You’re aiming to cook healthful, anti-inflammatory meals, but you’re in need of some wholesome side dishes. You want your plate full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats to pack a nutritious, anti-inflammatory, and arthritis-friendly punch.
You may be tempted to reach into the cabinet for a convenient box of seasoned pasta or even a rice mix to make your life easier, but Heather Bainbridge, a registered dietitian at the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, says it’s almost as quick – and a lot healthier – to make easy sides yourself.
- Add sautéed veggies, a bit of pesto and a small can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes to cooked whole-grain pasta.
- Toss pasta with store-bought pesto or a bit of olive oil and sundried tomatoes, and top with fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese. Or keep flavors simple with a homemade “sauce” of balsamic vinegar, basil, pepper, lemon and a few sprinkles of cheese.
- Go for cooked whole grains instead of pasta. Combine a bag of shredded carrots or broccoli-slaw mix with any cooked grain (brown rice, barley, wheat berries or quinoa).
- Turn your salad into a heartier side dish. Cook barley or wheat berries ahead of time, chill and toss an ample amount into your favorite green salad.
If you do use a ready-made mix:
- Discard half the packaged seasoning. Try lower-sodium brands (less than 300 milligrams), and mix in your own seasonings, such as Mrs. Dash, garlic or hot pepper flakes.
- If the directions say to add butter, use olive or canola oil instead.
- Use skim or 1 percent milk instead of whole.
- Add a handful of fresh or frozen vegetables a few minutes before the dish is done to get more fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. You’ll fill up faster and save calories by eating less of the pasta or rice.