Many of us parents deal with numerous culinary challenges at home when balancing between healthy food and junk. It so happens that children prefer salty, sugary and oily servings over vegetables and whole grains, which happen to be better for their health.
The imbalance in preference can so easily ferment picky eating and other eating. disorders.
One way to beat this challenge is through turning the ‘tasteless’ healthy food into delicious servings. If done correctly, these tricks can result in flavorful and enjoyable meals.
Here are some tips you can try out to make healthy food more appealing to children, and picky eaters in particular:
1. Use Herbs and Spices:
Adding herbs and spices to your meals can enhance the flavor without adding calories or unhealthy ingredients such as extra calories, salt, or fat. Experiment with different combinations of herbs and spices to find the flavors you enjoy.
There are many different herbs and spices available, each with its unique flavor profile.
- Use fresh herbs whenever possible:
Fresh herbs have a more intense flavor than dried herbs. If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, use dried ones instead.
- Use herbs and spices in marinades and rubs:
Marinades and rubs are a great way to infuse flavor into meats, poultry, and seafood. Try using a mixture of herbs and spices, along with a little oil and acid (like lemon juice or vinegar), to create a flavorful marinade or rub.
- Add herbs and spices to soups and stews:
Soups and stews are great for using up leftover herbs and spices. Try adding a pinch of cumin or coriander to a vegetable soup, or some fresh thyme to a chicken stew.
- Use herbs and spices to season vegetables:
Vegetables can be bland on their own, but adding some herbs and spices can really bring out their flavor. Try adding a sprinkle of garlic powder or dried oregano to roasted vegetables, or some fresh basil to a tomato salad.
- Make your own spice blends:
Experiment with creating your own spice blends. For example, mix together cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika for a Middle Eastern flavor, or mix together chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin for a Mexican-inspired blend.
2. Roast Vegetables:
Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and adds a caramelized flavor. Try roasting vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and some herbs for a tasty side dish.
- For example, you can preheat your oven:
Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C) to ensure that it’s hot enough to roast your vegetables properly.
- Choose the right vegetables:
Some vegetables are better suited for roasting than others. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are great for roasting, as are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Make sure to cut the vegetables into evenly sized pieces so that they cook evenly.
- Use the right oil:
Use a high smoke point oil like avocado oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil to coat your vegetables before roasting. This will help the vegetables caramelize and become crispy on the outside.
- Season your vegetables:
Sprinkle your vegetables with salt, pepper, and any other herbs and spices you like before roasting. You can use a simple seasoning like garlic and onion powder or get creative with spices like cumin, paprika, or curry powder.
- Roast until tender:
Roast your vegetables for 20-30 minutes, or until they are tender and caramelized. Check them occasionally and stir them to make sure they cook evenly.
- Finish with a splash of acid:
After roasting, add a splash of acid like lemon juice or vinegar to brighten up the flavors of the vegetables.
3. Healthy Fats:
Instead of using butter or cream in your recipes, try using healthier fats like olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. These fats add flavor and nutrients without adding unhealthy saturated fats.
- Use avocado:
Avocado is a great source of healthy fats and can be used in a variety of ways. Mash it up to make guacamole or spread it on toast. You can also slice it and add it to salads or sandwiches.
- Cook with olive oil:
Olive oil is a healthy fat that is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. Use it to sauté vegetables or to make a vinaigrette for salads.
- Add nuts and fruit seeds:
Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Add them to salads, oatmeal, or yogurt for a delicious and nutritious snack.
- Use nut butters:
Nut butters like almond butter and peanut butter are a great source of healthy fats and can be used in a variety of ways. Spread them on toast, add them to smoothies, or use them as a dip for fruits and vegetables.
- Use coconut milk:
Coconut milk is a great source of healthy fats and can be used in curries, soups, and smoothies for a rich and creamy texture.
- Cook with butter:
Butter is a source of healthy fats and can add flavor to dishes. Use it sparingly when cooking to add richness to dishes like mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables.
4. Incorporate Fruits and Nuts:
Adding fruits like berries or sliced apples and nuts like almonds or walnuts to your meals can add flavor and texture while also providing nutritional benefits.
- Add fruits to salads:
Fruits like berries, apples, and pears can add sweetness and texture to salads. Add some sliced strawberries to a spinach salad, or some diced apples to a kale salad.
- Use fruits as a topping:
Fruits like bananas, berries, and peaches can be used as a topping for oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie bowls. Sprinkle some chopped nuts on top for added crunch and protein.
- Add dried fruits to baked goods:
Dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, and apricots can add sweetness and chewiness to baked goods like muffins, cookies, and bread.
- Mix nuts into trail mix:
Nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts can be mixed with dried fruits and seeds to make a delicious and nutritious trail mix.
- Use nuts as a garnish:
Chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts can be used as a garnish for dishes like roasted vegetables or grilled meats. They add crunch and a nutty flavor.
- Add fruits to smoothies:
Fruits like bananas, berries, and mangoes can be added to smoothies for sweetness and nutrition. Add some almond butter or peanut butter for added protein and healthy fats.
Remember to choose a variety of fruits and nuts to get a range of nutrients and to balance them with other nutritious foods like vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
5. Use Healthy Condiments:
Condiments are sauces, spices, or other flavorings that are added to food to enhance its flavor or texture. They are typically added in small amounts and can be sweet, sour, salty, or spicy. Common condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salsa, soy sauce, and vinegar.
Instead of using sugary or high-calorie condiments like ketchup or mayonnaise, try using healthier options like hummus, guacamole, or salsa.
Add these to the nutritious and healthy food at home to make them enjoyable.
- Use mustard:
Mustard is a low-calorie condiment that can add flavor to sandwiches, salads, and sauces. Use it to make a vinaigrette or as a spread on a sandwich.
- Try salsa:
Salsa is a great way to add flavor to tacos, salads, and grilled meats. It’s low in calories and packed with flavor.
- Use hot sauce:
Hot sauce is a great way to add heat and flavor to dishes like eggs, stir-fries, and soups. It can also help boost metabolism.
- Experiment with vinegar:
Vinegar is a versatile condiment that can add tanginess to dressings, marinades, and sauces. Try using apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar for added flavor.
- Add hummus:
Hummus is a healthy and flavorful dip that can be used as a spread on sandwiches or as a dip for vegetables. It’s high in protein and healthy fats.
- Use soy sauce:
Soy sauce is a staple in Asian cuisine and can be used to add flavor to stir-fries, marinades, and dipping sauces. Use it sparingly, as it’s high in sodium.
6. Experiment With Different Cooking Methods:
Experimenting with different cooking styles is a great way to add flavor to your healthy food. Here are some tips on how to do it:
- Try grilling:
Grilling adds a smoky flavor to meat, fish, and vegetables. You can marinate the food beforehand or use a dry rub to add even more flavor.
- Roast your vegetables:
Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and adds a delicious caramelized flavor. You can add herbs and spices to the vegetables before roasting for even more flavor.
- Use a slow cooker:
Slow cooking meats and stews allows the flavors to develop over time, resulting in a rich and flavorful dish. You can add herbs and spices to the dish before cooking to enhance the flavor.
- Stir-fry your veggies:
Stir-frying is a quick and healthy way to cook vegetables. The high heat helps to retain their color, texture, and flavor. You can add a variety of sauces and spices to the stir-fry for added flavor.
- Smoke your meats:
Smoking meat is a time-consuming process, but the result is a tender and flavorful dish. You can use different types of wood chips to add different flavors to the meat.
- Bake your fish:
Baking fish in parchment paper or foil helps to seal in the flavor and moisture. You can add herbs, lemon, or other seasonings to the fish before baking for added flavor.
- Ferment your food:
Fermenting food is a wonderful way to enhance its flavor and create a unique taste profile. The process of fermentation involves the use of beneficial bacteria or yeast to break down sugars and transform them into other compounds, resulting in a tangy, complex, and often delicious product.
7. Make Your Own Sauces:
Making your own sauces at home allows you to control the ingredients and reduce the amount of added sugar and unhealthy fats. Try making your own tomato sauce, pesto, or vinaigrette.
- Start with a base:
Choose a base for your sauce, such as tomato sauce, cream, or broth.
- Add flavorings:
Add herbs, spices, garlic, onion, or other flavorings to the base. This will help enhance the flavor of the sauce.
- Cook the sauce:
Simmer the sauce over low heat to allow the flavors to meld together. The longer you cook the sauce, the more flavor it will have.
- Thicken the sauce:
If you want a thicker sauce, you can add a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch.
- Adjust the seasoning:
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. You can add more salt, pepper, or other seasonings to achieve the desired flavor.
- Use fresh ingredients:
Whenever possible, use fresh ingredients in your sauce. Fresh herbs and spices will have more flavor than dried ones.
- Experiment with different flavors:
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavor combinations. You can try adding wine, vinegar, or citrus juice to your sauce for a different taste.
By making your own sauce, you can control the ingredients and customize the flavor to your liking. Plus, it’s a great way to add variety and flavor to your meals without adding excess calories or unhealthy ingredients.
The Last Word
By incorporating these tricks into your meal planning and preparation, you can make healthy food taste delicious and enjoyable, for everyone to enjoy meals at home.