Whether you’re a professional chef or just a busy professional or parent, it can seem like a real challenge to come up with meals that are both palate-pleasing and healthy. How can you help “tasty” and “healthy” get along better in your kitchen?
Last week during our Twitter chat, a variety of culinary and nutrition pros shared their ideas. We talked about how to use less sugar in desserts, how to add creamy mouth-feel in healthier ways (besides smothering in butter!) and alternatives to salt for flavor.
Here are some “chef secrets” shared during our chat:
Make it creamy without all the (saturated) fat:
- Puréed or blended veggie-based soups provide a comfortingly creamy texture, and low-cost canned beans add a satisfyingly creamy texture when puréed while also offering fiber, protein and nutrients.
- For dessert, instead of ice cream (high in saturated fat) try puréed fruit on creamy low-fat Greek yogurt, which also happens to be a great substitute for sour cream or mayo.
- The humble avocado can lend a creamy rich mouth feel to everything from dressings to smoothies to puddings and other desserts.
Make it sweet without all the added sugar:
- Vanilla extract or pure vanilla powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or cloves accentuate sweetness and overall flavor without adding calories. If you must add sugar, try cutting the amount the recipe calls for by 25%.
- Enhance the natural sweetness and flavor of veggies by roasting them in the oven. Root veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips all taste amazing this way.
- Toss your favorite fruit (pineapple and peaches work well) on the grill this summer for a melt-in-your-mouth, guilt-free dessert option. Check out this recipe for grilled peaches.
Make it flavorful with less salt:
- Don’t be shy with herbs and spices. They’re a calorie- and sodium-free way to really add punch to your cooking. Go for the gusto, then take all the credit!
- Start with the ripest ingredients you can get for maximum flavor. Buying produce in season when possible is a great way to achieve this, but you can also go for frozen veggies, which are typically frozen at the peak of freshness and ripeness.
- Roast heads of garlic to spread on whole-grain bread (completely worth turning on the oven – trust me).
Make it look and feel tasty:
- Use a pretty plate (pick a 9” diameter dish for no-brainer portion control). Why save the nice stuff for that dinner party you rarely throw? You’re worth it.
- Garnish with fresh herbs from the garden or even little edible flowers if available.
- Slow down and savor the colors and textures of your food. Feast with all of your senses to make any eating experience more vivid and satisfying.
Check out the full tweet chat transcript for more ideas on merging flavor and health in your kitchen. And if you have ideas, please share in the comments section below!
Arissa Anderson is an MPH/RD candidate from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and dietetic intern with the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Connect with Arissa on Twitter @ArissaAnderson.