Happy National Nutrition Month! This special month is celebrated, as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic states, to “increase the public’s awareness of the importance of good nutrition”. This includes spreading the message of how much one’s diet may impact their health and well being.
In honor of this month, it is important to address the misconception that healthy eating is bland and boring. There are simple cooking tips and tricks that can transform what one may believe to be a tasteless food, into a new favorite! This can be achieved simply by a combination of spices, sauces, marinades or even cooking methods.
Herbs and spices have the opportunity to create different flavors representing different cuisines, ranging from a Mexican to Italian flare. Some fresh herbs may be more expensive than others, try dried versions, which are just as flavorful. Just be sure to adjust the amount used in your cooking, as dry herbs tend to be more potent. If you’re a fan of spicy food then spice up your dishes with your favorite hot sauce, crushed red pepper, or, for an Asian twist, try sriracha. All of these tend to have a long shelf life so they should keep well without worry of spoiling.
Often, marinating is thought to be a time consuming process, time that most people don’t have when it comes to getting a meal on the table at the end of the day. In reality, marinating a protein for even just 30 minutes is sufficient enough to add great flavor and avoid any food safety concerns. A good guide to making your own marinade starts with oil, preferably with heart healthy fats such as olive oil; an acid, such as vinegar (your choice) or lemon juice; and lastly, seasonings or herbs. Some marinades also include a sweet component. Opt for more natural forms of sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup, which contain health benefits including antioxidants and minerals not found in table sugar. Typically the ratio for fat to acid in a marinade is 3:1. For example, mix together three tablespoons of oil with the juice of one lime and add 2 teaspoons of chili powder and freshly chopped cilantro if desired! This would go great on chicken or fish.
With the right seasonings, healthy food no longer needs to be boring! Turn a bland chicken breast into a yummy Mexican inspired meal with some chili powder, cumin, and garlic salt. Serve over brown rice and your favorite veggies. Squeeze lemon juice over a piece of fish with garlic salt and your favorite herbs. Don’t be afraid to be creative in the kitchen and find your favorite combinations!
Samantha is a dietetic intern in the UMD College Park program. She is passionate about finding ways to combat food insecurity while working to reduce food waste through systematic changes. Samantha loves traveling and getting the chance to try local cuisines while on her adventures!