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Flavoring your food...with food!

Updated on June 19, 2013
A healthy salad with simple ingredients and no dressing.  The berries, orange and chicken are delicious by themselves.
A healthy salad with simple ingredients and no dressing. The berries, orange and chicken are delicious by themselves.

Eating healthy without additives

As part of my goal to lose weight, I decided to try the paleolithic diet, because I felt I needed a nutritional overhaul. I have been eating the paleo way for the last three weeks now, and although I have not lost a substantial amount of weight (though I have not gained any either), I have discovered something pretty awesome; With the right combinations, it's completely unnecessary to add salt, sugar, oil or butter to your food to make it taste pretty danged good!

Generally, the paleo diet dictates that you can only eat things cavemen ate, foods that are edible in their raw form. However, you are allowed to cook foods that are unappetizing raw, such as meat and eggs. Table salt, refined sugar, certain oils, honey, syrup and dairy are all not allowed as part of the paleo diet. Because I can't use many condiments due to their added sugar, or soy or wheat derivatives, I have had to figure out other ways to flavor my food. As far as I can tell, all spices are allowed on the paleo diet, and while spices are indeed a great way to flavor food, I have found that combining foods to create various flavors works just as well.

For example, for breakfast today I heated some frozen, already cooked shrimp in a non-stick pan, along with some previously cooked ground buffalo meat, some kale, some onion and two egg whites. It may seem a bit odd to flavor one type of meat with another meat, but it actually works quite well. Both the shrimp and the buffalo meat have their own subtle flavors, and the buffalo meat mixed well with the shrimp because it was ground, not steak. Plus, the ground buffalo has its own grease content, so there is no need to add any more. Kale works well with meat; It has a hearty texture and softens up a little when heated in a stir-fry. Onions are good to add to any savory meal that may be lacking flavor because they provide a lot of flavor all on their own. The egg whites were just to add more protein, as a high protein load is at the heart of the paleo diet.

For lunch I usually have a salad, with no salad dressing of any kind. Before starting the paleo diet, I substituted mild salsa on my salads instead of salad dressing, because salsa has hardly any fat. But since starting the paleo diet I have come to realize that the great thing about salads is you can put whatever you want on them! Personally, I keep it pretty simple by making a salad with lettuce, some baked chicken flavored with curry or some other simple spice, and sometimes something else, like beets or crab meat. Due to not using salad dressing, I have come to realize that lettuce actually has a nice subtle flavor of its own. And the curry flavor from the chicken, the beets and the crab meat provide more than enough flavoring for a delicious meal. But you could put whatever you want on your salad: sliced plane nuts, basil, sliced apples or pears, blueberries or strawberries, carrots, broccoli, sprouts, a tiny bit of Parmesan or some other type of cheese (if you are not on the paleo diet), tomatoes, spinach, as well as any sort of meat you like, such as bacon or chicken. You could even add some diced hard-boiled eggs, avocado or acorn squash.

Many foods able to be eaten raw have a quite distinct flavor. In fact, I can't think of any vegetable or fruit that doesn't. What comes to mind when you read strawberry, banana, broccoli, brussel sprout, carrot, arugula, apple, blueberry or tomato? Everyone knows exactly what these foods taste like, because we eat them all the time and they all have their own individual flavor. When naturally flavorful foods are combined, the new flavor experiences are more than gratifying enough to necessitate salt or sugar or butter or oils of any kind.

If you are looking for new ways to flavor your meats, I would like to suggest fruit. A local restaurant I have been to a few times, Marrakesh, makes a fabulous chicken dish that is cooked in prunes. They use some sort of sauce as well, but cooking your meat with some fruit, with no added sauce, is a fabulous way to sweeten and add flavor to any meat. The heat will cause the juice of the fruit you choose to caramelize a bit, which will strengthen the sweetness and add flavor to the meat you are cooking. You can experiment with savory flavors such as adding cilantro, beets, olives or whatever flavor combinations you crave!

Cooking by using a mixture of food flavors to make your food taste amazing simply by mixing what you like is great for two main reasons: It forces you to learn much more about what tastes and flavors go well together, and thus makes you a much more knowledgeable and better cook AND it pretty much stops you from ever eating anything that is all that bad for you. It's hard not to eat healthy when your food tastes amazing because it doesn't have any added fats or sugars. Its just packed with flavor naturally!


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