‘Tis the season for upping the quality of your diet

Nutrient Density. Do you know what this term means and if you do are your actively apply the principle? A nutrient dense diet is something akin to choosing high octane fuel for your car over the regular unleaded. Octane is a measure of anti-knock properties, i.e. performance and the higher the octane generally the higher the performance. The same goes with your diet: fuel up with nutrient dense choices and power your body through back to back workout sessions, speed recovery time and decrease your risk for a host of chronic diseases.

Make a commitment to add an extra serving of fruit and/or vegetable to each meal and snack:

· Eat the skins of your potatoes and leave them on when making mashed potatoes.

· Substitute spaghetti squash for pasta and top with your favorite sauce and diced vegetables.

· Choose whole fruits over juice the majority of the time.

· Buy whole carrots and eat the skin instead of buying baby carrots.

· Add dried apricots to your whole wheat couscous.

· Grill fruits like peaches and pears along with your vegetables.

· Add fruit to your salad – dried cranberries, fresh raspberries and mandarin oranges work well.

· Add spinach and peppers to your omelet.

· How about adding fruit to plain yogurt instead of buying the fruit yogurt?

· Snack on hummus and veggies.

· Make green smoothies for breakfast or snacks by adding a handful of kale or spinach to some yogurt or protein powder. Throw in a few dried dates to make it thick.

· Start your lunch and dinners with broth based low-sodium vegetable soup or try it as a snack.

· Add a layer of vegetables to your lasagna.

· Make a puree base of vegetables, fruits or beans and add to just about everything. The Sneaky Chef has some great free recipes http://www.thesneakychef.com/free_sneaky_chef_recipes.php

You can also make some targeted changes when it comes to upping the quality of your protein intake:

· Substitute a starch like a potato for a serving of beans.

· Ever try beans for breakfast? In many cultures this is the norm.

· Trade in the dark meat for white meat.

· Grill and broil your meats instead of frying them and use olive oil instead of butter.

· Include fatty fish twice a week.

· Include a vegetarian protein based meal once or twice a week.

Then there are the grains. Aim to make most of your choices whole and unprocessed:

· Choose whole grains for everything: pasta, couscous, rice, barley, pastry and regular baking flour, hot and cold breakfast cereals. You may have to look a bit harder but whole grain versions do exist!

· Mix up your grains and try quinoa, millet, amaranth and bulgur. They can all be substituted in place of rice.

As we embark on a new year, make a commitment to up the quality of your diet. If you have a tip to share I would love to hear it.