12 Easy Ways to Sneak More Nutrition Into Your Food

Getting the best nutrition possible is a no-brainer, but eating nutrient-dense food on a regular basis can be harder than it sounds. Even if you are eating the right foods, you can often still add an extra boost to snacks and meals. (See also: Multivitamins Aren't as Good for You as You Think: Eat These Real Foods Instead)

Read on for tips on hiding extra nutrients in the foods you already love without changing the reasons you love them.

1. Flax

Flax seed packs a surprising nutritional punch. It's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, and studies suggest it can positively affect your cholesterol levels. Flax is not easily digestible in whole seed form, so be sure to buy it ground or, even better, grind it yourself with a coffee grinder before using. The oil in flax can go rancid, so store it in the refrigerator.

Adding a tablespoon or two to baked goods like muffins and pancakes won't noticeably affect the taste or the texture. It's perfect mixed into homemade granola or simply stirred into oatmeal. If you're into cooking vegan, you can also use flax as an egg replacer. Just swap an egg for some ground flax and water and boom! You have a healthy egg replacer.

2. White Whole Wheat Flour

We all know we're supposed to eat whole wheat, but sometimes the homemade version doesn't please picky eaters. In comes white whole wheat flour. A lighter and milder tasting flour with all of the benefits of whole wheat, it more seamlessly swaps for all-purpose flour in your favorite recipes. Some ideas include pancakes, breads, pizza dough, muffins, and cookies. If you're really put off by the taste of whole wheat, try substituting for half of the flour called for in the recipe.

3. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, so why aren't we eating them all of the time? If you're tired of salad, sneaking them into different dishes makes getting your dose of greens easy. Add chopped greens to soups like chili and all broth-based soups when they are almost done cooking. Add thawed and chopped frozen spinach to meatballs and meatloaf. Include a handful of kale or spinach in your smoothie, and other than changing the drink's color, you won't even notice it.

4. Chia Seeds

Many vegans and vegetarians have discovered the magic of chia seeds, and you should too! The tiny seeds offer high-quality protein and much-sought-after omega-3 fatty acids. They are tiny in size, have a mild taste, and are an easy addition to smoothies and baked goods. They also magically create pudding when combined with milk or nondairy milk.

5. Yogurt

There's a good chance you're already eating yogurt. It's a great source of calcium and probiotics — and everyone knows it. But did you know that you can incorporate yogurt into your cooking, and in the process replace excess fats? Yogurt is great for baking, as it adds a nice flavor and moistness to recipes. You can even use it in place of buttermilk: just use a mixture of ½ yogurt and ½ milk. Plain Greek yogurt can be used in place of sour cream for items like tzatziki-style sauces, which makes a great replacement for ranch dressing. And don't forget to add some to your smoothies. Just beware of flavored and sweetened yogurts, as they tend to be full of sugar.

6. Carrots and Zucchini

Moms across America have been hiding carrots and zucchini in kid's meals for years. That's because once cooked and blended, they add fiber and vitamins without greatly affecting taste. For adults, it's just a good way of adding a serving of vegetables to that spaghetti you were craving. Add these veggies to sauces, casseroles, and shred them raw into baked goods.

7. Tofu

Tofu offers protein, calcium, and vitamins without the unhealthy fats of meat. Not everyone loves eating a big piece of steamed tofu, but you can still incorporate this healthful item into your diet. Add crumbled, firm tofu to burgers, meatballs, and other recipes using ground meat to lessen the guilt. Silken tofu blends seamlessly into smoothies and can be transformed into desserts like pudding and cheesecake.

8. Raw Honey

Honey has long been seen as a natural alternative to refined sugar, but switching to raw honey is even better for you. Raw honey has not been processed like most mainstream honey, and as a result contains more vitamins and minerals. If you're going to sweeten up that coffee or tea, you might as well get a little dose of vitamins, too. Honey can be used in place of sugar in many baking recipes, as long as you keep a few things in mind.

9. Whole Wheat Pasta

If you're going to eat a bowl of pasta, at least make it whole wheat. Recent studies suggest that refined carbohydrates can cause more weight gain than dietary fat, so making the switch to whole wheat can make a real difference in your diet. The explosion of whole wheat pasta onto market shelves in the past few years means more options and better texture and taste. It's now easy to swap the more fiber-rich whole wheat pasta in all your favorite dishes without anyone being the wiser.

10. Olive Oil

Olive oil may seem obvious, but many people are still cooking with the healthy oil in a very limited way. Instead of using olive oil just for sauteing, use it whenever a recipe calls for oil (unless you are frying or cooking at high heat). You can use olive oil in all dressings and sauces, and, as long as the recipe doesn't call for more than half a cup, when baking in place of vegetable oil. If your cake recipe calls for a large dose of oil, replace a portion of the oil so the olive oil doesn't overwhelm the flavor.

11. Broccoli and Cauliflower

Cruciferous vegetables contain vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Too bad everyone isn't in love with the "little trees" broccoli and cauliflower. Luckily, you can utilize these vegetables in interesting ways to add a boost to your favorite dishes.

Steamed broccoli makes a delicious pesto,and is a great addition to potato soup.

Cauliflower is especially versatile and can substitute for rice, pizza crust, and is undetectable when added to mashed potatoes.

12. Avocado

Avocado is a versatile fruit full of heart-healthy fat. Even if you are not an avocado fanatic, you can incorporate it into your diet in surprising ways, often replacing unhealthy saturated fat. Avocados make surprisingly good smoothies that often taste more like milkshakes. You can incorporate avocado into your baking and decrease the fat by up to 40%. Incorporating avocado into your diet can also be as easy as using mashed, smooth avocado in place of mayo on sandwiches.

How do you like to add nutrients to your favorite dishes? Please share in comments!

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