What makes a recipe healthy? I've been looking through cookbooks and on the internet, trying to pull together my definition of healthy foods. To me, healthy eating means consuming a wide variety of whole foods, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting fat and sodium intake, trying to exceed the minimum Daily Value (DV) vitamin and mineral recommendations set by the USDA. And because this is Busy Cooks, we need healthy recipes in a hurry.
Because my education is grounded in science, I'm sticking with the American Dietetic Association's stance that eating based on the USDA Food Pyramid is still the healthiest plan. I know there has been lots of criticism of this plan, with some suggesting that since Americans have actually gotten more obese since the Food Pyramid has been published, it is a failure. But that criticism assumes people are following the government's guidelines!
My observation is that most people don't follow the Food Pyramid's recommendations. In fact, most children and adolescents are not eating the minimum daily requirements of fruit and vegetables. People are not following the Pyramid. Only a study following people who actually base their diet on this eating plan would give us an accurate answer as to its credibility and health effects. Anecdotal evidence just doesn't cut it.
Carbohydrates have been painted as the enemy. But complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, cereal, pasta, and brown rice, are good for you. They provide fiber, B vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that your body needs to stay healthy. In fact, you can only get plant fiber from grains, fruits, and vegetables. If you are reducing carbohydrates, by all means cut back or eliminate white breads, white rice, sugar and other sweets, highly processed foods, even pasta. But don't eliminate whole-grain breads, legumes, cereals, whole-grain pastas, vegetables, fruits, or brown rice. Whole carbohydrate foods are good carbs, which can help stabilize blood sugar and make you feel satisfied longer.
Since many of us do use processed foods to cut down on time spent in the kitchen, learn to read nutrition labels. Make special note of the number of servings in each package, and the serving size. Most people eat far more than the recommended serving size of most foods. When you look at the Daily Value (DV) percentage of nutrients in the foods, remember that if a food contains 20% or more of any nutrient, that food is considered high in that nutrient. Be wary of words like 'lite' or 'improved'. These can be marketing terms, not nutrition claims. Some words do have a particular meaning. For instance, 'free' means the food contains an amount so tiny that it won't affect your body. For more info about word meanings on nutrition labels, see this Newsline article. Also pay attention to 'use by' and 'sell-by' dates, to keep you and your family safe.
These recipes were selected because they are nutrient-dense. This means that one serving provides at least 30% of the recommended USDA DV of important nutrients like calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and the B Vitamin complex. I also looked for recipes with a low percentage of fat, lots of fiber, cruciferous vegetables, and fruits, and a wide variety of ingredients. For those of you who are counting carbs, I'm including the carbohydrate count for each recipe too.
And all of these recipes will be ready in 30 minutes or less or have a preparation time of 20 minutes or less. Try some of these recipes this week and feel good about the food you're feeding your family.
Healthy in a Hurry
- Sirloin Steak and Corn Salad
Yes, you can serve salads in the winter! This super quick salad is full of flavor and color (the key to a healthy meal, by the way!).
- Crock Pot Salmon with Caramelized Onions and Carrots
The crock pot is especially helpful in cooking food because the low temperature helps stop the development of AGEs, or advanced glycation end products that form at high heat, which can increase the risk of developing the disease. This recipe takes just minutes to prepare, even though it cooks for hours.
- Fruit and Chicken Pilaf
Dried fruits are a fabulous source of fiber and vitamins. Combined with rice and chicken, this recipe is really delicious.
- Red Pepper Roasted Lamb Chops
Red peppers and sugar snap peas combine with tender lamb chops and mint jelly in this super easy and nutritious recipe.
- Old Fashioned Goulash
Lots of types of tomatoes add vitamins A and C to this simple and quick recipe. It's comforting and old-fashioned, but good for you!
- Mushroom and Steak Salad
Two kinds of mushrooms and juicy grilled steak make this quick and easy salad delicious and so good for you. It's the perfect quick meal for a weeknight.
- Tomato and Feta Chicken
Marinating meats cuts down on carcinogens that can develop when protein is grilled. And tomatoes are packed full of vitamins and micro-nutrients. Add some feta cheese for flavor and you have a fabulously healthy meal in a hurry.
- BBQ Lentil Sandwiches
Lentils take the place of ground beef in these easy and delicious hot sandwiches. They're like a Sloppy Joe sandwich but without the meat!
- Garbanzo Chile Soup
Garbanzo beans are rich and meaty. Combine them with vegetables and chiles and you have a really quick soup that's very satisfying.
- Skillet Pork and Peppers
Pork tenderloin is a tender, flavorful, and a low fat cut of meat that pairs beautifully with bell peppers in a sweet and sour sauce.
- Tex Mex Chicken Pasta
The pesto that coats the pasta and chicken in this recipe is spiked with fresh cilantro, adding great flavor.
- Gazpacho Salad
You can make this salad in about 10 minutes. The textures, colors and flavors are fresh and delicious.
- Lemon Salmon Pasta
Fresh salmon and vegetables are flavored with lemon and pepper, served with tender pasta.
- Tomato Barley Soup
This super easy soup uses ingredients you probably have on hand in your fridge and pantry.
- Tex Mex Pork and Spinach Salad
Sauteed pork tenderloin slices are paired with spinach, corn, and tomatoes in a cumin-scented dressing. Yum.
- Veggie and Fish Skillet
I love this one-dish meal; it's beautiful, delicious and nutritious.
- Nectarine Sole Skillet
Juicy, sweet nectarines pair with delicate fish fillets for a fabulous taste combination. You can substitute jarred mangoes, or fresh peaches if you can't find nectarines/
- Roughy en Papillote
Delicate orange roughy is baked with a creamy white sauce and vegetables, wrapped in parchment paper. This recipe is so easy, and special enough for company.
- Honey Mustard Chicken Bake
Each serving of this meal provides more than 200% DV of Vitamin A, thanks to the tender butternut squash. Rosemary and garlic add flavor and spice.
- Sweet and Sour Ground Beef
This skillet meal is packed full of fabulous flavor and nutrition. It's so colorful, you'll want to take a picture of it!