How to Add Flavor to Your Go-To Healthy RecipesJuly 20th, 2016
While I’ve been doing my part to eat healthier, I fear I’m in a little bit of a cooking rut. Chicken or salmon with greens and a sweet potato every night just isn’t gonna cut it. Do you have any particular ingredients, recipes, or tips that might help me switch things up, while still keeping it healthy? —Jill R.
The struggle to eat healthy without getting bored couldn’t be more common. If you’ve been relying on certain basics to keep it clean—like chicken, spinach, quinoa, and coconut oil—returning to them over and over can start to get a little blah.
The good news is that just a few little tweaks can make a tired recipe feel fresh and new! Here are my tips for making healthy meals a little more exciting, and still easy enough to whip up on a weeknight.
Experiment with different flavors
We tend to stick with flavors that we’re familiar with—but reaching for the same five spices every night is the quickest way to turn dinner into a snoozefest. Here’s the thing: Experimenting with spices and herbs is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to shake things up.
Instead of sticking to old favorites, choose a blend of spices to inspire your entire meal. For example, for an Indian-inspired chicken dish, try a blend of curry, turmeric, cumin, ground ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and serve curried eggplant and fragrant basmati rice on the side. We’ve put together six spice blends to get you started—but don’t be afraid to play around and see what you like!
Don’t forget the fat
Just because you’re eating healthier doesn’t mean you need to nix all the fats. Fat is what gives food flavor—and it’s the reason a marbled steak tastes so good, while a piece of white-meat chicken is lackluster. Without fat, things can quickly get pretty bland. One to two tablespoons of healthy fats at every meal is ideal for flavor and satiety. Drizzle olive oil over greens, melt a little grass-fed butter or ghee into grains, and spoon avocado over literally anything.
Do a swap
Most meals can be broken into four parts: Protein, grains, veggies, and healthy fats. When you think about say, your dinner, in separate categories like this, it’s a little easier to mix and match and change up ingredients without mucking up the whole thing—just choose an alternative that has a similar nutrient profile. Here are some simple swaps to consider.
Instead of chicken, try:
- Grass-fed beef
- Pork chops
Instead of brown rice or quinoa, try:
- Black rice
- Purple rice
- White basmati rice
Instead of spinach or kale, try:
- Beet greens
- Bok choy
- Broccoli raab
- Brussels sprouts
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Rainbow chard
- Swiss chard
Instead of olive or coconut oil, try:
- Avocado oil
- Beef tallow
- Duck fat
- Garlic-infused oils
- Hemp oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Sesame oil
Good restaurants change their menus with every few weeks to reflect which fruits and vegetables are fresh and available. Bonus: this keeps things interesting for patrons, too. So think like a chef and get inspired by the local farmers market. The produce there is often less expensive and more flavorful than what you’ll find at the grocery store, and the wide variety of options helps you step out of your comfort zone. Plus, truly fresh fruits and veggies are already so tasty that they don’t require a lot of cooking time and seasoning to taste amazing.
Follow Thrive Market
Every week, our food editor Merce Muse whips up several original, healthy recipes to suit every dietary need. Save for the fresh produce, meat, and dairy, you can get pretty much every ingredient from Thrive Market, too. Try a few of our dinners to stretch your cooking skills, or just get inspired by perusing the nearly 400 recipes on our site.
I hope this helps you on your quest to eating healthier and inspires you to get cooking. Have more questions? I’ve got answers. Leave a comment below and we’ll feature your question on the blog!
Photo credit: Paul Delmont