By Liz Erker, RD LD MS
When it comes to choosing what to eat, nutrition is important but flavor is likely the true motivator and also the key to eating right. March is National Nutrition Month®, and the theme is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right" which will hopefully encourage American’s to experiment with new flavors and flavor combinations in healthy meals.
According to consumer research, taste trumps nutrition as the main reason why consumers buy one food over another. For most of us, the foods we most commonly eat are often those we enjoy the most, so make taste a priority when preparing nutritious meals. To maximize food’s flavor and nutrition, choose high-quality ingredients at their peak quality, and be sure to store and handle foods properly. Proper food handling and storage can enhance the natural flavors of food and keep nutrient loss to a minimum. Overcooking can destroy both flavor and nutrients. So be sure to cook foods properly to retain nutrients and enhance flavor, color, texture and overall appeal.
Preparing meals can be easy, healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Try some of these simple techniques to enhance flavor while experimenting with flavor combinations:
- Intensify the flavors of meat, poultry and fish with high-heat cooking techniques such as pan-searing, grilling or broiling.
- Pep-it-up with peppers. Use red, green and yellow peppers of all varieties—sweet, hot and dried. Or add a dash of hot pepper sauce.
- Try grilling or roasting veggies in a very hot (450°F) oven or grill for a sweet, smoky flavor. Brush or spray them lightly with oil so they don’t dry out. Sprinkle with herbs.
- Caramelize sliced onions to bring out their natural sugar flavor by cooking them slowly over low heat in a small amount of oil. Use them to make a rich, dark sauce.
- Simmer juices to make reduction sauces. Use them as a glaze or gravy.
- For fuller flavors, incorporate more whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa, or experiment with ancient grains such as amaranth and wild rice.
- Add small amounts of ingredients with bold flavors like pomegranate seeds, chipotle pepper or cilantro.
- Add a tangy taste with citrus juice or grated citrus peel: lemon, lime or orange. Acidic ingredients help lift and balance flavor.
- Enhance sauces, soups and salads with a splash of flavored balsamic or rice vinegar.
- Give a flavor burst with good-quality condiments such as horseradish, flavored mustard, chutney, wasabi, bean purees, tapenade and salsas of all kinds