As many of you may know, March was National Nutrition Month (NNM). With that, I spent a lot of the month talking to adults and students about how to “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right”, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics slogan for NNM 2016. However, as the month came to a close I got thinking about how important it is to emphasize these techniques all year. Nobody likes eating bland, tasteless food and a healthy, balanced plate can be anything but that! Here are my 5 favorite ways to savor the flavor all year:
- Make eating social! As Americans, we’re accustomed to eating on-the-go and seeing food as a chore. I’ll admit, I’m very guilty of munching at my computer while I work, but food should be social! It shouldn’t be something we just “get done." It should be enjoyed for its taste and purpose, but most importantly because of the people we share it with. Save eating alone for the times that you have no other choice and make a point whenever you can to share your meals with the people that make you laugh, turn your day around, and help you feel a part of something.
- Don’t be afraid of the savory stuff! Cheese, savory meats, butter, sauces, refined bread, etc. Yeah, we don’t want to base our diet on them but just a little touch can give us the taste that makes us crave continuing to eat healthy day in and day out. Pile on the lean proteins, veggies, fruits, and whole grains, but don’t be afraid of a little sprinkle to make these healthy staples extra delicious! As we all know, a little bit of a lot of different things can add up quick, so keep your plate in check by limiting savory items to small portions of 1-2 options per meal.
- Compliment, compliment, compliment! Have you ever created a dish that you we’re so excited about but it turned out it was just blah? I don’t know about you, but I’d think to myself, “I love all of these ingredients so how do I not love this dish?!?” Finding the right flavor combinations is key. My favorite cooking resource: The Flavor Bible, available for both the meat-eating kitchen connoisseur and the vegetarian cook. Cook Smart’s breakdown of flavor profiles is also a great guide!
- Be mindful. In college, I did presentations as a health educator on wellness and stress relief around campus. One of my favorite activities was our Hershey Kiss demo. The activity literally changed the way I treat myself. Passing one hershey kiss to each student (yes, just one!), we'd slowly walk them through eating the chocolate focusing on the wrapper, smell, sweetness, texture, and flavor and instructing them not to chew for at least two minutes. Allowing foods to melt in your mouth as you savor their individual characteristics can mindfulness and satisfaction with smaller portions. Try it!
- Dive into new cooking techniques, herbs and spices, and unfamiliar ingredients! Expand your palette both in and out of the kitchen. Herbs and spices can make a world of a difference when flavoring a dish with zero negative impacts on its nutrition composition, unless using salt. If anything, research has shown that certain herbs and spices may have positive impacts on health. Combine with healthy cooking techniques, like sautéing, broiling, and grilling, and you’ll be cooking up delicious, healthy dishes in no time.
Now, with this all comes balance. It's key. I probably say it at least 5 times a day, but it really is what it's all about. Treat yourself, but not too much, and you’ll enjoy savoring every last bit of a healthy diet.