Happy National Nutrition Month to all!
Happy REGISTERED DIETITIAN DAY to all my RDs out there! Keep on fightin’ the good (food) fight!
AND Happy 21st to my little sister Justine!!
This year’s theme for NNM is “Savor the flavor of eating right”, and I am all about that. I really love to eat, as you all know, and you bet your ass that when I eat it’s going to be delicious. So here is everyone’s favorite – a listicle – of ways to make your healthy foods also be super tasty foods. Eating nutritiously should never be about eating foods you don’t enjoy.
10 Ways to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right!
- Roast your vegetables – “Eat more vegetables” is my #1 recommendation, and my #2 is always to roast those vegetables. Roasting at a high heat for a shorter amount of time caramelizes the natural sugars of a vegetable while keeping it from turning to mush, resulting in an extra-tasty treat with some crispiness on the outside and enough texture to chew. It. Rocks. I cannot tell you how many patients I have had who thought they hated vegetables because all they’d ever had was boiled or steamed into oblivion. Not delicious! Roasted = delicious.
- Herbs, herbs, herbs! – Herbs are one that I don’t use nearly enough myself, and that’s because I really need to get my act together and plant my own, it’s so easy! Cilantro, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, tarragon…these all add an incredible amount of flavor to a dish that you just can’t get otherwise. While dried herbs work really well for most, there is nothing like fresh basil stirred into a quick marinara, or a bright bunch of cilantro chopped into your guac. I encourage you to experiment with planting your own and getting a feeling for how herb flavors pair with meats and vegetables.
- Spice it up – Spices can be intimidating because there are so many of them, they’re often expensive, and you won’t know what it tastes like until you’ve eaten or cooked with it before. My big tip here is to buy a small quantity from the bulk section to experiment with, and then invest in some good quality spices. The more you play around, the more delicious your foods will be. If you’re unsure how to use a spice, find a recipe that features it and follow that recipe – at the very least you’ll be trying something new and at the very most you’ll have some fresh new flavors to add to the rotation.
- Allium = Awesome! – Alliums are a family of plants that include onions, chives, leeks, garlic, scallions, and shallots – aka all the delicious things. There is not a recipe in the world that won’t taste great with garlic and onions, and if you’re ever stumped about what to make for dinner sauteeing those is a great starting point.
- Flavored olive oils – While most of our options in the list are designed to specifically avoid adding high quantities of fat, olive oil is a healthy fat and flavored olive oils give a huge bang for your buck. Here in Texas there are many local olive oil companies, and a lot of them flavor their product deliciously. My personal favorite? Garlic parmesan (can be found at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market, H-Towners). Use that to roast up your broccoli and you won’t be disappointed.
- Broth/stock – Using broth in cooking will add TONS of flavor to grains, roasted vegetables (just pour a bit over and toss to coat), meats, or basically any savory dish. Try cooking your brown rice with low sodium vegetable broth, or roasting some root veggies in a bit of chicken broth. You won’t be sorry!
- Buy in season – It’s now possible to get just about any type of produce at any time of the year, but the best-tasting fruits and veggies are always going to be the ones that were grown naturally in rich, fertile soils. Natural growing means that these items are subject to seasonality – your asparagus is going to be fresh and delicious in the spring, and your apples will be around in the fall. Choose seasonal and locally grown produce when possible for maximum flavor.
- Use a mandolin slicer – One of my favorite kitchen gadgets (and one that actually gets a lot of use!) is my handheld mandolin slicer. It’s easy to clean and use and will take tough-to-eat raw veggies like carrots and celery and quickly slice up a giant pile that is thin enough to spear with a fork. This makes for flavorful salads full of texture and nutrients. Thin sliced celery adds a delightful crunch and fresh flavor, and without my mandolin slicer I would never be able to actually add it to salads. Red onion, radish, and apple are some other thin-sliced favorites.
- Nutritional yeast – Nutritional yeast isn’t just for vegans. This powdered or flaked yellow substance is actually dried brewer’s yeast – sounds weird, tastes delicious. Trust me. Vegans and vegetarians often use it as a substitute for cheese or in recipes due to its pleasing umami flavor. Nutritional yeast is packed with complete protein and B vitamins. I highly recommend picking some up and using it as a topping for popcorn, sprinkling on pasta, or using in any number of recipes. Again, just a short google search will find plenty of uses for this versatile (and delicious) ingredient.
- Flavored extracts – Everyone has used vanilla extract to make chocolate chip cookies, but have you ever experimented with others? I’ve had a bottle of maple kicking around for years because this recipe is the best Christmas cookie ever, but I recently added some to my oatmeal and WOW is it delicious! Extracts do not add sugar or fat to foods, but a hint of flavor. While I’m all for the natural route, extracts can be a fun and tasty shortcut, and provide a concentrated flavor for when you need it (I’m lookin’ at you, peppermint extract). I’m eager to get my hands on some almond extract, as I think that would be absolutely delicious in oats. You can also add to coffee for a hint of flavor without those sugary syrups, or to other baked goods. Does anyone else have suggestions for uses for extracts? This is one that I want to delve further into myself.