I love the word nourish. It covers everything I want food to do for myself and my family. It paints a holistic picture for me of what food should do for the body. Food gives us physical energy. It can speak to us emotionally. And it provides our bodies with the nutrients they need to support health. When I’m in the kitchen, I’m thinking about how each bite is going to meet those needs. Not every bite meets all of those needs, of course, but cooking with Guiding Stars has taught me how to approach our nutrition on balance.
I’m going to do a little something different with Kitchen Smarts this month. Today, I’m going to talk to you about some of the guiding principles I use to modify my own recipes to make them more nutritious. For the remainder of the month, I’m going to pick recipes I helped developed and which I love and talk to you about what’s going on in each to make them more nourishing.
Food gives us physical energy.
Something I’ve learned from working with Alli, Kit, and Garrick over the years is that our bodies need carbs. When I first started working with Guiding Stars, low-carb and keto diets were a peak buzz. I structured a lot of my own eating around cutting down on carbs back then. What I have learned since is that we need carbs…but high-quality carbs: carbs that come with plenty of fiber to feed our microbiomes and keep us satiated for longer.
To include more high-quality carbs, I ask myself the following questions when I’m cooking:
- Are there any super processed carbs I can replace with a whole grain?
- Is there any added sugar I can either leave out or replace with fruit?
- Am I balancing processed carbs with plenty of vegetables?
Food can speak to us emotionally.
Food has to taste reasonably good to nourish us fully. Believe me, in taste-testing the 1,200+ recipes in the Guiding Stars database that have been prepared in my home kitchen, we’ve learned this. We need salt and fat in our diets. The other thing I’ve learned, however, is that we need a heck of a lot less salt than I ever imagined. Also: saturated fat is overrated. Our tastebuds quickly adjust to lower quantities of salt than you might imagine. And heart-healthy fats are excellent subs for saturated fats most of the time.
Here are the questions I use to guide my cooking to be more nourishing while preserving flavor:
- How does it taste with half the salt? A third? A quarter?
- What happens if I swap the butter out and use olive or vegetable oil instead?
Food provides us with essential nutrients.
Vitamins and minerals are harder to intuit in our food, which is one reason I love being able to shop with Guiding Stars. Buying products that earn stars helps raise the baseline of nutrients available to work with in my kitchen. That’s only one trick to getting enough nutrients in your food, however, and I’ve learned a few more here that I rely on.
Here are the questions I ask to help me balance the array of nutrients when I’m cooking:
- Can I add a second or third fruit or vegetable to the dish?
- Do I have 2-3 colors represented in my produce for each meal?
- Do I have a good balance of whole grains, produce, and lean protein on the table?
Join me on Fridays for the remainder of February to explore how these questions have guided me in developing specific recipes in the Guiding Stars recipe database.