Clean eating can get boring. That’s just a fact. Sometimes the easiest way to get through a strict training program is to stick to a few quick and easy recipes that deliver clean, nutritious grams. But over time, fatigue sets in and you need to mix it up! Trying whole new recipes can be daunting. Buying unfamiliar ingredients? Overwhelming. New cooking methods? Impractical.
A solution to breaking the monotony of a training diet rut can be one simple addition: “Flavor bombs!”
Flavor bombs are ingredients that can be added in small amounts to really amp up a dish. They generally get added after cooking. Full disclaimer, some of them do add calories or sodium; so don’t use a liberal hand. You don’t need to anyway. They are BOMBS of flavor! Understand the purpose they serve and they'll take those staple meals to a new level of taste.
They'll help you stay compliant and interested in your grams, but come at a slight cost that might stack over time if used too frequently. Without further ado, they are:
Vinegars! It’s amazing what a good vinegar can do to amp up a dish. Examples include aged balsamic vinegar, black vinegar, infused vinegars (think peach apple cider vinegar), or rice vinegar. They last in the pantry virtually forever and come at basically no caloric cost (some sugar or salt content in certain types). A tiny splash of a good quality vinegar will elevate the most humble roasted veggies or grilled proteins.
Oils! In the same vein as vinegars, opting for high quality goes a long way. You can glug near infinite amounts of standard olive oil over a salad and not do much to improve the flavor. However, a small bottle of a special extra virgin bottle that’s been infused with some herbs or citrus? A few drops will explode on your palate. Some phantom calories will creep in here, so be careful. We’re talking small splashes not an open pour!
Fermented foods! Fermentation yields complex layers of flavor. Whether it’s Kimchi, sauerkraut, or pickled veggies added to a sandwich or salad or fermented condiments like black garlic, miso, sambal, chow chow, ginger paste, or relish to dress or top your dish, they all pack a punch and drop the flavor bomb! A little really goes a really long way here and the options are as endless.
Herbs and Spices! We can’t talk about flavor bombs without talking about spices and herbs! However, most of us already use them liberally. The key here is to branch out and try new ones. Spice blends are a wonderful way to explore global, unfamiliar flavors (think garam masala, herbs de provence, za’atar, togarashi). Chopped herbs are a welcome addition to a dish, or blended into tasty pastes and marinades. Let’s include citrus in this category. If you aren't in the habit of adding some lemon or lime juice to your food, you should be. And don’t forget about the zest!
Some of these ideas might be new to you, some old! And maybe you have your own flavor bombs you use all the time. We’d love to hear about those too! Keep these culinary tricks in your back pocket to mix up your culinary game, without needing to color too far outside of those healthy lines.
Enjoy and happy eating!
By: Nate Bell-Isle // Kenzai Trainer & Member