We are oﬃcially a couple weeks into Spring, the season typically associated with do-it-yourself (DIY) home projects. But did you know that food is also an area ripe with DIY possibilities? You can save yourself a trip to the store—not mention money—with common make-at-home, nutritional food products. We turned to our panel of experts for ideas to help you break the cycle of buying pre-prepared, packaged items with simple and ﬂavorful DIY recipes.
Ask the Experts, DIY Edition
Breakfast (and Beyond!)
Craving a bagel? Then I’ve got your answer! These beautiful French Toast Bagels (courtesy image right) were inspired by Real Mom Nutrition and are made fresh from scratch, eliminating preservatives and keeping those added sugars down. Plus, they are freezer friendly and totally customizable! Don’t care for the sweetness? Sub cheese, nuts, or seeds to make them most preferable to your palate. They taste wonderful with a delicious DIY jam, too, like this Chia Seed Fig Jam.
– Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, Nutrition Communications Consultant at Shaw’s Simple Swaps, Fertility Nutrition Expert at BumpstoBaby.com, co-author of Fertility Foods.
As a kid, I ate a lot of boxes waﬄes. And I still love waﬄes! But they’re easy to make at home—and you can use more wholesome ingredients than you’d ﬁnd in most packaged versions. I use white whole wheat ﬂour, yogurt, and ﬂaxseed in my waﬄes to provide more ﬁber, vitamins, protein, and healthy fats. And I make a double batch and put some in the freezer. When my kids want a waﬄe, they can get one from the freezer and heat it up in the toaster oven or microwave. Here’s my recipe for Whole Wheat With Yogurt & Flaxseed.
– Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, RealMomNutrition.com
Confession: as a kid, I LOVED crunchy, cold cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or as a topping for snacks. My top choice was Grape-Nuts. Any desire to consume this wheat and barley-based cereal evaporated with a diagnosis of celiac disease. I decided to roast some leftover quinoa one night (why not?) to add to my homemade granola and was delighted by its similarity in texture and taste to my nostalgic favorite. This one-ingredient recipe (courtesy image below) has been the answer to my desire for a cold breakfast or crunchy topping for my yogurt. As long as it is roasted dry, it stores beautifully in a covered jar in the pantry and can be enjoyed with any type of milk. Feel free to make a Cinnamon Crunch variety (kid favorite) by sprinkling with cinnamon before roasting.
– Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN, Living Plate Nutrition Education and Counseling Center, livingplate.com
Skip the pre-packaged oatmeal packets that are loaded with added sugars and make your own! One canister of rolled oats can save you money and help you create triple the amount of servings of oatmeal vs. the pre-made packets. Just spend 15 minutes in the kitchen to create your own customized oatmeal ﬂavor combinations with whole food ingredients and store in ziplock bags. Like packets from the store, now just open your homemade version, pour in a bowl, add a liquid and cook in the morning for quick and easy breakfast for busy mornings.
– Julie Harrington, RD, Culinary Nutrition Communications Consultant of RDelicious Kitchen
I have been making my own nondairy milk out of cashews! Although other DIY nondairy milks can require a lot of steps (cooking, skimming, straining, etc.), cashew milk is super simple: just blend and go. And I can make my own calcium-fortiﬁed cashew milk for about half what I’d pay for packaged cashew milk. I have instructions for making “whole”, “reduced fat” and “half-and-half” versions on my website, along with the nutrition information.
– Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS, host of the Nutrition Diva podcast, nutritionovereasy.com
Most commercial bars are expensive and contain too much sugar and not enough protein for my liking. While they are healthier than store-bought, many online recipes for energy/high-protein bars and balls use relatively expensive ingredients. My No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars (courtesy image below) are easy to make and designed to be economical while including whole grains and a minimum of sugar. This recipe uses just ﬁve of the lowest-cost, nutritious ingredients and it’s ready in ﬁve minutes! Break the cycle of buying prepared foods with replacements that taste better and are better for you by learning a few simple recipes and making them again and again.
– Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, www.betteristhenewperfect.com
DIY food projects are fun activities to get the kids in the kitchen! As a dietitian and mom, I love the challenge of recreating store-bought snacks at home using more nutritious ingredients. My favorite DIY food project is Chocolate Hazelnut Spread. Did you know many of the store-bought varieties actually contain very few hazelnuts in their ingredient list? And my make-at-home version is not just healthier, but packed with amazing taste all while saving you money, too. This DIY recipe of decadent Chocolate Hazelnut Spread is the perfect addition to your kitchen pantry. It’s the ideal topping to layer on fruit, toast, waﬄes, or crepes, or to add to your yogurt, cottage cheese, or smoothies. This is one recipe you may never purchase packaged again—it’s that easy to make and the homemade taste will never compare!
– Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, Nutrition Consultant for Triad to Wellness
If your household goes through yogurt like ours, rejoice—you can make it yourself at a fraction of what stores charge; not to mention doing so creates far less waste. You also have full control over quality of ingredients, meaning superior ﬂavor, texture, and nutritional proﬁle than most packaged varieties. The process requires only two ingredients—milk and a bit of plain yogurt—and only three to four steps. If you want to keep a batch going more or less indeﬁnitely, save a tablespoon from the last batch and use it as the starter to regenerate more. Magic. Yogurt made with your own two hands is simple and beyond satisfying, and I hope my base recipe (courtesy image below) inspires you to start a homemade yogurt tradition!
– Heather Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN, nutrition consultant and food blogger at Heather Goesch Nutrition, and contributing author to Food & Nutrition Magazine
DIY guacamole beats commercial for taste and cost every time. Five ingredients, ﬁve minutes, huge ﬂavor. Perfect for Cinco de Mayo.
Full Guacamole Recipe
2 serrano chilies, minced
1 small onion, minced (about ½ cup)
A handful cilantro leaves, minced (about ½ cup)
2 ripe Hass avocados
Sea salt to taste
1 small ripe tomato, diced (optional)
In a bowl or molcajete, mix together the chilies, onion and cilantro, crushing them slightly with a pestle or large spoon or fork to release their oils.
Add the avocados and mash together to incorporate, keeping some nice chunks of avocado in there. Season to taste with sea salt.
Fold in the diced tomatoes, if using, and serve at once.
– Ellen Kanner, Huﬃngton Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner and Oldways Vegetarian Network advisor
Oils & Dressings
Nothing is more fabulous at dinner than to dunk your fresh whole grain bread in a seasoned dipping oil (courtesy image below). As I scour gourmet shops, I ﬁnd so many enticing options such as Parmesan garlic with herbs or olive and sweet red pepper dipping oils. Unfortunately, at the price at $17 a bottle for 13 servings (or $1.30 per tablespoon dunk), my coating for bread is coming close to the cost of the bottle of wine that I am also savoring at dinner. The good news is that the best DIY, cost-saving dipping oil is already in your kitchen and is so easy to pull together. Pour some extra-virgin olive oil into a small dish and add some fresh garlic, thyme, oregano, and a shaving of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. Presto: you will have the same gourmet dipping sauce for pennies per dip. If you don’t have fresh herbs or Parmesan cheese, use the dried versions that are in your spice rack and the grated Parmesan cheese from the container in the refrigerator. I won’t tell anyone.
– Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, LDN, FAND, Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University, author of Nutrition & You
I almost always make my own salad dressings and marinades to cut down on sodium and sugar. One of my favorites is this orange-soy marinade which is fantastic for salmon, shrimp, and chicken, or even as a salad dressing. Simply whisk together the juice of ½ of an orange, 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari) and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. That’s it! It takes less than a minute to make and is incredibly fresh and delicious.
– Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer
The more foods and dressings you can make at home, the healthier you will be and more money you will save. The most important piece is keeping healthy staples at home. I always suggest starting a meal with a healthy salad and a DIY dressing (courtesy image below). Homemade salad dressings are simple to make, save lots of time, and are tastier than store bought varieties. You can make a homemade balsamic vinaigrette with just a few simple ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, 1 clove minced garlic, and salt/pepper to taste. Store in refrigerator in a nice bottle or container.
– Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at New York University, www.portionteller.com
I NEVER buy bottled salad dressing, which often contains unwanted ingredients (ex., salt, sugar) and poor quality oils. I learned this trick from the Mediterranean: a bottle of good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is all you need to create the best, cleanest, brightest salad dressings. You can make it as simple as you like. You can simply drizzle a tiny bit of EVOO over your greens, and then drizzle over a bit of vinegar (balsamic, red wine, or sherry, for example) or a squirt of fresh lemon. Or, you can whisk together a dressing in a ﬂash with equal parts EVOO and vinegar or lemon juice, with a sprinkle of your favorite additions, like freshly ground black pepper, dried or fresh herbs, Dijon mustard, tahini paste, garlic, or ginger.
– Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life and The Plant-Powered Blog, nutrition consultant for Oldways