March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.”
The average American cooks just a few dishes, and 12% of us cook the same thing every time we cook. But eating more different foods is one of the easiest ways to make your meal healthier.
Eat a variety of foods
Different foods offer different nutrients. For example, if you’re like most Americans, two thirds of your vegetable consumption is made up of potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce. While all of these vegetables are good, we’d be better off if we mixed it up more.
In fact, most of those potatoes are in the form of French fires and chips — not the most nutritious options. Our tomato consumption includes pizza and spaghetti, too, as well as fresh tomatoes in salad.
When we expand our horizons by trying different dishes, we naturally get more different foods. That means we naturally get more different nutrients.
Try new flavors
One of the unhealthy things about common American dishes is that most of the flavor comes from salt and sugar. Adding other kinds of spices and flavoring can kick up the flavor with less salt and sugar.
Many of us already love Mexican food, Italian food, and Barbecue. Explore more traditional recipes for these dishes, with fresh spices instead of jarred sauce or salsa.
Just not a fan of spicy food? Consider herbs and aromatics instead of spices. These flavorsome plants don’t bring the heat the way peppers do, but they still add to the excitement of your dishes. They also contain vitamins and minerals. Mint creates a special flavor in the Moroccan Meatballs recipe linked below, while Country Captain, a mild, traditional American-style curry, gets its kick from celery and thyme. Bierrocks combine onion and cabbage with favorite mild-flavored ingredients for a hearty lunchbox meal or snack.
Celebrate your family’s heritage
Get kids on board with exotic foods by connecting them with your family’s heritage — and at the same time, learn to update those family favorites with newer, healthier cooking techniques and ingredients.
Italian American families may love Nonna’s rich lasagna. But a trip to Italy would show them that Italians in Italy eat smaller servings of pasta with less cheese and focus on fresh vegetables much more than their American descendants.
In fact, European Americans, in general, would find that their European cousins snack less, eat less fast food, and choose fresh food more often. These are all habits your family can develop while still enjoying foods from your culture.
The U.S. government offers heart-healthy recipes from many different cultural traditions. here are a few to explore: