by Lisa Shettle, MS, RDN, CD-N
Dietitians celebrate nutrition every day, but during the month of March, it’s a great time to bring a little bit more awareness to certain topics.
This year the theme for National Nutrition Month (NNM) is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.” I love this theme because it emphasizes that food should be fun, flavorful, individualized and most of all ENJOYED!
We can expand our flavor scope by cooking with different spices and herbs while creating dishes from different cultures.
Some of my favorite flavors include coriander, cumin, and turmeric in Indian dishes like Masala; bold flavors of oregano, basil, garlic and thyme in Italian dishes, and the spice from peppers, chilis, and cilantro in Tex-Mex.
If you’re bored with your current spices, here’s a short list that might break you out of your comfort zone:
- Coriander (ground): perfect for Moroccan and Asian dishes to add a sweet, lemony flavor. It can be tart and citrusy.
- Brown mustard seeds: meat and poultry can always benefit from this versatile spice, but it can be used in Indian cuisine too. Try it with sauteed spinach.
- Chipotle chili powder: use in place of your regular chili powder but use a careful hand. It brings a great smoky spice.
- Fennel seeds: much like mustard seeds, these are a versatile whole spice, but the licorice-like flavor is a very specific, acquired taste.
- Yellow curry powder: goes great with almost everything, like veggies, all meats, and even many grains. Curry is a basic spice blend. If you compare two different yellow curry powders, you may notice they’re different colors because the spice ratio in the mixes is different.
The easiest way to use most common spices is to just sprinkle them straight into your food while it’s cooking. Spices usually need to be cooked at least a little bit — uncooked spices can taste weird and can have a funky, gritty texture on the tongue.
Do you have a “picky eater”?
An easy and fun way to explore new foods and flavors at home is to incorporate theme nights. “Picky eaters” tend to be more open to trying new foods if they are involved in the planning and preparing of meals. Have your children help choose dinners that encourage them to branch out and try new things. Allowing your child to play the role of sous chef will increase the likelihood that they’ll be excited to try whatever’s on the menu.
Here are some recipe ideas to get you started:
- Pasta Night – Pasta with a Lentil Bolognese Sauce
- Vegetarian Night – Salsa Black Beans and Rice
- Soup Night – Turkey Chili
- Breakfast for Dinner – Asian Veggie Omelette
- Kid’s Choice – Tacos
- Pizza Night – Pizza Burgers or Veggie-Topped Pizza
Try brainstorming as a family to think of more theme ideas to add to your list!