Photography Credit, Robert Clark for National Geographic
Last year the New York Times published an article “Food Corporations Turn to Chefs in a Quest for Healthy Flavor”. This is an attempt by the Big Food Corporations to improve their image as healthy food manufacturers. They are calling on these chefs to help them create healthy menu makeovers using things like fresh herbs, whole ingredients and real foods to infuse natural flavor into old recipes. It’s a movement that is making progress as the Big Food Corporations are starting remove additives and other ingredients like artificial coloring from their foods.
Unfortunately, a lot of damage has already been done to peoples taste buds. People are craving salty, fatty, sugary, processed foods. Fortunately, people are waking up and wanting to make smarter and healthier food choices.
So, how do you reprogram your taste buds to ditch the cravings for sugar, salt, and fats? The first and most important things you do is to start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid fake, commercialized foods that come in convenience packages or are made in a lab. Also, avoid the drive through lane of fast food restaurants. If you need a reminder of why, here is a transparency video by MacDonalds on how they make the McRib.
The best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food possible is to prepare your own food in your own kitchen. Everyone is a chef. You don’t have to be trained at Le Cordon Bleu (like me) to know your way around a kitchen. You just need a little information, some imagination, and a sense of adventure in the kitchen to get going.
Here are 10 tips to get you heading into the right direction to start cooking healthy food.
Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness. Properly searing your chicken or meat brings out natural sweetness. Also, the brown crust in aesthetically pleasing which triggers a natural reaction to wanting the food.
Play with fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor without any fat! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. It’s amazing how much flavor fresh herbs imparts into a dish.
Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and healthy oils, like olive oil, not only increase the flavor of your meal, they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods.
Try creating a savory, umami (fancy Japanese word for yummy) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, plum paste, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushroom, or sea vegetables to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
Related Recipe: Umami Veggie Burger
Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove and ginger add a lot of flavor to both baking dishes and vegetable based dishes. Cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are extremely flavorful additions to a meal because the spices like these grab your taste buds. This is helpful because, as studies show when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied. So, try not reading or watching the TV while you eat. Enjoy your meal and the people you are eating it with.
Make sure you have some kitchen must-haves like real vanilla, spices, dried herbs, healthy oils, vinegars and citrus. Every-day foods like lemons add a lot of flavorful acid and that give that extra umph to most meals.
For the most flavor, eat seasonally and locally. The fresher the food, the better the natural flavor is. Canned or packaged foods or foods that have traveled great distances in the back of a truck just can’t compare to the vegetables and fruits you can get at your local farmers market.
Check your hydration. Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the magnificent flavor in food. If you are dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, you won’t really be able to enjoy your food.
Related Article: Recovery Days, A Simple Guide to Staying Hydrated
Check your medications. Believe it or not, a lot of medications interfere with the body’s ability to taste and smell. Some of them can even create an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. This is something everyone should pay attention to when starting a new medication.
Pay attention to your nutrition. Nutrient deficiency is an important cause of improper taste perception. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can markedly impair your ability to smell and taste food. Most Americans have several nutrient deficiencies, but there is one in particular that can especially keep you from enjoying your next meal: zinc. Try adding foods like oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, and lentils to increase your daily intake of this important mineral. If you can’t, at least start taking a daily multi-vitamin.
By keeping these tips in mind, you will start enjoying healthier foods in your kitchen and more than likely, you’re waistline will thank you.