Dear Blue Apron,
Here’s a good one: How do you make healthy food taste more delicious? I’m trying to lighten up my dinners, but I hardly want to eat plain chicken or steamed broccoli every night. How do I add flavor without adding indulgence?
In Need of Some Spice
Let’s disabuse you of one notion right now: Healthy food does not have to be boring. There are so many delicious things that will delight your taste buds and satisfy your appetite without weighing you down. Let’s get right to a few things to keep in mind.
1. A Little Fat Goes a Long Way
If you’re thinking that “eating healthy” means eliminating fat from your diet, think again. Fat, from olive oil to butter to cheese, will help make you feel full, and research seems to support the fact that eating these fats in moderation is totally fine. Translation: You shouldn’t hesitate to drizzle a little brown butter on fish or veggies (like this virtuous flounder and root vegetables dish) or put some shavings of manchego and roasted chopped almonds on top of a superfood salad.
We promise, your meal will taste better, you will feel more satisfied, and those small amounts of fat won’t make a lick of difference in your goal to get healthier.
2. Minimize the Red Meat (but Still Eat It)
Similarly, steak and other red meats can be part of a healthy diet—if used in moderation. These rich meats will leave you feeling full and feed your body’s needs for fat and protein.
That said, it can be helpful to think of meat as more of a condiment and less of the central part of a meal. Using a smaller portion of meat (about the size of your palm or smaller) to add a little extra flavor to your veggie and grain dishes is the perfect way to make them taste amazing, while still being good for you. This approach works especially well when stir-frying (as in this ginger beef stir-fry with tatsoi) or thrown into salads to adda little extra oomph (as in this chipotle steak salad).
3. Crowd Out Your Plate With Veggies
To be honest, if 80% of your plate is comprised of kale, carrots, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, and any other vegetable your heart desires, the other 20% could be almost anything—and you’d still be ahead of the game. If you check out one of the many studies about why the Mediterranean diet is so good for you, you’ll find that people in Greece and Turkey naturally seem to fill out their plates with fresh vegetables.
But that doesn’t mean you have to eat dull salads all the time: Take this dish of pork medallions with roasted carrot, avocado, and orange salad over farro as an example. Sweet roasted carrot, creamy avocado, and bright, fresh citrus almost make you forget there’s meat on the plate.
4. Spice it Up
Healthful eating season is not the time to skimp on spice. Adding teaspoons—maybe even tablespoons—of curry powder, cumin, chili powder, or any other of your favorite spices is the best way to make sure no dish in your kitchen comes out flat. Take this Thai shrimp soup: It’s a super-light, super-healthy dish, but with lemongrass, ginger, and red curry, there’s tons of taste in every bite. Or, rub a miso glaze on plain fish, and add Indian spices to a simple veggie stew. Curry powder is a big win, always.
This tip also extends to salt: It’s such a flavor enhancer that if you try to cut too far down, you’ll wind up with underwhelming bites and may end up eating more to compensate. Check out our video guide to salting below to make sure you get it just right.
5. Don’t Forget the Acid
A squeeze of lemon or lime at the end of cooking will do wonders for your food. Seriously, you can’t imagine the depth of flavor that these little citrus fruits contribute to soups or fish dishes, proving once and for all that you don’t copious amounts of salt or oil to eat something tasty.
A personal favorite? This healthful za’atar shrimp and green beans dish. It has a short list of ingredients, but gets its fresh, delicious flavor from a hearty squeeze of lemon.
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