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No More Bland Diet Food!

5 Low-Fat Flavor Boosters You'll Love
  -- By Bryn Mooth, SparkPeople Contributor
All of us are striving to cook in a way that's healthy and simple. Unfortunately, healthy and simple can sometimes add up to bland: A plain piece of broiled fish or baked chicken isn’t particularly exciting, right?

The remedy for the healthy-but-boring dilemma is easy: Stock your pantry with a few strategic items that consistently bring a little "spark" to your cooking without adding significant cost or calories. Start with great basic ingredients, prepare them simply, and then add a punch of flavor to really elevate the dish.

Add flavor without all the fat by trying these five "secret" ingredients!

Lemon Juice
Squeeze half a lemon (6 calories per serving) over just about anything, and you’ll get a burst of flavor that’s bright and expressive. Here are some ideas:
Sure, you know about garlic. But here’s an insider technique that really brings out garlic’s flavor. Place a large unpeeled clove on a cutting board; place the blade of a chef’s knife flat to cover the garlic, and hit it sharply with your palm. This makes it easy to remove the papery skin. Trim off the root end and remove any green sprout inside. Hold the knife at about a 45-degree angle to the cutting board, and firmly draw the blade across the smashed garlic repeatedly, creating a paste. If your recipe calls for salt, then sprinkle some on the garlic as you work; the salt is abrasive and helps mash the garlic. Add this paste to salad dressing, marinade or a sauté pan instead of using chopped garlic. <pagebreak>

Think beyond basic black pepper and try pimenton, cayenne and red pepper flakes for a new range of flavors. Pepper is essentially calorie-free and doesn't carry the health risks that salt (sodium) does. Try these varieties:
Herb blends
Yep, you know the ones that are sitting in jars gathering dust in your cabinet. How many of us buy specialty blends and then completely forget we have them? But interesting herb mixes can add tremendous flavor to simple dishes. (Hint: If you have no idea when you purchased that jar of Italian seasoning, then you should pitch it and get a new one—then USE IT! Jarred herbs and spices lose their flavor after more than a year.) You can find good herb or spice blends in the grocery, but the specialty retailers are really worth checking out—their proprietary blends are terrific, and make wonderful gifts for yourself or for foodies you know. I recommend these two: The Spice House and Penzey's.

You can always find these herb/spice blends in my kitchen:
Simple, vegetable- or herb-based sauces make flavorful, low-cal toppings for grilled or broiled meats. Try these ideas:

As you can see, eating healthy doesn't have to be tasteless or boring. Once you try these secret ingredients, you'll be hooked!