I love Spring! It is the time of year when we say goodbye to winter comfort foods and enthusiastically welcome the bounty of Mother Earth. It is the season when fiddleheads, morels and wild garlic pop-up on restaurant menus and when we can spring clean our diet with locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that boast the very best flavours. Add rhubarb, beets, cabbage, parsnips, asparagus and spinach to your cooking repertoire by creating tantalizing menus that feature in season produce to reap the most nutritional value.
This month, I invite you to join me in a four-step meal overhaul:
- Make each meal a nutritional powerhouse by starting with a colourful salad: While they excite the appetite without overwhelming it, salads leave you ready to enjoy the rest of the meal that follows. They also fill you up while providing important nutrients, playing an important role in successful weight maintenance and vibrant health. But a salad doesn’t necessarily mean lettuce leaves and the usual cucumber and tomato mix… Switch it up! Use watercress, arugula or kale just like this spicy kale Caesar recipe!
- Cut down the frivolous calories: Replace sugary and fatty condiments such as ketchup, steak sauce, mayo or store bought dressing with lemon juice, fresh herbs and spices to add flavour to your dishes. 20 or 30 calories here and there can make a big difference at the end of a month! Dijon mustard is a healthy, flavourful option that packs a punch in everything from vinaigrettes to desserts! In fact, for centuries, mustard has played a ubiquitous role as the world's third most important spice after salt and pepper. Check out my November blog post to learn
- Have at least three colours (or more) on every plate: Nature has colour-coded our food, each offering a different nutrient. For instance, red watermelon or tomatoes contain lycopene which helps protect against prostate and breast cancers while beta carotene (that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange) can help keep your eyes and immune system healthy. So load up the colours! The more the merrier. Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, pasta sauce and muffins — like these rhubarb and strawberry savoury mustard muffins featured in this month’s recipe section. Add chopped veggies on pizza (and BBQ your dough for a great summer twist on the year-round favourite). Purée leftover veggies and make soups at the end of the week before your next trip to the grocery store to empty the fridge and start fresh!
- Go tutti-frutti with your water: Did you know that losing only 5% of water causes headache, fatigue, forgetfulness and elevated heart rate? Cut down on the soda by keeping large carafes of water infused with cucumber slices and mint, fresh strawberries and kiwis, mango or pineapple pieces or a few handfuls of a mix of berries. Studies have shown that drinking water naturally boosts your metabolism, and drinking fruit infused water is a tasty, simple way to dilute and flush toxins, lubricate joints, improve skin and repair tissue with almost zero calories. You can even refill your infused water pitcher several times without losing a lot of flavor, and (bonus) the colourful jug will look beautiful on the table.
As the calendar change from March to April, I hope these suggestions will inspire you to create mouth-watering healthy dishes. Take a stroll to your local farmers’ market to savour the good things grown and harvested in your community. Buying local also means that your food comes from closer to home, and closer means fresher and more ecofriendly. After all, there must be a reason why we celebrate Earth Day and World Health Day in the same month!
Grab your shopping basket and bon appetite foodies! Don’t forget to tag me on your photos on Twitter or Instagram by using #AskMaille and visit our Facebook page for more food inspiration.