10 Supplement-Free Ways to Pack Nutrients into Each Bite.
Supermarkets are stocked with healthy supplements from collagen and green powders to multivitamins and nutritional shakes. Despite their popularity, nothing can replace a healthy diet when it comes to meeting all your body’s nutritional needs. In addition to tasting better, whole foods are less expensive. And while many people turn to supplements because they’re fast and easy, packing nutrition into your meals from whole foods can be fast and easy, too.
Below are ten simple ways to make meals more nutrient dense without adding horse pills or chalky shakes to your meal plan.
1. Fresh Herbs
Adding a few pinches of fresh herbs to a dish adds a ton of nutrients — without adding many calories. Parsley is mega-rich in vitamin K, C, and A, while dill is packed with a surprising amount of iron. Keeping one or two bunches around makes it easy to add to breakfast, lunch, and dinner without risking anything going to waste.
Pro Tip: Put your fresh herbs in water, like cut flowers, in your fridge and they will last days longer.
Another simple trick is to pinch some spices into your dish. Most spices are bursting with vitamins and, especially, minerals, while also bursting with tons of flavor. Curry dishes are well known for their nutrition, featuring big hitters like ginger, cayenne, and turmeric, but there are many ways to bring spices into your cooking. Use them to flavor grains like rice, quinoa, and barley. Sprinkle over your eggs or toast. You can also add them to soups, marinades, and salad dressings.
Pro Tip: If you find a group of spices you love, try blending them together in bulk. This will streamline your cook time.
3. Coconut Oil
It is well known that coconut oil is a better alternative to vegetable oils and a vegan-friendly butter substitute. However, it can also be spooned into your morning smoothie to add richness and depth — not to mention healthy fat vital to the body’s absorption of nutrients in the first place.
Pro Tip: Buy organic coconut oil that is packaged in glass, as plastic may leech chemicals into the coconut oil.
4. Pumpkin Seed
Pumpkin seeds aren’t just for Halloween! They’re loaded with minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese, as well as vitamins from the B-complex group (the one that makes our hair and nails super healthy). They offer a rich source of amino acids and the antioxidant Vitamin-E. Sprinkle them raw or toasted on your yogurt, lentil bowl, or breakfast scramble. Crunchy and meaty, they add texture to your dish.
Pro Tip: Buy raw pumpkin seeds and toast them yourself for the best flavor.
5. Ground Flax Seed
Okay, so ground flaxseed may not be the most common item on this list, but it can be really useful. One of the best botanical sources of Omega-3, flax seed is also a superior source of Vitamin-E and minerals such as manganese. It also has a healthful balance of fat, carbs, and protein of about 4:3:2.
While most people are familiar with the whole seed, flax can also be ground and used to thicken sauces and even as an egg substitute. Mix it with breadcrumbs for a fish batter or blend into meatloaf, pancakes, and baked goods like banana bread and brownies. Of course, a teaspoon or two will always blend well into a smoothie.
Pro Tip: Buy whole flax seed and grind them yourself using a (clean) coffee grinder. This will preserve freshness and nutrients.
6. Fennel Pollen
Fennel pollen, also known as “Spice of the Angels” is dense with proteins, enzymes, and minerals. It’s also becoming more and more popular these days for good reason. Fennel pollen adds unique texture, color, and flavor to dishes. Its licorice-like sweetness is lovely in savory pork dishes, salads, and on salmon. It’s even great sprinkled on sweeter foods like yogurt, pancakes, and desserts such as pannacotta.
Pro Tip: Keep your fennel pollen in your freezer to preserve freshness and flavors.
Berries are antioxidant-rich fruits that are also light on sugar. This is great for anyone trying to cut carbs. Dried, fresh or frozen, berries have been popular in oatmeal, smoothies, and with yogurt. They’re also great on their own.
Pro Tip: Keep a bag of frozen blueberries in your freezer. The next time you get a sugar craving, try a frozen blueberry instead of candy. It’s refreshing and takes a while to eat — helping you get on with your day without causing a sugar rush.
At this point, most people have heard that gut health is very important. And most people know that gut “fauna” — microorganisms like bacteria that call our gut home — is the key to gut health. In the last ten years, several brands have been founded on providing the world with bacteria-rich fermented foods. But the primary focus has been on fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir. For those who have a dairy sensitivity or just don’t like these products, alternatives are a must.
Sauerkraut is rich in vitamin C and a great way to add salt and acid to a dish. Just add a forkful to eggs and hash or top off mashed potatoes. I even sneak a bite when I crave something sour and salty.
Pro Tip: Buy the good stuff! Not only will it have a wider range of live micro-organisms, but it will also taste better.
9. Quick Pickle
On the subject of tangy, a quick pickle is an easy solution to adding more veggies to your dish and it can be made in less than five minutes of prep time. Simply shred or finely slice crunchy vegetables, toss with lemon juice, salt, and fresh herbs, and let it sit for at least ten minutes and up to two hours.
The best veggies to use include carrots, ginger, celery, radish, and red onion — though many take well to quick pickling. This is also a great way to use stems that might otherwise be tossed, like from broccoli and kale, as lemon juice neutralizes bitterness — and provides you with tons of vitamin C.
Pro tip: Use a mandoline to get consistent vegetable slices. A small strainer makes it easy to strain seeds.
Tea has been around as long as human culture, increasing lifespan and soothing the body. Black and green teas are packed with antioxidants and offer caffeine boosts to our morning routines. Milk thistle is known to aid liver health. Chamomile can soothe the mind. There are so many teas out there to explore, and the benefits of tea are wide-ranging while the calories are not.
Pro Tip: Hold on to your tea bags as they can be used for a variety of beauty purposes — like soothing Rosacea and puffy eyes. After use, simply store them in a small container in your fridge.
While supplements can be useful for many people, like pregnant and nursing women or senior citizens, they are no replacement for a nutrient-rich meal plan. Hopefully, this list has shown you that a healthy diet is easier than you think. How many of these ingredients will you add to your grocery list?