Traditional Easter recipes tend to include a lot of starchy, unhealthy foods. Therefore, if you’re trying to watch what you eat, you may need to give your Easter brunch a healthy makeover. One of the easiest ways to do that is by adding herbs to your favorite dishes.
Although they are only used in small amounts, herbs pack a big nutritional punch. They’re full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. These nutrients help keep you full, regulate blood sugar levels, and support heart health – just to name a few benefits.
In this guide, we’ll highlight some tips for adding herbs and other healthy ingredients to traditional Easter recipes to make things a bit healthier this year.
Benefits Of Adding Herbs To Your Easter Recipes
Cooking with herbs is beneficial for several reasons. First, it’s a great way to add flavor to your food without unwanted calories or unhealthy additives.
You can use herbs in place of gluten, salt, saturated fat, or refined sugar. In most cases, adding a teaspoon or two of herbs to your recipes will only tack on a few calories to the dish – if any, at all.
Additionally, herbs contain several bioactive compounds that provide health benefits. Specifically, they’re a good source of sulfur-containing compounds, tannins, alkaloids, phenolic compounds, minerals, and vitamins, especially flavonoids.
According to one study, the antioxidant properties in herbs and spices may impact the oxidative changes by lowering the effects of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol in the development of atherosclerosis.
For example, consuming one-half to one whole garlic clove per day may reduce cholesterol by 9%. Aged garlic has been shown to reduce blood pressure and provide anti-clotting properties.
Newer research shows that culinary herbs not only enhance the flavor, smell, and color of food, but they can also protect from acute and chronic diseases. For example, one study indicated that eating spicy foods reduces the risk of cancer, ischemic heart disease, and respiratory system diseases.
Evidence shows herbs contain anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, anti-carcinogenic, and glucose and cholesterol-lowering qualities. Adding more antioxidant-rich foods to your diet may also support cognition and mood.
Herbal Medicine, From A TCM Perspective
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) commonly uses raw herbs in many herbal medicine formulas. The herbs are harvested in their natural form (roots, stems, bark, flowers, fruit, and leaves), then ground into a powder or cut into pieces to be used for medicinal formulas.
Raw Chinese herbs come in many variations, depending on the physicians who prescribe them. Some can be boiled to make a tisane, others can be consumed directly.
TCM herbs may be classified according to:
- Four nature (i.e. hot, warm, cold, cool)
- Five flavors (sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and pungent), according to the Five Element properties
- Meridians that the herbs have an effect on
- Specific functions, e.g. heat-clearing, Wind-damp dispelling, etc.
TCM herbs are assigned an energetic property, such as yin or yang or neutral. Thus, different herbs will be used for the same illness according to the syndrome, such as warm or cool-natured. This is in accordance with the TCM concept of syndrome differentiation and treatment.
You can use herbal medicine in the form of an herbal paste, herbal soak, topical medication, and oral consumption (e.g. food, teas, decoctions, granules, tablets, and capsules). However, it’s important to always buy your herbs from GMP-certified and GDP-certified TCM retailers to ensure optimal quality.
How To Make Easter Recipes Healthier
Herbs and spices go well in marinades, dressings, stir-fry dishes, casseroles, soups, curries, and vegetarian dishes. Adding herbs and spices to vegetable dishes may also make them more appealing for picky eaters, such as children.
Below is a list of traditional Easter recipes and suggestions for herb pairings. We’ll also discuss healthy ingredient swaps you can make without sacrificing flavor.
If you normally serve ham at Easter, then make sure you pick out one that is free from antibiotics, hormones, and additives, such as nitrates and refined sugar.
Many store-bought hams come with a honey or brown sugar glaze. Try to avoid this and make your own at home using unprocessed apple cider vinegar, raw honey, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Then coat your ham in a blend of spices that includes mustard seeds, rosemary, garlic, thyme, tarragon, oregano, black pepper, and parsley.
Egg-themed food is a great addition to your Easter brunch. Look for organic, pasture-raised eggs to ensure you’re getting the highest quality.
Most deviled eggs are made with mayonnaise. Consider finding a brand that is made with a healthy oil (such as avocado oil) and contains no added sugar.
Garnish your eggs with fresh parsley, chives, and paprika.
Many Easter recipes include casserole dishes because they’re easy to make and a great dish to feed a crowd. You can use just about whatever you have on hand, including meat, cheese, potatoes, and eggs.
However, to increase the nutritional value of your dish, be sure to use lots of vegetables, such as spinach, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, asparagus, and tomatoes.
Top your dish with sliced avocado, chopped pecans or walnuts, and fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, dill, sage, or mint.
If you’re serving Easter brunch, then you’ll probably want to include some type of bread – such as rolls, buns, or sliced bread.
You can make your bread healthier by choosing fiber-rich, gluten-free flours, including almond, coconut, flaxseed, buckwheat, or even chickpea flour.
Omit refined sugars and use apple cider vinegar instead. Better yet, try serving an herbed garlic bread made with pesto, freshly grated garlic, and parmesan cheese.
Roasted Vegetables Or Vegetable Soup
Instead of serving green bean casserole this year, why not make roasted vegetables? You’ll find plenty of vegetable-based Easter recipes on the internet.
However, you don’t have to follow a recipe. Grab your favorite vegetables – like asparagus, beets, parsnips, carrots, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, squash, or eggplant – toss them in olive oil and spices, and bake them in the oven until done.
You can also add these vegetables to an herbed-base soup. Try a pre-packaged herbal soup for convenience or use your own. Garlic, oregano, parsley, dill, mint, lemon basil, and thyme pair well with a vegetable soup.
Healthy Beverages For Your Easter Recipes
Making a healthy meal is only half the battle. If you’re trying to keep it healthy this Easter, avoid the mistake of drinking too many calories.
If you’re serving Easter brunch, then herbal teas are the way to go. They’ll pair well with your herb-themed Easter recipes. Plus, they’ll provide added nutrition.
Here are some of the best teas to serve:
- Ginseng tea: Ginseng tea is caffeine-free. It’s great for supporting immune health, regulating blood sugar levels, and providing brain support. You can read more about the benefits of ginseng here.
- Peppermint tea: Mint tea is ideal for aiding digestion. It also has anti-bacterial properties to support immune and oral health.
- Roobios tea: Roobios tea is caffeine-free and provides a good source of minerals and antioxidants. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure, promote blood circulation, prevent type 2 diabetes, and more.
- Jasmine tea: If you’re looking for something caffeinated, try Premium jasmine tea. It contains green tea and silver leaf buds combined with jasmine flower. Research shows that consuming green tea may help reduce autoimmune symptoms. It’s also ideal for lowering cholesterol and improving digestion.
- Oolong tea: Oolong tea has many of the same benefits as green tea, such as anti-obesity, and anti-aging qualities. It also provides a bit of caffeine if you’re looking for a healthy substitute for coffee.
You can also use any of these teas as a base for a fruit smoothie. This would be a great addition to any Easter brunch.
If you plan on serving alcohol, then stick with freshly squeezed orange juice for your mimosas at brunch and serve red wine at Easter dinner.
When consumed in moderation, red wine provides heart and brain health support. It also pairs well with many of the herbed Easter recipes suggested in this guide!
- PubMed. The Medical Journal of Australia. 2006. Health benefits of herbs and spices: the past, the present, the future.
- PubMed. 2019. Journal of AOAC International. Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices.
- Nature. 2019. Green tea catechins alleviate autoimmune symptoms and visual impairment in a murine model for human chronic intraocular inflammation by inhibiting Th17-associated pro-inflammatory gene expression.
- American Academy of Neurology. 2016. A Daily Glass of Beer or Red Wine May Promote Brain Health.
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