Here’s a great way to have more food-fun every day and lose weight at the same time: Ditch the tired old recipes that you and your family have gotten bored with, and start enjoying some of Mother Nature’s most interesting offerings. You’ll cut calories and bump up nutrition while you wake up your brain and excite your senses of taste, smell, sight and even touch. That’ll make you eat more mindfully — a key to putting the brakes on overeating.
According to a recent study from our friend Brian Wansink and his crew at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, adventurous eaters are slimmer and healthier than people who stick with the same old, same old for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. They found that middle-aged women “foodies” who eat the widest variety of unconventional foods weigh less than conservative eaters. These women’s food choices would please the most daredevil celebrity chef, with edibles like eel, beef tongue and quail eggs. Plus, they were more likely to have tried goodies such as kale, quinoa, tempeh (a tofu product) and polenta (Italian cornmeal).
So if you’re curious about rabbit, seaweed, venison or kimchi, go for it! But if that’s never going to be quite your style, don’t fret. You don’t have to scour your local grocery store for weirdo foods to invite healthy, weight-friendly new edibles to your plate. Start your foodie adventure with these little swaps:
• If you love potatoes, try turnips or rutabagas. These old-fashioned, autumn root veggies have a tangy taste that white potatoes just can’t match. Peel, dice and roast in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, some fresh or granulated garlic and chunked onions. Steam or boil, along with half the usual amount of potatoes, then make a 50-50 mash.
Calories: About 34 per 1/2 cup, cooked. Nutrition bonus: You get host compounds called glucosinolates; they have anti-cancer properties and help your liver detoxify harmful chemicals and hormones.
• If you love spinach, try Swiss chard or turnip greens. Steamed, stir-fried or stirred into soups and casseroles, these robust greens are a great change of pace. Try scrambling chard or turnip greens with tofu for breakfast or stir-frying then layering on a whole-grain pizza with low-fat cheese, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Is your mouth watering yet?
Calories: 29-35 per cooked cup. Nutrition bonus: Chard delivers hard-to-get phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) called betalains that help cool inflammation and fuel the body’s cell-protecting defenses. Chard’s ruffled green leaves are also a source of syringic acid, which research suggests can aid blood-sugar control. Meanwhile, the bold flavor of turnip greens is packed with calcium and those glucosinolates that your body converts into cancer-preventing isothiocyanates.
• If you love broccoli, try kohlrabi. Peel and slice the bulb of this widely available Asian veggie. Then use as if it were broccoli or cabbage. Shred for slaw, slice thin and serve with dip for a super-healthy, extra-crunchy, veggie chip or stir-fry with mushrooms, carrots, red pepper and ginger.
Calories: 48 per cup. Nutrition bonus: Fiber, vitamin C, potassium and 32 milligrams of cancer-battling glucosinolates in every half-cup serving.
• If you love carrots, try parsnips. Sure, they look like pale, hairy carrots. But their sweet flavor emerges when you roast, steam or add parsnip slices to soups.
Calories: 55 per half-cup. Nutrition bonus: You get fiber, calcium, blood-pressure-friendly potassium and inflammation-cooling plant chemicals called phthalides, too.
• If you love pumpkin pie or pasta, try organic acorn, butternut or spaghetti squash. Bake acorn squash with cinnamon and a dash of maple syrup; boil and mash butternut squash chunks (peeled, of course) with sweet spices; or create a savory masterpiece by topping strands of baked spaghetti squash with your favorite homemade marinara or olive oil, garlic and basil.
Calories: 100 per cooked cup. Nutrition bonus: Orange and yellow-fleshed varieties are top sources of vision-guarding lutein and zeaxanthin and of other cell-protecting carotenoids.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.