There are so many pros to home cooking, especially if you’re trying to improve your diet, save excess calories and lose weight. But if you’re getting a little tired of the same old recipes, you’re not alone. You might already be familiar with the benefits of using spices: they add delicious flavor and provide antioxidants to combat inflammation.
Here’s how to switch up the fresh or dried herbs you use to transform a dish from boring and bland to extra tasty:
“Mint and basil both belong to the same family, so they carry a lot of similarities,” explains Vicky Cano, founder of Meal Fan, and a chef and recipe developer. Particularly in Italian dishes like pasta, they’re basically interchangeable, and mint brings a literal freshness to the table.
“Cilantro instead of parsley adds a more robust flavor to many sandwiches and pasta dishes,” Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, RD, founder of Hispanic Food Communications and member of the Grain Foods Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. Two of her favorite ways to use cilantro: as a pesto with a caprese or as part of a salad with orzo, feta and avocado.
“Tarragon is an interesting swap for rosemary,” says Beth Jacques Chen, a recipe developer. They’re both strong flavors, but tarragon brings a hint of licorice, which can really change the profile of a dish. “Just like rosemary, tarragon goes well with chicken, lamb and eggs.”
Herbes de Provence is a mix of dried herbs and spices that Chen likes to use instead of a typical Italian seasoning blend. “The spices are very similar, but herbes de Provence has the addition of lavender and tarragon,” she explains. “You can very easily transform roast chicken into chicken Provençal with just a swap of blends.”
“I use rosemary instead of basil in many basic entree recipes with chicken, fish or beef — especially meatballs,” says Melendez-Klinger. “I also love using it as a topper for homemade pizza or sprinkling it in homemade bread. It provides a unique flavor and an incredible aroma.”
A classic basil pesto is amazing. But, if you want to try something new, sub parsley or lemon balm, suggests Jean LaMantia, RD. “Parsley pesto tastes ‘green’ and fresh,” she says. Lemon balm pesto, on the other hand, is milder with a delicate hint of lemon.
Drinking enough water is key for supporting overall health and weight loss, and adding fresh herbs and other natural flavors to your water can make it easier to reach your hydration target. “Most people like to infuse their water with mint or lemon,” notes Melendez-Klinger. Instead, consider a different approach: “I like to infuse it with herbs such as basil, rosemary and dill to add unique flavors that are subtle, smooth and refreshing.”
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.