Green olives are often seen as a lowly condiment -- something to put in a drink or on top of a pizza. But olives are a nutritious food all on their own. They're high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain "healthy" fat. They have vitamin E, anti-inflammatory polyphenols and flavonoids. But, if you or your kids don't like them, even a glowing report on their fabulous qualities won't make you decide to eat them. Substitute other similar healthy items to serve as snacks or to add to your favorite recipes.
Since olives contain healthy fats, substitute other foods to get this same benefit. Nuts provide polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and are a heart-healthy food. They also contain vitamin E, zinc and a good amount of fiber. Avocado is another source of healthy fats. Long maligned, avocado is now known to be good for your health when eaten in moderation. Add avocado to sandwiches and salads or eat by itself as a snack with a little creamy salad dressing or salt and pepper.
Sun-dried tomatoes are an delicious alternative to olives. They are high in vitamin C and lycopene, with minimal sodium and fat. They are usually packed in heart-healthy olive oil. Try some on a pizza or salad topped with a creamy tomato dressing. For a treat to eat by itself, grab a whole tomato or some red, green or yellow bell peppers. Tempt your kids with a creamy ranch dip. Garbanzo beans, sometimes called chick peas, are excellent in salads topped with creamy balsamic dressing and soups. When ground into hummus, they are a delicious snack food. Try with heart-healthy whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita bread. Some hummus is made with chick peas and olives, a good way to get your nutrition without eating a whole olive.
Capers are also excellent substitutes for green olives. They have a similar salty tartness and although not very good eaten alone, they are a tasty addition to pizzas and salads or on crackers with low-fat cream cheese. For a kid-friendly caper snack, flavor the cream cheese with a ranch-flavored dry mix. Spread it on some whole grain crackers and top with the capers. Capers are packed with vitamins and also have a high fiber content. If the capers come in salty water, rinse them before adding them to your recipes to lower the sodium level. Add pickled peppers to your vegetable appetizer tray. Peppers come in a jar and can be eaten by themselves or added to sandwiches and creamy dips. Peppers are rich in Vitamins A, C and E.
Green olives are harvested before they ripen and are therefore the hardest and most bitter olive. If you want to get the healthy benefits of olives but don't like the green variety, try different varieties of olives. Black olives, like Kalamatas, are harvested after they ripen. Try a snack of 20 Kalamata olives. It's less than 100 calories and provides iron, vitamin E, fiber and heart-healthy fats.
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