There is a problem that plagues any flavor-obsessed home cook.
She knows that stovetop mac and cheese will taste better than stovetop kale. She goes for the fresh bread swiped with butter instead of fresh fruit for breakfast. She wants to order the ribeye, not the grilled chicken and vegetables.
She wonders: is it possible to balance great flavor and irresistible meals with a healthy lifestyle?
It turns out that eating well and eating deliciously are more similar than you think. Taste should be a natural part of healthy eating. Flavor should never be sacrificed to the fictional deities of dieting.
The following 5 tips have changed my life. I am healthier than ever before, I enjoy what I cook and, most importantly, I love what I eat!
1) Eat good food
Unless you have an allergy or a moral stance against eating animals, there is no reason to give up a food group in the name of health. A meal is not a combination of macros, it’s a chance to truly savor something in the midst of a difficult day.
Slowing down to enjoy a piece of thin-crust pizza topped with creamy pools of goat cheese helps me avoid a dollar slice spot. A square of really good dark chocolate every once in a while has ruined cheap Halloween candy for me forever. Can you see where I’m going here?
Eat good food, whether that’s a really good piece of roasted asparagus or a really good piece of red velvet cake, and you’ll learn that you don’t need “bad” food as often as you thought.
2) Keep it simple
Through decades of fad diets, pseudoscientific research, and celebrities finding enlightenment through kale, there is one piece of nutritional advice that has never failed: eat more fruits and vegetables.
Basically, everything our mothers taught us when we were 10 (she was right about the homework thing, too) is still true. That’s because moms want the best for us, and companies that sell gluten-free bread do not.
If you’re ever confused about what you should eat, consider the advice you’d give to a child. You wouldn’t let your kid go all day without eating a vegetable, and you’re definitely not letting her hit up the vending machine after ballet class. So pack the carrot sticks in your lunch bag and be sure to finish your broccoli before dessert. You’ll thank me when you’re older.
3) Clean eating
You already know that you should incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, but is there a way to make it easy?
The secret is to wash your fruit and vegetables right when you get home.
I know you’ve heard this one before, but here is a step-by-step routine you can follow:
- When you get back from the store, drop your bags and grab your phone.
- Turn on music or your favorite podcast, take off your shoes, maybe even get into something cozy.
- Unload your grocery bags and put all fruit and vegetables next to the sink.
- Lay out a couple clean dish towels on the counter
- Wash all of your produce, even if you’re not sure when you’re going to use it.
- Lay it out to dry
- Let it inspire your next meal
4) Plan ahead
Going into the store armed with a solid list will make your trip faster, more enjoyable and less stressful.
Start by planning 3 meals that you and your family will eat that week; one or two recipes you’ve made before and one new one that you dog-eared in Food & Wine but haven’t gotten a chance to make because you never plan ahead.
Oh, how the times will change.
After you’ve got 3 dinners, consider some staples you always like for breakfast and lunch. Add those to your list too.
Grab the reusable bags (you’ll probably need 3-4), pocket your list, and watch your grocery game dramatically improve.
In addition to washing your produce, seasoning it properly will encourage you to eat more vegetables. You don’t need to buy fancy spices or the latest Trader Joe’s seasoning blend, you just need a bulk box of Diamond Krystal kosher salt and a jar of good olive oil.
Most recipes will tell you to “season to taste,” but how many of us actually taste our food as we cook?
All of us, now, because you’re about to start.
When you have a sheet pan of broccoli destined for the oven, drizzle it with olive oil and season it with salt (and anything else you like). Then, stop right there and take a bite. Keep seasoning until the bite is delicious.
And that brings us to bonus tip number 6: food should always be delicious.
Food is not worth eating if it’s not tasty; we only get a few chances per day to experience the joy of eating. It’s a shame to waste that on a granola bar.
Pay attention to the flavors that excite you and the way your next meal truly tastes. Stick to the age-old rule of eating more fruits and vegetables. Keep them clean and well-seasoned to make them more enjoyable.
Implement one or all of these hacks into your life and healthy cooking will not seem like a complicated, foreign concept or a chore.
It’s how we’re meant to eat and it makes eating more sustainable and delicious.
And I hope, one day, it becomes a tenant of American home cooking.