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Eye Candy: Color, Flavor, Nutrition

More than "garnish"
There's an easy, and often overlooked, way to add flavor, color, and nutrition to just about any meal without adding a lot of extra calories. Add fresh herbs, other green or colorful vegetables, and edible flowers to the meal plan. Doesn't take much to make a huge difference as you can see in the photo above.

Color is everywhere
In your garden, at the farmers market, or in the produce department of your local grocer, color is everywhere. Take advantage of that and shop for color.

Color is nutrition as well as eye candy. The pigments that determine color contain powerful nutrients.

The red/purple antioxidants called anthocyanins are one such example. They're found in red and blue grapes, blueberries, strawberries, beets, eggplant, red cabbage, red peppers, plums and red apples to name a few.

Orange pigments, found in carrots, mangoes, cantaloupe, winter squash and sweet potatoes, contain the cancer-fighter alpha carotene, along with beta carotene, a substance that protects the skin.

And that list goes on. Yellow/orange, green, and even white/green vegetables such as garlic, onions, leeks, celery, asparagus, pears and green grapes all contain powerful nutrition.

The "trick" is getting enough of them in our daily diet. One way to help with that is to think of colorful fruits and vegetables as "eye candy" on the dinner plate. Something that, by virtue of its good looks, draws people into the plate... Something that contains a promise, through visual appeal, of great flavor to come... Something that, with its tantalizing aroma, starts the juices flowing... Eye candy, in other words.

Your eye candy might be, like the first photo above, a "course" in the meal plan. Raw tomatoes--especially in the summer when they're found at your local farmers market in abundance--are a good start. Here's another, very similar, use of tomato and peppers as eye candy in a very simple manner with a brunch frittata.

Eye candy can be quite simple
Yes, it's as simple as slicing up some green and red, then arranging them on the plate. Or, it could be yellow, orange, and red, green and yellow, or any other combination you like.

Put colorful things together that taste good together. Yes, if the colors look good together and the combination tastes good together, then that's it. Simple.

There's no need for fancy slicing and dicing devices or a widget that puts frilly edges on everything. Really: Forget about it. Use a knife. It will be beautiful on the plate.

Beautiful because the vegetables and fruits are beautiful. You picked them out yourself because they were fresh, bright, and ripe so, of course they're beautiful. Let's go with that. It's works.

If you'd like to see some of the fancy stuff, check out John Poon's photos.

Yes, eye candy can be fancy, too
Once you begin doing this, it becomes a habit. So, start now. Go to your local farmers market or grocer and get some color. Scan the produce section for those small additions that turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Don't forget fresh herbs. A few sprigs of fresh basil next to those fresh, ripe tomatoes is a classic combination. A little oregano with it puts the whole thing over the top. People will talk about that one for years.

Want more ideas on using fresh basil? Try this quick read over at Food Network: 10 Great Ways to Use Up Fresh Basil

Get some chives or flat-leaf parsley. Go for the cilantro. Stick them, whole--stalk and all, in containers (a small drinking glass works) with a bit of water in the bottom. Drape them with paper towel and then cover with plastic (wrap or bag) and keep in the fridge.

Frog lids for mason jars (used for flower arrangements) can be found at craft stores and work well also. Herbs stay fresh for days--even weeks--as long as you keep the stem ends wet and the leaves away from the plastic.

Steamed artichoke, celery remoulade salad,
apple topped with mango salsa
Fruits are colorful, nutritious and lend themselves to use as eye candy as well... Everything from berries to mango and apple.

In fact, just about everything and anything edible is fair game in the eye candy department. There aren't any limits except your own tastes and preferences.

So, it's healthy, nutritious, beautiful, and easy to do. How can you go wrong with low fat, fiber rich, colorful additions to any meal that contain powerful, natural disease fighting chemicals?

Start adding some eye candy to your next meal... See, smell, and taste the difference it makes.

A landscape of color