Many people think that eating healthy equals poor taste, but in reality it’s quite the opposite. Eating healthy means expanding the variety of foods you can enjoy every day, with their incredibly wide range of flavors, tastes, and textures. In grocery stores we can find a wide range of whole, unrefined and minimally processed foods that can be at the basis for an exceptionally tasty and exquisite cuisine.
Whole grains and whole grain breads, all sorts of vegetables and fruits, beans and legumes, mushrooms, nuts, fish, white meat, eggs, cheese and dairy products, healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, fermented foods, all spices one can imagine, seaweeds, and more. An extraordinary range of delicious, simple and quick to prepare meals can be created based on these healthy ingredients. These healthy dishes are often more delicious than traditional not-so-clean meals that are too often so boringly based on the same list of nutritionally “wrong” ingredients such as white refined flour, sugar, salt, red and processed meats, etc.
The Michelin 3-star Danish restaurant Geranium, ranked best restaurant in the world in 2022 by San Pellegrino’s list, became meat-free in January 2022. So it is very much possible to create extraordinarily tasty meals without the “usual suspects”.
How to boost taste to prepare delicious health meals
Zeno of Citium, the founder of the ancient Stoic school of philosophy, observed that when people get used to eating elaborate, fancy and expensive food, they stop appreciating simple “real” foods. When our sense of taste gets over-saturated with industrial foods, loaded with sugar, salt and artificial flavors, we will only crave for even more sophisticated ways to satisfy our palate, forgetting that often the most delicious tastes can be found in simple whole foods like seasonal fruits and vegetables.
If you follow the typical western diet, then most likely your palate is overwhelmed by salt and sugar and needs to relearn how to taste more delicate healthy foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole foods in general. If our sense of taste is able to appreciate these more delicate tastes, then our food options become much wider, and more food choices will bring more tastes and more enjoyment into our meals.
Even if you retrain your palate so that you can enjoy more delicate foods, you have to remember that bland and boring food is never okay. Below you can find some suggestions on how to spice up your healthy meals.
- Add savory taste without salt
- Use aromatic herbs and spices
- Use healthy sauces and condiments
- Dunk your food in sauces or dips
- Marinate your food
- Eat in season
- Include different textures in your food
- Make your food look pretty
- Be smart with your desserts
- Be creative and experiment your own recipes
1. Add savory taste without salt
There are a number of alternatives to table salt to add a savory taste to your meals in a healthier way. Some of the best are listed below. Of course these foods may contain salt too, however they come with extra flavors that will please your palate using lower quantities of sodium. For example, even if soy sauce contains a relatively high amount of salt, it comes with a strong umami taste that may help satisfying your desire of savoriness with very small amounts.
- Gomasio – made from unhulled sesame seeds (goma) and salt (shio), can give a nice savory flavor to many dishes
- Miso – this incredibly healthy thick paste produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and kōji (the fungus Aspergillus oryzae) and sometimes other ingredients is also a great option to boost the taste of several dishes
- Fermented probiotics vegetables – Kimchi, sauerkraut and other similar fermented vegetable are also a great and healthy way to add a savory and spicy taste to your meals
- Mushrooms – among the foods with the strongest umami flavors, mushrooms can be a good way to add taste to your dishes in a healthy way. Mushrooms can also be purchased in powder form, which can be used very conveniently to add flavor.
- Soy sauce – recognized for its pronounced umami taste, it can greatly enhance the taste of several different types of foods. However, please be aware that only naturally fermented soy sauce is a healthy option. Chemically produced soy sauce may involve some health risks.
2. Use aromatic herbs and spices
There are hundreds of spices and aromatic herbs that can spice up your meals, so next time to go to the grocery store make sure you buy some, maybe taking the opportunity to try something new. What follows is just a small list of herbs and spices that you can use to add taste to your foods in a healthy way:
- Chili powder and hot peppers
- Curry powder
- Black Pepper
In addition to brining a lot of taste, all these herbs and spices bring different health benefits so it’s a good idea to rotate them as part of your eating routine.
3. Use healthy sauces and condiments
There are many sauces and condiments that can add flavor and interest to your food without adding unhealthy ingredients. When you chose the sauces, make sure you read the ingredient list to ensure it does not include ingredients that you do not understand. The following list includes some options you may consider:
- Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest foods available
- Other healthy vegetable oils such as linseeds oil, which is rich in Omega 3 fats
- A squeeze of lemon juice can brighten up any dish and add a touch of acidity.
- Vinegar is also a great way to brighten up any dish and trick your tastebuds if you’re craving salt
- Mustard, if it’s made from genuine ingredients, can be a great option to add a lot of taste to your dishes
- Ketchup can also be a good option when made from simple ingredients such as tomato, vinegar, sugar and spices. Make sure you choose a ketchup with a low amount of sugar.
- Peanut butter may also be a nice option to add a fattiness and nutty flavors to many dishes. Also in this case make sure you choose a peanut butter with a short list of ingredients, best if it just includes one ingredient: peanuts.
- Tahini, which is made from hulled sesame seeds, is also a good option. Also in this case, make sure you pick one with a very short ingredients list and better just one: sesame seeds.
In order to enjoy the health benefits of these foods, remember to consume them in moderation, in particular the more caloric options such as the oils, ketchup, peanut butter and tahini.
4. Dunk your food in sauces or dips
Dipping your food in a healthy sauce or dip can add flavor and make it more enjoyable to eat. A few examples are yogurt dips, healthy oils dips such as olive oil or linseed oil, vinaigrette, and pesto.
5. Marinate your food
Marinating your healthy sources of proteins such as white meat, fish, or tofu in a flavorful mixture of herbs, spices, oil and acid ingredients such as lemon or vinegar can tenderize the food and add flavor.
6. Eat in season
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are typically more flavorful and nutritious than those that are not.
7. Include different textures in your food
A variety of textures can make food more interesting and appealing to the eye and the palate. Chopped nuts, fatty seeds (such as sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds) or wholegrain crispy breads are just a few examples of healthy foods that can add a nice texture to your dishes.
8. Make your food look pretty
Plating your food in an attractive way can make it more appealing and enjoyable to eat. Be creative and have fun when plating your dishes.
9. Be smart with your desserts
If you are a dessert lover, be smart and find ways to satisfy your craving of sweet food intelligently. You may want to end your meal with a small piece of dark chocolate, or a few pieces of a fruit of season, or create smart and simple sweet treats such as a dried fig or date with a couple of walnuts.
10. Be creative and experiment your own recipes
Include cooking into your daily routine and transform the act of cooking into an enjoyable ritual. You may listen to your favorite music while cooking, or share the cooking experience with your loved ones.
When you need inspiration, make your own researches and find interesting recipes. Then, be curious and experiment with them. Follow your creativity and change these recipes, add your favorite herbs and spices, try different type of cooking methods, add or replace ingredients.
Think about the most boring meal that’s often eaten by health-conscious people: chicken, rice and broccoli. This can be quite a depressing meal if you just take a plate, and put boiled chicken, steamed white rice, and steamed broccoli in it. Now think about this alternative: cut the chicken in small pieces, season it with extra virgin olive oil, powdered garlic, powdered sage and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Stir-fry it in a pan until it’s a little crunchy on the outside and soft inside. Steam cook some whole grain red rice in a rice cooker, then stir-fry it for one minute or two in the same pan where you cooked the chicken and add a bit of chopped parsley in it. Steam cook the broccoli until it’s cooked but still crunchy. Then stir-fry a clove of garlic in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Then, when the garlic is slightly brown add the broccoli in pieces and a bit of hot pepper. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Then place the chicken, the rice and the broccoli in your dish. You will have a nice colorful meal, with different consistencies, flavors and tastes, ranging from a bit of sweetness from the rice, to the spiciness of the hot pepper. For an extra boost of sapidity you could use a bit of soy sauce where you can dip your chicken. If you like ginger, you can have a few small slices of fresh ginger on your plate to further kick the taste of your meal. Don’t fixate on recipes, just put together spices and tastes you like, experiment yourself, make your meals colorful and enjoyable!