10 Ways to Add Flavor, Not Calories

Jan 20, 2014
Sidney Yang

flavor without caloriesEven with all of our excitement for the new year ahead, some resolutions can leave us skeptic. One question we are often asked by readers is how to add more flavor to food, and especially without relying on sugar, fat or salt. Without being a professional cook, it is amazing how simple it is to brighten up a dish with just a pinch of spices or using ready-made condiment in an innovative way. So if you want to cook more balanced food but refuse to settle for bland meals that taste diet-y, here are 10 stealth weapons to flavor up your food.

Mini semisweet chocolate chips
Get your chocolate fix for just 75 calories per tablespoon. You can mix chocolate chips with almost anything: oatmeal, low-fat popcorn, granola, homemade cereal bars, fruit desserts and homemade ice creams.

Freshly ground black pepper
Don’t be afraid of pepper! A good quality black pepper makes wonders in your salads and soups. Crush a few peppercorns and smell them in your hand, you’ll discover a world of flavors.

BBQ sauce
You may like tangy barbecue sauce on chicken and pork, but your should try it on seafood, it’s amazing. Make shrimp rolls with a strip of center cut bacon coated with BBQ sauce, tons of flavor for a low-calorie appetizer!

Salt-free seasoning blends
Sprinkle straight onto lean meats, chicken or fish before baking or searing. These spice mixes are also ideal for making an instant marinade: mix 2 tablespoons olive oil or yogurt, 1 tablespoon seasoning mix, ground pepper, 1 teaspoon dried herbs (oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary…) and marinate for 5 minutes before cooking. Add salt at the last minute at the end of cooking.

Taco seasoning mix
Think beyond tacos and sprinkle some into scrambled egg whites for a spiced-up breakfast. Mix some into extra-lean ground beef for a twist on your regular meatloaf.

Infuse with tea
Use your favorite blend of green tea, black tea, Russian or chai to poach fish and veggies. Zero calorie for a maximum of taste!

Lemon juice
This classic of seasoning is often overlooked, a dash of lemon juice brighten up any dish, especially fish.

Ranch dressing/ dip seasoning mix
Just toss a bit of ranch mix over a raw chicken breast before cooking, it acts like an instant marinade. And mix with greek yogurt when you want to dress up a salad or a veggies side dish.

Sweet Asian chili sauce
This thick and peppery condiment brings sweet heat to chicken or vegetables for just about 40 calories per tablespoon. Hot tip: Try it on sugar snap peas.

Seasoned rice vinegar
Even if its raw taste may feel strange in your mouth, this lightly sweetened vinegar is great in stir-fries, sprinkled over steamed green vegetables, or straight up as a salad dressing. Try one of the fun flavor from Nakano —roasted garlic or citrus— with thinly sliced cucumber or zucchini for a quickie pickle-like snack.

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