Bringing flavour to healthy foods

What you need to know:

  • About 80 percent of someone’s journey to a fit body is dependent on nutrition. Meal planning and prep contribute a lot to a better diet.

A few years ago, healthy eating in restaurants was not easy. Few restaurants catered to diners looking for no-gluten, no meat, and low-fat dishes. And at home, most Kenyans had to opt for limited food options, mostly boiled and flavourless.

Linda Jabesh is among the food-preneurs seeking to feed the health-conscious by adding flavour and creativity to their meals.

“I enjoy eating out but in 2016 it was hard to find a place that had delicious yet healthy food other than from my mother's kitchen. Most times, healthy food is tantamount to boring food that is only boiled with no salt or flavour.

"So this is where our dream was born, to provide a place for people who want to enjoy eating out and nourishing their body with nutritious wholesome food,” says Ms Jabesh who started small in her mother’s kitchen by baking spinach crisps, and protein muffins seven years ago.

“When I was doing my Master’s degree and pursuing entrepreneurship, I vowed to make healthy food delicious. Everybody loves eating nice tasty food,” she says.

At Fit Kitchen in Nairobi's Muthangari Drive, on the menu, there is brown rice, lentil curry with grilled vegetables, and crispy arrow roots served together with black beans burger. These foods are healthy and traditional but cooked with more flavour.

The arrowroots, for instance, are crispy outside and tender on the inside. These foods, she says, are fit for those on a gluten-free lifestyle to lose weight or because of intolerance. Besides offering a space where diners can enjoy the meals, she also does meal prep menus for customers.

Chicken fajita salad is one of the meals on the prep menu. They also have dates and almond energy balls, snicker bars made from chickpeas and dark chocolate, and peanut butter cups made from dark chocolate.

The meal prep concept is similar to what athletes, fitness enthusiasts, families, and children use to stick to their healthy dishes, and not get into a downward spiral of eating out and adding unnecessary calories.

Fitness enthusiasts have realised that only 20 percent of losing weight has to do with lifting weights and doing aerobics. The remaining 80 percent of someone’s journey to a fit body is dependent on nutrition.

Meal prep and meal planning to ensure one is eating the right amount of calories have shifted from a trend to a way of life.

“Eating healthy and being on diet is no longer a trend, but rather has become a way of life. More people globally are self-aware and taking care of themselves. If you look at the number of youth exercising, it is high,” says Ms Jabesh at the Fit Kitchen, beautifully designed with hints of African prints.

“When you are eating clean and the food does not taste good you tend to backslide to fatty sumptuous meals,” she adds.

My favourite dish was brown rice and lentil curry with grilled vegetables. There was an extra serving of carrots, but quinoa would work too.

They also have sweet potato fries and mashed sweet potatoes cooked with different herbs and spices.

“What we do is we transform the normal healthy boring food to something that looks very attractive to the eye but still very delicious,”  she says.

healthy spicing

Healthy eating doesn’t mean bland eating. Change up your cooking method to bring out the natural flavor in food.

Boost flavor with herbs and spices rather than extra sodium and fat. Instead of using a heavy hand with the salt shaker, sprinkle your food with fresh or dried herbs like cilantro, mint, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Spice things up with hot sauce or the ever-popular sriracha, or add some dried spices like chili powder, cumin, and paprika.

Warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are a wonderful way to add flavor along with low- and no-calorie sweeteners to replace some of the sugar.