Eating well doesn't have to take a lot of time. Some of the simplest meals are delicious and loaded with nutrients. Try the following tips for tasty, nutritious menus that you can throw together in 15 minutes or less.
Drink your breakfast
Start your day with a smoothie: Just spoon a cup of low-fat yogurt, some frozen berries, fruit juice, and banana in a blender. Then add a quarter cup of powdered nonfat milk for a satisfying meal that also packs 625 milligrams of calcium -- more than half of what you need for the day.
Get in the pink
Try pink grapefruit for breakfast. It packs 25 times more beta-carotene than its paler cousin, and it's usually sweeter. Pair it with a cup of oatmeal topped with an ounce of chopped almonds or a quarter cup of dried apricots, and you'll have a complete breakfast with about 7 grams of fiber, a third of the daily recommendation.
Juice up your routine
Break out of the orange juice rut. Try a different one each day: Pineapple, grapefruit, tangerine, tomato, cranberry, and grape all contain different antioxidants that can help prevent a range of ills from cancer to heart disease to urinary tract infections.
Choose "A" for avocado
Spread a quarter of a ripe avocado on your turkey sandwich instead of mayo, and you'll end up with plenty of flavor and half the fat. Avocado also offers magnesium and potassium. Add some tomato, sprouts, and mustard, and follow up with a piece of fruit for a complete, healthy lunch.
Try new-age coleslaw
Use shredded broccoli stalks instead of cabbage in your next slaw. (You can find them near the packaged salad in the produce section.) A half-cup gives you nearly four times the vitamin C and beta-carotene. Toss with shredded carrots, a little chopped red onion, and a teaspoon of rice-wine vinegar for a super-healthy side dish.
Get back to basics
Recent studies have turned peanut butter into a health food by showing that peanut products can actually lower your LDL or "bad" cholesterol as effectively as olive oil. But go for the old-fashioned or "natural" kind. Other brands that use partially hydrogenated oils to give their butters a creamy consistency and keep the oil from separating can raise your cholesterol.
Go for garden burgers
Most veggie burgers give you two-thirds of the protein but only one quarter of the fat of a regular hamburger, not to mention 5 grams of fiber. You can pan-fry a vegetarian burger in a teaspoon of olive oil or nuke it in the microwave. Dress it up with sprouts, a smear of goat cheese, some roasted red peppers, and a whole wheat bun.
Turn a potato into dinner
Heap a baked potato with black beans, salsa, and an ounce of shredded pepper-jack cheese to make a meal. Count on 12 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein. The cheese has a third of the fat of butter, plus you get more than 200 milligrams of calcium.
Spinach pasta gives you twice as much potassium and folic acid as the regular kind, along with a nice hit of beta-carotene. For a quick and easy meal, toss spinach bow ties with crumbled feta, black olives, and chopped tomatoes.
Avoid that afternoon slump
Eating between meals can keep your energy up and your weight down -- if you choose snacks that combine carbohydrates with protein for a pick-me-up that lasts. Try these: carrots and hummus, apple slices and peanut butter, or cheese on whole wheat crackers. Because peanut butter, hummus, and cheese are high in fat, it's best to limit your daily servings of these.
Choose a frozen fruit treat
For a quick and healthy sweet snack, wash seedless grapes, put them in a zip-top bag, and toss them in your freezer. Grapes contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps protect your heart, and they're even sweeter when frozen.
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Li-man Hung et al. Cardioprotective effect of resveratrol, a natural antioxidant derived from grapes. Cardiovasc Res 2000 Aug 18;47(3):549-55.