Taste versus nutrition: Why not have both?

Published 3:07 pm Saturday, March 1, 2014

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”

Consumer research has found that taste trumps nutrition as the main reason why one food is purchased over another. Can you agree? Typically, the foods we enjoy eating are the ones we eat the most. While our cultural background, social expectations and health factors do play a role in some of our food choices — we have to consider whether we are conscientious of making healthy choices as well. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is intended to create a focus on how to combine taste and nutrition to create healthy and nutritious meals.

Taste is the sensation in our mouth when a substance reacts chemically with our taste buds. Taste works with our sense of smell to help us determine a flavor of a substance. We perceive taste through taste buds that are located on our tongue and inside our mouth. Our taste buds are grouped into five basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and savory. Have you noticed it is difficult to taste your food when your nose is stuffy? Have you smelled a yummy food and then noticed your mouth begins to water? These occur because flavor is a combination of taste and smell.

If we have a desire to eat more healthful but don’t know how to make the food “taste good” (without adding fat back, lard or bacon grease), let me introduce you to aromatics, which are vegetables that deliver deep flavor when they are heated or crushed but also produce a wonderful smell when they are cooking. Here is a list of common aromatic vegetables: shallots, ginger, celery, scallions, onions, leeks, parsnips, peppers, garlic, carrots and chili peppers.

All of these provide their own nutrition benefits such as naturally being low calorie, low fat, they provide vitamins, minerals and flavanoids as well as provide fiber but also have unique flavors to contribute to a meal. If you’re looking to create delicious & healthy meals — without using fat, sugar or salt to “flavor”— try these tips:

• For the best flavor, use fresh aromatics. Frozen ones may be too watery;

• Chop and store aromatics in advance to make meal prep quick;

• Hearty vegetables, like carrots, may require a smaller chop so they can soften as the same rate as onions

Handle peppers and onions carefully as the oils from these can irritate your eyes and nose;

• Sauté or sweat your vegetables in small amounts of juice, water or broth to help reduce the amount of calories from using oils and butter. This also helps soften the vegetables without browning them.

Another way to excite all areas of your taste buds is to try experimenting with spices and herbs. We tend to rely on salt as our “go-to” seasoning, but it tends to add the same “flavor” to everything, doesn’t it? By using herbs and spices, we can complement each piece of our meal and make the flavors pop. How many of the spices have you actually used from your spice rack? Have you used marjoram? Ginger? How about thyme? You may be surprised how you can create a new flavor and enhance the taste of your everyday foods by using herbs and spices.

Marjoram: Goes well with meats. Its flavor is destroyed with high temperatures and long cooking times, so add this herb towards the end of your cooking time.

Ginger: Goes great with chicken, carrots, winter squash, fish, fruits and sweets. (See accompanying recipe.)

Thyme: Goes well with anything but very yummy with fresh green beans, tomatoes, beans, potatoes and beef.

I challenge you to try one new way of flavoring your foods — either with an aromatic vegetable or an herb/spice. You may discover that your favorite food’s flavor can be enhanced, which will not only excite a new section of your tongue but also help increase the nutrition of your meal.



Ashley Corbett, MS, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian with Vidant Wellness Center and Vidant Beaufort Hospital.


Ginger Me Up chicken



2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with any visible fat removed

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons water

1 ½ teaspoons ginger

2 garlic cloves

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chicken in nonstick baking dish.

Mix honey, mustard, water, ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

Pour mixture over chicken breasts evenly and allow liquid to go under the chicken.

Cover with tin foil ad bake for 45 to 60 minutes. (Time cooked depends on preference for moistness of the chicken.)