Being Healthy Doesn’t Mean You Have to Sacrifice Flavor

Eating a nutritious, balanced diet doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, many of the most flavorful ingredients are also the best for your health. And while it may seem like cooking a healthy meal has to take time, there are so many ways to liven up a dish quickly with ingredients you already have in your kitchen—or by trying a new cooking technique.

Start with Lean Proteins

A lean protein is the perfect base for a flavorful, healthy dish. Start with an option such as chicken, turkey, lentils, fish, or tofu. These powerhouse proteins satisfy hunger and provide sustained energy without unwanted extra fat.

  • Try baking, roasting or smoking meats for a healthier and still delicious alternative to searing or frying.
  • Look for lean proteins that are already packed with flavor on their own, like Godshall’s Turkey Bacon.
  • Look for recipes you can make in your slow cooker or instant pot. (Bonus: less prep time and fewer dishes required.)
A woman is cooking a healthy meal using fresh ingredients like veggies and protein in her kitchen.
Image credit: Sarah Chai, Pexels

Go For Herbs (heavy, so like a lot)

Effortlessly add a flavor to meals with a handful of fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, cilantro, parsley, or chives. With many of the health benefits of leafy green vegetables (including vitamins A, C and K), herbs are super versatile and easy to use.

And don’t forget dried herbs. They keep well in your pantry and can be used when fresh herbs are not easily available. They do tend to lose flavor over time, so buy only what you need and note the expiration date.

Explore Fermented Foods

More than just a great way to keep fresh food from going bad, fermentation has health benefits, too. Fermented foods are packed with probiotics—live bacteria and yeasts that boost your gut health and improve your digestion.

  • Keep a jar of fermented pickles on hand for snacking (look for them in the refrigerated section of the grocery store).
  • Make a savory yogurt sauce to serve over meat or vegetables.
  • Stir some sauerkraut into your mashed potatoes, or serve it as a side with sausages or roasted meats.
  • Swap in tempeh for ground beef in your go-to spaghetti bolognese recipe
Add flavor to dishes by cooking a healthy meal with lots of spices and herbs.
Image credit: Kristina Snowasp

Add Acid

Acidic foods like fresh citrus juice and vinegar add brightness and zing to dishes, and you only need a small amount to yield big results. Vinegar is low in both calories and nutrients, so while it isn’t necessarily healthy in and of itself, it’s an easy way to add a lot of flavor without also adding fat or salt. 

  • Mix vinegar with oil for a simple vinaigrette dressing. You can keep leftovers in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto savory foods just before serving to brighten the flavor and add extra vitamin C. This can work on anything from tomato sauce to mashed potatoes.
  • Mix up your salads with sliced oranges or grapefruit. 
  • Roast chicken, pork, green beans, or broccoli with slices of lemon or orange.

Don’t Forget these Flavor-Boosters When Cooking a Healthy Meal

  • Alliums: Garlic, onions, chives, shallots, leeks
  • Hot spices: Hot sauce, fresh or dried chilis, chili flakes, chili powder
  • “Umami” (savory) additions: Anchovies, mushrooms, olives, tomato paste, parmesan
  • Smoked foods: Smoked paprika, oysters, turkey bacon—look out for real-wood smoked meat and avoid ones with artificial  flavors