Make healthy food that tastes good with these low calorie, simple, and easy additions to any recipe. Learn how building flavor contributes to deliciousness and satiety.
Most of us have a few healthy foods that we hate. And most likely, we adamantly avoid them simply because we tried them once and didn’t like them. But odds are it was because they were prepared terribly.
Ultimately, we have to point the finger at the low-fat diet push in the 80s, that has since been withdrawn. But at the time, diets like Weight Watchers started releasing recipes with no fat and unfortunately no taste.
These were the days of boiled brussel sprouts, tomato sauce covered baked fish, and flavorless, tasteless health food.
These recipes single-handedly ruined amazing and delicious vegetables and cuts of meat for people for the rest of their life. I know I definitely disliked quite a few vegetables, simply because they were not prepared well. Same goes with fish, steak, and other lean cuts of meat. And I carried that “dislike” for years, avoiding health and delicious foods because of one bad experience.
But healthy food does not have to be bland, boiled, and boring. You can make healthy food that tastes good. There are tons of additions that can make any recipe better, without having to add more calories.
Things like sauces, dips, and condiments are a quick and easy way to add more flavor to a dish, but they are also a surefire way to add more calories.
So instead, here are 7 amazing low-calorie flavor enhancers that are tasty and satisfying, and you can add to any recipe, dish, or food.
Low Calorie Flavor Enhancers
1. Herbs & Spices
The world of herbs and spices is absolutely endless. Literally, you can go around the world, visiting and learning about cultures on your plate.
Try picking something new and finding a recipe for it. The more you use them, and create your own unique blends of flavors you enjoy, you’ll start to expand your palette and your culinary skill. Make sure to find high quality spices and herbs, they can be pricey at times. But I highly recommend Penzey’s Spices for exceptional quality, flavor, and customer service.
I also enjoy using pre-blended spices for steak seasonings, Italian blend seasonings, and Asian curry blends. Once I get familiar with them, I can break down the blends and customize them to my taste. There are also some great seasonings at Trader Joe’s. If you’re on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, which is absolutely worth the hype.
2. Lemon & Lime Juice
Lemon and lime juice is one of the biggest restaurant secrets. Just a squirt of lemon can completely change the flavor profile of a meal. You can add it while cooking, or add it fresh prior to serving for different experiences.
I find the acidic citrus cuts really well through fatty or savory foods. And makes a fantastic addition to any salad or vegetable. I use limes and lemons pretty interchangeably, but usually prefer lemon for certain things, as limes have a slightly sweeter flavor profile.
You can use fresh or purchase the bottles which tend to last a little longer. And there is research that suggests lemon actually helps you digest your food because the enzymes start to break it down in advance.
3. Salsa/Bruschetta/Texas Caviar
Tomato based “salsas” are a fantastic and low calorie addition to literally any meal. I enjoy making a simple salsa or pico de gallo of just diced tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, a squirt of lime, and some salt. If you let it marinate for a few hours it makes a perfect taco salad dressing or on top of grilled chicken.
You can change up the flavor profile by swapping out certain ingredients. Like, swap red onions, add some olives, artichokes, and Italian seasoning for an easy bruschetta. It is good on crackers, baked chicken, or toasted bread.
And my personal favorite is Texas Caviar, once again a tomato based salsa, that is fortified with beans, peppers, and corn. It is full of flavor, and after sitting for a bit also makes a delicious and hardy dressing for salads. Or you can just eat it with tortilla chips!
You can see my Southwestern Salad to the left taken from my Instagram @Brit.to.fit. It is just romaine lettuce, taco seasoned chicken, cucumber, the Texas Caviar (packed full of veggies and protein), and a little avocado dressing.
Of all the things on this list, garlic, onion, and shallot are my absolute favorite. And I personally add them to almost everything I cook.
Not only are these nutritionally valuable prebiotics, but they add so much depth and color to any food. I buy a huge jar of minced garlic because we use it so much it is just more convenience. But dried or fresh are both delicious. You can also try chives or green onions which tend to have a fairly long shelf life.
Shallot is something you might not have tried before, it is a blend between onion and garlic. It is very pungent and is great in the base of sauces.
5. Salt & Pepper
Salt and pepper are the foundation of flavorful food. And if you’re concerned with consuming sodium while losing weight, check out our article: Sodium & Weight Gain.
If you’re consuming high quality pink Himalayan Salt or sea salt you don’t need to worry, just avoid table salt. Make sure to add this combo prior to cooking any meat or vegetables as it assists in the cooking process.
And experiment with all the different types of peppers, black, white, and red peppercorns. Since I use these so much, I have a grinder for each and purchase whole peppercorns and salt rocks at the supermarket so its always fresh.
6. Hot Sauce/Chili Sauce
As long as you check ingredients for sugars, additives, and any rogue MSG, these are usually fairly low calorie and add quite a kick to any dish. There are so many different flavors and heat levels, you’re bound to find one you like. We usually have 2-5 different types in the fridge at any one time.
There are Mexican based hot sauces, and Asian based chili sauces to name just a few. But you can always add more for extra heat, or use them to create low calorie dressings or dips. I like to splash some on eggs, chicken, or in salads.
7. Marinades (watch for sugars)
Most marinades have some kind of sugar, which does add some calories. But if you make your own, or control for the sugar, marinades can be a great way to add flavor to lean cuts of meat or chicken.
You can prep them in advance, freeze in the marinade, or mix the night before. Some only need to sit for 20 minutes while others need a few hours.
But the flavor combinations are endless, and there are so many different profiles to embrace. For some delicious marinades, check out @meowmeix on Instagram. They are low calorie and full of health ingredients.