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Feel-good food: easy swaps to help you and your family eat healthier

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Health and fitness expert Carys Jackson, reveals some of the healthy food alternatives she enjoys with her family.

By swapping some of your foods for other yummy, more nutritious and healthier options, you could boost your immune system, help your heart and keep your cravings locked up for longer.

Boost your breakfast

If you are looking to cut your daytime snacking, pack your breakfast full of protein.

A picture of some vegetables on a BBQ

“Consuming more protein may help maintain an optimal body composition and a strong immune system, good athletic performance, and a healthy metabolism. It may promote satiety (i.e. make you feel full longer),” explains Precision Nutrition.

You can make your own protein-rich muesli by adding a palm-sized amount of oats, a sprinkling of seeds and a spoonful of fresh fruit to some natural yoghurt.

If you want to sweeten up your porridge, add some dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins or papaya to your milk as you are heating it up, helping them to release their natural sugars and flavours into the liquid.

Most fruit juices are made from concentrate; the lack of skin and pulp can reduce their nutritional value. The juicing method also releases more sugar.

“When juice is extracted from the whole fruit to make fruit juice, sugar is released, and this can damage our teeth,” explains the NHS website. “Limit your intake of fruit juice or smoothies to 150ml a day.”

You can make a nutritious, refreshing smoothie by either mixing your fruit with some vegetables and juicing the combination, or adding some milk and nut butter to make a milkshake style smoothie.

A lighter lunch

Buy yourself a nice lunch box that has compartments to keep your food separate, and then pack some crudités, oat cakes, meat, rice and fish in there. If you are a quiche fan, you can make mini quiches without the pastry and put those in too.

Want to keep the pastry? Why not add some spices to your Bolognaise sauce from the other day, wrap it into a triangle in filo pastry and then you can zap it at work in the microwave.

If you want something you can snack on, try veggie crisps, some nuts, or even spicy lentil crisps (if the shop has them) over potato crisps.

For a sweet fix, swap your cake or chocolate bar for a small fresh fruit selection or a palmful of dried fruit and nuts. Alternatively, find the ‘free from’ range, as there are some delicious bars and nibbles now available, such as Eat Natural, Trek, Graze, and Bounce.

Winning dinners

When it comes to the ingredients in your evening meal, ‘the fresher the better’ is the simplest rule, but you can also make your old favourites healthier:

  • Swap your pork sausages for chicken sausages (my kids never notice the difference)
  • Instead of frozen chips, bake sweet potato wedges or skinny carrot fries
  • Swap pasta or rice for quinoa, or even spiralise some vegetable spaghetti using courgette, cucumber or carrot
  • Swap spreads and butters for coconut butter for a delicious coconut taste when baking, or even on toast

For pudding, poached fruit with natural yoghurt, or even banana ice cream: put frozen banana, almond butter and almond milk into your food processor and whiz it all into a dairy-free dessert – healthy and seriously yummy, and you could even just use bananas alone!

Summer barbeques

In the sunny summer months, there are also some great alternatives to throw on the barbeque – especially during National BBQ Week at the end of May.

Instead of burgers and sausages, try vegetable skewers with peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and onion. Add some cubes of lamb or beef if you still want a bit of meat.

For desert, you could even grill fruit skewers, with watermelon, mango and pineapple – so sweet when grilled on the barbeque!

You can also grill discs of aubergine, sweet potato or butternut squash to go in your burger bun for a veggie alternative.

The family favourite is grilled corn on the cob, marinated in sweet chilli sauce. Just mix three tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, one tablespoon of oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 red chilli pepper and a clove of garlic and brush your corn.

Wrap the corn in a double layer of tin foil and barbeque for 30 minutes, turning frequently.

By swapping in these delicious, healthy options for your meals and recipes, you won’t be depriving yourself of your firm favourites. You could even reduce your cravings and discover a delicious new favourite food option!

Follow Carys Jackson on Twitter @Activewomanuk or check out her website for more top tips.

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