Do you roll your grocery cart right by soy products without a second thought, thinking tofu is just a pasty blob, and edamame is just another bean?
Truthfully, soy can be an important part of your diet, especially if you don’t get much animal protein. Soy is the only plant-based protein considered to be complete. And while the research on soy and heart health is inconclusive, it’s still a great way to cut back on the amount of cholesterol in your diet simply by swapping out meat with soy a few times a week. With a few ideas to inspire you, we’re sure even the pickiest eater can sneak in a little soy.
For Your Healthy Diet, It’s Soy Fantastic!
What better way to grab a breakfast to eat on the go, use up leftovers in the fridge AND start the day off with a healthy bang? Try blending whatever fruit you have on hand (almost over-ripe berries and peaches are perfect!) with ¼ cup of silken tofu, and enough low-fat milk (or soy milk) to make it your desired consistency. If you like frosty, add a couple of ice cubes. If you like decadent, make yours with half a banana, a tablespoon of almond butter, and a quick squirt of chocolate syrup in addition to the tofu and milk.
If you love beans in your salad, swap them out for edamame for a more complete protein punch. And if you’re bored with the same old ho-hum hummus, give edamame hummus a try; just trade traditional garbanzo beans for an equal amount of cooked, shelled edamame beans in your favorite recipe instead.
Bake It In; Bake it On
To cut out the saturated fat in traditional lasagna, plus mask the tofu for your, ahem, taste-discriminating family, try subbing half of the ricotta cheese in your usual lasagna recipe with firm tofu crumbles. Not only will you make a healthier dish while your family is none the wiser, but you’ll boost the protein content, too… which may spell less post-dinner noshing. If you have leftover tofu crumbles, why not use them as a pizza topping? For a change, try a Pad Thai-inspired pizza simply by topping ordinary pizza dough with peanut sauce, sautéed carrots, green onions, bean sprouts, and zucchini – plus tofu crumbles and mozzarella cheese.
Instead of making cream soups with dairy cream, add blended silken tofu to give soups a boost of protein and rich, guilt-free creaminess. For this tip, blending is key to creating the smooth texture, and it’s easy to achieve by tossing a package of silken tofu into the blender and giving it a whirl. When it comes time to add to your soup, just incorporate by 2-tablespoon increments until you get the result you like. Any extra blended tofu can be used to stand in for mayo in creamy homemade salad dressings.
How to throw together a healthy dinner in a flash? Firm, cubed tofu stir-fried and tossed in low-sodium soy sauce with bottled garlic and ginger along with plenty of fresh, crisp veggies like snow peas, carrots, broccoli, yellow squash, and onion tastes delicious when served over warm soba noodles. For convenience, you can’t beat pre-cubed tofu that you simply have to drain and add to your pan. Add that to the ease of precut veggies and you can have dinner on the table faster than your kids can say “drive through.”
In the health food section of your local grocery store, look for roasted, lightly salted soy nuts. They are a great change of pace from traditional nuts, but still offer a princely protein profile. Try them in trail mixes, on top of salads or just eating them out of hand! Tired of ordinary peanut butter? Give soy nut butter a try for something new.
The Bottom Line
It’s easier and tastier to eat soy foods than you may think – and there are a lot of ideas to tempt you to try them in your diet. Experiment freely, but remember: When you’re looking, make sure your soy stays close to the original form, and avoid highly processed foods that sap the nutrition and give you too many additives.
Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master Degree in Public Health. An experienced nutrition counselor, writer and public speaker, Beth specializes in translating complex nutrition information into practical concepts. Beth was awarded a Nutrition Communications Fellowship to the National Cancer Institute, and has worked on the internationally recognized Nutrition Action Healthletter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.