7 Good-for-You Garnishes

Pepper Confetti

This vibrant garnish is made by dicing different colored raw bell peppers into tiny squares, about 1/8-inch thick. Peppers come in a variety of colors such as green, red, yellow, orange, purple and even white. These colorful vegetables are not only low in calories, but they provide a wide range of nutrients from vitamin C to B complexes. B complex aids in cellular metabolism and vitamin C aids in immune and cardio health. Pepper confetti can be sprinkled on salads, added to a plate of appetizers, or used as the final touch on chicken fajitas.

Fruit Zest

Zest from oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit contains the essential oils in these fruits. It captures the "spray" that is released when peeling an orange, for example. These oils add strong flavor, as well as color. You can capture zest by using a grater, vegetable peeler or zester. Take care to avoid the white pith, which is unpleasantly bitter.

Grated zest, which is high in vitamin C, can be added to sauteed vegetables or rice medleys, while zest strips and spirals are often used in cocktails and other beverages. Mix zest with citrus juice to enhance the acidic flavor of salad dressings or to balance soups and desserts.

More: 18 Energy-Boosting Fruits

Foams

Blend vegetable or fruit puree with milk using a whisk or hand-held immersion blender to create foam, similar to the foam on a cappuccino but thinner. The foam adds beautiful color, sheen and height to a dish. Depending on what is added to the milk, the nutrients will vary. Milk itself is high in vitamin D and calcium for good bone health.

Nuts and Seeds

Seeds and nuts are high in protein, which helps to stabilize blood sugar, and also high in fiber, which aids the digestive system. Nuts offer a variety of nutritional benefits: almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, which help to raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol); walnuts contain high levels of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids; flax seeds also contain omega-3s. Raw nuts offer the highest amount of nutrients, but toasting them enhances the flavor. Consider these garnishes:

  • Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, on squash soup or baked sweet potatoes
  • Sliced or slivered almonds as a garnish for salads and sauteed vegetables
  • Chopped walnuts sprinkled atop salads, seared scallops or grilled salmon
  • Flax seeds added to smoothies, oatmeal or yogurt parfaits

More: The Importance of Nuts and Seed in an Athlete's Diet

Here are a few more healthy garnish ideas:

  • Top a cooked dish with a raw garnish; put julienned carrot curls on top of carrot casserole
  • Drizzle olive oil into soups or other dishes for an elegant finish
  • Chop olives and mix with minced garlic and parsley for a flavorful relish
  • Puree fresh herbs and mix with olive oil or yogurt for a healthy dressing
  • Use a vegetable peeler on a bar of dark chocolate to create curls or ribbons to top desserts
  • Cut fruits and vegetables into intriguing shapes with tiny hors d'oeuvre cutters
  • Create strawberry fans by thinly slicing berries (leave stem intact) and arranging them around the plate

More: The Health Benefits of Avocados

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