A healthy and delicious dinner recipe to try any night of the week.
Gone are the days of assuming you need to eat poached chicken and broccoli on repeat to shred. There are plenty of surprisingly easy ways to make lighter food absolutely delicious.
Boring food almost always leads to binging.
That’s the message from dietitian Themis Chryssidis, who says you might manage to be holier than thou for a fortnight on your vegetable soup regimen — but that humans can only maintain willpower for so long.
“That raw motivation reduces over time and no longer do we just want to eat the same boring food,” he tells Coach.
“Ultimately the weight will come back on — it always does.”
But if you can learn the art of healthy, flavourful cooking, you’ll be able to maintain wholesome eating for the long haul.
“Injecting flavour into dishes is really important,” explains Chryssidis, who runs Sprout Cooking School.
Here’s the ground rules.
Play with texture
Taste is only one element of the eating experience, and texture also counts for plenty.
Vegetables can be prepared in myriad ways — whether raw, steamed, boiled, pan fried, barbecued or canned — and you need to experiment with ways you personally like to eat yours.
“If you’ve had tinned asparagus it’s got a horrible stringy texture,” Chryssidis says.
“Rather than just boiling them or steaming them, throw them into a pan with a little bit of garlic and ginger for something delicious.”
Build an aroma
There’s no quicker way to get your saliva glands pumping than with a waft of deliciousness. It sets up anticipation for the meal ahead in a way that that urine-ish smell of microwaved broccoli just never will.
“Stir-fry beautiful greens with aromatic ingredients like chili, ginger and garlic and all of a sudden people want to eat them,” Chryssidis says.
“Gone is your focus on eating boiled vegetables and boiled chicken just to lose weight. It’s now ‘I want to eat this because it is delicious and also happens to be healthy for me in the long term’.”
Get herb happy
An easy way to add scent and spice to foods is to have a good stash of dried spices in the pantry to shake onto anything you desire.
“Always have fennel, cumin, coriander and paprika on hand,” Chryssidis says.
“They can be used in Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern cooking.”
Chryssidis also suggests buying at least one bunch of fresh herbs a week.
“Even if I’m unsure what I might be cooking in the week, I still buy some fresh, versatile herbs, such as basil or coriander,” he says.
“It can be used in so many ways – in salads, on top of dishes, in Thai and Indian curries.”
Store them in an airtight container so they last as long as possible.
“Use the stems as well – there is so much flavour in the stem,” Chryssidis points out.
“Dice the stems up and stir them through vegetables or use them in curry pastes for so much flavour.”
Step up your salads
Nobody wants to eat a bowl of lettuce and tomato day in, day out, so if you’re serious about maxing your health then it’s smart to build your salad game.
“Salads can’t be boring – they need a variety of colours and textures and a good dressing,” Chryssidis says.
Most dressings are made from oil, and while that does add kilojoules, Chryssidis says that if it encourages you to eat more fresh produce then it’s no biggie.
“The dressing also makes you want to eat a bunch of vegetables and ultimately you’re going to eat less later on,” he points out.
“You could make a yoghurt-based dressing with wholegrain mustard, a little bit of white wine vinegar and olive oil.”
Don’t be afraid to pop some seasonal fruit into a salad either.
“Fruit adds a beautiful texture and colour and natural sweetness,” he points out.
“A slightly firmer peach will work well, providing some sweetness and a slight acidity. Add some bitter rocket and a herb as well.”
Roasting then cooling some vegetables will bump up the flavour and fibre count and nuts bring texture and protein for fullness.
“Herbs, fruit, nuts and roasted or pan fried vegetables left to cool slightly add new elements to a salad,” Chryssidis says.
Keeping your fridge stocked with a range of healthy produce means you can pull a healthy plate together at a moment’s notice.
“My fridge staples are cheese and seasonal fruits and vegetables that I can interchange,” Chryssidis says.
“Natural yoghurt is another because it’s so flexible – I marinate meat in yoghurt with cumin, coriander, curry powder and a punch of salt. It can also be used for a sweet dish.”