Last week I shared some ideas for adding variety to meals with new foods, or foods that maybe are not common ones for you and your family. Going for a variety of kinds, colors and textures assures that our bodies get all the nutrients we need. Because no single food has everything a body needs to function properly, choosing lots of different foods to include in our diets not only provides nutrients, but provides a variety of tastes and textures to enjoy.
This week, I'll complete the list of foods featured in a recent issue of Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. There is no magic in this list of foods, but all are nutritious, perhaps sometimes overlooked foods that can add variety and interest to our diets.
Mangoes. Like most brightly colored yellow and orange fruits, mangoes are high in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. They are also a good source of vitamin C. At less than 70 calories for half a mango, they are a nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Mangoes are found in many canned fruit blends. When selecting fresh mangoes, keep in mind that peel color varies widely with variety and isn't a good indicator of ripeness. Look for fruits that are just slightly soft to the touch and have a fruity aroma. Underripe mangoes can be placed in a paper bag to speed ripening.
Pumpkin seeds. Protein, fiber and unsaturated fats are found in this popular snack. Like other nuts and seeds, portion control is important, as a quarter-cup contains 170 calories. Pumpkin seeds are available pre-shelled to add to granola, oatmeal or trail mix. Or try them as a crunchy topping for a salad or as an addition to baked goods.
Garlic scapes. I discovered these a few years ago at the local farmer's market. They are the curling green stems with creamy pointed tips of the garlic plant which shoot up in spring. Scapes have a milder flavor than garlic cloves and are used in stir fry, omelettes and vegetable side dishes. Blend them with olive oil, basil, salt and pepper for a savory pesto.
Lentils. Available in many varieties and colors, lentils are a versatile and economical pantry staple. The colors -- green, yellow, red and brown -- make them a colorful addition to soups, side dishes or salads. Dried lentils do not need to be pre-soaked and cook in less than an hour. One-half cup of cooked lentils has eight grams of fiber and nine grams of protein. They also provide folate, potassium, phosphorus, thiamine and vitamin B6. And, they are one of the few plant-based sources of iron.
Chickpeas. Also known as garbanzo beans, they have a butter, nut-like flavor. They are rich in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, folate, iron and zinc. Canned chickpeas are a quick addition to salads, curries or soups. They can also be roasted with a little oil for a crunchy snack.
The next time you're at the grocery store, why not pick up an item you do not normally buy and give yourself and your family a new taste treat.
Some information is taken from the Tufts University Health and Nutrition letter, January 2011, www.tuftshealthletter.com. Article titled "11 Healthy Foods to Try in 2011" by Victoria Ho)