Author: Jory Mullard Holistic Nutritionist at You-Matter-Nutrition.com Founder of the Vancouver Chapter of Project Heal (projectheal.org)
Trying to cook healthy meals at home? Healthy doesn’t have to mean bland – try out these 5 tips to make your nutritious meals satisfying and delicious.
1. Use Fresh, Seasonal Ingredients How far has your food travelled to get to you? Most fruits and vegetables are shipped long distances, packaged in plastic, and then sit at the supermarket until you purchase them. There could be a month between the harvest and the day you eat it! Fresh is always best. The longer it takes for your food to get to you, the more nutrients and flavour it loses. When possible, buy produce that is in season in your area. At the grocery store, look for stickers that say “locally grown.” However, the freshest food is usually found at a farmers market, as it is often picked just yesterday and jammed-packed with flavour. If you are from British Columbia, click here to see what’s in season and find a farmers market near you.
2. When In Doubt, Add Hot Sauce Many pre-made sauces and condiments contain trans fats, sugar, and additives. This is not the case when it comes to hot sauce! The majority of hot sauce brands, including Tabasco, just use three ingredients that pack a whole lot of flavour: peppers, vinegar, and a tiny amount of salt. To make it even healthier, buy an organic or all-natural hot sauce from your local health food store. Note: Those with arthritis or inflamed injuries should avoid excessive use of hot sauce, as it may worsen inflammation.
3. Spice it Up Many pre-packaged spice mixes contain sugar, gluten, msg, or other additives. Try making your own culturally inspired spice combinations to add depth to your dishes while keeping them healthy. Mix equal parts of each dried spice and then add a pinch of sea salt. Greek : oregano, garlic powder, mint, thyme, basil, marjoram, onion flakes. Jamaican Jerk: onion powder, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, sprinkle of cayenne. Italian : garlic powder, oregano, parsley, pepper, thyme, celery flakes. Asian 5 spice: anise powder, pepper, fennel, cinnamon, cloves.
4. Up the Umami Factor Are you cutting out meat and processed foods, but feel like your meals are missing a crucial flavour? Our tongue can taste five different sensations – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (meaning “beautiful taste” in Japanese.) Umami is a savoury or meaty taste that is found in high concentrations in meat. Our umami taste bud receptors are why people LOVE the flavour of MSG (monosodium glutamate), a popular food additive that may have unhealthful properties. Want to get the umami taste without the meat or MSG? The flavour is also found in many other foods and its presence creates a satisfying savoury sensation. Try adding one of these items to your dishes: Soya sauce or coconut aminos (coconut-derived soya sauce alternative), miso, aged cheese, mushrooms, or nutritional yeast flakes (add to sauces such as pesto for a dairy-free, cheesy flavour). For omnivores, the umami taste can also be found in smoked fish, anchovies, and shellfish.
5. Pass Me the Salt! Salt has a bad rap, but some salt can actually be good for you. In the standard North American diet, excessive table salt is added to poorly made foods to give them flavour, pushing us over the amount our body can handle and causing negative health effects. However, our bodies need some salt to function – it is an electrolyte and is involved in many bodily functions. Limit your consumption of high sodium processed foods, but don’t forgo all salt (unless recommended by your doctor.) At home, flavour your food with a pinch of healthy, nutritious salts such as sea salt or Himalayan salt (the pink colored salt). These contain a bounty of minerals that standard table salt does not – and they can make a huge difference in how yummy your meal tastes.
Enjoy adding some extra kick to your healthy meals – your body and taste buds deserve it.