Its almost Christmas! The holiday season can be full of stress for some people. You worry about eating too many treats, drinking too much alcohol and perhaps an ever expanding waistline…fear not for I have some tips to sneak extra nutrients into your diet that will help you throughout the week so you can treat yourself to those amazing Christmas goodies on the weekend (or maybe a couple nights during the week).
Dietitians will tell you there is no such thing as super foods. And there isn’t. All foods have particular properties, nutrients, and flavors that when combined make a healthy diet. That’s why we advise against “fad diets” that eliminate entire food groups from your daily routine. A diet rich in all foods will be rich in all nutrients. Now that isn’t to say there are certain things we can add to our meals that can super charge us with more nutrients!
What are my favorite little add ons?
Ground Flax is high in Fibre! I would say that for most of my clients this is a big one. A lot of people don’t consume enough fibre. This nutrient is important because it acts in the body to manage IBS symptoms, decrease cholesterol levels and control blood sugar. It can even help you lose weight! I like to explain it this way. Fibre is like a sponge because our body can’t break it down. So, it travels through our bodies absorbing excess fat and other things as it goes along. Since fibre isn’t broken down it sticks around in our digestive systems a little longer. This is the part that is responsible for controlling blood sugar. Food is digested over a longer period of time so we feel full longer and our blood sugar remains stable longer. So to me…..fibre is the magic key and you can always use more.
TIP: increase your water consumption as you increase fibre because too much fibre can be constipating without anything helping it to move along.
Ground Flax is also high in Omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are the heart healthy fats and quite simply…they can help prevent heart disease. Omega 3’s have also been found to help with symptoms related to muscle and joint pain. If seafood isn’t your favorite thing or if you are following a plant based diet with little or not animal product, then ground flax would be a great addition to your diet! Most people get enough of other kinds of fats but not always the important Omega 3’s, this becomes especially important if your bad cholesterol is high…Omega 3’s help boost your GOOD cholesterol.
So…what types of things can you add ground flax to?
- 1 Tbsp to yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal
- Sprinkle in pizza sauce before adding toppings
- Make your own coating for chicken fingers, fish sticks, etc using flour and flax
- In baking as a substitute for some flour
- Add into spaghetti sauce, chili or other thicker based soups and sauces
- In Vegan recipes as a “flax egg”
Just like ground flax, chia seed is high in both fibre and omega 3 fats. They also have the benefit of a few other nutrients like Magnesium, Manganese and Iron.
What types of things can you add Chia Seed to?
- 1 Tbsp to Yogurt, Smoothies or Oatmeal
- Chia Seed Pudding (recipe here)
- Salad topping
- Stir fry topping
- In Vegan recipes as a “chia egg”
*I find this one can’t be added to hot foods like ground flax so I generally keep it to the above
TIP: Once you open your bags of ground flax seed and chia seed, make sure you keep them in the fridge so the omega 3 fats don’t go rancid.
These little seeds are my favorite because they are a great source of protein for anyone following a plant-based or completely vegan diet. They contain all the amino acids which is why the are considered a complete protein. 2-3 Tbsp is equal to 11g of protein.
Hemp seeds also contain other nutrients like vitamin E and the minerals, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.
What exactly can you add Hemp hearts to?
- 2-3 Tbsp to Oatmeal
- 2-3 Tbsp as a salad topping
- 2-3 Tbsp sprinkled in stir fry
- In baking as a substitute for some flour
I have just recently tested this interesting little add in myself! Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is used as a topping and flavor enhancer in foods. What does it taste like….CHEESE! Nutritional yeast is high in the B Vitamins Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, B6, Folate and B12 and low low low in fat…hey…delicious cheesy flavor, no fat and lots of nutrients…gimme!
Nutritional yeast is a particularly great option for 2 populations…vegans and individuals with Celiac…why? Because B12 is only found in animal products and some of the other B vitamins are more widely available in animal products. In the case of celiac, at the beginning of diagnosis B vitamins can be low because of malabsorption and because a lot of gluten containing foods are fortified with B vitamins while their gluten free counterparts are not. Why am I concerned about B Vitamins?! Because these babies are your ENERGY nutrients. They help your body utilize the energy from food. If your B vitamins are low you might find yourself getting exhausted quite easily and even occasionally grabbing an afternoon nap. Your metabolism would also be affected in this case so weight loss will not be your friend.
So now that you know the details, where can you add this?
- Roasted potatoes, fries and veggies
- Kale chips
- Stir fry
- Make your own vegan cheese sauce (with cashews as the base)
I am sure there are lots of other little things you can add to your meals to give them a nutrient boost but these are my favorites. They’re also really easy to take in your lunch bag and add to your food as you go and I’m all about convenience. Give them a try, maybe you’ll even discover a new way to use them that I haven’t listed here!
Signing off, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert,
Adrianna Smallwood, RD