3 New Twists on Your Favorite Healthy Foods

By Jaclyn Konich |

Your go-to recipes just got better! Try these fun and flavorful ideas for your next breakfast, snack, and main dish.

3 New Twists on Your Favorite Healthy Foods

It’s easy to get into a rut in the kitchen. We tend to favor certain dishes and turn to the same recipes that we are most comfortable with. 

But getting outside of your comfort zone in the kitchen can bring lots of benefits:

  • Trying new recipes can get you excited about healthy eating — and make you a more confident cook. 
  • Familiarizing yourself with new fruits, vegetables, and meat alternatives will make you more comfortable with swapping things in recipes if you can’t find something in the store. 
  • Adding new foods to your grocery list brings new nutrients to your diet. 
  • Experimenting with new herbs and spices will expand your palate help you learn ways to give new flavors to the same foods. 

Here are three ideas for trying something new in the kitchen. 

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New Healthy Foods Twist #1: Add an Unexpected Veggie to Smoothies

Smoothies are deliciously versatile. They can be a:

The list goes on. 

The mix of ingredients you toss in the blender should be just as diverse as how they are used, says registered dietitian Bonnie Nasar, R.D.N., author of The 30-Minute Fibromyalgia Cookbook.

“The idea is to pack in the nutrient-dense foods, not empty calories,” says Nasar. 

She encourages experimenting with a range of healthy ingredients, including coffee, dried fruits, protein powder, ground flax seed, nut butters — and vegetables. In fact, adding vegetables to smoothies is one of the easiest ways to increase your daily vegetable intake. 

You may have tried “green” smoothies with leafy greens like kale and spinach. But those aren’t the only vegetables that work well a smoothie. Carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and winter squash add earthy sweetness (make sure they are well-cooked and soft). Avocado adds creaminess without dairy. Cucumber and celery add a refreshing coolness. 

And don’t forget the Swiss-army knife of vegetables: cauliflower! Cauliflower’s mild flavor and soft texture means it blends easily into smoothies without adding a funky flavor. It works perfectly in this chocolate smoothie from Nasar. 

This smoothie packs 2 cups of cauliflower, but you wouldn’t even know it thanks to flavorful bananas, cocoa powder, and almond butter. 

Chocolate Cauliflower Smoothie
Serves: 2

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups frozen cauliflower florets
  • 2 bananas, frozen
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • ½ cup chocolate protein powder
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk

What to do: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. If you like something a little sweeter, add pitted dates or a drizzle of honey. Need a caffeine boost? Replace half the almond milk with chilled coffee to make this a mocha.

Recommended reading: 5 Reasons to Try New Fitness Activities

New Healthy Foods Twist #2: Try a Meat Alternative for Dinner

Adding meatless meals to your menus can improve your health. Two 2020 studies published in The BMJ found that even a modest increase in the number of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Eating a wider variety of those foods has also been shown to help with blood pressure control and have a more positive effect on blood sugar, which can help keep your appetite in check, according to a report from Harvard Medical School. That’s because the different fruits, veggies, and grains deliver a broader range of plant compounds that give your body the mix of nutrients it needs to thrive.

Bonus: The more diverse your ingredients, the more appealing your meals!

Luckily, subbing out meat in your meals is easier than ever. There are lots of plant-based meat products in the grocery store imitating hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and more. But you can prepare many meat alternatives in your own kitchen. 

  • Vegetables like mushrooms and jackfruit have a naturally meaty texture.
  • Beans and whole grains are great for forming into patties to make meat-free burgers. 
  • Tofu and tempeh are soy-based meat alternatives that that can be used in a variety of ways. 

Seitan is another alternative you may not have heard of. It’s made from wheat flour that is kneaded and rinsed until all the starch is washed away. What’s left is the protein-rich gluten. (If you are sensitive to gluten, seitan is not for you.) 

You can make your own seitan using a special flour called vital wheat gluten, which is usually stocked in the baking aisle. Or you can buy prepared seitan — it’s usually stocked along with tofu or near “fake meats.” (Hint: The product may not say seitan on the label. But you’ll see “vital wheat gluten” in the ingredients list.) 

Seitan has a chewy, sometimes spongey texture and neutral flavor. Like tofu, it absorbs the flavors of whatever it’s cooked with. That means it can be used in many different dishes — from kebabs and fajitas to pastas and stir-fries.

Recommended reading: Top 5 Plant-Based Sources of Protein for Older Adults

Try this stir-fry recipe from registered dietitian Miho Hatanaka, R.D., who specializes in integrative and functional medicine. If you can’t find seitan, tofu, tempeh, or other meat alternatives would also work here. 

Eggplant Seitan Stir-Fry

Eggplant Seitan Stir-Fry
Serves: 2

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 ounces seitan, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark agave nectar
  • 8 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds

What to do: Cut eggplant lengthwise into 4 thick slices. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and sesame oil. Brush eggplant slices very lightly on both sides with about half of the oil mixture, then season with salt. Toss seitan with remaining oil mixture and set aside.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant slices and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Set aside. Add seitan to skillet and cook about 3 minutes per side.

In a small pan over medium heat, combine tomato puree, hoisin sauce, and agave nectar. Add seitan to the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

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Serve seitan and sauce mixture over eggplant slices. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.

New Healthy Foods Twist #3: Trade Breakfast Staples for Quinoa, Spices (and More)

Breakfast is one of the hardest meals of the day. Who wants to cook an elaborate meal first thing in the morning, right? 

Plus, there are only so many choices that are quick and healthy. Hence, the oft-repeated bowl of oatmeal or plate of scrambled eggs. 

But there are easy ways to shake up your breakfast routine. The trick is to plan ahead and let your taste buds guide you. Use these ideas to spark your culinary imagination:

Try a protein that isn’t eggs. Make a parfait with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese and seasonal fruit. Make a high-protein pancake using almond flour instead of traditional white flour. Top whole-grain toast with marinated white beans that are slightly mashed (think bruschetta for breakfast!).

Recommended reading: 7 Protein-Packed Breakfasts That Trim Your Waistline

Add new flavors and textures. Top your avocado toast or scrambled eggs with a drizzle of chili crisp (a type of hot sauce that has flavorful, crunchy bits of peppers, onions, and garlic). Transform your dish of yogurt with hot honey (honey that’s infused with fresh or dried peppers) for a little spice. Add toasted nuts like pistachios or walnuts to your cereal.

Think beyond oats. Oatmeal isn’t the only way to eat grains for breakfast. Look for a multi-grain granola that includes spelt flakes and kamut puffs, for example. Or try this recipe from Mike Roussell, Ph.D., author of The Six Pillars of Nutrition.

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
Serves: 1

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 7 ounces plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup quinoa, cooked
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen fruit of your choice
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds

What to do: Stir chia seeds and honey into yogurt and let sit for 5 minutes. Mix in the other ingredients and enjoy.

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