Everyone strives to be healthier, but no one wants to go on a diet. We don’t blame you! Those four words when put together are enough to scare the living daylights out of even the healthiest of eaters. The good news? You don’t have to.

We interviewed Fallon Bader, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and business owner of the Sprouting Kitchen, on a mission to provide experiences that connect people to local, nourishing foods with pop-up cooking classes on local farms. We talked to her about how people can make easy, delicious tweaks in their diets to boost their health and feel better; no “diet” necessary.

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What are some easy ingredient swaps people can make to get more daily nutrients? 

Instead of just using rice or bread as a side carbohydrate - switch it up! There are so many different grains out there. Everyone has heard of quinoa, but how about farro, millet, amaranth, teff, wild rice, black rice, or barley? They all add different flavors and textures that add a bit of excitement to your daily dinners. I believe the key to a healthy diet is variety - keep it interesting!

If you are cooking something in high heat (think oven or grill) don’t use your precious extra virgin olive oil. Use an oil that has a higher smoke point, like classic olive oil.  

People read the word “fat” on a nutrition label and get scared. Why are healthy fats so necessary to incorporate into our diet? What are some foods we can do that with?

We have three macronutrients that we need to survive: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Our society has a habit of demonizing food groups, and fats have seen their fair share of negative media.

Fats are so vital to our health - they help our brain function, regulate temperature, and provide energy. There are even some vitamins that cannot be absorbed unless fat is present - so it’s a good idea to have a source of fat in every meal. Fats also play an important role in cooking - it gives us texture, moisture, and flavor, which in the end makes food enjoyable and taste good. 

Some ways to get healthy fats in your diet are nuts, avocado, fatty fish, flax seed, olive oil, yogurt, milk, and grass-fed meats. Even though grass-fed meats usually cost more than non-grass fed meats, since the animals are raised on pasture (instead of grain), their meat contains more Omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fat is great for brain and joint health. So, I recommend spending that extra few dollars and eating meat less often to make it financially feasible

What are your 5 must-have pantry items to always keep in the house for healthy (and delicious!) cooking?

Oooh this is a fun one:

●    Eggs - the quickest way to add tasty protein to any dish. 
●    Tahini - mix it with lemon juice and garlic to make a sauce that makes any dish or salad better
●    Frozen grass-fed beef, lamb, or pork - the possibilities are endless! 
●    Sweet potatoes - they are shelf-stable and once roasted, they can be eaten sweet (think yogurt and honey for breakfast) or savory 
●    Something fermented at all times - yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi; I like to rotate what i have in my fridge. 

How can people add flavor into their cooking in a healthy way? 

Get familiar with spices and herbs. First of all, put your spices somewhere you can easily see them and find them. Experiment with different spice and herb combos. Look at recipes for inspiration and look up spices that commonly go together with certain foods. 

Right now I'm loving the combo of cinnamon, cumin, and paprika on cooked veggies like eggplant and carrots. I’m a firm believer that sauteed onions and garlic are the beginning to any great tasting meal. 

I also always keep lemons on hand. A squeeze of lemon at the end of cooking really brightens up a dish, and the acid can pull everything together. Pro tip: you can zest some of the lemon rind into a dish while it’s cooking for some extra lemony flavor. 

What’s one common misconception people have about “eating healthy”?

That healthy foods don’t taste good. 

I always encourage people to think past grilled chicken and steamed broccoli when they think of healthy foods. Vegetables, when we learn how to cook and eat them properly, can be so tasty and diverse. You can saute, steam, broil, roast, grill, or even spiralize them. All it takes is some experimenting in the kitchen - look up a new recipe, try a new vegetable (roasted turnips are amazing), buy a new cookbook, or have a friend over for dinner. 

What are two of your favorite dishes to make at Sprouting Kitchen? Why?

I love our pesto recipe. We use whatever greens is fresh from the farm (basil, kale, arugula, etc), a mixture of nuts (pinons, cashew, walnuts, etc) and then usually parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s a great way to get nutritious greens into your diet and it tastes so good! 

Our sauteed radishes is a fun dish because many people have no idea how to eat radishes or how tasty they can be. It’s a simple recipe - just sauteing sliced radishes in olive oil  and garlic until they become soft, buttery, and charred. Then we add in the radish top greens, because they are super nutritious and often thrown away! I love showing people how to use the whole plant. 

And that’s a wrap! We challenge you to take at least one of Fallon’s tasty tips and incorporate it into your diet this week - and tell us how it goes! Which are you going to try?

And if you find yourself in Albuquerque, New Mexico, be sure to swing by the Sprouting Kitchen for a cooking class on a local farm!