If you think nutritionists/dietitians only eat kale, salmon, quinoa, and organic artisanal almond butter, you would be wrong. First of all, nobody eats healthy all day every day. We all need to splurge once in a while, and every good health enthusiast does too, we just try not to overindulge most of the time. Secondly, eating the same things over and over again is not really healthy either. You need a lot of variety in your diet to get all of the vital nutrients. Did you know that the color of your food contains nutrients? The pigments found in food are made up of important chemicals and antioxidants that your body needs, so you really should be eating a rainbow of foods. Eating a mix of red, yellow, purple, orange, and white fruits and vegetables is just as important as eating lots of green.
Beyond just a lack of nutrients, anyone who eats the same three or four things every day, no matter how clean or healthy those things are, is destined to go on an out-of-control binge at some point. Especially if they prepare the food without butter, oil, or salt like some athletes preparing for competitions do. Boredom + no flavor = no joy. And depriving yourself of joy eventually leads to a complete breakdown of self control…if it doesn’t, you are a saint. Food should taste good! I mean, God wouldn’t have given us taste buds if he/she didn’t want us to enjoy our food, am I right? That said, when trying to eat healthy, cutting back on things like butter, oil, and salt can be challenging because these things contribute so much flavor. Never fear, though! There are other great ways to add flavor to your food without adding calories. Here are some of my favorites.
- Onions and garlic – I put these pungent vegetables from the allium family in almost everything. They have a lot of flavor and they’re packed with nutrients…and as a bonus they make your home smell like heaven when they’re cooking.
- Citrus – squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over almost anything and you get instant flavor. You can also roast chicken, fish, or veggies with sliced lemon or orange on top to infuse them with citrusy goodness.
- Herbs & spices – you may have to experiment a little with different herbs and spices because they all have a distinct flavor. Just be careful with spice mixes like adobo or chili powder as they can sometimes have a lot of salt. Something I’ve recently discovered is that a little cinnamon added to a spicy dish like spicy shrimp tacos adds a really unique flavor that I can’t resist. I always thought of cinnamon as a spice just for sweets…who knew it was so diverse?
- Vinegar – my pantry currently holds at least 5 different types of vinegar. Like spices, each one has a unique flavor, but they all add a tangy pop of flavor to your food.
I still use butter, oil, and salt too, but I don’t have to use nearly as much when getting such great flavor from these things.
A standard go-to meal when we’re busy or we don’t really want to cook is a quick stir fry or fried rice. Below is a fried rice I made last night that is loaded with colorful veggies and has a ton of flavor without a lot of oil and much less sodium than you find in most other fried rice recipes. We ate it as a meal, but it would make a great side dish as well. I used whatever veggies I had in my fridge, but you can switch them out for other fresh or frozen veggies based on your preference or what you have at home. Frozen peas and carrots or a frozen stir fry veggie mix are always great time savers that we tend to keep in our freezer at all times.
Easy Veggie Fried Rice
Serving Nutrition: 296 calories, 9.1 g protein, 10.9 g fat, 40.7 g carbohydrates, 573 mg sodium, 4.4 g fiber
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 sprigs green onion, sliced, white and green parts separated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust for your desired spice level)
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cups cooked chilled brown rice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1. In large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add red onions and white parts of green onion and saute until translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add sugar snap peas and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often, then add bell pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Push veggies to one side of skillet and pour beaten eggs into other half. Let sit until edges of eggs are cooked, then with spatula or spoon push edges of eggs so that any uncooked egg liquid on top runs off onto skillet. Let cook until eggs are cooked through (it will look like a small omelet), then remove eggs from skillet and chop into small pieces.
5. When peppers and sugar snap peas begin to soften, add chopped eggs, rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger to skillet and stir to mix well.
6. Add green parts of green onion, stir into mixture, remove from heat, and serve.
Bonus points if you can eat it with chopsticks. I have yet to master eating rice with chopsticks…I end up with more of it on the floor than in my mouth. Any pointers you can give me are welcome!