January 15, 2021
Rotating new foods into your diet is a great way to add nutrients, break out of meal ruts, and keep your healthy eating goals on track.
I partnered with Cheryl Herold, a registered dietitian from LG Health’s Community Health & Wellness team, to put together a list of 5 food swaps to try this year. These tasty “superfoods” pack a lot of nutritional value, and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
If you’re up for the challenge, try expanding your repertoire with the suggestions below.
1. Swap Rice for Quinoa
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is eaten as a grain, but is actually a seed. A good source of protein and fiber, quinoa is a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies need.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, and low in saturated fat and sodium. It is also rich in antioxidants as well as iron, magnesium and other minerals.
What I love most about quinoa is its versatility. Available in white, red and black, it has a light, nutty flavor that can be used in both savory dishes and sweet. Try it in breakfast bowls, salads and side dishes, as well as main courses and casseroles. Learn how to make perfectly cooked quinoa and find links to recipes.
2. Swap Conventional Blueberries for Wild Blueberries
Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant fruits, known for boosting brain health and protecting against inflammation, heart disease, and cancer. Low-calorie and high fiber, they are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, B complex and other vitamins, as well as minerals like copper, selenium, manganese and zinc.
Wild blueberries are smaller and denser than conventional blueberries, packing nearly twice the nutritional punch. Wild blueberries are harvested only in August and September, which makes them a little more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but they freeze well and can be bought frozen year-round.
Add wild blueberries to cereal, pancakes, waffles, salads and smoothies, or eat alone as a healthy snack or dessert. Try my 5-Ingredient Very Berry Smoothie which can be made with a variety of berries.
3. Swap Spinach or Kale for Swiss Chard
Both the stalks and leaves of Swiss chard are edible and loaded with nutrients. One cup contains more than twice an entire day’s supply of vitamins A and K, and nearly a day’s supply of vitamin C. It’s also rich in minerals like magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper and calcium. Swiss chard is low in calories and high in fiber and antioxidants.
The leaves have a bitter taste when eaten raw, but sweeten when cooked. Try adding Swiss chard to salads, soups and stir fries, sautéing with olive oil and garlic, or using in recipes like my Baked Swiss Chard with Peppers and Feta.
4. Swap Flaxseeds for Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are tiny but mighty, high in fiber, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. They are a good source of protein, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals including calcium, manganese and phosphorus. They also contain zinc, potassium, thiamin and niacin.
Chia seeds are neutral in taste. They are highly absorbent and thicken to a gelatinous texture when soaked in liquids. Toss them in smoothies and homemade salad dressings, or make an easy chia pudding, like my Chia Pudding Breakfast Bowl. Watch me make this recipe in the video below.
5. Swap Almonds or Walnuts for Pistachios
Pistachios are one of the highest antioxidant nuts, after walnuts and pecans, and linked to eye health and prevention of heart disease and certain cancers. They contain good amounts of healthy, unsaturated fat, fiber and protein and have the highest ratio of essential amino acids of all nuts.
While raw pistachios are low in sodium, roasted varieties often have salt added, so be aware of your portions when eating those. Snack on pistachios by themselves or use them in recipes like Cheryl Herold’s Pistachio Crusted Salmon, below.
Pistachio Crusted Salmon
1 pound wild caught salmon filets
Juice from ½ lemon
¼ tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
⅓ cup pistachios, shelled
3 Tbsp Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
2. Arrange salmon on foil or parchment paper, skin side down.
3. Combine lemon juice, zest, mustard and honey in a bowl, spoon mixture over salmon.
4. Coarsely chop pistachios and combine with panko and olive oil, then spread on top of salmon and press to adhere.
5. Bake 15–20 minutes, let stand 5 minutes.
Note: cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the salmon. It should be just barely cooked through the center, as it will continue to cook for a minute or two after you remove it from the oven. When the crumb topping has browned to your liking, you can tent it with foil if your fish needs additional time to cook.