The message on vitamin bottles is that you need to supplement your diet to be healthy. In fact, excellent nutrition is easily and much more cost-effectively available in food. Eating nutritious foods in combination helps to ensure that your body will absorb the vitamins you need; for example, iron is more easily absorbed in the presence of vitamin C (think lean beef, stir-fry with broccoli and capsicum). Vitamins E, A, K and D are among the fat-soluble nutrients—a good reason for tossing salads with an olive oil-based dressing.
One fun way for you and your kids to increase the variety of foods you’re eating, to play this ingredient-counting game: aim for the nutritional jackpot of eating 25 different healthy foods or ingredients every day. Sometimes you’ll hit your goal easily, and other days may fall a bit short—no biggie. It will only take a couple of weeks to get into the habit of expanding your nutrient intake and upping your vitality. Here are four ways to boost your score:
- Make muesli: Mix rolled barley flakes, puffed millet, rice bran straws, currants, chopped dried apricots, and oven-toasted sunflower seeds and walnuts. That’s seven deliciously, nutritious ingredients right there. But wait! Add some sliced banana, a dollop of your favourite yoghurt, milk, and you’ve hit a perfect ten ingredients before 10 am.
Tip: Homemade muesli can be made in big batches and stored in medium-sized jars for freshness that lasts up to three months.
- Stir fry: Finely chopped garlic and ginger; bite-sized sections of shallots, and firm tofu cubes or green prawns; snow peas, and bean sprouts. Heat a good splash of rice bran or peanut oil in a pan or wok and add ingredients in the above order, tossing over high heat with your favourite stir-fry sauce (try Hoisin or ABC sauces). Already up to a magic eight ingredients, you could serve with rice, sprinkle with toasted peanuts or sesame seeds, and squeeze over some lime juice … and you’ve hit a perfect 10! The variety of stir-fry combos is never-ending.
- Soup yourself: Make soup out of a small chicken, a couple of small onions, chopped celery, carrot, and parsnip. Remove cooked chicken from the pot, discard skin and bones, and return shredded chicken meat to the soup. Now add corn kernels cut from the cob, a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and simmer briefly before serving sprinkled with chopped parsley, and with a crusty bread roll. That’s a high-scoring nine, but you could easily think of another ingredient or two, or finish your meal with a bunch of grapes or an apple.
Tip: chicken soup freezes well, to be enjoyed on days when you come home from work too tired to cook.
- Toss a salad: Make a meal of it. Try this recipe: Tuna Nicoise: crisp lettuce leaves, chives or finely sliced onion, tomato wedges, bite-sized pieces of cooked potato, lightly steamed green beans, halved black olives, wedges of hard-boiled egg and chunks of tinned tuna (or seared fresh tuna if you prefer). A homemade dressing of olive oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard lets you easily clear the 10-ingredients bar.