By Alexandra Prabaharan
It’s easy to see why you would get the idea that eating healthy is just not for you when food outlets are not doing these meals justice. Take a look at the healthy offerings on any menu and you’ll find maybe three options — a sadly prepared salad with a generic bottled dressing, a thin watery soup of some kind and maybe a sandwich with cardboard-like white bread.
Where is the flavour? That memorable orgasmic experience in the mouth? It’s been subdued due to lack of knowledge on healthy food preparation and the unfamiliarity of the unique ingredients available.
Pack it with flavour
The first step you should take on your journey to eating better is to cut down on salt, sugar and to banish the dreaded MSG (monosodium glutamate). With these seasonings out of the game it might seem like a challenge to flavour your food well but there’s a world of spices and fresh herbs out there and here in Malaysia, we’re blessed to have access to many of them.
Here’s what you can try:
- Make an Asian-style Aglio Olio (garlic and olive oil pasta) using whole-wheat pasta: toss it with bunga kantan and kaffir lime leaves for fragrance and some fresh red chilli for a kick.
- For a high protein breakfast sprinkle your omelette with some antioxidant -rich turmeric and curry powder for heat and flavour. This will give this simple breakfast that extra ‘oomph’
- Season your grilled, lean meats with health-boosting spices such as cumin or coriander for an exotic flavour, right before you pop them in the oven.
When it comes to packing a meal with flavour play around with the abundance of fresh herbs and mouth-watering spices. There is no right or wrong way to use them and the experimentation will help you determine what tickles your palate.
Not just rice and noodles
Healthy eating opens you up to a myriad of grains and bases that are not often found in typical, daily meals. This gives you many options when you’re figuring out what you’d like to eat. Walk through the organic aisle at your grocery store and start exploring various options such as:
- Pearl barley, which can be cooked al-dente and served as a hearty salad with mixed vegetables and a light dressing. It can also replace Arborio rice in a risotto preparation that is packed with fibre.
- Nutrient- dense quinoa, which works as a replacement for rice when you whip up a savoury Korean bibimbap or as a base for curry. This grain is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids.
It’s in the sauce
When it comes to making a healthy meal more appealing, get creative with the sauces you work with. There are many vinegars, oils and sauces that work well together to form something delectable. Try these ideas on for size:
- Jazz up a simple salad by whisking together an Asian dressing made of apple cider vinegar, honey, soy sauce and sesame oil.
- With oven-baked salmon, drizzle some lime juice mixed with freshly cut chillies, lime zest and a pinch of brown sugar to give it a sweet, sour and spicy appeal.
Don’t say no to desserts
The biggest mistake we make when trying to eat healthy is to say no to desserts. Desserts can still be enjoyed in a nutritious way, which means we can have it as part of our diet. Here are some suggestions:
- For a guilt-free chocolate pudding, blend together a ripe avocado, a banana, cocoa powder and some honey to taste. This is rich and creamy and will delight any chocoholic’s taste buds.
- When baking cakes, substitute the butter/fat with a fruit puree. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter use half a cup instead and the other half use a pureed fruit of choice. This will cut down the fat and increase the dietary fibre in your dessert without changing the flavour.
There are many ways to make a healthy meal absolutely delicious and all it takes is a little bit of research and experimentation. With just a little extra effort you’ll be rewarded with something wonderful — a healthy meal that you’ll love!
Alexandra is a certified nutritionist with the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) and co-founder of Foodmatters (www.foodmatters.me) — a healthy lunch delivery service available in KL and Singapore. Inspired by her French, Chinese and Indian parentage, she incorporates diverse flavours into her meals and is on a mission to banish negativity surrounding healthy eating.