Ingredients That Make Meals Healthier

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Harness the power of these foods to make your meals more diet-friendly

3 February 2014

There's no need to give up eating your favourite dishes just because you're trying to lose weight or get in shape. With a few simple food swaps (opens in new tab) - and these body boosting foods - you can make meals much healthier, while still enjoying your food.

The key to making long-term changes to your diet and seeing results is about selecting healthy ingredients that not only taste great but that are super easy to incorporate into your lifestyle, too. That way you won’t think about the foods you’re missing (which can often lead to binge eating), and your new diet will easily become part of your daily routine. While there’s no need for a complete diet overhaul when trying to lose weight and be healthy, it is important to choose a variety of healthy ingredients. We all know that eating a varied, balanced diet is essential to health, but even if we eat well every day our bodies may still be missing out. Relying on supplements is one way to tick off all those important minerals and vitamins but a few little diet tweaks are just as effective. We’re here to show you how.

And the best part is that there’s no need to rush out to the nearest health food shop to stock up on bizarre ingredients that taste dreadful. Chances are that you already have most of these delicious and healthy ingredients in your store cupboard. Not only that, but to make switching to healthier alternatives even simpler, we’ve also picked out a few of our favourite recipes that incorporate these good-for-you foods. They’re easy to make, quick to whip up and totally nutritious and delicious.

Ready for a healthier you? Keep reading to discover 12 healthy ingredients that will help you look and feel your best.

Yacon syrup

(Image credit: Rex Features (Shutterstock))

Yacon syrup

A new discovery from South America could be the answer to quick and easy weight loss. Yacon syrup is being heralded as a 'metabolic game-changer', thanks to its ability to reduce hunger. Just taking three tablespoonfuls of this sweet tasting syrup a day could help you to lose weight - without making any extra effort. Low in sugar and with only 20 calories per tablespoon, yacon syrup suppresses the appetite and regulates blood sugar levels, making for an easy diet plan that we can all stick to. This delicious-tasting syrup has long been used by women in Peru for its many health benefits. As well as aiding weight loss, yacon syrup can help with diabetes, digestive issues - thanks to fructooligosaccharides, which act as healthy gut bacteria - cholesterol and even kidney disease. Yacon is also a great substitute for sugar and could help you to give up the sweet stuff for good. Try adding to food as a low-calorie sweetener, even if you don't take the recommended daily dose.

Coconut oil

(Image credit: Rex Features (Shutterstock))

Coconut oil

Coconut water has been on our radar for a while, but its only now that wholefoods fans are waking up to the benefits of coconut oil and coconut milk. Jennifer Aniston has long been a fan of coconut oil. And it's obvious why. The all-natural medium chain fatty acids that this oil contains go straight to your liver once consumed to be turned in to energy rather than stored as fat, therefore boosting your metabolism to burn more calories. Switching is easy too because coconut oil is one of the only oils that remains healthy when heated as it doesn't oxidise. Some dieters find a teaspoon straight from the jar can curb sugar cravings, but you can also try substituting olive oil when cooking or butter when baking. Dairy-free, coconut milk is great news for allergy sufferers and dieters alike too. Opt for the unsweetened version and add a small amount to smoothies or curries for a creamy taste.

Grated veg

Grated veg

Loading your plate with vegetables is an obvious way to make your meals much healthier, but have you considered swapping minced beef, lamb or turkey for grated veg in recipes? Your bolognese will be just as tasty but with less calories and far more antioxidants. Give it a go. Our favourite vegetarian Christmas recipes (opens in new tab)

Parsley

(Image credit: Rex Features (Shutterstock))

Parsley

So much more than a garnish, fresh parsley is a fantastic addition to fish dishes, soups and salads. Just two tablespoons a day will provide lots of vitamin K for healthy blood, bones and liver function. Fish fans will love this halibut with parsley butter recipe.

Lean protein

Lean protein

Red meat is great for an iron hit, but eating lean protein day to day is a much better idea because it's far lower in fat and cholestorol. Foods like eggs, white fish and chicken give your body the energy it needs to rebuild cells. For a real lean protein hit, try an egg-white omelette. Top 40 low-carb recipes (opens in new tab)

Vinegar

Vinegar

If you're struggling with portion size, sprinkling a little vinegar on your food will help you eat less. No wonder celebs swear by this natural appetite supressant (opens in new tab)!

Coriander

Coriander

Coriander doesn't just pack a punch when it comes to flavour and mineral content, it's also been found to be effective at killing off dangerous bacteria like salmonella when cooking. This chicken and coriander curry recipe (opens in new tab) is delicious.

ways to make life easier in the kitchen

Spices add flavour to food without increasing fat or salt content, so they're a no-brainer when you're cooking. Some studies have suggested that cinnamon, ginger and tumeric also have health benefits such as lowering cholestoral or easing an upset stomach too. 10 foods that will make you feel better

Rosemary

Rosemary

Make sure your steak packs an antioxidant punch by sprinkling it with a little rosemary before grilling. The herb actually protects the meat from the carcinogenic compounds caused by the flames. Clever. Try our slow-roasted lamb with thyme recipe (opens in new tab)

Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy Green Vegetables

We could all do with eating more iron, so leafy green vegetables make for a delicious ingredient or side dish idea. Add a little spinach or rocket to your sandwich, or pick up some kale - it's in season now. This baked cod and bacon with sage and greens recipe is a firm favourite.

Brown rice

Brown rice

Not just a complex carbohydrate that will keep you feeling full all afternoon, brown rice is also brimming with essential minerals, including selenium and manganese. The body needs both to stay in good health. This brown rice salad with broad beans, artichokes and dill recipe is a simple, tasty lunch idea.

Oregano

Oregano

Don't just reach for the blueberries when you're in need of an immune boost. Oregano (both fresh and dried) is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods around. Serve up this herby lemon chicken (opens in new tab) tonight. Take the hassle out of dieting - try the best diets delivered to your door