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake in a 375?F (190?C) oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until a fork easily pierces through the squash. Let it cool a bit and then take a fork and scrape out the strands. Top with your favourite spaghetti sauce.

• Cauliflower rice is trending right now. I can really support a trend that means eating more cruciferous veggies. Grate raw cauliflower and sauté it in a large saucepan or wok. Add some more chopped veggies and cubes of cooked chicken and you have a quick stir-fried rice dish. 

• If you are really rushed, take a can of lentil vegetable soup, add a cup or two of mixed frozen vegetables, a can of drained, rinsed beans such as chickpeas, and extra water if you want to thin it out. It will be like an instant stew. Use red lentils to thicken up a soup or stew, rinse dried red lentils well, then add ½ (125 mL) cup to a medium pot of soup.

• Replace small portions of meat with cooked green lentils in recipes for meatballs or hamburgers, tacos, or chili. Turn a meat-based meal into meatless by trying a recipe for tacos, or burritos using beans or lentils. I think you will be impressed. I love Chef Michael Smith’s recipe for Lentil Burritos and I don’t bother with the bacon. Find that recipe here: chefmichaelsmith.com/recipe/bacon-lentil-burrito-2

• Have you met kefir? Kefir is a fermented milk product and contains calcium and protein. But what sets it apart from yogurt is its probiotic power. Kefir contains 12 or more strains of friendly bacteria, which can aid with digestion and your immune system. Add plain kefir to your smoothies or on top of your oatmeal.

• You have probably seen the recipes for black bean brownies, but have you tried them? One cup (250 mL) of drained, rinsed, pureed canned black beans can replace one cup of flour in a brownie recipe. The beans also add protein and fibre to this classic treat. My favourite Black Bean Brownie recipe comes from this Nova Scotian blogger, Mmmm is for Mommy. I reduce the sugar to ½ cup in this recipe. Find that recipe here: