3 Nonnegotiable Tips For The Healthy Home Cook, From An RD
Eager to make healthier, home-cooked meals this year? You're not alone. Prioritizing nutrition is a very popular New Year's goal (as is a commitment to meal prepping), and it's even easier to achieve than you think.
According to registered dietitian Maya Feller, R.D., the key to healthy eating is focusing on what you can add to your menu, instead of cutting items out; and when you celebrate all the diverse, nourishing dishes that come from across the globe, healthy eating just feels like second nature. That's why in her new cookbook, Eating From Our Roots, Feller highlights flavorful traditional cooking methods from cultures around the world, including the Caribbean, South America, Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia, and more.
And on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Feller shares her secrets to preparing healthy, colorful, delectable dishes at home. Find her nonnegotiable tips below (and be sure to scan her book for gorgeous recipes, like this protein-packed peanut miso stew):
"You go to many websites and search 'dinner,' the first thing that comes up is '15-minute meals' or '30-minute meals,'" says Feller. "There's nothing wrong with it. Of course, we all want to get dinner on the table quickly… But when that becomes the norm, the hamster wheel that people are in is just in overdrive." Over time, she says, we become disconnected from our food and the simple act of nourishing our bodies.
"I'm a strong believer of reacquainting yourself with the kitchen," she adds. "There's so much space for slowing down and prioritizing rest without guilt and shame." So get your cookbooks out, prepare your station, and slow down to make a meal. If you have the time and space, it's a wonderful way to infuse love and care into your daily menu.
Season your vegetables generously.
"I always say to people, if you season your vegetables, they may be able to hold up to whatever animal protein you have on your plate. Maybe it can be the star on its own," says Feller. That said, try to expand your palette when it comes to various seasonings and spices. The world is your oyster!
For instance, Feller mentions berbere, a wonderful, fragrant spice frequently used in Ethiopian dishes. "It has like a little bit of heat on it," she says. "I characterize it as a round heat, so it's not too jabbing. But I think it can be incredible when you mix it in with vegetables."
You could also try vadouvan curry, which has a complex smoky-sweet flavor. "It's not like the curry that shows up in the Caribbean or in parts of Asia," Feller explains. "It's a little bit sweet in terms of how it shows up, and I love the usage of that." See here for a list of even more powerful, energy-boosting spices you'll want to have on hand.
Use more herbs.
When Feller was doing research for her book, she noticed that many cultures actually use herbs to flavor their meals—they do use spices, as we mentioned above, but you'd be surprised by how much flavor you can obtain with herbs alone. "I have friends who are Finnish, Austrian, Swiss, German… They season their salads with fresh herbs. That's not something that we tend to do in the U.S. It's not like we're putting dill, parsley, chives [on everything]. You see that in a nicer restaurant," Feller says.
Again, nothing against spices! But you may want to try using more herbs in your every day; chances are you'll naturally wind up using way less salt, anyway. Regardless: "Put flavor at the forefront, and your health will follow," she adds.
Good nutrition doesn't have to be complicated. "There's so much messaging around what we're meant to focus on that people are actually confused," Feller declares (and we would agree!). If you want to cook healthier meals this year, simply reflect on the traditional meals that have sustained cultures for ages—there's a reason these methods have withstood the test of time.
We hope you enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.