Nutrition Articles

No More Bland Diet Food!

5 Low-Fat Flavor Boosters You'll Love

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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:
  • Toss a bowlful of Bibb or butter head lettuce with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper, and you have a fantastic (not to mention cheaper and healthier) alternative to bottled salad dressing.

  • Spritz lemon juice over steamed, grilled or sautéed green vegetables of any kind: broccoli, snap peas, fresh spinach, asparagus, green beans, zucchini. For even brighter flavor, grate the rind of half a lemon using a microplane or zester, and add that to the dish. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Add lemon juice to marinade for chicken; when cooked, it will create a more tender and juicy dish. Squeeze lemon juice over a grilled steak.

  • Make a compound butter: Combine 1 stick of salted butter (softened at room temperature) with the zest of 1 lemon and 2 Tbsp. of finely minced parsley. Wrap in waxed paper; place in a zip-top bag and store in the freezer. Use this to sauté vegetables or to top grilled steak or fish; a little bit (35 calories per tablespoon) goes a long way—and adds a ton of flavor.

  • Try preserved lemons: Traditionally a Mediterranean ingredient, lemons that have been preserved in salt punch up a range of dishes. Buy them at a specialty food store, or make your own—it’s super easy to do; here’s how. Add preserved lemon to marinades, dressings or rubs for grilled or roasted meat.
Garlic
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.
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About The Author

Bryn Mooth Bryn Mooth
Bryn Mooth is an independent copywriter and journalist focused on food, wellness and design; she's also a Master Gardener and enthusiastic green thumb. She shares seasonal recipes, kitchen techniques, healthy eating tips and food wisdom on her blog writes4food.com.

Member Comments

  • A big YES to Penzey's spices! They have some wonderful blends including several salt free ones. Forward is my favorite go-to general blend; if you want more herby, Mural of Flavor is really good. They even have a BBQ blend that is only 35mg sodium/serving and quite tasty. And if you are adventurous, try some Tsar Dust on your pizza. (not a hot blend) Different, but really good. My son lets me know if I forget to add it! You can also sign up for their catalog that includes a LOT of good recipes, excellent descriptions of the herbs and spices, and frequently a coupon. - 2/22/2014 8:26:40 AM
  • I've started using fresh squeezed lemon juice on a lot of foods lately. And my husband hates anything healthy so I have been spicing things up with cayenne and he has been more open to eating different things that way. - 8/10/2013 9:47:04 AM
  • I'm totally on board with these suggestions. I have to say, though, the model in the picture is WAY too excited about that salad.... - 1/25/2013 10:58:22 AM
  • I can't eat regular food; but my daughter is a chef and she use different kind of thins to give great taste to the food w/out calories and I like the smell of the food she cooks. My husband like her food. - 8/21/2012 12:16:40 AM
  • GIANT-STEPS
    My favorite way to cook fresh green beans is to steam them just a little (still should snap) then sprinkle with lemon juice and Parmesan. Simple but so good.

    I like various seaosoned salts. I keep regular seasoned salt as well as cajun seasoning. The extra spicy seasoned salt is so good on grilled corn on the cob!

    Another great seasoning is one at health food stores called Vegit. It is a low-sodium seasoning with great flavor; I love it on baked potatoes. Spike is another good one but is saltier; they have a salt free version of Spike but I don't care for it. - 7/4/2011 1:59:33 PM
  • I just learned a new use for lemon juice... I am not very good at eating fruits, I am more of a veggie person, but I just got home from France and over there we ate apple and banana slices with lemon juice over them. It was delicious and now I crave it here at home!

    Another spice I can't live without (and it may not be so healthy because it does have salt in it), is garlic pepper salt. It's wonderful on most anything, particularly cooked veggies. Sometimes it is hard to find in regular grocery stores, so check out your local drugstore or even the Dollar type of stores, that is where I get mine.

    Good article! - 5/26/2011 1:12:47 AM
  • This article is fantastic, I will have to try some of Bryn's suggestions in cooking for my husband who I am trying to cook healthier for (less fat and sodium). Will check out Bryn's website too, and will save this article to my spark favorites. - 5/24/2011 1:14:44 PM