How to Make Flavorful Meals Without Excess Fat, Sugar and Sodium

December 14, 2012 | Kait Fortunato

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What do healthy options like steamed vegetables, lean chicken breast and low-sodium soups have in common? They're bland and boring! When learning to cook and eat more nutritiously, the most important thing is taste, because if it's not appetizing, there's no way you will want to eat it. (See Foods and Recipes For Healthy Eating on a Budget)

Although sugar, salt and fat contribute to taste satisfaction, we all know they cannot be part of the regular meal rotation. Instead, get those fresh, unique flavors your taste buds crave by using spices and herbs. Many have zero calories and are sodium-free, so I strongly encourage you to take advantage of them. Spices add color and strong aromatics to a dish, making them more appealing and enjoyable. And the right herbs can bring a meal to life, helping you feel more satisfied after eating.

Cooking with spices definitely takes patience and trial & error, but here are some of my favorite spice pairings for meats and vegetables to get you started.

Protein Sources

Chicken and Tarragon: tarragon is a pungent spice that adds a fiery flavor to baked chicken breast. It also makes a great addition to homemade chicken salad.

Steak and Basil: one of my favorite salads includes arugula with tomatoes, basil and flank steak drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The sweet dressing and tomatoes are the perfect complement to the earthy greens.

Pork and Sage: a member of the mint family, sage has a slightly bitter flavor that goes well with pork. It's also great for cooking for long periods of time, such as in a crock pot, as it stands up to the heat. Check out this recipe I made last week.

Fish and Dill: with a flavor similar to caraway, dill is the ideal complement to fish, especially salmon. Dill adds a hint of spice without overwhelming your taste buds.

Ground Turkey and Chili Powder: ground turkey can be somewhat bland on its own, but a dash of chili powder really livens it up. Turkey burgers and turkey chili are great substitutes for beef—an easy swap without losing flavor.


Carrots and Rosemary: roasted carrots with a sprinkle of rosemary and salt are one of my favorite vegetables. Roasting the carrots brings out their natural sweetness, which really complements the earthy rosemary. Last month's recipe featured carrot fries!

Cauliflower and CurryRoasted Curry Cauliflower is my favorite way to enjoy this vegetable. The crunchy texture with the Indian spice makes for a great spicy side dish.

Green Beans and Garlic: Green beans sautéed in lemon juice, olive oil and garlic is my go-to vegetable during the week. The sweet-spicy combination makes filling half my plate with vegetables a cinch.

Chickpeas and Cinnamon: One of my favorite afternoon snacks is roasted chickpeas with cinnamon. Chickpeas are full of protein and fiber, and roasting them gives them a crunchy, sweet flavor. This is the perfect afternoon snack to satisfy that crunchy, sweet, and salty craving.

Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
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