Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Myth: Low-calorie foods I prepare have no taste.

Answer: BUSTED!

Various herbs, spices, peppers to add flavor to meals
Although you might be right, your dishes may just be in need of some flavor boosters. To compensate for the fat, sugar and salt that you may be missing, a few additions may be just what you need. Here are some ideas:

  • Have you heard about Sriracha? It is a hot sauce made with chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It's low in calories but high in flavor. Here are some ways you can use it to boost flavor: add to low-fat sour cream as a tasty dip for veggies or to low-fat mayo for a flavorful sandwich dressing. Think turkey or vegetarian burgers have no flavor? Add Sriracha to a turkey/vegetarian burger on a whole wheat bun. Tofu not flavorful enough for you? Add Sriracha to your stir fry to bring up the flavor.

  • Sambal oelek is another flavoring that you may not have heard of. It is a chili paste made with salt, sugar and vinegar. Add to a low-fat cheese sandwich for a flavor boost. If you are looking for some new flavor for egg substitutes, add sambal oelek for that extra ‘kick.’ If you are making veggie sandwiches your ‘go-to’ way to get more vegetables in your diet, add this chili paste.

  • Herbs and spices always add that extra flavor boost that dishes need. Some flavors that you may not have tried include smoked paprika and chipotle powder – both add a smoky flavor especially in dishes that are made with little to no salt added.

  • Curry pastes are my favorite flavor to add to stir-fry dishes. They are low in calories but add a nice pop of flavor. You can find pre-made curry sauces in the grocery store but make sure the calories and fat aren’t too high or your stir fry dish will not be as healthy a choice as you might have thought.

Find more healthy food preparation information at

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Myth: The recipe I prepared doesn’t taste like it used to – something must be wrong with an ingredient.

Answer: BUSTED!

Illustration of 4 senses - vision, hearing, smell and taste
Yes, something could be wrong with an ingredient, but if you are of a certain age then your taste may be the reason. Smell actually accounts for most of how we perceive taste and it decreases during our 50’s and continues to do so as we get older. Why? Some reasons include loss of nerve cells that detect food smells and less mucus in the nose (which helps to keep the smell of food in the nose longer). Our taste buds also decrease in our 50’s (a little later for men). Of course, taste may also be affected by sinus conditions, colds, medications, smoking, radiation and chemotherapy.

Is there anything that can be done to increase taste and enjoyment of foods? Here are some tips to help:
  • Store ingredients properly so quality doesn’t decrease. 
  • Take care when cooking – don’t overcook or this may destroy some flavor.
  • Try new bold flavors and ingredients like garlic, flavored vinegars, chili peppers or sharp aged cheese.
  • Herbs and spices can also add bold flavors. Some examples are basil, chives, cilantro, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, cloves and anise. Crumble dried herbs to release aroma. Toast whole spices such as cloves, coriander and cumin seeds to bring out more of their aroma and then grind before using.
  • Reduced soy sauce has less sodium per teaspoon than salt and adds aroma and umami, which adds a depth to dishes with its savory taste.
  • How you cook may also help your taste. Broiling, grilling or searing of fish, poultry and meat deepens their flavor.
  • Visual appeal will help you enjoy your meals. Use bright colors, different shapes and textures.
  • Slow down and enjoy! Chewing food longer releases more flavor from your food.

Check out Nothing tastes good anymore for more information.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Myth: It’s hard to get my children to choose healthy snacks.

Answer: BUSTED!

Traffic light signaling green
What does a traffic light have to do with making healthy food choices? A hospital in Massachusetts set up a traffic light menu system in their cafeteria to help guide consumers to pick healthier options. Green circles were ‘go’ items – pick these items often. Yellow circles were OK choices. Red circles indicated foods you should only have occasionally because of their fat, sugar, sodium or calories.

The hospital also made changes in placement of items. For example, healthier items were placed in the front and at eye level for easier access. And salads and water bottles were made easily available around the cafeteria.

The results? The system worked! They found that healthier food choices persisted 2 years after implementation.

Dr. Thorndike, a physician who implemented the system suggests that this approach could be used at home, too. Fill a drawer or box in the pantry and set up an area in the refrigerator with ‘go’ (green) snacks that your children can choose from whenever they want. Need some ideas for your ‘go’ snacks? For the cupboard, include individual portions of canned fruit in fruit juice, baked chips, pretzels, low-fat graham or animal crackers or reduced-fat popcorn. For the refrigerator, have cut-up veggies like carrots, celery, broccoli or cherry tomatoes, low-fat yogurt or sugar-free or fat-free pudding snacks. Go to for more ideas.

Don’t forget that snack placement also plays a role. Use it to your advantage in your home. Make sure healthy ‘go’ snacks are easy to find. Keep a bowl of fruit in the kitchen and put chips and cookies away in high cupboards and at the back of shelves – out of sight, out of mind.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Myth: It’s hard to find recipes that are healthy and that my family will enjoy.

family enjoying healthy meal together
Answer: BUSTED!

The folks at the United States Department of Agriculture who brought you MyPlate have hit it out of the park again by sharing family-tested recipes that are healthy and tasty.

Looking for a main dish that is quick and easy? Turkey Tetrazzini made with reduced-sodium chicken broth, low-fat milk instead of half and half, light butter and whole wheat pasta may be just what your family is craving. All of these recipe changes result in a recipe that is a third of the solid fat, half the sodium and has more vegetables and whole grains than the original version without sacrificing flavor or texture.

How about a side dish that is low in fat and sodium and fun for the kids to eat? Green-Mash Potatoes is the ticket. Green peas add a slightly sweet flavor. Skim milk lowers the fat. The final product is lower in sodium than the traditional version.

Finally, a dessert that is healthy and tasty. This Banana Pudding Parfait uses non-fat milk, fat-free whipped topping and (drumroll please) replaces sweetened condensed milk with low-fat vanilla yogurt. These ingredient changes mean this version is a third of the calories, less saturated fat and half the sodium of the original recipe yet still creamy and tasty. Family members rate this a hit!

These three recipes are examples of small ingredient substitutions that mean healthy AND tasty in the New Year. Enjoy!

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933