One of the best things you can do for your body is work towards eliminating processed foods from your diet and shift into eating whole foods. This means learning how to create meals from whole foods rather than boxes, bags, cans, & jars of processed foods, which can feel intimidating for some. One thing I've really learned in working with people that are trying to make this shift is that when your palate is used to the added flavors, sodium, sugar, and artificial ingredients in processed foods, then it's easy to to assume that meals prepared with whole/healthy ingredients would be bland and taste....well....healthy. I'm here to tell you yes, they do taste healthy, but I'd like to encourage you to keep an open mind as to what that means. Healthy certainly does not mean bland!
First off. Know that your palate will change with time. The more whole foods you eat, the better they will taste. The less processed sugar you eat, the sweeter things like fruit will taste. The less processed foods you eat, the more like chemicals they will taste. (I'm not kidding here...after some time, they really do taste like chemicals and I can't believe I used to eat some of that stuff and like it!) Keep giving your taste buds chances with things. They will adjust, and you can learn to love healthy food! Trust me, it's true!
Secondly, The point of this post is that I want to give you one of my favorite recommendations for making your fresh healthy meals taste amazing! Fresh Herbs!
Adding fresh herbs to your meals adds so much amazing flavor, that you won't miss the unhealthy stuff one bit, in fact it will help you to gain a palate that truly loves fresh flavors! There is really nothing like a healthy sprinkling of fresh basil or chives on top of whatever you are eating.
What drew me to writing this post is that it's summer time, I'm growing a variety of herbs on my back porch and they are going into almost every meal I make! Adding fresh herbs adds amazing fresh flavor to any meal that I make, like nothing else can.
How to obtain fresh herbs?
If you can, grow them yourself. It's summer, and so easy to grow a few fresh herbs in pots on your porch or steps or in a window box. Most of them really don't take up much room at all to grow as much as you would use. You can get starts at farmers markets or various stores that will grow up in no time. Most herbs grow pretty fast, and it's so gratifying to be growing even a little bit of your own food.
You can also find them in abundance at any local farmers market or natural food store. The bigger chain grocery stores carry some herbs like cilantro commonly in nice big bunches, but usually carry most fresh herbs in small, plastic containers in the produce section that in my opinion are quite overpriced for the small amount you get. I do indulge in them sometimes in the dead of winter when I want to, but not often. If I'm buying them, I tend to go for the bigger, fresher bunches I can find at my local food co-op or at the farmers market.
In some climates you can grow many herbs outside year round. If you live in a colder climate, your other option for winter time is to have an inside window box of herbs you are growing. As I said earlier, they really don't take much room to grow, they look and smell great, and it's such a treat to be able to cut and use your own fresh herbs from your home, especially in the middle of winter! For most of them, the sunlight coming in a bright window is sufficient. You can also hang a small grow light above them if needed.
On my back porch I currently have growing in pots: 2 types of basil, sage, mint, dill, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, and chives. These are my favorites and ones that I use often. Now that they are all flourishing, I use at least 1-2 of them daily in my meals & drinks.
How do you use fresh herbs?
Short answer: Any way you want to!
Here's a list of my favorite ways to use them....
- On or in my scrambled eggs in the morning. I often sauté some veggies in the morning and scramble a couple of eggs in. Topping this breakfast with fresh basil, chives, or cilantro (or a combo) is divine! It adds a whole new dimension of flavor! My new absolute favorite is topping my veggies and eggs with basil, avocado chunks, and a little crumbled goat cheese....OMG it's divine!
- In fresh salads. ANY of these herbs would be great in a fresh salad. Add your favorites! Also great for simple pasta salads which are a fantastic lunch option for the season. I've been a big fan of gluten free quinoa pasta, lots of chopped veggies, a simple vinaigrette of some kind and a lot of fresh herbs chopped in. This makes a tasty lunch to go for a few days easy peasy.
- In roasted veggies. I love mixing in some fresh thyme or rosemary to my veggies before I roast them. They add such amazing flavor! Chives are always good chopped on top after the roasting. Chives are really good on top of almost everything in my opinion.
- Three words. Sage. Butter. Carrots. Saute the carrots in sage and butter, add a little salt and you've got one of my favorite sides. It's amazing. You can thank me later.
- Throw them on top of almost any dish as a finisher. Make a stir fry? Add some fresh chives or basil on top. Make a soup? Top it with fresh oregano, rosemary, or whatever herb would best suit the soup you made. Make a grain as a side? Chop up a fresh herb and mix it into your rice or quinoa with some salt & pepper for a beautifully and simply seasoned side dish.
- Drinks. If you are used to drinking soft drinks, juices, and beverages with a lot of extra sugar and trying to give them up and drink more water, then Infuse your water with herbs & fruit, turning your boring water into a party for your mouth with added nutrition! A couple of my favorites is lime and mint leaves, or melon, strawberry, and basil. For more infusion ideas, just google 'herb infused water' and you'll get a plethora of ideas! I also love making mint tea from my fresh mint. If you are a cocktail person, nothing beats a happy hour with mojitos made with your own fresh mint!
These are just my current favorite ways to use fresh herbs. My list is meant to inspire you, but not limit you....there are thousands of ways to use fresh herbs!
The intention of this post is to get you thinking about using fresh herbs in ways that make your fresh & healthy food & drinks taste amazing, but I can't close without mentioning the fact that besides tasting good, fresh herbs can have some amazing health benefits to them as well. Many fresh herbs help with things such as digestion and calming of the stomach to anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting effects, among many others. Each herb has it's own nutritional and medicinal qualities.
I encourage you to play with fresh herbs more in your kitchen and see which ones your palate loves. Know that there a lot of ways to make cooking with whole foods really tasty, using fresh herbs is one of them.
If you are on your own journey of eliminating processed foods from your life, kudos to you! Be patient with yourself and your palate changing, and explore the tasty world of fresh herbs!
Wishing you Wellness!