Tips on how to make instant noodles healthier for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner.
Let's be real and talk about 'instant noodles'. I am sure at some point in our lives, many of us relied on instant noodles. It's cheap, convenient, quick, filling, and delicious!! While growing up, instant noodles were 'the junk food' in Nepal at that time. Since it was a norm to eat home-cooked meals, as a kid it was a huge deal if you got to eat instant noodles - we ate them in the form of soup, as a stir fry or even raw mixed in with onions, tomatoes, and the seasoning packet (did anyone else eat instant noodles raw? I swear I am not making this up, it's pretty popular amongst Nepali people). During my sophomore year of high-school instant noodles (raw) was my lunch almost everyday but after that, I got tired of it until I moved here and noticed instant noodles in styrofoam cups. That was really weird to me because we had only packets but I got used to it rather quickly because it was a hot commodity in college. Especially if you are broke, car-less, and hungry at midnight - instant noodles was there for the rescue!
We all know very well that instant noodles are by no means healthy and I am not promoting instant noodles to be a part of your everyday meal. But, it is a comfort food for many of us (including me) and if you are on a budget - you can't deny the cost, convenience, and versatility of it. They get a bad reputation because of its poor nutritional value - it's full of carbohydrates, sodium, and fats, and no vitamins or minerals, protein, or fiber.
Most instant noodles are precooked by flash frying to increase their shelf life although I read that there are some air fried noodles which are slightly better. I am not sure how to find out if noodles are flash-fried or air fried- do you? Another culprit is the seasoning packet which is a delicious bundle of sodium and preservatives. But there are so many other foods that are equally bad if not worse around us - fast food, frozen meals etc are pretty comparable in terms of poor nutrient value...which I find it very unfair when instant noodles get singled out for being too high in calories, sodium, preservatives. Like I said, instant noodles are a total comfort food for me except for the styrofoam kind, I could never get on board with those. Lately with the temperature dropping down, I have been reaching for instant noodles and thought I should dedicate a post on 'healthyfying instant noodles' because we could all use some of that.
Some of you may argue saying why bother 'healthyfying' something that is so bad for us...I hear you there friend but my goal is to help boost the nutritional content of not-so-healthy instant noodles if you were to eat some this winter. I know I will. First and foremost, after you open the instant noodle packet, throw away the seasoning packet - don't even contemplate. By just doing so, you are easily saving hundreds of miligrams of sodium. I boil my noodles in low-sodium broth (any flavor you prefer) or a combination of water and broth to lower the sodium content even more. This adds flavor to the broth without having to use the seasoning blend. Additionally, I add garlic and onion powder (make sure its powder and NOT salt as its essentially the same thing as adding salt) and little bit of hot sauce to the boiling broth and noodles.
Adding vegetables is the easiest way to boost up the nutritional content of the instant noodles. I like to add vegetables a few minutes before the noodles are fully cooked. Just make sure to pick vegetables that softens without being too mushy such as chopped bok choy, carrots, onions. Edamame, frozen corn, peas are some other veggies that can be thrown into the boiling pot of noodles. Vegetables adds vitamins, minerals, and fiber that is missing from the instant noodles - viola!
Eggs add protein and many essential nutrients such as iron, choline, and fat-soluble vitamins. You can top noodles with fried eggs, or poached by directly breaking egg on top of the noodles, hard boiled, or gently beat eggs and pour it on noodles for an egg-drop effect. I am sure thin slices of lean meat would be a great addition here but if you were to add meat, I suggest adding them before vegetables so it has enough time to cook. Depending upon the type of meat you use, cooking time will vary so keep a close eye on it to make sure meat is fully cooked before eating. Chopped scallions/green onions, cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, bean sprouts, hot sauce etc are some toppings you can use before digging right in.
So, this is how you can 'healthify' instant noodles without losing flavor. While the soup does not exactly match the seasoning blend taste, addition of broth, spices, vegetables and eggs adds so much flavor - you will gobble up the bowl in no time and possible crave for even more. If you are worried about calories/carbohydrates from the noodles, increase the ratio of vegetables, soup, and protein to noodles.For 2 servings - I used 1.5 noodles, 5-6 cups low sodium broth, 2 bok choy chopped, 1 small carrot thinly sliced, ½ red onion thinly sliced, 2 eggs, handful of cilantro and a dollop of sriracha sauce.
your turn now...did you eat instant noodles while growing up? How about now?
have you eaten instant noodles raw or am I the only one???
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