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Healthy Sprinkles
By Andy Bellatti

When it comes to creating healthier recipes, it is common to think of leafy green vegetables, lean sources of protein, and whole grains.

While those are certainly nutrient-rich options, other less popular foods on supermarket shelves can significantly improve the nutritional content of meals and snacks.

The best part? They don’t require cutting, chopping, or cooking—just sprinkling!

The following are several nutrition-boosting ingredients your clients should consider stocking in their kitchen:

• Nutritional yeast is made from fermented strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which grows on cane and beet molasses. When sprinkled on popcorn or added to pesto, it adds a parmesan cheese-like flavor. In cooked foods, such as stir-fries, it contributes a savory flavor. A 2 T serving provides 4 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, a day’s worth of vitamin B12, and as much potassium as a small banana.

• Ground flaxseed is a great way to increase intake of alpha linolenic omega-3 fatty acids. Although it is already available in ground form (known as flaxmeal), one can also make it fresh by grinding flaxseeds in a coffee grinder. Best stored in the refrigerator to conserve the fatty acids, ground flaxseeds are a great addition to a variety of recipes since they do not impart strong flavors. Two tablespoons add up to 4 g of fiber, 3 g of alpha linolenic fatty acids, and 18% of the daily requirement of manganese. They go great on soups, on salads, and in pancake batter.

• Long thought of as “hippie food,” hemp seeds are finally being recognized for the nutritional powerhouse they are. Two tablespoons add up to 2 g of omega-3 alpha linolenic fatty acids, 11 g of protein, half a day’s worth of folic acid, and as much potassium as a small banana. Try sprinkling some in salads, on whole grain pilafs, or in whole grain muffin recipes. To avoid damaging the fatty acids, shelled hemp seeds should not be heated above 350˚F.

• Everyone knows oatmeal is a healthy, whole grain-rich soluble fiber, but not everyone likes the texture. One viable alternative is oat bran. Two tablespoons (30 kcal) add volume and texture to smoothies, along with 2.5 g of fiber and considerable amounts of phosphorus, selenium, and manganese. Wheat germ is also a great ingredient to sprinkle on smoothies and in baking mixes. A 50-kcal, 2 T serving delivers 2.5 g of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, zinc, iron, and thiamin.

— Andy Bellatti is a master’s degree candidate on the RD track in New York University’s department of nutrition, food studies, and public health. He has completed his graduate studies and plans on taking the RD exam in the summer of 2010.