How to flavour food without adding calories

20 April 2017 by
First published: 26 January 2016

Have you ever wondered how to flavour food without adding calories? Many condiments rely on refined salt, fat and sugar to enhance flavour and the extra calories can add up quickly. The hidden sugar content in prepackaged sauces can be surprisingly high and it can hide under many names such as: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, sucrose or rice syrup. And a couple of tablespoons of salty fish or soy sauce could easily surpass the daily sodium limit. But there’s no need to only eat bland-tasting food. Start by substituting table salt with a mineral-rich version, such as sea salt or the pink Himalayan variety, and switch processed sugar with a natural sweetener with lower glycemic index (meaning it won’t spike your blood glucose levels and make you store sugar as fat), like stevia or coconut sugar. Then follow these simple tips to brighten up your dishes without the extra calories.

Experiment with miso paste

Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans that’s filled with vitamins, protein and beneficial bacteria. You can use it instead of salt in virtually any vegetable recipe – like soups and stir-fries. It can also bring a richer flavour when cooking grains, beans, meat or fish marinades. And when blended with a bit of tahini, ginger and lime, it makes a unique and refreshing salad dressing.

Go the extra mile with spices

We all know that spices have a really low calorie content and can make food taste as flavourful as using a fancy store-bought condiment. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice help reduce the amount of sugar used in desserts, breads and other baked goods. While spices like cumin, curry powder, and ginger are used in savoury dishes, like stews or soups. So what about making your own mixes? Use them with your favourite meat, fish, egg or veggie recipe and have them to hand when cooking. It will stop you from reaching for sauces that are loaded with artificial sweeteners and processed fats.

Add a little zing

Lemon is a great detoxifier and its acidity will lift the flavours of food to a whole new level, but why not use limes, grapefruit and oranges as well? They will taste great when squeezed onto grilled veggies, fish, chicken, and sweet potatoes. And don’t discard the zest, it’s not just for cookies and desserts. Use it to finish savoury dishes as a sprinkle, to brighten up a rich stew or salad and add zing to a stir-fry or vegetable sauté.

Don’t fear real healthy calories

You’re probably already snacking on nuts and seeds but are you cooking with them? You should! They give great texture to pasta dishes and pilafs and can thicken up soups or sauces without the added bad cholesterol and trans-fats of ready-made products. With their deeply-satisfying taste, plus their healthy nutrients (omega-3, protein, minerals), they’re the perfect finishing touch for a chef-worthy meal.