Every March Scotland County Health Department celebrates “National Nutrition Month” to promote the health benefits of eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products because we know that getting to or maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthier and being more physically active can make a difference in your life.
This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” According to research, “taste” tops nutrition as the main reason Americans buy one food over another. The foods you enjoy are likely the ones you eat the most, so “taste” is important when preparing healthy meals.
Believe it or not, cooking at home can be healthy and cost-effective. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers cooking tips to enhance flavor without adding extra fat, calories or salt. To get the most out of food’s flavor and nutrition, start with foods at their peak quality. You might also want to know it’s important to handle and store foods properly, because poor storage can destroy flavor and quality. Cooking can’t improve poor-quality foods, but it can enhance the flavors of high quality foods. Flavor, color, texture and overall appeal are important. Learning new or different cooking techniques will help in retaining the nutrients we need, but also help encourage healthy eating.
Here are some simple techniques to try to enhance flavor and experiment with flavor combinations:
— Intensify the flavors of meat, poultry and fish with high-heat cooking techniques such as pan-searing, grilling or broiling. These cooking techniques brown meat and add flavor.
— Grill or roast veggies in a very hot (450° F) oven or grill for a sweet, smoky flavor. Before popping them into the oven, brush or spray lightly with oil so they don’t dry out and sprinkle with herbs.
— Caramelize sliced onions to bring out their natural sugar flavor by cooking them slowly over low heat in a small amount of oil. Use them to make a rich, dark sauce for meat or poultry.
— Pep it up by using red, green and yellow peppers of all varieties — sweet, hot and dried. Or add a dash of hot pepper sauce.
— Add a tangy taste with citrus juice or grated citrus peel: lemon, lime or orange. Acidic ingredients help lift and balance flavor.
— Use small amounts of ingredients with bold flavors like pomegranate seeds, chipotle pepper or cilantro.
— Give a flavor burst with good-quality condiments such as horseradish, flavored mustard, chutney, wasabi, bean purees, tapenade and salsas of all kinds.
Why not add a splash of color to your meals in March and in the months to come? When you eat a variety of colorful fruits and veggies each day, you will nourish your body with important nutrients that will keep you young and healthy. We’ve all heard the old saying “You Are What You Eat,” so why not make a commitment to eat healthy as often as possible, lose excess weight, be mindful of portion sizes, exercise more and become a role model for those around you?
We encourage you to celebrate “National Nutrition Month” with us because Public Health Matters. Visit our Facebook Page at facebook.com/ScotlandCountyDPH.
For information on healthy eating, please visit EatRight.org/NNM, or EatSmartMoveMoreNC, or call Kathie Cox, Health Educator II, Healthy Carolinians Coordinator, at Scotland County Health Department, 910-277-2470 ext. 4478.