Experimenting with healthier ingredients at home

Experimenting With Healthier Ingredients

Liz Weber is a Registered Dietitian at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

Today’s “On the Menu” segment features tips on healthy cooking at home and fun, new ways to experiment with healthier ingredients.

National Nutrition Month this year is putting an emphasis on getting yourself in the kitchen and not being afraid to experiment with healthy ingredients. Putting your best fork forward sometimes means going out of your comfort zone with food.

Like many other things in life, the best way to continue to improve your health is through change and continuous learning. By getting yourself and your kids in the kitchen, you learn more about different foods, where they come from, and increase your probability of getting adequate vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Here are just some of the many ways you can experiment with healthier ingredients or improve your cooking skills.

Seek out local cooking classes. Downtown Market, Grand Rapids Community College, Sur La Table, The Local Epicurean, and Williams-Sonoma are all great resources available in the Grand Rapids area that provide cooking classes.

Try pickling or canning fruits and vegetables. Pickling or canning is a great way to create new flavors with familiar foods. It can also help preserve extra produce for extended periods of time. These are great skills to pass on to the next generation to help us understand our food system. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that can be canned or pickled. Here are just a few to start:

Pickled Ginger

Yield: 1 mason jar full


  1. 12 oz. fresh ginger (2-3 big roots)
  2. 1 red radish
  3. 1 1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
  4. 1 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  5. 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  6. 1 cup water


  • Peel the outer layer of the ginger root and discard.
  • Using a mandolin slicer, slice the ginger root into small pieces.
  • In a small bowl, toss ginger with the salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Wash a radish, slice off the root end, and slice thinly using the mandolin slicer.
  • Add radish then ginger to the mason jar.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, and water to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove pan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Once cooled, add the vinegar mixture to the mason jar and seal tightly. Store in the refrigerator.

Pickled Radishes

Yield: 1 mason jar full


  1. 1 bunch of radishes (~8-10 radishes)
  2. 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  3. 1/2 cup water
  4. 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  5. 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar


  • Wash the radishes and cut off the root ends.
  • Slice thinly with a knife or with mandolin slicer.
  • Pack sliced radishes into a mason jar.
  • Whisk the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and add to jar.
  • Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Spicy-Sweet Pickled Cucumbers

Yield: 1 mason jar full


  1. 1/4 cup sliced yellow or white onion
  2. 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  3. 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  4. 3 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  5. 1 tsp Kosher salt
  6. 1/2 cup white vinegar (rice wine vinegar can also be used)
  7. 1 English cucumber


  • Using a mandolin slicer or sharp knife, slice the cucumber and onion.
  • In a saucepan, bring chili flakes, lime juice, brown sugar, salt, and vinegar to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove pan from the heat.
  • Add vinegar mixture to cucumbers and onion in a medium sized bowl.
  • Once at room temperature, add the brine with cucumbers and onion to the mason jar.
  • Seal tightly and refrigerate.

Is corn the only grain that pops? Absolutely not! Try popping or puffing sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, or millet. Eat plain as a great whole-grain snack or add as a topping to salads, vegetable side dishes, yogurt, and homemade trail mixes.

Dabble with ethnic spices to surprise your palate.

  • Turmeric (peppery, bitter): Try adding to cauliflower, cabbage, potato, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, chicken, fish, tofu, curries, or rice.
  • Chinese Five Spice (warm, sweet, bitter): Chinese five spice blend generally consists of cassia, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. Try adding this spice to a vegetable stir-fry, beef, duck, tofu, pork, dry rubs, marinades, or rice dishes.
  • Saffron (earthy and aromatic): This spice is commonly used in the Spanish dish called "Paella."

Resources: http://www.cooksmarts.com/articles/ultimate-infographic-guide-spices/

© 2018 WZZM-TV


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