By: Jen Bruning, MS, RD, LDN
You may have heard that new Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released. What does this mean? It means that health professionals now have an up-to-date resource from which to gather important info on nutrition and health. And it means that, according to current science, there are some guidelines that the average American should try to follow for optimal nutrition!
One of those recommendations is that Americans should strive to eat no more than 2300mg of sodium per day. That can be tricky, especially if you’re used to salting otherwise healthy foods in order to make them more palatable. But don’t give up hope! There are lots of ways to spice up your veggies without all the salt, and still wind up with some impressively delectable dishes! Let’s get started:
First, we’ll talk technique. Technique matters as much as seasoning, because your technique can preserve, enhance, change or detract from the natural flavors of your veggies. Grilling works well for pretty much every vegetable, when sprayed lightly with oil, grilled to al dente (barely tender) and finished with some fresh lemon juice. Roasting veggies does a similar trick- coaxing out the natural caramelization from your vegetables while keeping them tender and toothsome. Steaming is also a great way to end up with perfectly tender veggies, but it won’t add as much flavor enhancement as grilling or roasting. Be sure to use steaming when you have a sauce pairing for your veggies, or you really enjoy the pure flavor of the vegetables you’re preparing. Sautéing is another fabulous method for veggie prep: a touch of oil in the pan serves as a vehicle by which flavorings can be enhanced and distributed, and helps when you want to make a glaze or sauce right there in the pan while you’re cooking. And then there is raw. Really, you can eat your veggies raw. Try making an avocado or Greek-yogurt-based dipping sauce for a new take on a tasty basic. Combining curry powder + plain Greek yogurt+ fresh lime zest and juice is a particular favorite of mine!
Unless you enjoy it, avoid boiling your veggies in water- you lose much of the natural flavor and nutritional compounds in the cooking water, and you’re left with something limp, soggy & lifeless to eat.
Speaking of flavorings… what about herbs and spices? There are myriad ways to combine aromatics (onions, celery, carrots, garlic, to name a few) and imbue any dish with savory, satisfying layers of flavor guaranteed to get you and your family in the mood for veggie foods! If you like to stick with fairly basic, predictable flavors, go with what you know to start out with. Basil, rosemary, garlic, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and even tarragon with its slightly licorice-flavor all pair beautifully with roasted and grilled vegetables. Look for herb blends like Italian seasoning or Herbes des Provence to save a step in prep. Spices give you even more richness and complexity in veggie dishes: cayenne, turmeric, garlic & onion powders, exotic flavors like berbere, za’atar and sumac, or blends like curry, jerk, Cajun, plus differently-colored peppercorns in a grinder (pink, white or green!) all make for interesting & new veggie flavorings for you to explore and enjoy. Be sure to keep fresh lemons and limes on hand to finish off your dish just before serving- the citrus juice & zest help to give the natural saltiness in foods a boost- you won’t even miss the added salt!
So take a step out of your comfort zone this winter and whip up a new veggie dish! For inspiration and lots of healthy, tasty recipes, checkout the Mindful by Sodexo recipes.