In the movie Tortilla Soup (one of my favorite movies about cooking) a nervous Orlando Castillo sits down to dinner and proclaims to his new father-in-law, “I love toppings. Sometimes I go to a restaurant and just order toppings.”
I agree that toppings often make the meal, and in the past year I’ve found myself utilizing toppings with almost every meal to enhance its nutritional value. Here are a few delicious toppings that also will boost your daily nutrition:
Avocado: My all time favorite topping, avocados are always on my salads and Mexican food. Full of healthy fats, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that adults who ate half an avocado a day had lower cholesterol than those who didn’t.
Blackstrap Molasses: Full of calcium and iron, blackstrap molasses is great to add to your morning oatmeal. It has a strong flavor, so I also add a little brown sugar and some fruit.
Chia Seeds: Packed with Omega 3 Fatty Acids, these seeds are good for anyone, but particularly vegans and vegetarians who won’t get Omega 3s through fish. I like them on oatmeal, in non-dairy yogurt, and on stirfries and Mexican food.
Ground Flax Seeds: Another great source of Omega 3s for vegans, flax has to be ground to get the nutritional benefits. I eat ground flax seeds every day, so I bought a coffee grinder that I use for grinding these. I think the flavor of flaxseed is perfect for breakfast – I put them on non-dairy yogurt or oatmeal.
Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are probably my favorite source of iron. They’re also a good source of zinc, another nutrient its important for vegans to be aware of. I always eat pumpkin seeds with Mexican food, and also put them on top of my salads every day.
Sesame Seeds: These tiny seeds are full of calcium. I eat them on top of stir fries, salads, and even in oatmeal. Brendan Brazier, a vegan triathelete, recommends grinding them as you would flax seed. I haven’t tried this yet, but think it would probably be an excellent addition to yogurt.
Sunflower Seeds: An excellent source of vitamin E, and many minerals, including manganese and copper. I put these on salads, where they taste great with the pumpkin seeds. I also love stirring these into oatmeal.
Walnuts: Another great source of Omega 3s! Walnuts are tasty in oatmeal and on top of salads. Also, try stiring them into pastas.
One other note: Don’t just think about toppings – what’s underneath your food can also help improve your nutrition. You can serve almost any food on top of a bed of greens to add key nutrients, such as iron, to your meal. Cook tougher greens like kale and chard first, but greens like spinach just be spread on the plate. Dishes with noodles and rice are really logical ones to put on top of a bed of greens (and then of course, you’ll top it with some healthy seeds). In my next post, I’ll tell you how to make the fresh Mexican saute (on top of greens) pictured below.