Nutritionists reveal how they get their healthy food to taste so delicious.
HAVE YOU EVER TASTED the most scrumptious dish and wondered what made it so amazing? I’m not talking about traditional French cooking, where the not-so-secret ingredients added for flavor are butter, sugar and salt. Rather, I’m referring to the surprising ingredients that add flavor but still keep your dish healthy.
As I was cooking dinner the other night, I wondered what ingredient tricks registered dietitians use in their kitchen to kick up the flavor. I reached out to top culinary dietitians across the country to find out their kitchen secrets.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Emily Abegglen, clinical dietitian at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, adds 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to any meat rub, as it “enhances the other flavors while giving the meat a whole other dynamic – especially if using a smoky sauce to dip it in!” Abegglen also adds unsweetened cocoa powder to oatmeal, chili and even peanut butter and says, “it’s like Nutella without the added fat and sugar.”
Dietitian Mandi Knowles, owner of the Well Crafted Life in Atlanta, also uses unsweetened cocoa powder, especially in her chili. “The cocoa adds a layer of depth and flavor to the chili that helps make it taste richer,” says Knowles, who recommends adding 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder at the same time your recipes calls for the dry seasonings and spices to be added.
“I use anchovy paste all the time, especially in Italian dishes and salad dressings,” shares dietitian Abby Langer, owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto. “The funny thing is that I don’t like whole anchovies, but anchovy paste is an umami bomb that melds with the other flavors in the dish and really makes them pop.” Langer keeps a tube in her fridge at all times and uses it in tomato-based sauces, salad dressings and burgers.
Shahzadi Devje, founder of Desi-licious RD in Toronto, gets creative with her homemade hummus by adding dried cranberries. “The slightly sweet and pleasantly tart taste of cranberries takes a classic recipe up a notch. Plus, these juicy little berries add a stunning color tone to hummus to create a stunning holiday-themed platter.” Devje blends in a food processor or blender 1/4 cup of dried cranberries with her hummus ingredients to create an easy recipe that’s “part sweet, part tangy – but all delicious!”
Registered dietitian Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition in New York City and media spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, uses this Japanese mayonnaise. It’s made with egg yolks, so it’s creamier and smoother than your typical American mayonnaise that may use whole eggs.
Valdez says kewpie also contains apple cider or rice vinegar, so it’s less acidic and a bit sweeter, and there isn’t water added to the mix like many American mayonnaise varieties. Valdez uses kewpie mayonnaise for making tuna salads. “I use about 1/2 cup of mayonnaise for 6 ounces of fish. I will use less mayonnaise if I’m adding Greek yogurt.” With fried chicken, you can simply just dip it into the kewpie mayonnaise as a sauce. If you want to be fancier, Valdez suggests adding “wasabi or sriracha to the mayonnaise to add layers of flavor.”
Powdered Peanut Butter
“Powdered peanut butter is a fantastic ingredient for flavoring and thickening soups,” says Sherry Coleman Collins, president of Southern Fried Nutrition Services in Atlanta and consultant to the National Peanut Board. “Recently, I developed a recipe for butternut squash and white bean soup that includes ginger, garlic and a healthy dose of powdered peanut butter. It added a familiar, yet exotic flavor, but with fewer calories than regular peanut butter. It also melts right into the soup with just a little stirring and disappears, leaving an amazing richness.”
Collins prefers to use peanut butter powder verses traditional peanut butter in certain recipes because it “quickly and easily melts into the dishes, becoming completely incorporated.” Regular peanut butter can be a little harder to incorporate into dishes. Because of the fat, it just sticks together better. Without the fat, powdered peanut butter just incorporates a bit easier and adds tons of nutrition and flavor. I certainly agree with Collins’ love of powered peanut butter and have used it to add flavor in smoothies, soups and even baked goods.
Canned Pumpkin Puree
Lauren Harris-Pincus, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club,” loves adding canned pumpkin to a variety of dishes. “It makes a fabulous addition to a homemade vinaigrette salad dressing,” says Harris-Pincus. “Pumpkin puree acts as an emulsifier to keep the oil and vinegar from “breaking” and also adds a touch of sweetness so you don’t need to add sugar.”
Harris-Pincus recommends starting with a teaspoon whisked into a few tablespoons of dressing and increase as needed. Another way she uses canned pumpkin puree is adding it to jarred marinara. She adds about 1/4 cup to a jar of marinara sauce for “extra nutrition plus it added creaminess and a bit of sweetness to balance the acidity of the tomato sauce.”
Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
“Lately, my go to secret ingredient is Everything But the Bagel seasoning,” says Robin Plotkin, culinary nutritionist and founder of Board Mama, a charcuterie board and grazing table company in Dallas. “This seasoning, made with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, onion and sea salt are popping up at retailers across the country, but it’s also simple to make your own version at home. It’s flavorful and unique, and a little bit goes a long way. Unless you’re like me – the more, the better.”
Most recently, Plotkin has used it to perk up canned tomato soup, provide texture and crunch to a green salad, flavor roasted pumpkin seeds and to roll a log of goat cheese in them to liven up a cheese board.
Fresh Ginger Root
Liz Weiss is the voice behind Liz’s Healthy Table, a family food podcast and blog. She adds fresh ginger root to soups, smoothies, salad dressings, brown rice and stir fries. “When buying fresh ginger, use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin. Freeze the peeled ginger in a zip-top bag, so you can use it over time,” says Weiss. “Having a microplane makes it easy to grate the ginger, especially when it’s frozen.”
After grating it, Weiss adds a tablespoon here and there to various dishes. “Fresh ginger adds a zesty punch to citrus or mango smoothies – add a teaspoon at a time and taste as you go.” It also brings “zing to fresh salad dressings – again, add a teaspoon at a time – pulls everything together in Asian-inspired stir fries.” Weiss also turns white or brown rice from “bland to bold by stirring in 1/4 cup lite coconut milk, a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger and a pinch of kosher salt.”
Stephanie Van’t Zelfden, founder of Nutrition Hungry, a health and nutrition practice dedicated to helping parents feed their families with confidence and ease located in Brooklyn, NY, names fish sauce as her secret ingredient. “A few dashes of fish sauce adds a pop of umami flavor to savory dishes,” says Zelfden. “I add it to soups, stews and even homemade tomato sauce for a unique flavor and depth that you just can’t get from salt.”
“I add at least 1 teaspoon (of Dijon mustard) to homemade mac and cheese, and the same goes in every salad dressing I make,” says Sarah Pflugradt, a family nutrition dietitian at Salubrious RD in Ramstein, Germany. “I also love to add a tablespoon or two to a slow cooker roast. It adds a punch of salty and vinegar flavor that I can’t get from any other food, and I truly believe it elevates the flavor of savory dishes.”
Author: Toby Amidor
Source: Health.US News: Secret Ingredients Nutritionists Use to Flavor Dishes