Tip #43


Flavor Toolbox

Many restaurants are trying to focus less on what to leave out and more on what to put in: crave-worthy flavors and textures, nutrient-rich ingredients and the perfect portion size. The idea is to carefully design menu items to be healthfully balanced and lower in sodium and detrimental fats, but high in nutrient-rich ingredients such as whole grains, fresh produce and beneficial fats. These restaurants want to make it easier to choose healthy foods—because they’re delicious.

Flavor Tools

Here’s a look at what health-minded restaurants are up to:

  • Spicing it up, rubbing it on and heating it up.Blended spices in rubs and marinades pack a powerful taste punch, bringing out surface flavor and allowing caramelization while the food is being grilled or seared. Ginger, peppercorns, mustard seed, cumin, chili, cayenne and a wide variety of flavorful peppers and pepper sauces give a slight kick to menu items. This distraction helps the palate not to notice that the dish is lower in salt and fats.
  • Balancing the acidity in foods.Citrus juices, vinegars and wines have sharp, bright flavors that can replace salts and excess fats.
  • Using herbs to gain a flavor advantage.Savory herbs (basil, dill, thyme, sage, parsley) give a powerful accent to even familiar foods, allowing for less use of salt.
  • Adding natural sweetness.That means incorporating the naturally sweet taste of fruits, fruit juices and honey into appropriate combinations. When foods—both meats and produce—are roasted, grilled and smoked, caramelization brings sweetness and intensifies aroma and flavors.
  • Getting the most flavor from the least.The key is to coax out umami(unctuousness in dishes) with mushrooms, soy sauce and flavor pairings.


— Jaime Brenkus Health Tip 43