If you are currently in lockdown, chances are you are not as physically active as usual. If you are concerned about gaining unnecessary weight but find healthy eating “bland”, the solution is to use low calorie flavour boosters.
As discussed in a previous article, one way of lowering your energy intake is to cook your meals at home instead of buying takeaway. We have also seen that homemade salad dressings are likely healthier than store-bought ones, however they are not necessarily lower in energy.
Balancing flavour and energy density is not difficult to achieve if you are familiar with certain ingredients and willing to experiment.
Low calorie flavour boosters for food
The following ingredients can help you add flavour to salads, stews, soups, etc.
- Hot sauce: ideally one without sugar such as Tabasco original or Frank’s Red Hot, great in stews, pasta sauce, on eggs and even in salads
- Vinegar: except for caramelised balsamic which usually has sugar, obviously great in salads but also great in marinades and added as a finishing touch to stews and soups to add brightness
- Lime juice: the quintessential ingredient for Peruvian salads and ceviche, also great in Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican dishes and used to pickle vegetables (such as onions)
- Lemon juice: similar to lime juice, can be used in salads and to pickle vegetables but also added to chicken and fish dishes
- Citrus zest: the zest of limes, lemons, mandarins, oranges, grapefruit and tangelos is often overlooked but it is a flavoursome addition to salad dressings, marinades, baked goods, etc.
- Pickle juice: another excellent way to introduce brightness and acidity particularly in salads. I love to add it to coleslaw.
- Olive brine: great added to salad dressings, especially French/Italian inspired
- Tomato paste: great added to stews, pasta sauces, etc.
- Vegemite: not only for toast! It adds umami to stews and pasta sauces
- Worcestershire sauce: similar to Vegemite, it’s an umami booster for stews, pasta sauces and condiments such as tonkatsu sauce
- Soy sauce: added to a multitude of Asian (and fusion) dishes but also great in salad dressings, marinades, curries, soups, etc.
- Fish sauce: a little goes a long way! It’s great in Thai/Vietnamese/Cambodian dishes from salads to stews, curries and soups
- Miso: the fermented soybean paste is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine but can also be added to stews and marinades of different cuisines. It is not energy-free (it has some protein and carbs) but is low in energy.
- Mustard: great in salad dressings and as a condiment on the side, but also as part of sauces in hot dishes and dipping sauces (try it mixed with soy sauce!)
- Spices and spice blends: used extensively in all sorts of dishes but also great when used in marinades, salad dressings and sprinkled on eggs. My favourite spice blends include dukkah, furikake and shichimi togarashi.
- Fresh herbs: similar to spices, great for garnishes, marinades and salad dressings
- Fermented vegetables: such as sauerkraut and kimchi which not only count towards your vegetable intake but are also a source of probiotics (if not pasteurised). They work great as a side dish but also added to salads, eggs, rice dishes (e.g. fried rice), sandwiches, wraps, etc.
- Smoked/flavoured salts: there are lots of smoked and flavoured salts available or you can make your own. They are great for adding flavour to otherwise “boring” foods such as steamed/roasted vegetables, eggs, etc.
- Seaweed/seaweed powder: bring a rich umami ocean flavour to any dish, plus contain iodine and other nutrients
- Mushroom powder: another umami booster that can be added to soups, stews, marinades, egg dishes, etc.
Low calorie flavour boosters for drinks
Whether you choose to drink alcohol or not, sometimes adding a bit of flavour can help you stay away from sugary and/or energy dense drinks. Below are a few of my favourite ways to add flavour to your water, soda water or spirit of choice.
- Citrus juice: all citrus fruit juice works here: lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangelo, etc.
- Citrus rind: the peel of citrus fruit has essential oils that carry a lot of aroma and flavour. As with the juice, any citrus fruit rind works, just find the right match for your drink of choice
- Pickle juice: doesn’t only work as a chaser but also mixed in with spirits or in cocktails
- Olive brine: essential in dirty martinis
- Fresh fruit: fresh berries, watermelon, melon and cucumber (yes, it’s a fruit) are great ways of adding flavour to a drink, alcoholic or not
- Bitters:, a low alcohol, low energy way of flavouring soda water with the potential added benefit of stimulating digestion
- Fresh herbs: such as mint and rosemary are great ways of adding an interesting flavour profile to your drink of choice
- Spices: juniper berries are probably the most common suspect (as they’re involved in gin making) but other spices such as pepper, cloves, nutmeg, coriander and cardamom can be used to spice up drinks
Do you have any other suggestions for low energy ways of boosting flavour? Leave a comment below!