Insider’s Viewpoint: Balance Nutrition & Taste
March is National Nutrition Month® which is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association. Every year the campaign stresses the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right
This year the theme of National Nutrition Month is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” The focus is to combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that implement the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. It is a good time to return to the basics of healthful eating. Choose nutrition-packed foods from the five MyPlate food groups every day. A simple way of incorporating these food groups into meals is to start by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Then add lean protein, a grain with emphasis on whole grains, and some fat-free or low-fat dairy.
The foods we tend to eat most of the time are the ones we enjoy the most so it is important to make taste a priority when preparing nutritious meals. Balance good nutrition and taste at every meal and regularly try new flavors and foods.
10 Ways to Enjoy the Tastes of Foods
- Try a new fruit or vegetable each week.
- Add a different salad green like slightly bitter escarole, the feathery leaves of fennel, or kale to a green salad.
- Enjoy raw sliced Jerusalem artichokes or strips of jicama on a raw vegetable tray.
- Serve spaghetti squash instead of pasta with a marinara sauce.
- Frequently enjoy wonderful fruits such as blood oranges, mango chunks, papaya and kiwi.
- Have some type of fruit with breakfast every day.
- Include berries on cereal, fresh citrus segments like orange and grapefruit or a banana in a smoothie.
- Keep a bowl of apples, pears and bananas available for snacking.
- Enjoy a fruit salad or add fruit such as sliced strawberries, grapes or mandarin orange segments to a green salad.
- Serve a fresh fruit cup for dessert.
The goal is to eat a colorful variety of vegetables and fruits every day.
Another way to add flavor is to experiment with recipes from different ethnic cuisines by incorporating seasonings common to the cuisine. Often these seasonings can be used instead of salt and/or fat to add unique and delicious flavor to foods without added sodium or calories.
Become familiar with seasonings and foods used in various ethnic cuisines to create new flavors in dishes. For example, West African cuisine commonly uses chili peppers, ginger and coriander, and sweet potatoes and peanuts are staples. The Sweet Potato Peanut Soup recipe below is a West African recipe using many ingredients common to the cuisine. This is a totally different way to eat sweet potatoes from how most of us normally eat them!
Sweet Potato Peanut Soup
- 2 pounds unpeeled sweet potatoes, cut in chunks
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4 cups fat free low sodium chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons chopped green chili
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- Fresh cilantro for garnish
- 2 cups water
Put all ingredients except for cilantro, in a large pot and stir. Cook over medium heat and simmer covered 20 to 25 minutes – stirring occasionally. Pour about half in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into large glass bowl. Blend remaining soup and add to the bowl. Stir and ladle into 8 soup bowls. Garnish each with cilantro.
Each serving contains approximately 181 calories and 9 grams fat.
Fruit Compote with Fresh Basil
Another way to enjoy a new flavor is to use a fresh herb with a food other than the usual. For example, people often add fresh basil to vegetables, pesto, green salads, tomato, fish and egg dishes. But basil is wonderful in a fruit salad also. Try the fruit compote recipe below.
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, cut in thin strips
- 1 cup diced strawberries
- 1 cup diced fresh or frozen (and thawed) mango
- 1 cup blackberries or blueberries
- 1 cup green or purple grapes
Combine lime juice, powdered sugar and basil in a medium-sized glass bowl and stir to mix well. Add fruit and toss gently to coat all fruit. Serve immediately.
Each serving contains approximately 53 calories and a trace amount of fat.
Slaw with Sunflower Seeds
Try a different way to prepare a food you commonly eat. This slaw recipe has been modified to use purple onion instead of green onion and pear-infused vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar. Sunflower seeds have also been added.
- 6 cups grated cabbage or coleslaw mix
- ¼ cup chopped finely chopped purple onion
- ½ cup shelled roasted sunflower seeds
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 tablespoons pear infused vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
Place cabbage or slaw mix, green onion and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Combine oil, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and mix well. Add to other ingredients and stir to mix.
Each serving contains approximately 141 calories and 10 grams of fat.
Becky Varner, MS, RD, LD
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