Spice Up Your Meal Plan

Trying to make healthy choices but getting tired of the same flavors? As a registered dietitian nutritionist at Indiana University Health, I work with bariatric patients to help them lose weight in preparation for surgery. In addition to being followed by a team, patients also receive individualized nutrition counseling post-operatively. We work together to identify barriers and solutions throughout their weight loss journey.

One simple way to slim down: Swap out heavy sauces and condiments for spices to cut fat, sugar, and calories – without sacrificing flavor. You’ll also sneak in some added health benefits from more nutrients. Studies show that spices and herbs that are rich in antioxidants can decrease risk for chronic disease. They can also act as a base flavor for soups or add extra complexity to a dish.

  • Turmeric – This spice comes from the root of the curcuma longa plant. It can be added to any mix of vegetables, rice, or beans for a curry-like taste. Research reveals the potent compounds in this bright yellow spice have also been shown to help control knee pain and reduce skin irritation.
  • Cinnamon – This fall favorite comes from the dried bark of evergreen trees. You’ll see it in the grocery store as coiled like pieces or in canisters ground up. Try adding cinnamon to oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, or even baked fruit for antioxidant benefits.
  • Garlic – Used in many Italian dished, this edible bulb can be used freshly minced, as a powder, or even oil on bread, popcorn, or roasted veggies.
  • Ginger – This soothing plant has been shown to relieve nausea. It is often found dried or as the fresh root, and some studies have indicated that it may protect the body from cancer development and growth. Ginger can be added to smoothies, yogurt, or even sprinkled in Asian dishes for an extra flare.
  • Italian Seasoning – If you’re torn which spices to try first, try using a premade mix where the combinations are already decided for you. Italian seasoning can be added to popcorn, potatoes, poultry or any pasta dish.

Similar to fruits and vegetables, strive to consume a variety of herbs and spices in order to reap their many health benefits.

— By Katie Hake, RD
   IU Health