There’s nothing wrong with relying on staples like pasta and yogurt in your balanced diet. Here's how to make them healthier.


There’s nothing wrong with relying on staples like pasta and yogurt in your balanced diet. But there are ways to improve the nutritional value of your go-to snacks and meals by pairing them with other foods that have their own good-for-you perks.

Breakfast

If you eat this: Cereal
Add this: Tart cherries

Time to pucker up to better boxed cereal or oatmeal. Tart cherries (also called Montmorency cherries) that have been parched offer a year-round option for infusing your breakfast with a performance booster. A number of recent studies show that antioxidants in tart cherries can reduce inflammation associated with training. If you’re looking to limit sugar intake, unsweetened dried cherries are available through online grocers.

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If you eat this: Toast
Add this: Coconut butter

Try taking your toast on a tropical vacation by slathering on up-and-coming coconut butter. Made by blending coconut flesh into a smooth spread, Paleo-friendly coconut butter offers up dietary fiber not found in coconut oil as well as antibacterial medium-chain fatty acids. A tasty choice is from Essentially Coconut, which also provides options blended with pecans, almonds and cashews.

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If you eat this: Pancakes
Add this: Einkorn flour

Want to make flapjacks you’ll flip over? Swap out the pedestrian all-purpose for a flour milled from einkorn, an ancient, non-hybridized form of wheat that produces a flour rich in fiber and a range of nutrients like phosphorus and manganese. Look for the nutty-tasting flour in health food shops or pick up a bag from the brand Jovial.

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If you eat this: Eggs
Add this: Smoked mackerel

Smoked fish isn’t just for bagels! Try options like richly flavored smoked mackerel in scrambled eggs for a nutritional boost. Mackerel harbors a boatload of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and the mega-healthy omega-3 fats. A recent European Journal of Sport Sciences study found that omega-3s may improve exercise endurance by bolstering blood flow to working muscles.

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Lunch

If you eat this: Sandwich
Add this: Microgreens

Indeed, great things come in small packages. Science shows baby versions of items like broccoli and radish can be more nutritious than their grown-up versions. Robustly flavored microgreens owe their nutritional windfall to the fact that they’re harvested very young, when the plants are still exceptionally rich with the nutrients needed to grow.

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If you eat this: Salad
Add this: Apple chips

You’ve probably worked sliced fresh apples into a salad once or twice, so why not try using dehydrated apple chips? They add great crunch, tempered sweetness along with added nutrients including vitamin C. Simply chop them up and sprinkle over salads just before serving. Look for brands like Bare that offer a product containing just apples.

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If you eat this: Soup
Add this: Roasted chickpeas

Chickpeas with crunch are a newly popular snack choice. The legumes can also be used as a fanciful garnish for puréed soups, offering up great textural contrast as well as nutritional benefits including dietary fiber. You can make a batch of your own roasted chickpeas in the oven or turn to a store-bought brand such as Biena.

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Snacks

If you eat this: Smoothie
Add this: Frozen spinach

When you’re whirling up a post-workout smoothie, reach into the freezer and pull out a bag of subzero greens. Inexpensive frozen spinach is a great way to infuse blender drinks with added nutritional firepower (the greens are flash frozen very soon after harvest to lock in nutrients) and extra frostiness. And when you include items like berries, nut butter and yogurt, it won’t taste like a salad bowl.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Jazz Up Your Smoothies

If you eat this: Yogurt
Add this: Pumpkin puree

Tangy yogurt and sweet canned pumpkin purée go marvelously well together. As a bonus, you end up with plenty of immune-boosting vitamin A in each spoonful. Try stirring together 1 cup yogurt with 1/3 cup pumpkin purée, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and a touch of maple syrup. Top with chopped nuts.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Use Canned Pumpkin

If you eat this: Trail mix
Add this: Jerky

Long the salvation of backpackers, trail mix can also make for a stellar hunger-quelling snack when stuck at the office. Make it even better by tossing in some chopped jerky for an extra shot of muscle-building protein. With jerky experiencing a renaissance, it’s now easier to find brands with lower levels of sodium and sugar along with meat from more sustainable sources.

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Dinner

If you eat this: Pasta
Add this: Monterey mushrooms

Surprise, mushrooms are like us in that they naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. So by blasting mushrooms with a special light, Monterey mushrooms deliver 100 percent of the daily value (400 IU) of bone-building vitamin D in a 3-ounce serving. Sauté a bunch and use them to up the nutritional ante of your spaghetti.

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If you eat this: Burger
Add this: Beets

With its proven powers to amp up your workouts via naturally occurring nitrates, it’s smart to look for ways to sneak beets into your diet anywhere you can. Try tossing some shredded raw beets into hamburger meat before forming patties. They’ll add natural sweetness and great texture, not to mention some visual appeal.

RELATED: The Benefits Of Beets

If you eat this: Roasted veggies
Add this: Hazelnut oil

Whenever you are serving a side dish of roasted veggies (or prepared frozen ones), try finishing things off with a drizzle of roasted hazelnut oil such as that from La Tourangelle. Beyond its delicious flavor, hazelnut oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat along with the potent brain-benefiting antioxidant vitamin E. Also use it in salad dressings to dress up a bowl of greens.

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