When most people think of ramen, they think of it as comfort food. And to be fair, there’s a lot of truth to that! Dig into a bowl of ramen, and it warms you up and makes you feel mighty good.
But just because ramen is comfort food doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy. With the right noodles and ingredients, you can build a wholesome bowl of ramen that meets all your nutritional needs.
1. Start With Healthy Ramen Noodles
The main ingredient in a bowl of ramen noodles is the noodles themselves! That much should come as no surprise. But what’s actually in the noodles?
Restaurant-quality ramen noodles are made with flour, salt, and some special alkaline water. That’s it. You might expect to see some preservatives in pre-packaged ramen, but there shouldn’t be any other ingredients in the noodles.
Unfortunately, most instant ramen brands don’t prepare their noodles in this way. Ramen bar-style noodles are steamed, which gives them a chewy, bouncy texture. Instead, the major brands flash fry their noodles in palm oil, which allows them to produce noodle packets as fast as possible.
But residual oil gets left behind in the noodles and ends up in your broth. Besides introducing a lot of oil, fried noodles don’t have the same texture, and palm oil extraction is not sustainable.
Mike’s Mighty Good noodles are steamed, not flash fried. This delivers a lighter texture like you get from a proper ramen bar noodle and the perfect bite. Plus, the fact that the noodles aren’t fried allows them to complement, not overpower the broth they’re in. There’s no replacement for a noodle that’s been properly prepared.
2. Look for Low-Sodium Ramen
Sodium is one of the more poorly understood nutrients in the world. That’s right, we said “nutrients.” Sodium is literally essential to your survival. Along with calcium and magnesium, it helps facilitate communications in your nervous system. Without it, you would literally be dead.
But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and the average American diet contains way more sodium than is healthy. Most of this sodium comes from packaged foods, where it’s used for flavor and as a preservative. In fact, the FDA recently asked food companies to reduce their sodium usage voluntarily.
If you had to come up with a list of salty foods, you’d probably think of popular snack foods. Potato chips, cheese puffs, pretzels, and other similar snacks are all famous for their salt content. But instant ramen is also a frequent offender – and we’re not talking about the noodles, which have a negligible amount of salt. We’re talking about the flavor packet, which often contains over 50% of your daily recommended sodium.
We should point out that this isn’t just a health matter. Salt is often used as a substitute for complex, nuanced blends of spices. It’s cheaper for the manufacturer, and your taste buds are so overloaded with salt that you can’t taste anything else anyway.
Mike’s Mighty Good flavor packets still contain some salt, but they have much less of it – up to 40% less than the big commercial players. Instead, we use all kinds of herbs and spices to create a unique flavor profile for each packet. It’s the same ramen you love, but with the grown-up flavor you deserve. Learn more about how MMG is different from other instant ramen brands.
3. Mix Up Your Own Seasoning
As we just mentioned, Mike’s Mighty Good seasoning packets have way less salt than other brands. But no matter how creative we get with our flavor packets, there’s an almost infinite number of possible flavor combinations. We can only make so many!
Thankfully, you can always add your own spices and flavorings. Kick things up a notch with some chili oil, or add some Chinese vinegar if you want a little bite. If you want something really spicy, you can mix in some chili paste. Of course, those are just a few of the flavorings you can use. Consider some of these other ideas:
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Sriracha sauce
- Curry powder
- Sesame seeds
- Red pepper
- Gojuchang sauce
4. Add Some Veggies
So far, we’ve talked a lot about noodles and broth. But in and of itself, that’s not a complete, healthy meal. At best, it’s a filling snack. If you want to have a healthy meal, you’re going to have to mix in some vegetables. Better yet, you can use more than one kind of vegetable to get a diversity of nutrients.
Fortunately, ramen is basically a blank slate. You can add pretty much anything to it, and it’s going to taste just fine. So if you’re in a bind, you can scrounge through your fridge and pantry and see what you have laying around. That said, there are some vegetables that turn up again and again in ramen recipes:
- Green onions
- Bok choy
- Corn or baby corn
- Shiitake mushrooms
5. Remember Your Protein
Now we have a bowl of noodles, broth, and veggies. We’ve got a meal! But if you want more energy to power through the day, you’ll need some protein. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to eat some protein with every meal. Your body needs protein to repair itself, and the energy from protein takes longer to metabolize. This means you get a consistent source of energy throughout the day, not just a single rush of carbs.
Thankfully, there are many ways to add protein to your ramen. Here are some options, including a few vegan choices:
Kimchi is a food that’s less well-known in the United States than it probably should be. It’s a popular fermented Korean dish that’s made from fermented cabbage.
Kimchi is often served with tofu. If you cut your tofu into small cubes and mix it into the kimchi, it will absorb some of the flavor. You can even make a marinade with kimchi juice, garlic, sesame oil, and other spices, and let it sit overnight. Fry the tofu with the marinade while you make the ramen, and you’ll be good to go.
When adding kimchi itself, it’s best to wait a couple of minutes for the broth to cool. Kimchi is probiotic, but if it gets cooked, the friendly bacteria will die.
7. Use a Healthy Recipe
Still need help making your instant ramen healthier? Here are a few healthy ramen recipes you can try.
- Kung Pao Ramen Stir Fry – This is a spicy, tangy recipe that’s made with a fried chicken garlic pack. But instead of adding chicken, you fry some tofu in soy sauce, and fry a separate herb and spice blend. Your noodles go into the spice pan, and you drop the tofu on top. A bit of Chinese vinegar gives it some much-needed bite.
- Mongolian Beef Noodle Stir Fry – This is a big recipe that’s meant for two people. It’s a classic Mongolian beef, recipe, with garlic-fried steak, carrots, and broccoli, along with a little brown sugar to give the dish its signature sweetness.
- Veggie Ramen Noodle Stir Fry – If you’re vegetarian or vegan, this is a great way to go. It includes a blend of multiple vegetables, including bok choy, green onions, and minced garlic. Soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and chili paste provide their own medley of flavors. But why stop there? Experiment with some veggies from your fridge, and see what you come up with!
Ramen in and of itself is neither healthy or unhealthy. It’s just water, flour, and a little salt. What matters is how those ingredients are prepared, and what other ingredients you combine with them. Done correctly, it’s nourishing and delicious too. Shop Mike's Mighty Good ramen here.