Every year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to celebrate National Nutrition Month®. This year’s theme, Savor the Flavor of Eating Right, is aimed at celebrating familiar food traditions and discovering new flavors while making healthful food choices. Isagenix products make combining great flavor and balanced nutrition easy. But for many people, the challenge is planning a balanced, delicious third meal on Shake Days. Some find that meeting their target calorie range is the biggest obstacle. Others struggle with flavor and variety, finding that they have become stuck in a boring third-meal rut. You can easily solve both of these problems with a little culinary know-how.

Here are a few flavorful ideas to spice up your third meal while still supporting your lifestyle goals.

1.       Add Flavor Without Adding Calories

Let herbs and spices be your secret weapon in the fight against flavorless food. In culinary terms, herbs are the leafy green parts of a plant that can be used either fresh or dried, while spices come from the seeds, bark, roots, or fruit of a plant. Plants like basil, parsley, and rosemary are considered herbs, since the leaves of these plants are the part that is used in cooking. Some common spices include black pepper, cumin, and cinnamon. Herbs and spices add a boost of flavor with very few calories.

2.       Spice it Up Without Adding Extra Sodium

Most people consume far too much sodium. The recommended maximum limit for sodium set by the Institute of Medicine is 2,300 milligrams per day. Unfortunately, the average sodium intake for women is 2,980 milligrams, while the average intake for men is an astonishing 4,240 milligrams­­—almost twice the maximum limit. While sodium is necessary to support muscle and nerve function, too much is linked to high blood pressure and heart issues. Excess sodium can also make many people retain extra fluids, causing a bloated or “puffy” appearance.

Only a small proportion of total sodium intake is from salt added at the table or the sodium that is naturally present in foods. The majority of sodium people consume is from salt added to food during commercial processing and preparation. One of the best ways you can avoid adding excess sodium when preparing your third meal at home is to skip bottled or packaged sauces and condiments. For example, half a cup of prepackaged barbecue sauce, enough to lightly coat a few pieces of chicken, contains 1,469 milligrams of sodium. Instead of high-sodium seasonings, choose options like garlic, herbs, and spices.  Add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of a flavorful vinegar, such as white wine or balsamic, to give foods a zing without adding any sodium.

3.       Let Global Cuisine be Your Inspiration

If you are not sure how best to use the wide variety of available herbs and spices to create delicious combinations, let popular flavors from around the world guide your culinary explorations.

Try this list of flavor combinations inspired by popular cuisines from around the globe.

  • China: ginger, garlic, red chili
  • France: thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender
  • Greece: oregano, lemon
  • India: turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic
  • Mexico: chili, lime, garlic
  • Middle East: sumac, lemon, parsley

This year’s National Nutrition Month theme, Savor the Flavor of Eating Right, places an emphasis on enjoying food. Plant-based flavorings, such as herbs, spices, lemon, and garlic can enhance both the flavor and nutrition of any dish. Ordinary means of seasoning foods, such as topping vegetables with butter, adds unnecessary calories without adding much in the way of taste. Using herbs and spices creatively will not only help you to avoid overshooting your calorie goals, but will also prevent you from getting stuck in a boring third-meal rut. When you choose to boost the flavor of foods with herbs and spices, instead of excess sugar, salt, or fat, there is no need for compromise between taste and nutrition.