Nutritionist Bronwen King shows us how to make meals delicious, without compromising our health.
Let’s face facts: no matter how ‘good for us’ a certain food may be, we just won’t eat it if it doesn’t taste good. And when we hear the term ‘health food,’ most of us think of dry, tasteless snack bars and ingredients with strange names – and that doesn’t sound terribly inviting!
But the idea that flavour equals ‘bad for you’ is entirely unfounded. It’s actually very easy to boost the taste and health of your everyday meals and you don’t have to cut all fat and sugar out of your recipes to do it. In fact, you’ll have the whole family coming back for more if you try these great ideas – they won’t even realise they’re eating ‘nutritious’ as well as ‘delicious’!
Best of all, adding flavour without fat and kilojoules guarantees you new ways to get creative in the kitchen so you can break out of that cooking rut we all get stuck in, too.
9 smart ways to boost flavour – and your health
1. Grated cheese
Swap 1 cup of grated cheddar for 3/4 cup of 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. Roasted vegies
Instead of roasting vegies in the same pan as the meat, cook them in a separate dish. Make up the following mixture to toss through vegetables before roasting. The recipe is for around six cups of vegies; enough for four people:
2 tablespoons each of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
herbs, fresh or dried of your choice, eg. rosemary, oregano
3. Mashed potato
Instead of adding butter, add flavour to potato by cooking in stock or vegetable broth. Mash with skim milk, a little light sour cream and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
4. Nuts and seeds
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 and to intensify the flavour from a smaller serving, toast nuts briefly before adding to your food.
Add a handful of rocket to salad greens. The intense peppery flavour adds zip to any salad.
Instead of using butter in sandwiches, choose a low-fat tasty spread such as hummus, mustard, horseradish, light mayonnaise, extra-light cream cheese or chutney. Your sandwiches will be just as tasty but with much less fat.
To make a richly flavoured gravy without the extra kilojoules, use chicken or beef stock instead of using the fat-laden meat juices from the roasting pan. Boost the flavour even more with other ingredients to enhance the meat: for beef, add some red wine, mustard or horseradish; for lamb, add mint jelly or fresh rosemary.
Instead of the usual three parts oil to one part vinegar, make a delicious dressing by reversing the proportions: three parts vinegar to one part oil. Use a well-flavoured vinegar, such as tarragon-flavoured or balsamic for example, and further boost flavour by adding garlic and mustard to your dressing.
Get the most from dried spices by using them properly. Add spices at the beginning of cooking, with the onion and garlic. Stir this for a minute or two over heat so spices release their flavours. With spices such as coriander or cumin seeds, dry-fry seeds whole in a non-stick pan before crushing and adding to the curry.
Condiments etc: Capers, feta cheese, mint jelly, olives, pesto, pine nuts, red currant jelly, dates, dried apricots, olives, prunes, sun-dried tomatoes.
Tip: Marinate a butterflied leg of lamb, skin scored, in crushed garlic cloves, paprika, lemon juice and olive oil for three hours. Grill for 15 minutes, turning, then flip hood of barbecue down for another 15 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
Tip: Pour a sauce made of chilli, crushed garlic, grated ginger, light soy sauce and mirin over salmon fillets wrapped in foil or baking paper. Place parcels on baking tray and into 180°C preheated oven for 10–15 minutes.