Stop adding calories to your food. Add flavor instead!

Flavor can be a huge deterrent when trying to eat cleaner, healthier and simpler meals. I can attest to this, as I always feel like I want to add a dipping sauce or something to my dish. However, acting on those impulses to add marinades, cream sauces, or butter to a meal can pack a serious caloric punch, while derailing your diet efforts.

All calories aside, eating lean protein, steamed vegetables, and whole grains can make anyone crave a little more spice in their lives. Fortunately, there are ways to add just as much flavor to a dish as with sauces and butter, without the caloric overload.

4933008255_6dd4f05446The flavor tips below all add a small number of calories to a dish, while adding big amounts of flavor. Each one is easy to modify or mix and match,  so you can make sure you the food on your plate always tastes inviting.

  • Lemon Juice: Lemon juice pairs very well with meats like chicken and fish, as it adds a bit of a zesty flavor. You can also use lemon juice as a dressing over salads.
  • Hot Sauce: Hot sauce obviously packs a punch to any food’s flavor. Not one for too much heat, I prefer to just add a few drops. However, hot sauce is a great tie to grilled meats, for example.
  • Cucumber: Cucumber is a great way to add flavor to water instead of sugary drinks or juices. My personal favorite: letting cucumber, limes, lemons, and oranges seep in water overnight in a pitcher.
  • Oregano: Take that oregano away from the pizza and add it to some healthier options. Oregano is a great addition to chicken dishes, salads, or as a rub.
  • Curry: Probably my very favorite seasoning, curry is so versatile. Curry can be a delicious addition to whole grains, roasted vegetables, tofu, and other lean proteins.
  • Vegetable Broth: Replacing some of the oil while you cook with vegetable broth is a great way to cut calories while still adding flavor. Try to pick the low-sodium option, this version is generally better for your overall health.
  • Cumin: Cumin provides an alternative to just plain black pepper. The spice has a peppery flavor, but adds a little nuttiness as well. This makes it a good addition to chicken, popcorn, and many others.
  • Unsweetened applesauce: One of my favorite substitutions in baking or cooking a dish is using unsweetened applesauce. Adding this instead of butters or creams cuts the fat content in a dish by half.
  • Nuts: Add a handful of nuts to salads, yogurts, or baked goods for added nutrition. Nuts are heart healthy and full of flavor.
  • Rosemary: A good source of iron and calcium, rosemary is the perfect pairing with roasted chicken. You can also add dried rosemary to potatoes and roasted vegetables.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as being heart healthy. Add a teaspoon to coffee, oatmeal, or yogurt.
  • Instant Coffee: Instant coffee might not be something you think of right away to add flavor, but it has some great options. Add it to smoothies, or sprinkle it on yogurt, for example.
  • Cocoa Powder: Not only does cocoa powder add a bit of sweetness to snacks like raw nuts, or in smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal, but it also satisfies chocolate cravings. One tablespoon of cocoa powder contains iron, calcium, and antioxidants.

What are some of your favorite flavor combinations?

Photo credit: Zak Greant

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