Would You Like Some Salad with That Salt? Posted March 30, 2018 CARINA HAYEK, NGI DIRECTOR OF MARKETING When restaurants started posting the nutritional labels for their foods, I think many of us were shocked. Dishes that we assumed would be low in fat and calories (because this is how we evaluated a food’s dastardliness back in the day) were not. How could a salad meet or exceed our recommended daily calorie and fat intake? And as we got more sophisticated with understanding the relationship between food health and with reading labels, the carbohydrate, sugar, and salt levels. Although vegetables typically comprise the largest proportion of salad ingredients, they aren’t the culprit. Rather, it’s the dressings and garnishes that pack the biggest punch. That’s where we find the oils, fats, salts, and sugars that make it so delicious. I bet we all know people who eat salad mainly for the dressing and garnishes and the ability to justify it as healthy. Over the past few months, I’ve been writing about the Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population and their more holistic view of food, eating, and health. Their guidelines align with Natural Gourmet Institute’s approach to food, and specifically our Seven Principles of Food Selection: that food should be seasonal, local, whole, traditional, balanced, fresh, and delicious. According to Statista, people in the United States eat out a lot. In Spring 2017, the number of people who visited a fast-food restaurant 10 or more times within the past 30 days reached an all-time high of 50.45 million people. In 2016, food and drink sales in the United States reached 766 billion dollars, with the average household expense on eating out averaging $3,154 per year. It’s a booming industry, fueled by convenience and, what I found surprising, a dislike of cooking. This doesn’t just hit our pocketbooks, but our waistlines, our blood pressure, and our overall health. Hidden oils, fats, salt, and sugar in commercially prepared foods are part of what make it so hard to be healthy when eating out. The same foods prepared at home never seem to taste quite as good, in large part because we tend to use less fat and salt when we cook at home and because our palates have adjusted to the restaurant levels of those ingredients. This brings us to the second guideline: Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations NGI recently worked with a publisher on a 12-month calendar featuring diabetic-friendly, low sodium, low fat recipes that are easy to make at home and, as I can personally attest, delicious. Here are some tricks we used to maximize flavor while using oils, fats, salt, and sugars sparingly. Umami is your friend. Use umami-rich foods including mushrooms, nori, and sherry vinegar to really boost flavor and delight your taste buds. Grill bread to make your own croutons rather than toasting in butter. You’ll get added depth of flavor with far less fat. Roast vegetables instead of steaming or boiling to concentrate their flavors and enhance their natural sweetness. Use spices such as turmeric, cumin, and paprika and aromatics including shallots and garlic to boost flavor without having to add salt. Adding cinnamon, either ground or cooking with a cinnamon stick, can add sweetness to foods without having to add sugar.