10 Healthy Foods to Add to Your Dinner Rotation This Year
Do you feel like your weekly dinner routine needs a refresh? If your aim is to eat better this year, these 10 healthy foods deserve a spot in your meal rotation—not only will they naturally crowd out less healthy foods, allowing you to eat better with minimal effort, but they'll also help make your evening meals more delicious and varied. While we won't go into too many specifics, rest assure that each selection has different profiles of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; what's more, most are plant based, too!
Perhaps best of all, these 10 foods are all easy to cook, which means adding them to your weeknight dinners—no matter how strapped for time you are—is a breeze.
A cruciferous vegetable rich in nutrients and vitamins and easy to prepare, broccoli is among the healthiest vegetables you'll find in the produce aisle. Buy whole crowns with vibrant green color and healthy looking florets or packages of nice looking florets in the produce aisle. Roast, steam, or boil for a fast green side or look at broccoli as a more substantial serving on the plate. You can make your broccoli a key element of a meal, as is the case in our meat-free Broccoli-and-Chickpea Parmesan, pictured above, roast spears and finish them with healthy flavorful toppings like crunchy seeds and feta cheese to serve as a bold side, or chop broccoli in the food processor for a green take on cauliflower rice.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is a big component of the Mediterranean diet, which is toted one of the healthiest in the world, and that's because the oil is rich in good fats and antioxidants that sustain fullness, health, and longevity. Select quality everyday extra-virgin olive oil, not a blend, and swap in place of neutral oils in your regular cooking. It adds a lot more flavor and nutritious value. You can use it in salad dressing, pesto, chimichurri, and the like, or just drizzle it over finished dishes like pasta, vegetables, and protein for a flavorful finish. Be sure to try these recipes that showcase olive oil.
Lentils are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but they're also one of the fastest cooking legumes and a quick source of plant-based protein and fiber. It takes just about the same amount of time to cook lentils as rice, but for an even faster lentil fix, you can buy them precooked in ready-to-eat shelf stable packets (we prefer these to canned lentils). Simmer them into chili, soup, or stew, such as our Spicy-Sausage and Lentil Stew with Escarole Salad, pictured above. You can also make a lentil salad, or else toss lentils into your favorite green or grain salads. Another easy, delicious ideas? Scatter cooked lentils over vegetable sides for a little extra texture and protein.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids which reduce disease risk factors and inflammation among a long list of other good-for-you benefits, salmon is a tasty protein addition to the plate. Opt for wild salmon which has more of the omegas and nutrients you are looking for in this pink-fleshed fish than the farmed varieties. There are so many different ways to cook salmon: Our Slow-Roasted Salmon Salad with Barley and Golden Beets, pictured above, is a delicious option. Don't let the name fool you: It only takes 30 minutes to prepare this delicious dish, making it ideal for a weeknight dinner. You can also enjoy this healthy fish by using it in an easy coconut curry, roasting and glazing filets in the oven, or cooking it in parchment paper packets that lock in flavor.
The bright orange color of sweet potatoes comes from beta carotene, a potent antioxidant that is believed to benefit the brain, skin, and eye health. With more fiber than white potatoes, these orange tubers add vibrant color to the plate and taste great in just about any preparation their counterpart does. Serve them as a side baked into fries or smashed, as pictured here, for crispy bits and creamy centers. You can also boil sweet potatoes into soups, stews, and chilis. Bake and create a baked sweet potato bar (complete with all the toppings) or try a unique combo with black beans and a dash of cinnamon that complements this root vegetable's sweet and savory notes.
Calcium and probiotics are just two of the benefits yogurt provides, keeping both our bones and guts healthy while adding tang and creaminess to recipes. Plain, sugar-free yogurts are the healthiest selection, and you can add your own favorite flavors in the form of fruits, granola, and other toppings if you want to doctor it up. You don't have to prepare a bowl of yogurt to enjoy this tasty product, though. Instead, try treating it as a condiment mixing it into sauces—like in these meatballs—whisking it into salad dressings, and dolloping onto soups, stews, or chilis. You can even blend it with herbs and spread it over vegetable-packed plates or cooked proteins as a sauce.
Shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals that you can't get from white refined grains. Swap out regular white pasta for whole grain varieties, switch from white to brown rice, or just cook up a whole grain side like farro, wheat berries, spelt, and more. Another way to incorporate this healthy ingredient into your diet is to use whole grains in breads instead of just regular flour. For more ideas, these healthy ways to cook with whole grains have you covered.
A source of omega-3s and an overall nutritionally rich food, nuts help sustain fullness with their healthy fats and plant protein. Toast nuts before using them to crisp them and bring out their richest flavor, then sprinkle them over your favorite entrées and sides for complex taste and crunch. Prepare a cashew-based sauce and for your favorite proteins like in these kebabs. Stir almond, peanut, or any nut butter into sauces and coat noodles or use as a sauce on a stir fry.
Kale and Other Leafy Greens
One of the most nutrient-dense foods, kale made its way into the spotlight for good reason. Most dietitians agree that one of the healthiest things is to have greens in or alongside your dinner. Sauté your choice of leafy greens with olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes, for a surprisingly easy and tasty side, wilt into soups, pastas, and other one-pot dishes right before serving, or shred and toss into green and grain salads, such as our Kale and Frisée Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette, pictured here.
Health benefits aside, chickpeas are one of the most beloved beans because their taste and texture is so delicious in a variety of preparations. Sure, they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein that we all seek to eat more of, but that just sweetens the deal when chickpeas appear on the dinner plate. Roast them for a crunchy topping for salads, vegetables, and soups, or else make or buy hummus and add it on the plate before piling on your favorite meat and sides.