Natural Flavorings

The trouble facing most when it comes to preparing healthy meals at home is creating truly flavorful dishes without adding unnecessary fat (butter, oils) and sodium (salt, salt-mix blends, or highly processed packaged foods). Fresh and dried herbs and spices can help! Not only do these kitchen helpers provide an abundance of flavor, they provide additional health benefits with no added calories, fat or sodium.

A staple ingredient when making home-made pesto, basil can be used in a variety of dishes. You can go the traditional route by chopping it finely and adding it to any pasta dish; or switch things up by lightly chopping it and adding it to fresh strawberries or a fruit salad. In addition to the wonderful light flavor, basil also helps deliver vitamins A and K to your body, along with many minerals and antioxidants, making it a powerful helper in improving heart health.
Tip: Add basil at the end of preparing hot dishes so it can retain its flavor and nutrients

A favorite herb in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines, oregano is one of the most antioxidant-abundant herbs around. In fact, Oil of Oregano is a popular supplement that people frequently take for its antioxidant (heart health) and antibiotic (helps fight colds and flu) properties. By adding the fresh or dried herb to any whole grain pasta dish, you will enjoy the health benefits and wonderful flavor of this amazing little herb.
Tip: Visit to see how to dry your own herbs like oregano at home!

This incredibly flavorful herb (and spice) is the main flavor component in your favorite dips: Salsa and guacamole. What many don’t know is how flavorful the entire cilantro plant is, including the seed, better known as coriander. The cilantro leaves can be added to a variety of dishes, hot or cold, to give a powerful, delicious flavor. The coriander seeds can be a fantastic added ingredient to any dish utilizing garbanzo beans, including homemade hummus.
Whether using the leaves or seeds, you can provide great flavor as well as health benefits to your food. Although research has been limited to animal studies, cilantro and coriander have been shown to aid in blood sugar control and cholesterol support.1

A very common component to flavoring soups and stews, thyme provides a powerful taste as well as antioxidant support for your body. The flavor profile compliments fish, whole grain pasta dishes, and roasted vegetables, making it a versatile and health benefitting herb.

Fresh mint is one of the easiest herbs to add flavor to your diet because of its light refreshing taste. This fresh herb can be added to summer drinks like tea or lemonade, or sliced fruit to bring an extra flavor boost to your favorite summer time snacks.

In addition to fresh and dried herbs and spices, citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges provide a powerful flavor and nutritional benefit when added to foods. Not only from their juice, but the grated peels of these fruits will add tremendous amounts of light refreshing flavor, vitamin C and antioxidants to your favorite seafood, whole grain pasta dishes, and any kind of simple salad.

Identifying Reliable Health Information

With all of the fad diets and differing opinions on what is the healthiest way to live out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to believe and who to trust. Are grains good or bad for me? Is a low fat diet my option for weight loss? Are all carbohydrates bad for me?
The problem with information about nutrition is that research is always being conducted on controlled environments, under controlled conditions, and usually focuses on just one or a couple factors or elements of the human diet. In reality, we all live in a world where our food choices may change daily based on availability, affordability, and taste preference; along with endless environmental factors that can alter our health apart from diet alone. That being said, nutrition research can still provide very beneficial information, when coming from an unbiased, reliable source. Follow these tips when looking for reliable health information:

1) Find out who runs the website/article you are reading
If the article or website is from a private group or person (.com, personal blog), the information being given is most likely structured to get you to purchase a product or buy into an idea posed by that company or person. Look for websites that end in “.org” and “.gov” when looking for information online, as these are non-profit sources that are trying to convey information as opposed to selling a product. For written material, look for peer reviewed journals and research magazines compiled by national health organizations like the American Journal of Public Health.

2) See who funded the research:
Whenever looking at research information, it is important to see who funded the research in the first place. If the article or website you are investigating advocates for a large increase in your milk and cheese consumption and the research done was funded by the American Dairy Council, you may want to take the findings with a grain of salt. Even if the results show different trends or patterns, these results can easily be skewed to show what the funders want them to show.

3) Cited Resources:
Make sure the facts and figures stated in the article are actually cited, and that the citations have real research to back up the claims being made. For example, anyone could write a health article stating that sodium and blood pressure aren’t linked in any way, without citing any proper research to give credibility to their claims. In a world of independent research through the internet, it is “reader beware”, leaving it up to you to see if the claims they make are credible.

4) Credentials?
All credible research sources will show the credentials of the people involved in the research itself. If a research project was performed by multiple PhD’s, MD’s, and RD’s, you can feel more safe that the research was conducted by people who knew what they were doing, and the results will be more credible.

5) How current is the information?

If you are reading nutrition research from over a decade ago, odds will be that the material may not be as accurate as possible, unless the experiments and research have since been repeated with similar results. Nutrition articles from the early 1990’s would have you believe that diets high in animal based protein and completely void of any carbohydrates (Atkins-style diet) would be ideal for health. Since this time we have conducted ample research into the role of complex carbohydrates on human health and now know that this type of diet is not only less than ideal, but can be quite harmful to long-term health. When evaluating nutrition research, try to find studies and articles conducted within the last decade to be sure they are the most up-to-date.

6) Testimonials?

If the website or article is focused on a certain nutritional supplement, diet, or health product, testimonials are usually good indicators that the information provided may not be based on sound science. Testimonials are usually a gimmick, utilized by companies so the consumer will see “people like them” have already benefitted from the product or diet.

7) Check multiple sites and articles
If health information is reliable and research done has been proven credible, the news will spread like wildfire across a multitude of websites and health resources. Don’t mistake this for “miracle pill” or “quick-fix” phenomena that make their way onto TV doctor shows and throughout social media. When true nutrition and medical research has been conducted by multiple sources and can be found on more than one credible website or news article, it can usually be trusted more than those found from a single source.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Eating healthy usually comes with the stigma of overpriced foods, and “too complex to make” recipes, leaving us reaching for easy, cheap junk food to satisfy our hunger. To help, here are a few staple foods to have on hand that are inexpensive, healthy, and that can be easily added to your daily diet.

For the Pantry

  • Beans (Dried or canned)
  1. From Adzuki to Cannellini, Garbanzo to Black, beans are one of the most nutritious and affordable foods around. Look for canned beans for convenience, but make sure to drain and rinse to cut back on excess sodium. If getting the very cost effective dried beans, soaking them overnight will cut down on cooking time and reduce the amount of complex sugars that cause stomach upset and gas.
  • Lentils and Split Peas
  1. Some of the highest plant based protein sources (12-14 grams in ¼ cup!), lentils and split peas are very affordable and have a significantly shorter cooking time than dried beans. Add these little nutritional powerhouses to soups, into long grain rice dishes, or just spiced with beans for a cost effective, healthy addition to your diet.
  • Long Grain Rice and Quinoa
  1. Long grain rice and quinoa are versatile healthy foods that won’t take a bite out of your paycheck. Look to use rice and quinoa in any meal of the day from traditional Asian cuisine, on top of salads, and even a healthy breakfast.
  • Whole Rolled Oats
  1. Skip the “Instant” and look for whole rolled oats or steel cut oats for affordable, minimally processed and healthy breakfast options. A very quick and nutritious breakfast tip: Soak rolled oats in almond milk in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, top with berries, nuts and seeds for healthy start to your day.
  • Canned Tuna, Salmon
  1. Try to make sure you are getting low sodium, and if possible “wild caught” to add a protein and omega 3 filled food to a variety of dishes.


  • Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
  1. These are most times just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts; since they were flash frozen at peak freshness, locking in their health benefits. Keep these on hand for quick stir-fry’s, and cheap, easy and healthy bases for smoothies.
  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
  1. Look for sales, in season, and local to get the most nutritious options for your money. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, carrots and celery are usually the least expensive options and can be incorporated into any of your favorite dishes.
  • Low Fat Greek Yogurt
  1. These like most yogurts can be found at a great value in many supermarkets and can be a healthy addition to your morning routine. As with most “low fat” foods, make sure the sugar content isn’t sky high, making it an unhealthy option.

At the Grocery Store

  • Shop the Perimeter
  1. Not only is the perimeter of grocery stores where the most healthy food options are found, but also the most affordable. Produce, bulk foods, frozen items, meats, dairy and breads are usually located around the center aisles (which are usually filled with the higher processed, less healthy food options).
  • Buy Store Brands
  1. “Generic” or store brand versions of your favorite foods are for the most part considerably cheaper than “name brand” products and have the same nutritional quality.
  • Look for Coupons
  1. All grocery stores have a variety of manager specials and daily/weekly coupons to help you save money. Take advantage of any healthy foods that have coupons available.
  • Don’t Shop Hungry
  1. If you go grocery shopping when you are on an empty stomach, your appetite will do most of the decision making instead of your money conscious mind. Try going shopping with a shopping list in mind, and on a full stomach so you don’t make unhealthy, and costly decisions at the counter.