Stealthy Tricks for Healthy Eating
Improve your diet the easy (and sneaky) way
By Leanna Skarnulis
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
Does the very idea of eating healthy fill your head with images of crunching your way through endless servings of "rabbit food," or, worse still, downing plate after plate of those bland and mushy vegetables you remember from the school lunchroom? Then it's no wonder that Big Macs and Krispy Kremes still look so alluring.
But healthy eating and pleasurable eating don't have to be mutually exclusive. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, has devoted much of her career to proving that.
"Healthy eating has a bad reputation," says Tribole, a nutritional consultant in Irvine, Calif., who is the author of Stealth Health: How To Sneak Nutrition Painlessly Into Your Diet. "I'm a big advocate of not telling anyone a dish is healthy until they've tasted it and had a good experience."
That's probably wise, given that a couple of her favorite nutritious "sneaks" are putting tofu in cheesecake and black beans in fudge brownies (a trick that boosts the fiber content of one brownie to the equivalent of a slice of whole-wheat bread).
Nutrition consultant Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, is also an advocate of hiding healthful ingredients in favorite foods. Ward is the author of several nutrition books including Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids. (Comforting news for parents: Even a nutritionist can't get away with telling her kids to eat something because it's good for them. "They'll run the other way," says Ward, a mother of three.)
But Ward doesn't just use stealth nutrition tactics on her kids; she also tricks herself. "I love the feel of a burger, but I don't really like hamburger," she says. So she grills a large portobello mushroom and serves it on a whole-wheat bun with cheese, tomato, and lettuce.
The best news is that such simple switches can go far beyond helping you control your weight. In the long run, they may also help reduce your risk for diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Wondering how to get started? Here are some of Tribole and Ward's favorite "stealth" tips for adding healthy ingredients to your diet -- and cutting back on not-so-healthy ones.
Become a Fan of Fiber
Replacing some of the simple carbohydrates (things like sugar and white flour) with complex carbohydrates (like whole wheat grains and brown rice) boosts your fiber intake and may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Here are a few ways to do it on the sly:
Not only does eating plenty of fruits and vegetables add fiber, it may also reduce your risk of certain cancers. Plus, they'll help fill you up and manage your weight (unless, of course, all your daily servings are french fries).
To get more fruit in your diet:
As for veggies:
Don't Forget the Calcium
Among the benefits of calcium (found in dairy products and green vegetables) is that it helps prevent osteoporosis. But it's not just older people who need it. Calcium is also critical during childhood and early adulthood, to help build bones and teeth.