While real whole natural and good quality foods taste fantastic on their own, often times we want something a little more. For some reason, when moving from a processed diet to a whole foods diet we feel like we are missing out on flavour, that eating real vegetables and other whole foods is somehow, boring or bland? This is very simply because chemical additives can be found in processed foods, like MSG and sugar, which actually create an addiction to the foods we eat. In addition to this, refined sugars and processed fats do not taste the same as natural sugars and healthy fats, so while whole food might taste different, our taste buds need to get used to it since we are likely addicted to sugars and rancid fats.
Here are my 4 tips to jazz up your whole foods to encourage you and others to keep on trucking, a whole foods, natural diet is the only way to health!
1. Fat is Flavour!
While unhealthy fats are not welcome in a whole foods diet, healthy fats are encouraged. Whole fat sources like avocados, olives and coconut are great, but so are cooking and dressing fats like ghee and butter, and coconut, along with cold-pressed olive oils and others including walnut, avocado and hemp oils. Using these fats not only increases flavour, but also they make the food more nutritious! So make a delicious dressing out of olive oil and lemon juice, and don’t be afraid to sauté some green beans in a little coconut oil, this can really enhance the flavour of foods, while improving nutrient value!
Tip: make sure you’re using the right oil for your task, olive oil (and hemp, flax, etc.) should be saved for cold applications, after cooking, whereas ghee, coconut oil and butter can be used for heated cooking applications, we want to avoid damaging our fats.
2. Make the most of fresh herbs and spices
Adding herbs and spices cannot only give your meal a new flavour direction but it can also offer nutritional benefits as well. Ginger is not only a great addition to a stir fry but it also offers anti-inflammatory benefits and is calming to the stomach.
Fresh herbs are also easy to add (and grow) to meals, add some thyme into your soups and cook your beef with rosemary to add great flavour. Parsley or basil to top off an Italian inspired meal can really take it to the next level.
3. Make your own spice blends
If you want to cut down on food prep and cooking time, make up some spice blends and keep them on hand. There are many recipes online that offer combinations of spices to help you transform a meal into an adventure around the world! Again spices are great for health; cinnamon can help to balance blood sugar and makes a great addition to meals, and even dessert or smoothies! Try blends like an Italian spice blend, taco seasoning (the store stuff contains some questionable ingredients), or a spicy chipotle blend! Grab some jars from the dollar store to put your blends in and make a label reminding you of the ingredients inside, this way you wont be stuck measuring spices for each meal.
Tip: to simplify cooking without losing the flavour, make spice blends from your favourite recipes. If you have a favourite recipe that takes too long to make on a week night, simply extract the spice blend and make any meal inspired by your favourite cookbook recipe!
4. Stop avoiding the salt (and pepper)
While salt and pepper can seem boring, it is actually a great way to bring out the flavours already in your foods! My favourite way to enjoy chicken is grilled with just salt and pepper! Grab some quality sea salt (I like Himalayan) and sprinkle it on your meats, vegetables and grains. While salt has got a bad rap in the past, truth is that we need salt, so try salting during cooking to bring out flavours and use a high quality salt because they will contain an abundance of nutrients and minerals that the body needs in a balance. Pepper can be spicy for some but learn what works for you and your meals will have lots more flavour! If you're concerned about eating too much salt, salt during the cooking process and leave it off the table so you don't over salt!
Tip: choose whole pepper corns and put them into a grinder to grind on foods before meals, this will help to keep the pepper fresh and adds more flavour then the pre-ground stuff.
5. Use different cooking methods
If you’re always steaming your vegetables and broiling your meats, your meals are sure to be a bore, while these are great on their own, mix things up. Try grilling vegetables or roasting them in the oven (with some fat like we talked about above) or cooking your meat in a pan, or grill it. Different cooking methods will bring out different aspects of the foods keeping variety in your meals!
Tip: Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness, if you’re new to the whole foods scene, this can be a good way to get more natural healthy sugars from things like green beans, carrots, and other root vegetables like turnip.
One final unofficial tip, remember that the food itself has lots of flavour so use a variety of vegetables and mix it up, try not to choose the same thing each day or wee, take a trip to the market and pick up a new vegetable and work on preparing it this way. If you’re ever in doubt, add onions and garlic and it is sure to be a hit!
So tell me, how do you keep your whole foods diet alive with loads of flavour?
Amanda is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist out of Southwest Middlesex, and London ON. She works with clients to help them achieve their health and wellness goals!
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