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Healthy Ingredients to Incorporate into Your Weekly Cooking

Updated on May 31, 2013

Healthy Ingredients to Incorporate into Your Weekly Cooking

Switching to a healthy eating lifestyle can be very difficult if you are used to eating whatever you like, or if your current meals are built around unhealthy foods. Unless you are willing to dedicate hours every day discovering new recipes you probably won't be able to make the switch to healthy food immediately, but by trying to incorporate more healthy ingredients into meals, you can reduce the amount of unhealthy food you eat.

Edamame

Health Benefits

Although edamame has to be prepared right to be tasty, these baby soybeans come with more than enough health benefits to make them worth the trouble of learning to cook them. They are chock full of protein, vitamin B, fiber, and plenty of isoflavins that are thought to help prevent cancer and osteoporosis.

Ideas for Use

Although it is perfectly fine to just eat edamame raw with a little salt, or warmed up prepared the same way, some people don't enjoy it in that form. It can also be added into stir fry recipes, tossed into bean salads, used to create tofu, or pureed into dips that are excellent for other vegetables. This healthy ingredient works well in most recipes that would use beans, and they can turn a lean meal into something very filling.

Turkey

Turkey makes a healthy meal addition year round.
Turkey makes a healthy meal addition year round.

Health Benefits

A modest 3.5 ounce piece of turkey is relatively low on fat (if you remove the skin) while delivering plenty of nutrients to boot. Turkey is packed with vitamin b6 and b12, as well as protein, zinc and selenium.

Ideas for Use

Turkey is just as versatile if not more so than the other items on this list. It makes a great lunch meat when cooked with herbs and thinly sliced. It's also a perfect center piece when roasted in the oven whole. However, these standard ways to use turkey will get old pretty quickly if you are eating it on a regular basis. It can also be used in your tacos, in salads, in omelets and even in casseroles. You will have to season and prepare it to match the meal, but you can do a whole lot more with turkey than most people assume.

Butternut Squash

Squash is versatile enough to fit in most recipes.
Squash is versatile enough to fit in most recipes.

Health Benefits

Butternut squash is one of the healthiest forms of squash available and it can be incorporated into many different recipes, even some that you wouldn't expect. It is rich in beta-carotene, it also packs a ton of Vitamin A and a decent amount of both Vitamin C and potassium. All of these nutrients can be had for less than 100 calories, making it an excellent filler in recipes.

Ideas for Use

There are so many different ways to use butternut squash effectively, and the best part is that it takes on the life of the dish it is added to. It helps create a creamy and rich-tasting soup, it can be used in risottos for extra body, or you can toss it into a stir-fry or pasta dish without a problem.

Quinoa

This nutty grain is delicious when prepared properly.
This nutty grain is delicious when prepared properly.

Health Benefits

Qunioa is a versatile grain that has lots of protein, a good amount of iron, plenty of magnesium, B vitamins, and calcium.

Ideas for Use

Quinoa can be mixed in with fruits and nuts to create thick bars that are similar to granola bars for snacks or breakfast. They can also be eaten raw in recipes that would normally call for oatmeal, that means that you can toss them into several varieties of cookies and they will turn out satisfyingly chewy. It can also be tossed into stir fries, be mixed up into patties and cooked like hamburgers (when combined with chick peas) thrown into chili, and made a million other ways that you probably haven't even considered yet.

Quinoa is one of the most versatile items on this list, and it takes the place of different grains and meats pretty effectively in a huge list of recipes. It won't taste very good if it isn't prepared properly however. It should be rinsed thoroughly to remove the bitter film that covers it. It can also be cooked in different broths and stocks to alter its flavor before mixing it into a recipe.

Salmon

Salmon is a perfect option when you are craving rich meat.
Salmon is a perfect option when you are craving rich meat.

Health Benefits

The main health benefit people are eating salmon for is the omega-3 fatty acids that it possess in high quality. Other than that it is a good source of protein, and has quite a bit of Vitamin D and selenium in it as well which each come with additional health benefits.

Ideas for Use

Salmon is pretty easy to cook and as long as you broil it, grill it, or pan-sear it properly it is going to come out flavorful and juicy every time. This meat can be used as a main dish on its own, it can be ground up to make patties, it can be stuffed in burritos or wraps, or tucked into casseroles. It even works well in some tangy salad recipes out there, so think creatively when you are preparing salmon.

By building your dinners around these healthy ingredients you will find that your meals become much healthier. When you go shopping just make sure to pick up as many of these as you can, and figure out ways to incorporate at least one of them on a daily basis. As versatile as these five things are it shouldn't be a problem at all.

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