These healthy cooking strategies will show you how to cook flavorful meals without loads of salt, butter, or oil.
By Wyatt Myers
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
I read this article on www.EverydayHealth.com and I just had to share. Great info..Enjoy
When you want to add flavor to meals, you might reach for the salt first and the butter second. But if you want to learn how to cook delicious meals that are also healthy for you, it’s time to expand your flavor profile.
Ann Kulze, MD, a family physician who focuses on nutrition and author of Eat Right for Life, says it’s easy to pump up the flavor of all kinds of dishes with just a little creativity. By adding the right herbs and spices, you can dispel the myth that healthy cooking has to be bland and boring. In fact, healthy cooking can result in delicious meals for every night of the week.
When you add flavor to your healthy cooking, it may even help you lose weight, says Dr. Kulze. Recent research suggests that bold flavors actually make people eat less. “You can easily take advantage of this by getting into the habit of adding low- to zero-calorie seasonings such as lemon, vinegar, hot sauces, mustards, herbs, and spices to your foods,” she says. “They will enhance the sensory pleasure of your dining experience and, in the case of herbs and spices, provide the added bonus of health-boosting phytochemicals.”
To get started, try these strategies to add flavor to your healthy cooking:
Add some “germs” to your morning. If you have cereal, yogurt, or a smoothie for breakfast, Kulze recommends adding a healthful dose of flavor by mixing in 1 to 2 tablespoons of toasted wheat germ. “Wheat germ has a slightly sweet yet nutty flavor and is loaded with minerals, vitamin E, fiber, protein, omega-3 fats, and almost one-third of an adult’s daily requirement for folate,” she says. “It’s generally found in the cereal aisle and is available at all grocery outlets.”
Bake with pumpkin.If you like to bake, a simple way to add flavor and nutrition to baked treats is to replace the butter and oil with canned pumpkin in recipes for muffins, corn bread, and even brownies. “This convenient and inexpensive food is one of the most nutrient-packed ones available to you,” says Kulze. “Low in calories, high in fiber, and providing the most concentrated package of disease-busting carotenoids known, canned pumpkin is an underutilized superstar food.”
Try oven “frying.”If you love the taste of fried foods, Diane Henderiks, RD, a personal chef in New York City, has a simple strategy for turning them into healthy dishes. “You can oven fry instead of pan frying in oil,” she says. “Just coat a baking sheet with a little oil, heat it in the oven for one minute and then add the food that you would normally fry in oil on top of the stove, such as crab cakes, breaded chicken, and eggplant. Just bake until done. It comes out nice and crispy, without all of the extra fat.”
Embrace the deep freeze.If you don’t always have enough time to cook healthy sauces or flavorful toppings, Mary Hartley, RD, director of nutrition for http://www.caloriecount.com, suggests making individually sized flavor boosters in advance and freezing them until needed. Pesto is a good example. “Make one large batch by blending basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and a little parmesan cheese,” she says. “Then freeze individual portions in ice cube trays.” Thaw cubes to mix into pasta, top a baked potato, or fill an omelet.
Make friends with salsa.When you want to add a flavor boost in a healthy, low-calorie way, it doesn’t get much simpler than salsa. “I like to add prepared fresh salsa to my eggs, veggies, pastas, or poultry dishes for a boost in lycopene, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber,” says Kulze. “Most grocery stores now carry ready-made cartons of fresh salsa in the refrigerator section. Every ingredient in fresh salsa is 100-percent healthy.”
Depend on herbs.Few ingredients pump up flavor in healthy cooking like herbs. And for the most delicious meals, fresh herbs always add more flavor than packaged ones. But fresh herbs can be expensive. That’s why Hartley suggests growing your own. “Basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, and mint practically grow themselves and will fill your kitchen or patio with a wonderful aroma,” she says. “Snip them into everything — try adding basil to salads, dill to marinades, oregano to homemade breads, and mint to make a mojito.”
Once you outfit your kitchen with flavorful essentials, such as herbs and salsa, you won’t even miss the butter and salt.