Which is the most important meal of the day? The simple answer is that every meal — and the ingredients within — are equally essential in ensuring you and the rest of your family have the energy and nutritional benefits you need to get through the day.
Although all meals are important, preparing home-cooked dishes that are both healthy and delicious can be a challenge in our already busy lives. How can we serve the nutrient-rich meals our families deserve on a time-conscious budget?
Enter nutrient-rich foods, easy-to-use ingredients that offer important nutrients and pack meals with a powerful punch.
The following are nutrient-rich meals inspired by foods that can be used in a wide variety of dishes to encourage nutritious and healthy eating patterns among you and your children:
The key ingredient in these meals is the infamous and sometimes nose-turning plant garlic. What makes garlic so special? Garlic is one of many mega nutrients imbued with antioxidants, which fight oxidation, a process in our bodies that can cause damage to our cells and initiate many types of diseases. Through the powerful benefits of antioxidants, garlic can help fight the onset of cognitive issues, cancer, diabetes and many more problems.
Other great garlic recipes include garlic shrimp, artichoke with roasted garlic aioli, and garlic prime rib with thyme and roasted vegetables. If you don’t have time to peel and cut garlic yourself, don’t worry — you can always buy minced garlic at the store for the same effects.
Berries are about as nutritious as foods get. In addition to antioxidants, berries are a great source of vitamins K and C and manganese, and they reduce inflammation in the body. While they are a perfectly good lunchtime snack themselves, blueberries, raspberries and other fruits can be blended into smoothies, added to morning yogurt or mixed in with cereal for an easy nutrient-rich meal your kids are bound to love.
As mentioned above, yogurt is a great companion to berries and other nutritious fruits — but did you know it’s also a wonderful probiotic? Probiotics, or good bacteria, protect the body from harmful bacteria and restore proper gut health. Yogurt can be made into a parfait or packed into lunches for a simple but impactful addition to any meal.
Believe it or not, “processed” isn’t the taboo food-word it once was. Despite what you’ve read, processed foods are by definition no more harmful than other foods, and some are even considered nutrient-rich foods. A processed food simply means a food that has been altered by mechanical or chemical operations to change or preserve it — such as freezing vegetables or drying meat. One processed superfood you can use in almost any cooked dinner dish is olive oil, which is a great source of vitamin E, polyphenols and monounsaturated fatty acids, all of which help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Fruits and vegetables can take a long time to properly cut, peel, dice and cook. Fortunately, some preserved foods — such as canned tomatoes — offer additional benefits when canned that aren’t otherwise available. Processing tomatoes can result in higher calcium, iron and the antioxidant lycopene. At the same time, adding other easy canned foods, such as black beans and other legumes, can provide an excellent source of fiber, folate and plant-based protein.
While we recommend you incorporate all of these mega nutrient foods into your meals this fall, one thing is clear: The food options presented here are simply a starting point. There are loads of other highly nutritious foods out there — nuts, whole grains, leafy greens and fish, to name a few — that can be combined to make any number of delicious and healthy nutrient-rich meals. The only real limit is your imagination. That, and the number of hours in the day — something we all wish we had more of!