Let’s get real–it’s not always practical, possible or responsible to bake and cook from scratch. There’s nothing better than home made start-to-finish foods, but LIFE GETS BUSY!
We need quick options!!
There are wholesome items showing up in fast food restaurants and prepared grocery store meals but the majority is in the not-so-nutritious category. Since we’re on the go so much, how can we make healthier choices at home in between our comings and goings? Is it possible to integrate bits of wholesomeness into our quick meals? What opportunities are there for upping the nutrient value to our in-home “fast food”?
Make-ahead items and freezer meals are two great options where you get to control the ingredients. Like many, I incorporate this practice into my routine. But–I’ll be honest–there are times that a frozen entrée or boxed mix just eliminates some added stress! However, as my husband can attest to, I cannot follow a recipe (even a boxed one) without for2fying it in some way. I feel so much better when there is substantial nutrition to what we eat. Read on as and I share some of my tricks and tips.
Take Time to Read Labels
To make good decisions we need to understand the makeup of food labels. Two things here: recommendations are minimum requirements to maintain a base level of health. For optimal health we want much more of certain ingredients like iron, vitamin c, etc. Remember each person has a unique makeup–take into account individual needs like age, gender and health concerns. For a quick overview on labeling follow this link:
For a more in-depth explanation you can go here:
Get Familiar with Ingredients
Can you pronounce the ingredients? Is the list so long you’re getting a headache? Put it down and walk away! Look for items with simple components. We’re lucky to have multiple choices of the same types of food in most grocery stores. Take advantage of this and find the best option for your family. This awesome book serves as the BEST reference guide while helping to demystify those hard-to-say ingredients.
Time to Compare Products
Don’t be fooled by clever marketing strategies and enticing graphics. Take into account these two examples below:
Example 1 is Lehi Roller Mills Blueberry Muffin Mix. Just looking at the box this seems like the healthier option. Graphics steer you to thinking this is made from quality wheat with fresh blueberries–kind of a fresh farm feel. When looking at the list of 31 ingredients, you find that the wheat is unbleached which means there should be fewer chemicals in flour production. The blueberries are really blueberry bits containing processed sugar, oil, fake dye and artificial flavor with a trace of actual blueberry. This product list includes several synthetic additives known to disturb gut health.
Example 2 is Krusteaz Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix. Three clues from the cover suggest this might be better option with a picture of a can of wild blueberries, the wording “natural flavors”, and a banner on the bottom stating “no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives”. This list of 19 ingredients tells us this product is made with enriched bleached flour, natural additives and flavors with real blueberries.
Based clearly on the mix, the second seems to be the better choice. In the first option the flour might be slightly better quality as it isn’t bleached leaving a small amount of vitamins (or they’ve been added back in) but the list of additives is hefty compared to the second, which shows more iron and NO artificial ingredients. Knowing that I’ll add my own whole foods to the Krusteaz makes this a good solution for me.
Fort2fy Prepared Mixes
Now for added nutrition. The recipe on the back of the Krusteaz box calls for two eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 2/3 cup water. I add 2 cage free-organic brown eggs, because I want to support humane treatment of animals. A lot of controversy exists over different types of eggs and which is most nutritious. The fact remains that eggs no matter what color or how they are raised are very nutritious for you. When you add eggs to this recipe you are adding 12 g of protein entirely: 2g protein per serving.
One of the biggest problems (and there are many) in working with refined foods is that fiber gets striped away. Fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels while stabilizing blood sugar levels. It helps prevent many disorders like constipation and colon cancer. Fiber also helps remove toxic metals from the body. When you take a whole grain and strip it of its natural casing you remove the fiber. We need to add this back in. Flaxseed is a great way to do this, while getting some heart-healthy omega-3’s. I always have ground flaxseed on hand in my fridge. I add it in all my baked goods, unbeknownst to many! You could also add a whole grain flour or some crushed nuts in place.
*An important note about flaxseed–some people with certain health concerns (my son being one of them) shouldn’t have whole flaxseeds because they can get caught in the digestive tract. Not to worry, this is where ground flax comes in and even flaxseed oil.
When talking about oils, you want to replace refined with unrefined–look for the words cold-pressed or extra-virgin. THE LESS REFINED A PRODUCT IS, THE GREATER AMOUNT OF NUTRIENTS YOU GET! I often use extra virgin olive oil. Because of it’s strong taste I cut it with some low-fat vanilla yogurt. Plain non-fat yogurt is even better or sour cream will do great here too. Any of these options will result in a moist muffin.
Lastly, I add some fresh orange zest (lemon is my favorite in blueberry muffins but I didn’t have one) for flavor and a bit more fiber. I’ve also added some fresh blueberries before, in addition to the wild blueberries in the mix. I LOVE blueberries!
Krusteaz Blueberry Mix For2fied
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
- 1/4 cup flax seed meal
- 1 tablespoon orange or lemon zest
Stock Up & Eliminate Waste
When you find a prepared product that works for you, buy several and keep them on hand for those days when you feel like you’re running a marathon.
Then, use what you have on hand to for2fy–don’t go out and buy special ingredients. This will help to eliminate waste.
Finally, be at peace knowing everyone in your household is better nourished.
*I do not receive any comensation for my work here. This information is solely my opinion. You can find direct links to supported findings by clicking words underlined in blue.