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I want to talk about a subject today that is near and dear to my heart. It’s one that gets me passionate, excited, eager, and bright-eyed. It’s the concept of cooking by color.
When Diane of The W.H.O.L.E. Gang invited me to participate in her 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living event, it took no more than a few seconds for this topic of colorful cooking to bloom in my head. The event is all about tips for living an easy and effortless gluten-free life. Think it’s rocket science? Well, myself and dozens of other bloggers are out to prove you wrong!
So, cooking by color. What is it? Let’s dive in.
Cooking by Color
When I first went gluten-free, I quickly realized that many of the gluten-free products available out there were really nothing more than packaged junk foods labeled “gluten-free.” As I browsed through the aisles of the grocery store looking at both the gluten-free and gluten-full foods, I began to notice a color trend. Almost everything was brown. I was met with an onslaught of crackers, cookies, cereals, bars, and other convenience foods completely lacking in vibrance, fragrance, and color.
I made it my goal early on in my gluten-free days to incorporate as much colorful produce into my diet as possible. As I recovered from months of gut damage and malnutrition, fruits and vegetables were a large part of what brought me back to optimal health.
10 Steps to Cooking Colorfully
- Treat your plate like a canvas. Make every meal an opportunity to pack in as many colors as possible. Build mega salads, vegetable-packed soups, and juicy fruit smoothies. Become an artist with your food!
- Make at least one of your daily meals vegetable-centric. Lunches are the easiest meal of the day for me to do this. I make huge salads out of greens, broccoli, carrots, peas, onions, bell peppers, or other seasonal veggies and top them with different dressings and proteins. If I don’t get an opportunity to work in more vegetables during the rest of the day, I feel good knowing I’ve powered up with a veggie-packed lunch.
- Make friends with salads, soups, and smoothies! They really are the easiest way to incorporate more color into your diet. If you have a blender, soups and smoothies are a snap. And with summer approaching, salads can take center stage.
- Shop the produce department (or farmers’ market) first, then the rest of the store. Beginning your grocery shopping in the produce section of the store will encourage you to load up on fresh fruits and seasonal vegetables before the aisles of colorless, sugary, salty snack foods.
- Approach cooking with kids creatively to get them eating more colorful foods. To charm the palettes of picky eaters, you’ve got to get creative! Try hosting “theme nights” at your house once or twice a week where you put the meal’s focus on a central color or vegetable. Encourage kids to pick their favorite color (hopefully it’s not brown!) and eat lots of natural foods that fall within that category.
- Enhance fruits and vegetables with herbs and spices. Tired of plain oil steamed broccoli? Try it roasted with garlic and lemon zest, or roast cauliflower with curry powder and olive oil. Sick of your same-old-same-old vinaigrette on salads? Try creamy dressings made with tahini or avocados. A few simple ingredient changes can take a boring platter of greens or steamed veggies to a whole new level.
- Keep colorful staples on hand. Foods like carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens keep well in the refrigerator for at least 4-5 days. Keeping them on hand makes a healthy snack of apples with cinnamon or a quick curry with chicken and veggies a snap to prepare. I find that I’m much more likely to reach for a nutritious and vibrant meal when I have the ingredients on hand to prepare it in the first place!
- Use your freezer to your advantage. If you have the time, blanch and freeze your own vegetables like broccoli and carrots and store them in the freezer. Or take some help from the store and buy frozen organic vegetables ready to go. They make an instant healthy addition to soups, casseroles, or other hot dishes. Frozen berries are great to throw in smoothies, hot cereal, baked goods, desserts, or simply thawed as a snack.
- Find the colorful recipes you like and stick with them. You know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Do you have a cabbage slaw that gets rave reviews from the fam every time? Is your veggie-packed pasta bake a winning weeknight meal? Great! When you find colorful recipes that are loaded with nutrition, bursting with flavor, and mouthwatering to you and your family, stick with ‘em. Simple variations on your favorite healthy recipes can take them in other directions flavor-wise, while still jiving with your taste preferences.
- Choose whole, natural foods—foods as they are found in nature—instead of processed, packaged foods. Follow this one step and you’ll be well on your way to “coloring” your diet and eating clean for good health.
More Easy Gluten-Free Living Inspiration
This month has been packed to the gills with helpful tips for easy gluten-free living from all around the blogosphere. For the complete line-up of bloggers participating in this event as well as their topics, click here. Be sure to check out yesterday’s post from Alisa at Alisa Cooks for her tips on thinking outside the bun when it comes to the always popular sandwich or wrap. And tomorrow, stop by Simply…Gluten-Free for Carol’s tips on easy gluten-free living!
A few of my favorite colorful recipes:
- Last Minute Skillet Green Beans
- Green “Creamsicle” Smoothie
- Southwest Pasta Salad with Black Beans & Avocado
- Warm Tomato Chutney
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on colorful cooking. What are your tips and tricks for packing in more produce? Please share!