Healthy Cooking Can Mean Experimenting with Bold Flavors and Turning Out Colorful Dishes

Dieting, Lynn Wells says, is not deprivation.

Many tend to treat it that way, but it’s a big misstep when trying to lose weight, she says.

“People automatically go into that deprivation mindset,” says Lynn, a dietitian and owner of Thyme Well Spent Personal Chef Service. “They feel like something has been taken away. And once that starts to build up, if you don’t have a good support system especially, then it’s really easy for the craving to start to take over.”

Healthy cooking can mean experimenting with bold flavors. It can mean turning out colorful dishes that are as appealing to the eye as they are to the taste buds. And it can mean not having to deny oneself.

Lynn, who has been cooking since she was 8 years old and used to supervise inpatient services at Moses Cone Hospital, says she encourages people to think about what they like to eat and find ways to make those dishes healthier.

“There are all kinds of different directions you can take,” she says. “For instance, if you want to make chili, instead of using beef, go for ground turkey.”

She shares a few recipes for people pursuing different goals in their wellness regimens.

Vegan Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free

Yield: 12 tacos

For those pursuing a heart-healthy diet.


1 head cauliflower, cored

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt  

2 carrots, shredded

1 cup purple cabbage, shredded

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

12 soft corn tortillas or Bibb lettuce leaves

12 lime wedges

1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Place cauliflower florets in a food processor. You may need to do this in two batches. Pulse cauliflower until it resembles the size of peas. Do not over-chop. Place chopped cauliflower in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk together 2 tablespoons oil, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt. Pour over chopped cauliflower, and toss to coat.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When skillet is hot, add cauliflower mixture and stir until cauliflower begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Cauliflower should still be slightly crunchy. Add black beans, stir and turn off heat. Salt to taste.

In a separate bowl, add carrots, cabbage, cilantro and lime juice. Toss to coat.

Fill either corn tortillas or lettuce leaf “cup” with cauliflower and bean filling. Top with carrots and cabbage. Garnish with lime wedge and chopped peanuts. Great with fresh avocado and your favorite hot sauce.

Baby Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken, Fresh Oranges and Toasted Almonds

Yield: 8 dinner salads

High in vitamin E, this is good for those worried about healthy skin.   


 For the salad:

 1/2 cup slivered almonds

 10 cups organic baby spinach, stems removed (optional)

 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

 3 large oranges, peeled and cut into sections

 2 pounds chicken tenders, grilled or baked with seasoning

For the lemon-honey vinaigrette:

 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

 Juice from 2 lemons

 2 tablespoons honey

 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste


Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast almonds in hot skillet until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.

Place spinach in a large salad bowl or on individual salad plates; top with red pepper, orange slices, chicken and almonds.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, lemon juice and honey. Gradually add olive oil and continue whisking until dressing becomes a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over the salad, and toss lightly to coat.

Fresh Blackened Salmon with Mango Salsa

A good source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins D, B3 and B12.


For the salmon:

1 tablespoon sweet smoky paprika (or regular paprika)

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 fresh salmon fillets (6 ounces)

3 tablespoons butter or ghee

1 lime

Olive oil as needed

For the mango salsa:

3 mangos, peeled and diced

1/2 red onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 jalapeno, diced (about 2 tablespoons)

Zest from 1 lime

Juice from 2 limes

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together dry ingredients. Coat salmon filets on all sides with seasoning.

In a heavy cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat, melt butter (or ghee) and a drizzle of olive oil.

Carefully place salmon in hot pan and cook for 3 minutes, basting salmon with butter. Flip salmon with spatula, and cook another 3 to 5 minutes or until center is just flaky. Baste with butter. Remove from skillet, and squeeze juice from one lime over fish.

In a glass mixing bowl, mix together mangoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno and lime zest. Sprinkle salt, lime juice and toss. Serve as a side or on top of the salmon.