Diary / Wellness / Sep 26, 2022
7 Nutrition Hacks Dietitians Want You to Know
Written by: Michele Ross
With National Nutrition Month in full swing throughout March, now’s a great time to evaluate your daily dietary habits. Perhaps you want to curb your cravings, figure out how to sneak more plants into your meals, or discover other simple dietary hacks to support your wellness goals.
To help you do exactly that, we asked two registered dietitians to share their expert tips and tricks so you can bring your nutrition game to the next level.
1. Eat a protein-rich breakfast
Struggle with cravings? LA-based dietitian Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, says it’s worth packing in more protein at breakfast to set you up for success for the rest of the day. “Eating protein can promote balanced blood sugar levels, which can help tame your appetite throughout the day,” she explains, adding that 15 to 25 grams is a good range to aim for. “This can look like a veggie omelet served with a cup of Greek yogurt and a slice of whole-wheat toast” so your first meal of the day is rich in protein while still being balanced with micronutrients and fiber, which will also promote satiety. (Of course, getting adequate protein on a daily basis is essential for overall health whether or not you want to curb your cravings.)
If you prefer to start your day with a liquid breakfast instead, Vaca-Flores says you should add protein to smoothies for similar benefits. “Adding protein [powder] to a smoothie can also help curb blood sugar spikes,” she continues, especially if you like to blend in a lot of fruit (which can amount to greater sugar intake than you may imagine). “Balanced blood sugar levels can help you avoid intense food cravings, which can make it easier to stay on track with a healthy diet.”
2. Upgrade your smoothies with nutritious mix-ins
On the topic of smoothies, there are several other dietitian-approved ways you can mix up your recipes to pack in more nutrients. First, Texas-based dietitian Shavonne Morrison, MS, RD, LD, recommends using pitted dates at a ratio of one date per eight ounces to naturally sweeten smoothies and add a bit of fiber. “If you don’t have a high-power blender, it helps to let the dates soak in very warm water for a few minutes to soften them up,” she adds. In addition, to be mindful of your sugar intake, she suggests making sure that you purchase this stone fruit without added sugar.
Then, Morrison also suggests mixing seeds into your smoothies. “Seeds are nutritional powerhouses; they add fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals in a convenient and shelf-stable tiny package,” she explains. She calls out chia, ground flax, and hemp hearts as her go-to, easy-to-find staples, and also mentions that they’re great to add into oatmeal, salads, yogurt, and even baked goods.
3. Mix healthy oils into your veggies
Did you know that you can maximize the health benefits of leafy greens by pairing them with oil? A light drizzle of olive oil or avocado oil will “help your body better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins—like vitamins A, D, E, and K—in your vegetables,” Vaca-Flores shares. Whether you have a favorite salad dressing in mind or you prefer to make your own vinaigrette, be sure to keep these healthy oils on hand to make your greens go the extra mile.
4. Switch to cooking with avocado oil
Speaking of avocado oil, Morrison calls this one out when it comes to cooking in particular. “It has a high smoke point, meaning you can cook with it at a high temperature without burning it, which often causes oils to lose much of their nutrition,” she explains. Better yet, she singles it out as one of the healthiest oils you can use. (Since it can be more expensive than other types of oils, she suggests shopping for it at bulk food stores to ensure you can reap all the benefits from this healthy fat while sticking to your food budget.)
5. Find creative ways to sneak more greens into your diet
Next, if you’re not much of a salad person or the type to snack on raw veggies, Vaca-Flores wants you to know that you have countless options to get more greens into your diet. “Boost your vegetable intake by blending leafy greens, like spinach or kale, into everyday foods. You can easily sneak them into smoothies, lasagna, sauces/salsas, stir-frys, eggs, and soups,” she shares. She notes that this nutrition hack is especially beneficial for those who have picky eaters to feed at home—whether that’s your partner, your kids, or even yourself.
6. Pair turmeric with black pepper
While you may already know that turmeric can offer incredible anti-inflammatory benefits, did you know that adding black pepper to it boosts its bioavailability by a whopping 2,000 percent? “Piperine, the main compound in pepper, helps your body maximize its uptake of curcumin, the beneficial compound in turmeric,” Vaca-Flores explains, adding that curcumin is also good for brain and heart health and functions as an antioxidant. Whether turmeric is a beloved staple in your spice rack or you’ve yet to integrate this richly pigmented spice into your diet, you’ll want to keep this pairing in mind when you’re looking for easy ways to support your health through food.
7. Snack on tropical fruit to improve digestion
Finally, instead of reaching for processed sweets and sugary treats and after a meal, Vaca-Flores recommends opting for tropical fruit instead—especially if you struggle with digestive issues. “Following a heavy meal, snack on mixed fruit like pineapple, mango, and papaya to help avoid bloating,” she advises. “These tropical fruits are high in digestive enzymes that break down the major nutrients in your food to improve digestion.” Even better, they’ll still satisfy your sweet tooth while offering micronutrients and keeping your health goals on track.