March is National Nutrition Month, and we're marking the occasion by talking about how to "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right." This comes just after the newly released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended Americans eat a variety of foods with less saturated fat, less sugar and less sodium. We are left with the probing challenge of figuring out not exactly what to make, but instead, how to make it.
Many of you might be accustomed to adding a stick of butter, a cup of sugar or a tablespoon of salt to your dishes. Let's be honest. How many of you find it challenging to add flavor to your favorite dishes without using the above-mentioned ingredients? Research confirms time after time that consumers prefer flavorful dishes regardless of their nutritional value, placing stronger emphasis on taste and flavor over what might be healthy or not. Furthermore, research from Johns Hopkins showed that people are often drawn to foods (such as comfort foods) that not only look appealing, but are also palatable.
When I meet with clients, we talk about just these things -- how healthy foods can be flavorsome and visually appealing when seasoned and prepared using the most suitable ingredient combinations. Succulent bold flavors and varied colors on the plate might help people consume foods with high nutrition content. As a culinary enthusiast, I want to share with you a few tips to help prepare meals that will leave your family asking for seconds.
Boost the flavor
As a way to get started, below is a list of some of my favorite flavor combinations that can elevate your everyday meals to a new level. Consider these combinations to create delicious and satisfying meals with some of your standby staples:
Mexican -- Lime juice, cumin, oregano, paprika, peppers, onion, tomatoes, avocados, queso fresco, corn, cilantro, red onion, green chiles
Mediterranean -- Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, plain yogurt, red onions, lemon juice, capers, cucumber
Asian -- Soy sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes, honey, sesame seeds, peanuts, green onions
Tropical -- Coconut, pineapple, mango, tamarind, oranges/orange juice, cumin, cilantro, bananas, garlic, sweet peppers, pimentos, cayenne, red or yellow onion, garlic
Flavorful spices, fresh herbs, citrus juice and many other seasonings can enhance almost any main entrée. Take a look at these ingredients that can make your dishes more delicious and even more nutritious.
Seafood -- This is something we should all be eating more of. Current guidelines recommend everyone eats at least two seafood meals a week for the myriad health benefits. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should increase that to at least 2-3 seafood meals a week for the critical brain development benefits. This lean protein source pairs well with lemon juice, dill, thyme, mango, green olives, garlic, thyme, capers, peppercorns and parsley.
Poultry (Chicken) -- Current recommendations suggest including a variety of foods in order to get a variety of nutrients. Lean cuts of poultry can also provide niacin, selenium and vitamin B 6, which are essential for a healthy nervous system. It pairs well with tomatoes, pesto sauce, parmesan cheese, basil, tomato, mushrooms, lavender, lemon, thyme and honey.
Beans -- They pack fiber and a bundle of other nutrients. Pair beans with cilantro, potatoes, onions, peppers and paprika.
Tofu -- Don't be intimidated by this food. It has powerful flavonoids that can help you prevent chronic diseases. Its neutral flavor pairs well with almost any ingredient. Here are some of my favorite pairings: honey, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, peanut sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice wine, red pepper flakes, garlic and black pepper.
More flavor for less calories
Some of the best and boldest flavors actually come from ingredients with few calories. For example, onions, garlic, hot peppers, sweet peppers, ginger, fresh herbs and citrus juices, among others, are ingredients that can be easily introduced into dishes to help you decrease the amount of salt, sugar and fats in many of your favorite traditional recipes.
Bulk up on veggies and fruits
Select a variety of colors from orange to dark green. Even a colorless vegetable such as cauliflower can add bold flavors, a variety of texture and a bundle of nutrients. Keep them handy in your pantry, as well as stocking up on frozen, canned and dried seasonings. Regardless of the seasoning's shape or form, it is better to utilize them than to lack these powerful antioxidants.
Convenience can help
Even when you find yourself short on time, you can still enjoy delicious meals full of nutrients by simply using a few handy items such as already mixed seasonings (low in sodium); ground herbs; cans, pouches or frozen seasoned fish or meat such as tuna or salmon; frozen vegetables; frozen fruit; packaged cooked/uncooked seasoned rice and canned beans.
Get started today
Here you have it, mouth watering flavor combinations that will help your family increase their nutrient intake while at the same time satisfying even the pickiest of palates.