Powerfoods and vitamins?
July 17, 2011 11:50 PM   Subscribe

Easiest ways to add vitamins and minerals to your diet?

My husband does not eat a particularly healthy diet. What are the powerfoods or supplements that can be easily incorporated on top of any other diet? I'm thinking things along the lines of V8 vegetable juice...something one can eat or drink that gives a lot of bang for your buck, so to speak.

Any tips or tricks to encourage said family member to eat better are also welcome.
posted by mintchip to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
That really depends on a whole lot of things. First, if you are looking for an easy way to add vitamins, take a multi-vitamin. V8 juices are nice ways to have a mug of salt or sugar (though they aren't as bad as some other juices). If his diet is poor now adding additional salt or sugar is probably not a good idea but a multi can make up for a pretty substantial micro-nutrient deficit.

What is his diet like now? How often does he eat? What does he typically eat? Is he overweight? A superfood wont make up for a poor diet. If his diet is really so bad incremental changes will be more effective, I imagine, than acai juice.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:58 PM on July 17, 2011

This is a really tough topic, and I think many other MeFites will have better suggestions than I will, but here are my two cents.

Much like having the will to exercise, having the will to eat a healthy diet isn't something that can be forced on you. The desire has to come from within, and if your husband is used to his current, unhealthy diet, his body as well as his mind is going to rebel in distress were he to transition abruptly to a new, healthier range of foods to eat.

Supplements can only go so far; in not eating vegetables and fruits in their natural, raw form, you're missing out on a lot of other tertiary benefits that get screwed up when their sources are turned into juices like V8 (not that that's not a decent alternative) or bread or what-have-you.

I almost wonder if you could begin to hide certain healthier foods in casseroles and smoothies. A fruit smoothie with a handful of parsley and spinach mixed with at least half a banana can really give you an incredible boost nutrient wise. Maybe your husband would find some of the recipes in this book or this book tasty enough for daily consumption? As his body begins to integrate the healthier foods, he might find that he starts to crave the good stuff over the bad. :)

Good luck! This is a hard task.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:59 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I put grated carrots (very finely grated), grated zucchini, and mushily-cooked lentils into just about everything that might possibly hide it. I do it in order to cheaply bulk out food, but it would also add vitamins. It works in anything with ground meat (lasagne, bolognese, burger patties, etc).
posted by lollusc at 12:04 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Not Supplied at 12:18 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that answer could be taken as being facetious and uninformative and probably is. Real meat, not mystery meat. Cuts of good meat that are either lightly grilled or fried not stewed as these methods of cooking preserve a lot more nutrients.

It's a superfood. Don't believe me? Have a look

This is raw. Some things will be reduced by up to 20% by fully grilling or frying.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:25 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

This comment by VikingSword, on the differences between eating fruit and vegetables and drinking juice (or smoothies etc), needs to be linked to in each of these threads.

In the absence of specific deficiencies, supplements are also generally not so good because many nutrients seem to be absorbed by the body much more effectively from whole foods than from tablets.

As for superfoods, almost nobody has enough berries or whole seeds (things like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, linseed etc seeds; these can be subtly incorporated into other food but cooking them, or grinding them then allowing them to oxidise, usually destroys much of their value) in their diet.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:42 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tabouleh is my present favourite superfood. A lot of tabouleh, a little camembert... heaven.
posted by flabdablet at 1:47 AM on July 18, 2011

The best way to get a family member to eat better is to get them enthusiastic about the process themselves. If your husband is the kind of person who never cooks for himself, doesn't care for interesting or new foods, and has a lifelong distaste for variety and fresh foods, then you have to work with him and get him to change his way of thinking in this case.

Some people are really goal oriented, like, you can essentially double dog dare them into learning to cook or finding vegetables they enjoy. Some people need to be entertained by the process, or they need a partner to keep them in line (this would probably be you, in this case), or they have to be directly faced with all the negative end results of poor lifelong nutrition to snap them into action. Hopefully, you know your husband best in this case, and have a good idea what will work, but just piling vitamins on top of an otherwise poor diet isn't going to fix much of anything.

Unfortunately, this is one of those problems that, because there often isn't much of an immediate payoff (apart from deliciousness, which is in the, er, tongue of the beholder) it can be very hard for someone to be really on-board for the amount of time it takes to change tastes, desires, and habits.

The most important thing I ever did for my own diet was learning how to cook well. Perhaps if you treat it like a life skill to be learned, on-par with, say, basic home repairs and driving a car and doing your taxes, cooking could become something your husband takes pride in. Then it becomes less tricking him into eating his vegetables and more being enthusiastic when he roasts broccoli for the first time.
posted by Mizu at 2:06 AM on July 18, 2011

This comment by VikingSword, on the differences between eating fruit and vegetables and drinking juice (or smoothies etc), needs to be linked to in each of these threads.

I don't think it is as simple as that. If someone will not eat fruit or vegetables, a smoothie may be better than no fruit or vegetables at all. I also think that in the context of someone who is eating terribly, warning against pureed fruit smoothies may be counter productive. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the better-than-before. See also my earlier response to VikingSword's comment. I'd add that there is nothing wrong with an insulin spike. If insulin were a big problem, people should not eat beef as well, since that has a very high insulin index. Here is some more reading about insulin.

As for foods that give a lot of bang for your buck: I would focus on greens. I know they are hard to get picky eaters to eat, but even one ounce provides many nutrients that are otherwise hard to get. I would do as mentioned above and puree some into a smoothie or hide them in soup, casseroles, etc. But you might also find that he actually likes some dishes that focus on greens. Sometimes eating unhealthy is more of a habit than a real preference.
posted by davar at 3:38 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

As far as greens go, this might sound totally crazy, but I have recently discovered that my picky flatmate legitimately enjoys eating raw kale. Most people think that kale has to be cooked, but I really love the crunchy rich taste of it when it's raw. There are TONS of varieties of kale, and some of them are better raw than others. Look for moist stems and no brown spots, try to get them as fresh as you can. The way my flatmate likes his raw kale is chopped up, stems removed, a little like a vinegar coleslaw, with sherry vinegar, olive oil, cucumber, salt & pepper, lemon juice, ginger, and maybe some grated carrot or some other hard vegetable, left to mingle & sit for about half an hour. Astoundingly, it's the only way he'll eat his greens, and it's probably as healthy as you're gonna get.
posted by Mizu at 3:46 AM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hide vegetables in cakes! Here's an article on how to do it and here's a whole book. I can attest to the goodness of chocolate beetroot cake and carrot cake.
posted by marais at 4:08 AM on July 18, 2011

If you're the one who does the grocery shopping, just make sure there are always fruit and vegetables around the house for snacking on. You can't control what he wants to eat, but you can encourage him by making fruit & veg more appealing. Dried fruit, berries, crudites and hummus are easy to snack on and very yummy. I'm also totally in favour of bulking out normal meals with vegetables. You can put all kinds of things into a pasta sauce, a curry or a batch of muffins.
posted by teraspawn at 6:10 AM on July 18, 2011

I think the whole act of going to a farmers market or a pot luck type deal where there are other people around and you can see folks with different cool stuff to eat can help. If someone is in some cycle of work -> fast food -> go home - > order pizza it's probably hard to get the motivation to break out of that without some social interaction. Doctors can also help, when they tell you 'eat better shit or you are going to die'.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:13 AM on July 18, 2011

Serve mineral water at meals.
posted by conrad53 at 8:29 AM on July 18, 2011

One of my favorite tricks is replacing some of the meat in dishes with mushrooms. For example, when I make meatball sandwiches, I finely chop up mushrooms and onion in the food processor, then add some super-lean ground beef and turkey Italian sausage and mix. The added moisture from the shrooms allows you to use leaner meats and still get moist, tender meatballs. Then you saute more shrooms, green pepper, and whatever other veg you have, then add your marinara and meatballs and simmer.

I sneak extra veg or fruit into almost everything I cook. Things like chopped spinach or shredded zucchini are almost undetectable in most dishes. I use meat or cheese to add extra flavor and nutrition, but most of the dish is whole grains and veg.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:19 AM on July 18, 2011

We have a daily smoothy made with lowfat kefir, frozen blueberries & strawberries and sweetener. To this I can add a variety of nutritious stuff... we usually add some Benefiber, a little healthy oil, and a couple of packets of Coromega fish oil (the lime flavor goes especially well in this, and does not taste fishy at all.) I also add a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, it tastes really good and it has a healthy effect on blood glucose.

In the past I've added a powdered vitamin & mineral supplement. You could also add a handful of greens to this as suggested above.

WHF is a great resource for detailed nutritional info on the healthiest foods around.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2011

It might help us come up with suggestions, mintchip, if you could tell us what your husband likes to eat. For example, if he likes mashed potatoes you can make them with added turnips or parsnips to increase their nutritional value, or make colcannon instead.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:47 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Replace one food with a healthier food most of the time..

At some point I was convinced to stop eating white bread, so I buy whole wheat bread instead. Some will argue that that's still bad (glutens, carbs, etc), but an improvement no matter how small is an improvement. These days I only eat white bread if someone serves it at their house or on the rare occasion that I have pizza.
posted by jander03 at 11:03 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Healthy eating is far, far more about avoiding crap than throwing a leaf or vitamin or whatever on top of a pile of bad food.

That said, the best ways to get a ton of vitamins is eating some organ meats or leafy greens.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:04 PM on July 18, 2011

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