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Ways to Add Flavor to Healthy Foods

Updated on September 19, 2012
Healthy dishes should also taste delicious too!
Healthy dishes should also taste delicious too! | Source

With so many more food options at your local grocery store, it's easier than ever now to cook healthy. And once you've gathered all your nutritious ingredients together, it's time to look at how you can create a delectable dish out of them!

To make a meal exciting, you need to bring out the natural flavor of the food, then add a little boost to it. Since I've been learning healthier ways of cooking, I've come across a few different ways to accomplish that goal.


You don't have to spend a lot to gain extra flavor using wine. A modestly-priced bottle (as low as $5) can provide enjoyment both in the dish and your glass.


  • Cook with a wine that you already enjoy drinking.
  • Bottled cooking wine from the grocery store contains a higher sodium level than drinking wine. When I tried using it, I thought the salt taste interfered with the main ingredients.
  • General guidelines - white wine goes well with chicken, fish or salad while red works in heavier or spicier dishes - will help you get started. Then, experiment with different combinations of food and wine that sound good to you.

Explore using a variety of wines in your cooking.
Explore using a variety of wines in your cooking. | Source

Most red wines have a heartiness that seems to go well with beef and pork meals. Burgundy is one of the essential ingredients in my Beef Burgundy recipe. But red wine can be part of a lighter meal, too. I've used Cabornay to form the base of risotto, and a touch of Merlot in tomato sauce.

White wine tends to add brightness to a dish. One of my favorite ways to prepare shrimp is to saute them with canola oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice and a splash of Chardonnay.

Spices and herbs will bring a new element to your  dishes.
Spices and herbs will bring a new element to your dishes. | Source


Fresh and dried spices are the easiest way to boost flavor. You probably have some containers in your kitchen already.


  • Check your spice container labels periodically to keep them up-to-date. (You can also tell by the aroma and flavor strength.) Herbs and ground spices last up to 3 years while whole spices can last up to 4.
  • Don't use more than two or three spices with any one main ingredient - too many different flavors will overpower rather than enhance the taste.
  • Dried seasonings need time to release their flavor, so add them into the dish before or right after starting the cooking process.

Food & Spice Combinations

Spices To Try
basil, mustard, thyme
rosemary, pepper, cinnamon
dill, parsley, chives
cloves, allspice, ginger
tumerick, lemongrass, mint
saffron, curry, sage
 Creating a simple marinade can make all the difference in your meal!
Creating a simple marinade can make all the difference in your meal! | Source

Other Ideas


I've had great success with certain foods by just letting them soak in a marinade before cooking. And I've found the best marinades are simple to make and low in calories.

- For fajitas and burritos, I drizzle chicken strips with olive oil, oregano, crushed garlic, cumin and lime juice, and let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

- For grilling, I put fish in with flaxseed oil, balsamic vinegar. lemon juice and dill.

(Note: Fish shouldn't sit in marinade for more than an hour - it will start to break down and won't cook well.)

- For veggies I add canola oil, cider vinegar, basil and a sprinkle of salt, pepper and sugar.


A good sauce can tie a meal together without adding a lot of extra calories or fat. I have a couple of go-to favorites that can be made with things that are probably already in your kitchen, so they're fast and easy.

- To make pesto I only need walnuts, olive oil, garlic, basil, and a blender or food processor.

- My marinara sauce just calls for canned tomatoes, onions, a pinch of sugar and dab of butter.

Steamed broccoli with bechamel sauce
Steamed broccoli with bechamel sauce | Source

Rate This!

Cast your vote for Light Bechamel Sauce

Light Bechamel Sauce

Less fat but still creamy, this sauce adds richness to any food you pair it with.

Cook Time

Prep time: 2 min
Cook time: 8 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: About 1 cup of sauce


  • 1 tbsp margarine or vegetable spread
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup low-fat grated cheddar cheese (optional)


  1. Set a pan on to medium heat. Melt the butter in a pan then add the flour, stirring to combine them into a smooth mixture. Whisk in the milk, continuing to stir to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Bring the liquid to a boil and let it bubble for a minute until it thickens. Take the sauce off the heat. Add the cheese if desired.
  3. Use right away on pasta, veggies, chicken or fish. Store unused portion covered with wax paper in the fridge for up to 5 days.


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    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thanks for saying that! I didn't used to pay attention to these things, and always wondered why my food came out tasting either bland or salty. I've come to really enjoy foods more in their "original" form - they taste lighter and better to me now.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      You have some lovely ideas here for healthier cooking and in particular I like your use of wines. I agree also that you don't have to buy the most expensive wines to get a good taste - there are some excellent, low cost wines that taste lovely! It's also so refreshing to read an article advocating enhancing food's own natural flavours rather than covering up with too much sauces etc.

    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      That makes me want to whip something up right now!!

    • bwhite062007 profile image

      Brianna W 

      5 years ago from East Coast

      Marsala is great...especially when making chicken Marsala. I too like a good chardonnay in cooking. A good red wine I use in beef or red sauce pasta dishes.

    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hey bwhite! Do you have a favorite wine to use? I think I like Chardonnay best, and use it the most. But I'd like to branch out and try some I don't normally have, like Marsala or Reisling. Thanks for reading!

    • Heather63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Adams 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hi, jbrock - thanks for checking the hub out! I think this was one of the biggest challenges for me as I changed to a healthier diet - for a while my food was a little on the bland side. I've definitely gotten more adventurous. Good luck, and have fun!

    • bwhite062007 profile image

      Brianna W 

      5 years ago from East Coast

      Great ideas for healthier cooking. I too am always looking for way to make dishes more healthy. I do love to add wine to some dishes as it brings out some unique flavors!

    • jbrock2041 profile image


      5 years ago from Park City, UT

      This is a great topic. I'm always looking at ways to add flavor to healthy foods. I love your food and spices combination chart


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