Nutritionist Bronwen King shows us how to make meals delicious, without compromising our health.
No matter how ‘good for us’ a food may be, we won’t eat it if it doesn’t taste good. Some people think food that’s healthy can’t possibly be tasty enough to satisfy them. They think healthy eating means bland and boring.
But nothing could be further from the truth! Boosting the flavour and health of our everyday meals is easy, and experimenting with new and interesting flavour combinations can break us out of the rut we sometimes get into with the dishes we cook.
This doesn’t mean we need to cut all the fat, sugar and salt out of recipes. Instead, it means using less of these ‘traditional’ flavour-enhancers and adding other tasty yet nutritious ingredients to boost flavour.
12 clever flavour-boosting habits
These healthy habits will help you cook flavoursome food, every time.
1. Grated cheese
Swap a cup of grated cheddar for three-quarter cup grated edam cheese and two tablespoons grated parmesan. Edam cheese has less fat (and less flavour) than traditional cheddar, but parmesan’s intense flavour makes up for this.
2. Cheese sauce
Use trim milk and thicken with flour or cornflour. Use edam and parmesan instead of traditional cheddar. To further boost flavour, add some mustard and nutmeg.
3. Roasting vegetables
Instead of roasting vegetables around the meat, cook them in a separate dish. Make up the following mixture to toss through vegetables before roasting. These quantities are enough for about six cups of chopped vegetables (for four people):
- 2 tablespoons each balsamic, olive oil, honey
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
- herbs, fresh or dried of your choice
4. Mashed potato
Instead of adding butter, add flavour to potato by cooking in stock or vegetable broth. Mash with trim milk, a little light sour cream, a little salt, and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
5. Marinate meat
Before stir-frying or barbecuing, marinade meat. This tenderises as well as adding flavour. Oil isn’t necessary in a marinade. Use non-oil highly flavoured alternatives instead, such as lemon juice, soy sauce, chilli sauce or balsamic vinegar (see below for marinade recipes).
Add a handful of rocket to salad greens. The intense peppery flavour adds zip to any salad.
7. Salad dressing
Instead of the usual three parts oil to one part vinegar, make a tasty dressing by reversing the proportions: three parts vinegar to one part oil. Use a well-flavoured vinegar, tarragon-flavoured or balsamic for example, and further boost flavour by adding garlic and mustard. Try one of these recipes:
8. Make your own spice mixes
For a simple flavour boost for meat, fish, poultry or vegetables, rub a spice or herb mix over the surface before grilling or barbecuing. Buy a pre-prepared spice mix or make your own. Try these:
To make a richly flavoured gravy without fat, drain all the fat from the meat juices, then add chicken or beef stock. Boost the flavour even more with other ingredients to enhance the meat: for beef, add red wine, mustard or horseradish; for lamb, add mint jelly or rosemary.
Instead of butter, choose a low-fat tasty spread such as hummus, mustard, horseradish, light mayonnaise, chutney or extra-light cream cheese. Your sandwich will be just as tasty with much less fat.
11. Use nuts or seeds to add flavour and texture
Adding nuts to everything from salads to cereal to baked goods is a great way to add flavour and nutrition. To really make the most of nuts, for an intense flavour from a smaller serving, toast nuts briefly before adding to your food.
12. Toast your spices
Get the most from dried spices by making sure they are cooked. Add spices with onion and garlic at the beginning of cooking and stir this mix well so spices release their flavours into the oil. With curry spices such as coriander or cumin seeds, dry-fry seeds whole in a non-stick pan before crushing and adding to the curry.
Use the PDF charts (below) for a guide to great flavour combinations, and a list of essential pantry ingredients.
Try these tasty dressings, sauces and marinades: