WTOP Wellness Contributor
WASHINGTON — It’s a simple fact: Food rich in taste is much more appealing than a bland or boring meal.
Unfortunately, one of the easiest ways to add flavor to food is with fat, sugar and excess salt — and statistics show Americans certainly add a lot of flavor.
The average American takes in 3,300 milligrams of sodium each day, not counting what comes out of the shaker right before the fork hits the food, the CDC reports.
That’s 1,000 milligrams more than the recommended amount from the U .S. Dietary Guidelines.
Americans consumed around 75 pounds of added fats in 2000, an increase from 65.5 pounds in the 1990s, according to the USDA.
But there are plenty of ways to maximize flavor without sacrificing the nutrition content of your food. Here are some tips:
Eat in Season
You will be amazed at how much better produce tastes when it’s purchased in season. A bite from an apple in September is worlds different than a bite from an apple in March. Use ripened seasonal fruit in hot meals, yogurts, cereals and salads.
For example, “season” pork chops by cooking them with tender apples. This delivers a punch of flavor without adding refined sugar or salt.
Not sure what’s in season? FRESHFARM Markets, a nonprofit organization of farmers markets in the D.C. area, offers a table of what produce is in season throughout the year.
Choose Cheese Wisely
Cheese is one way to add flavor to your meal, and while it contains some protein, a lot of cheeses are high in fat. The best thing to do is to use a little bit of a flavorful cheese. Instead of pouring on the low-fat mozzarella, try a Parmesan or blue cheese. You will use much less cheese if you pick one that is sharp and full of flavor.
Roast Your Vegetables
Roasting vegetables in the oven helps bring out the natural sweetness of the veggies and adds great texture. You won’t even miss the butter with this crisp, slightly sweet version.
Make Your Own Dressings or Sauces
Store-bought dressings are often loaded with sodium and fat. Instead, try making your own dressing using spicy mustard, lemon juice and fresh herbs. This combination will not disappoint.
Think Texture Substitutes
Cream, butter and sour cream all help to make foods — well, creamy. But there are healthier substitutes you can use to achieve the “creamy” factor — and they maximize flavor.
A favorite swap is to use Greek yogurt as an alternative to cream cheese or sour cream, and mashed avocado as a replacement for mayo in tuna. These healthy fats still provide the same texture, but boost the overall nutritional value.
Spice It Up
Spices are the best way to add flavor to your main meals and side dishes without added fat. Some of my favorite combinations are steak and basil, chicken and tarragon and chickpeas with cinnamon. Check out this blog post for more spice combinations and inspiration.
Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates and serves on the board for the DC Metro Area Dietetic Association. Kait focuses on individualizing her recommendations to have each client see results and live a healthier, more productive life, and she works to help people enjoy food and eat the foods they love. Kait lives in the D.C. area and loves trying new restaurants and activities around the city. Visit Kait’s blog, Rebel Dietitian, and tweet her @Rebel_Dietitian for recipes, nutrition tips and activities in the Washington area.