March is National Nutrition Month!

When it comes to choosing what to eat, nutrition is important, but flavor is likely the true motivator and also the key to eating right, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This March, during National Nutrition Month®, experiment with new flavors and flavor combinations in healthy meals and "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right."

"According to consumer research, taste tops nutrition as the main reason why consumers buy one food over another. The foods we most commonly eat are often those we enjoy the most," says registered dietitian and Academy spokesperson Joy Dubost. "So make taste a priority when preparing nutritious meals."

Preparing meals can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Dubost offers cooking tips to help enhance flavor without adding extra fat, calories or salt. …choose high-quality ingredients at their peak quality, and be sure to store and handle foods properly. "Overcooking can destroy both flavor and nutrients. So be sure to cook foods properly to retain nutrients and enhance flavor, color, texture and overall appeal…try some of these simple techniques to enhance flavor while experimenting with flavor combinations":

  • Intensify the flavors of meat, poultry and fish with high-heat cooking techniques such as pan-searing, grilling or broiling.
  • Pep it up with peppers. Use red, green and yellow peppers of all varieties—sweet, hot and dried. Or add a dash of hot pepper sauce.
  • Try grilling or roasting veggies in a very hot (450°F) oven or grill for a sweet, smoky flavor. Brush or spray them lightly with oil so they don’t dry out. Sprinkle with herbs.
  • Caramelize sliced onions to bring out their natural sugar flavor by cooking them slowly over low heat in a small amount of oil. Use them to make a rich, dark sauce for meat or poultry.
  • Simmer juices to make reduction sauces. Concentrate the flavors of meat, poultry and fish stocks. Reduce the juices by heating them—don’t boil. Then use them as a flavorful glaze or gravy.
  • For fuller flavors, incorporate more whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa, or experiment with amaranth and wild rice.
  • Add small amounts of ingredients with bold flavors like pomegranate seeds, chipotle pepper or cilantro.
  • Add a tangy taste with citrus juice or grated citrus peel: lemon, lime or orange. Acidic ingredients help lift and balance flavor.
  • Enhance sauces, soups and salads with a splash of flavored balsamic or rice vinegar.
  • Give a flavor burst with good-quality condiments such as horseradish, flavored mustard, chutney, wasabi, bean purees, tapenade and salsas of all kinds.

Try this quick, healthy salad recipe for dinner tonight:

Dressing - combine in a small bowl:

  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice, more to taste (about 2 limes)
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • 1/4 c chopped cilantro
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. lite mayonnaise

Salad ingredients - in a large bowl, mix:

  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1-15 oz. can no-salt-added kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 2 roasted red peppers* - chopped, (2 jarred, red peppers may be used as quick substitutes – drain well and chop)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce

Top vegetables with dressing and toss lightly to coat.

Adapted from the Nutrition Action Test Kitchen’s: Healthy Recipes: Fast & Fresh Salads. “Recipes are easy to prepare, healthy for your body, and delicious for your taste buds!”

* To roast peppers:

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C).

2. Cut the peppers into quarters. Remove the seeds and membranes. Roast the peppers until the skin blisters and turns black. Remove from oven and cover with plastic, or a tea towel, or place in a paper bag until cool. The skins should peel away off of the peppers easily when cooled.