Tasty Seasoning without Salt

Herbs033Tired of bland old chicken? Want to have a tasty meal, but not sure how to use spices correctly. You’re not alone.

Research shows the number one reason people choose the food that they eat is taste.

So how do you flavor your foods in a way that is tasty and healthy?

Last week, we discussed the importance of leaving the saltshaker at the grocery store. The good news is as you become tuned in to the true flavors of food and learn how to use spices limiting salt is not much of a sacrifice.

More importantly, addition of spices will enhance the overall flavor adding variety and surprise hidden health benefits (future blog).

For simplicity, let’s break it down into seasoning proteins, veggies and then starches.

  1. 3 Easy Go-To Ways to Season Protein

Protein may seem tricky to season without salt, but there are three great go to seasonings. The first is freshly ground black pepper, which is the best and can make the biggest taste difference. It has a more intense and aromatic flavor than regular pepper, and you don’t even need to have your own pepper grinder or mill. In fact, you can get black pepper in its own grinder at the grocery store. It smells wonderful and tastes delicious in this form.

The second go to seasoning is lemon juice.   Freshly squeezed can make all of the difference, besides enhancing the taste of spicy foods. One of the easiest and cleanest ways to squeeze a lemon is with a citrus juicer. It not only maximizes the juice yield but filters out the seeds as well. Lemon juice can be added before or after cooking, but for the most intense flavor, add the juice once the item is cooked.

The third go to seasoning is garlic, which is one of those spices where the flavor can drastically change depending on how it is prepared. The most intense flavors come from raw garlic that is finely chopped, crushed or even baked whole. For a more mild taste, add the garlic early in the cooking process. This creates a mild yet sweet taste. Another great option is to use garlic powder (not garlic salt). This adds the convenience factor to the kitchen and cooking process.

Some other great spice options for seasoning protein (depending on type) include:

Beef: Bay leaf, dry mustard powder, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, garlic, paprika, pepper, sage and thyme

Poultry: Cumin, marjoram, paprika, parsley, sage, thyme

Fish: Bay leaf, curry powder, dry mustard powder, marjoram, paprika, turmeric

Lamb: Curry powder, garlic, mint, pineapple, rosemary and pepper

Veal: Marjoram, oregano, bay leaf, curry powder, ginger, apricot and pepper

  1. Ways to Season your Veggies?

So many wonderful spices exist to season your veggies and using them depends on the type of flavor you want to create. Start by adding olive oil, onions, garlic and black pepper. If you are looking for a little spice, cayenne pepper (crushed red pepper) goes a long way, as it is very hot and peppery. If looking for something a little milder, try dill. It is available as a seed or fresh leaf herb. The seeds are typically stronger and more flavorful creating a sweet and citrusy, but also slightly bitter flavor. On the other hand, the leaves create a soft, sweet taste.

Here are some other great spice options depending on the type of vegetable:

Asparagus: Garlic, nutmeg and vinegar

Broccoli: Balsamic vinegar, lemon rind and nutmeg

Cucumbers: Dill weed, chives and vinegar

Green Beans: Marjoram, dill weed, nutmeg, pepper and oregano

Peas: Mint, pepper, parsley and onion

Squash: Onion, pepper, nutmeg, ginger, mace, cinnamon

Tomatoes: Basil, oregano, marjoram, dill and onion

Salads: Basil, balsamic, red wine, or cider vinegar

  1. Starches

For a fun and new flavor profile to add to quinoa or brown rice, try combining curry, coriander, and cardamom. This combination is often seen in Indian curry dishes creating a light and sweet citrus flavor. The addition of the cardamom additionally enhances the taste creating a hint of ginger and salt.

You don’t have to eat bland boring food that makes you want to “treat” yourself with a sweet or savory snack. Research also shows that eating highly seasoned foods cuts your appetite, which can assist with weight management. How’s that for taste AND health?

This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart and RD Intern Victoria Sonoda