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Simple Swaps That Add Health Protection

rice and veg disn Eating healthy at home is more convenient than ever thanks to boxed, bagged and canned foods. Yet it's also important to steer clear of unhealthy salt, sugar and fat in many products. Here are six ways to make packaged foods more nutritious.

Breakfast Parfait

Instead of milk, mix 1 cup of whole-grain breakfast cereal with 6 ounces of plain non-fat Greek yogurt. This swap supplies three times the protein of the same amount of milk and nearly double the protein of regular yogurt. Top with banana or apple slices or berries.

Doctor Up Canned Soup

Pour a 10-ounce can of low-sodium chicken noodle soup into a 2-quart saucepan. Add 2 cans of water plus a 10-ounce bag of no-salt-added frozen chopped mixed vegetables. Heat until bubbling, stir and serve. A 1-cup serving has less than half the sodium and five times the fiber of the canned soup alone. To triple the protein, add 1 cup of cooked, chopped rotisserie chicken. Freeze leftover soup for future meals.

Pump Up Rice

First, avoid rice mixes or boxes with "flavor packets": they contain too much sodium. Instead, cook 2/3 cup of plain long-grain rice (preferably quick-cooking brown rice) according to package directions. Instead of water, use about 1.5 cups (1 15-oz. can) of fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth for cooking liquid.

While the rice cooks, open a 15-ounce can of no-salt-added red kidney beans (rinse and drain). When rice is done, stir in the beans. Add green herbs, pepper, garlic powder and maybe a little hot sauce.

A 1-cup serving delivers nearly twice the protein and dietary fiber of the same size serving of plain rice. Try black beans, garbanzo beans and pinto beans, too.

Snack on a Sweet Potato

Instead of chips, go for a healthy microwaved sweet potato. Wash and peel the potato. Pierce it with a fork or sharp knife so steam will escape when cooking. Dampen a white paper towel and wrap it around the potato. Microwave on high for 5 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted into center. Let cool 2-3 minutes. Slice and enjoy topped with a spoonful of tomato salsa, sour cream or plain yogurt.

Budget Tip

Buying store brands of frozen, canned and jarred vegetables is usually less expensive even when the premium brands are on sale.

Chunky-licious Pasta Sauce

Pour 1 cup of plain tomato sauce (preferably no-salt-added) in small saucepan and simmer. Add 1 cup of frozen chopped broccoli and 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots. Simmer 5-7 minutes until vegetables are thawed and heated. Meanwhile, cook 1/2 cup dry whole-wheat rotini or other small pasta according to package directions. After draining, top with sauce.

Better Burger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Open a 4-ounce can of sliced mushrooms, rinse to remove salt and drain. Finely chop mushrooms and mix with 1/3 cup (3-ounces) lean raw ground beef or turkey. Form into a patty and bake 35-40 minutes, until no pink remains in center. The mushroom burger has about 30 percent fewer calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium than an all-meat burger of the same size. Freeze unused meat in individual portions.

AICR Newsletter Winter 2014; Issue 122


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