9 Spices for More Healthy, Flavorful Meals | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter.

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

December 14, 2012 | Kait Fortunato

Must See Nutrition Videos

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...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

The Boston Cannons'

Why You Need Dietary Fiber

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

How to Deal With Your Sugar Cravings

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

Tips for Healthy Weight Gain

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

5 Ways to Fuel Your Early Morning Workout

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

10 Easy Ways to Eat Real Food

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

3 Nutrition Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make and How to Fix Them

The Case for Red Meat

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

10 Athlete-Approved, High-Protein Healthy Cereals

Diet Changes: 5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Plan