By Jessica Clifford, MS RDN; Extension Nutrition Specialist
Herbs make meals more exciting and delicious! Not only do herbs add extra flavor to our
dishes, they also reduce the amount of salt we need to use. Salt is something most people
can use a bit less of in their diet.
Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the tender stems of specific plants. Purchase herbs
fresh or dried, depending on when and how you will use them.
There are many types of herbs. Some of the more common herbs
• Basil – warm and somewhat spicy flavor, used in various pesto
• Chives – mild onion flavor
• Cilantro – bright, clean flavor, best fresh
• Dill – fine and fresh, flavor of dill pickles
• Oregano – bold and peppery, spaghetti sauce flavor
• Parsley – bright green, mild peppery-lemon flavor
• Rosemary – bold, woodsy-evergreen flavor
• Sage – pronounced earthy, eucalyptus-lemon flavor
• Tarragon – peppery scent and anise-like flavor
• Thyme – mild lemon-clove flavor
• Mint – fresh mint flavor, best fresh
Dried herbs work best when added to dishes with liquid, such as in soups, stews, pasta
sauce, and marinades. Fresh herbs taste best when added to foods or dishes that are
served cold, such as salads, fruits, and yogurt sauces. They also work well when added at
the end of cooking, such as mixed into a sauce after it has cooked or used to top a dish
right before it is served. For example, add fresh herbs as a topping for pizza, soup, pasta salad, stir-fry, or tacos. Also, try adding some fresh herbs in a pitcher of water for a refreshing flavor. Remove herbs from water and discard herbs after a day.
Feel free to experiment with various herbs in various dishes. If you need some inspiration,
below are some ways you might use different herbs.
• Fresh – top pizza when fresh out of oven, put in pasta salad , add to yogurt sauce for
dipping or make pesto sauce
• Dried – add to pasta sauces, marinades, meat balls or soups
• Fresh or dried – top a baked potato or stir fry, add to scrambled eggs or salad
• Fresh – top tacos, stir fry or noodle dishes; add to guacamole, coleslaw, salad or yogurt
• Fresh or dried – top fish; add to green salad, cucumber yogurt salad, potato salad, egg
salad or broth-based soup
Preparing foods at home and adding ingredients like herbs, onion, garlic and spices can help flavor our food while needing less salt. This is a good time to talk with your children about how our bodies need more of some foods and nutrients and less of others. Sodium (found in salt) is one of those nutrients that we need just a little bit of. Too much salt can hurt our bodies, especially our hearts. Many pre-made packaged foods are often highly processed and have much higher levels of sodium than the foods that we make at home.
Work with your children to read the nutrition facts label on the back of packaged foods. When purchasing a packaged food, compare the sodium amounts per serving for different brands or types of that food. Aim for those that contain 5% or less of the daily value (DV) of sodium per serving.
Recipe for Health: Tabbouleh
Tabbouleh is a Mediterranean salad with bulgur wheat and flavored with fresh herbs (mints and parsley), garlic and lemon. Try it today!
2 cups cooked bulger wheat
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 cup chopped parsley
4 medium tomatoes diced
Salt and Pepper, (to taste)
Feta Cheese (optional)
- Combine the cooked bulgur, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a bowl. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients, and lightly season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with crumbled feta cheese, if desired.
Try adding other ingredients such as diced cucumber, diced celery, chopped scallions, diced bell pepper, pine nuts or chickpeas for more flavor.
Nutrition Information / Amount Per Serving (1/2)
Calories 101, Total Fat 5.4 g, Saturated Fat 0.8 g, Cholesterol
0.0 mg, Sodium 10.3 mg, Total Carbohydrates 12.5 g, Fiber 3.2 g, Protein 2.3 g