Most people know they should make an effort at healthier eating, but many cringe at the thought of what that means for three meals a day. If your idea of healthy food consists of huge salads with limp green leaves and hunks of chicken with nothing else to season it, I’m not surprised that you think good food tastes bland.

I’m not sure where this idea got its start. Perhaps our forefathers weren’t quite sure how to creatively flavor a meal or we haven’t learned how to turn a healthy dish into an appealing one, but it’s time to dispel the myth that the healthy things we eat are inherently flavorless and bland. Not only is it possible to make healthy meals delicious, but it’s also incredibly simple. All it takes is a bit of creativity, a touch of know-how in the kitchen, a few select ingredients and the desire to feed your family food that cuts the calories but not the taste.

Here are a few hints to get you started:

Make simple substitutions. Croutons are packed with bad cholesterol and carbs, but you can easily replace these with toasted walnuts, slivered almonds or pecans. Try turkey bacon instead of pork bacon, which can be high in saturated fat. Whether it’s used as a garnish or in a sauce, avoid fatty sour cream and choose fat-free Greek yogurt instead.

Create your own dressings. Salad dressings can be high in sodium and calories, but if you make vinaigrette at home, you can create a much healthier substitution. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and mustard are the only ingredients you need, and the final result can be used to top steamed vegetables, grilled greens, salads, chicken, shrimp or tofu.

Choose cheeses with stronger flavors. If you can handle stronger-tasting cheese, then a little will go a long way when it comes to topping off a salad or filling up a sandwich. Parmesan and goat cheese are two good options, both of which would require just a fraction compared to weaker cheeses.

Indulge in low-fat or fat-free sauces. A healthy meal does not necessarily have to mean a meal without flavorful sauces. Avoid cream-heavy alfredo or cheese sauces and opt for lighter sauces instead. Options include reduced-sodium soy sauce for Asian dishes; a yogurt, cucumber and mint sauce with chicken; and light mayo with fresh herbs for fish.

Add the spice of life. Spices add flavor and aroma to food. As an added bonus, many of them are high in antioxidants and have been shown to assist in cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention. And you don’t need much for a huge boost in your health: Studies have been shown that you only need small quantities of healthy spices to reap the benefits.

RESOURCES

10 Easy Food Swaps Cut Cholesterol, Not Taste. Health.com. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307281_1,00.html.

Healthy Spices for Healthy Living. SecretsOfHealthyEating.com. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://www.secretsofhealthyeating.com/healthy-spices.html.

Jibrin, Janis. Making Healthy Foods Taste Good. GoodHousekeeping.com. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food/healthy/tasty-healthy-food-0307.