Do you sometimes find that “delicious” doesn’t always mean “nutritious”? In my experience, some healthier dishes – like unseasoned baked chicken and plain steamed vegetables – may sometimes seem ho-hum and less tempting compared to better-tasting meals that aren’t as healthy. I recommend that instead of giving up good intentions to eat more healthfully, you try to wake up the flavor in your foods and taste the deliciousness! Here are some tips I share with my clients. Remember to check with your diabetes care team before making changes to your meal plan.
Thanks to registered dietitian and Food Network hostEllie Krieger who taught me this technique, I now toss most vegetables with this garlicky, diabetes-friendlier oil. Just say no to the unhealthful fats in butter and margarine.
- Sauté thinly sliced garlic in olive or canola oil over low heat, being careful not to burn the garlic. When it turns just golden, remove the pan from the heat. The garlic slivers will become crispy.
Toss toasted nuts
Toasting intensifies the flavor, so you can save calories by using a smaller amount. Luckily, nuts contain mostly good-for-you fats.
- Arrange nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350F for as little as five minutes for small, delicate nuts like pine nuts; and ten minutes for heartier nuts like almonds. Stir often to prevent burning. They’re done when slightly darkened and very fragrant.
- Skip the croutons on a salad and enjoy a crunch from toasted nuts instead.
- Sprinkle toasted almonds over green beans.
- Mix toasted walnuts into wild rice or oatmeal.
- Toss toasted pine nuts and raisins with sautéed spinach.
- Coat chicken with a combination of breadcrumbs, toasted chopped nuts, and seasonings before baking.
I know what you’re thinking: Yuk. But give them a chance. These little fish offer a mighty meaty flavor and can transform a dish from humdrum to heck yes!
- Add a single mashed anchovy filet to a pot of tomato-based pasta sauce.
- Make a vegetable broth-based sauce meaty with the addition of an anchovy filet. Or add one to a vegetable soup.
- Toss a mashed filet packed in oil with steamed green vegetables.
- Roast tomatoes and red peppers mixed with a couple of chopped filets in oil. Sprinkle with black pepper.
Savor sundried tomatoes
If you’re watching your calories, you may not have considered cooking with sundried tomatoes packed in oil. However, I prefer the oil-packed variety precisely to save calories. Their flavor is so intense and so delicious that it’s easy to use just a little and avoid adding other fats. Before adding them to your food, shake them just a bit to toss off some of the oil.
- Drag sundried tomatoes over raw skinless chicken to add a flavorful oil. Then mix the tomatoes with other vegetables and seasonings before baking the chicken and vegetables together.
- Flavor pasta salad with sundried tomatoes. Reduce other added fats.
- Add thinly sliced sundried tomatoes to sandwiches. Skip the mayo.
Add fresh herbs liberally
These tiny leaves are packed with flavor, texture, and loads of health boosters. (Read more of my tips for using fresh herbs.)
- Toss chopped cilantro, basil and dill with your salad greens.
- Slip basil leaves into sandwiches, especially with tomatoes.
- Try mint with cucumbers, peas or melon.
- Chop parsley over beef stew, cilantro over vegetable stew, basil over tomato-based dishes, and dill over fish and creamy dishes.
Make fruit as interesting as other desserts. (Find out more here about fruit portions.) Grilling can increase the sweetness and intensify flavor. Lightly brush pineapple wedges or halved plums, figs, nectarines, and peaches with canola oil, and grill over moderate heat. If you want an even sweeter fruit, brush a teaspoon of honey over the fruit before grilling. Be sure to count the carbohydrates in your fruit (and honey) in your meal plan.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, and the upcoming The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition, as well as contributing editor at Environmental Nutrition. She has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience