Even when I don’t have the time or energy to put together a healthy home-cooked meal, I still try to find ways to “health-ify” the food I am serving. One great trick my mom taught me is to use herbs for instant health-ification!
Fresh herbs contain lots of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. They promote heart health, and protect against cancer and arthritis with their anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, they are cheap, easy to use, and easy to hide in a variety of foods because they are so small. Even if you are using a tablespoon here, a tablespoon there, you will be making a difference in a your family’s health. Over the course of the week(s) the amounts will add up.
The best way to use herbs is without cooking them first, for maximum nutritional value. If your family is not used to eating herbs, starting with parsley and/or dill is a good idea because flavor is more mild than other types, and their leaves are nice and soft–easy to eat in raw form. Other herbs to try with stronger flavors are basil, oregano, and sage. Herbs like thyme and rosemary have strong flavors and tough leaves–these are great for cooking and roasting.
Here are some ideas of how to add fresh, raw herbs to a variety of common foods, both health and not-so-healthy:
- Making sandwiches? Add herbs to egg, tuna, or chicken salad. Stick some into a grilled cheese sandwich or into any meat sandwich. Dill and parsley are great for this. Chop them finely or just stick whole leaves right into the sandwich. This is a great way to add a nutritional punch to your kids’ lunches.
- Garnish pizza or chicken or eggplant parmesan with basil, oregano, or other herb of your choice
- Taco night? When I make tacos for my family, I stick herbs into the middle of the taco. They get lost in the guacamole and other fillings, so my daughter doesn’t even realize she’s eating them.
- Garnish any soup you make with herbs. Stick them right on on top or mix it in. It’s best to garnish right before you serve the soup so the greens don’t cook in the heat.
- Sprinkle minced basil or oregano onto any pasta. Mix it into sauce or cheese to hide.
- Mix fresh herbs into a starchy side dish, like rice, quinoa, or potatoes, right before serving.
Try buying one bunch of herbs and using it up over the course of the week…then try out a different herb the next week. You will get into the habit in no time.