Most people have heard that if it tastes good, don’t eat it because it’s not good for you. I believe that food that is good for you can taste good too. If you’re not sure how to improve the taste of a healthful recipe, here are some tips to help you get started.
First, incorporate more whole grains. Many recipes call for white grains, and it is easy to make a one-for-one switch with a whole grain alternative. For instance, I recently made bread that called for 4 cups of all-purpose flour. I used 2 cups of white all-purpose flour and 2 cups of whole wheat flour. This is in keeping with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which encourages Americans to make half their grains whole. By substituting half of the white flour in a recipe for whole wheat flour, you are making half your grains whole. By the way, the recipe tasted great. In fact, many of the people who tried it were not aware that there was whole wheat flour in the recipe. Whole wheat flour does tend to make food denser, so a baker friend of mine suggested using a slightly shorter baking time (think 5 minutes less per 30 minutes of suggested bake time) while still ensuring the finished product is fully cooked.
Second, ask yourself if all the food groups are represented. If they’re not, how can you adjust your meal to include all food groups? Could you add non-starchy vegetables as a side dish? Could you add extra onions, tomatoes, carrots, or another vegetable to your soup? Could you have fruit and/or yogurt for dessert? Most of us always include protein and starch with meals. That’s great! You need those food groups. Remember to also include non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Try an experiment where you have all food groups at a meal, then take stock of how full you feel. The next day, exclude some food groups at the same meal and see how full you feel. The results may surprise you.
Third, consider the type of fat used. If it’s butter, shortening, or margarine; could you use olive or canola oil instead? For some things you have to use a solid fat. For most pan cooking, roasting, and marinating, oil works as well or better than solid fat, with the bonus that oil is better for your heart than solid fats.
Fourth, think about seasonings. Yes, salt tastes fantastic and it’s an easy way to make food taste great. However, most Americans eat 2-3 times more sodium (a major part of what makes up salt) than is recommended. Challenge yourself to try cooking with a variety of spices to give your food some interesting and exotic flavors. For instance, basil and oregano can punch up the flavor in an Italian dish, and pepper is sodium-free and goes well with everything. If you want something quick and easy, check out Mrs. Dash or other sodium-free seasoning blends. Be on the lookout for my next article, which will provide more details about seasoning without salt.
Lynn Grant R.D., L.D., CDE is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She works at Capital Region Medical Center and provides diabetes education and outpatient nutrition counseling by appointment. She also writes a weekly blog, which you can view at nutritionnotions.wordpress.com.