June 23, 2017

Six Ways to Add Flavor – Low-Fat, Low-Calorie and Low-Sodium

By Rachel Wyman
Clinical Nutrition Educator

  1. Extracts
    • Pairings: Try banana, coconut or lime extract in a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Add mint or raspberry extract to a chocolate meal replacement shake. Add almond, maple or hazelnut extract to whole grain muffins.
    • Amount: Add 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon of extract per 1 cup of beverage/smoothie; or ¼ to ½ teaspoon of extract when baking.
    • Tips: These flavors are highly concentrated; so when in doubt just try 1 drop at a time.
  2. Vinegar
    • Pairings: Red wine vinegar pairs well with beef and pork dishes. White wine vinegar lightens and brightens poultry and seafood without overpowering other flavors. Rice vinegar; commonly used in Asian cooking, adds a mild sweet flavor. Cider vinegar is a great addition in salad dressings. Balsamic vinegar is very fragrant and works well in salads and Mediterranean cuisine.
    • Amount: Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar for every 2-3 tablespoons of oil in salad dressing. Add ½ teaspoon of vinegar per 1 cup of soup or stew; or 1 tablespoon of vinegar per ½ pound of meat.
    • Tips: If you add too much vinegar; add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of food to offset acidity.
  3. Herbs
    • Pairings: Basil and oregano work well in any tomato-based or poultry recipe. Bay leaf enhances soups and stews. Cilantro enhances Latin American and Indian cuisine. Flat-leaf parsley is one of the most versatile herbs and can be sprinkled on any dish.
    • Amount: Add 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for every 4 servings, then adjust as needed.
    • Tips: Add delicate fresh herbs including basil, chives, cilantro, dill or parsley to food just before serving. Incorporate less delicate fresh herbs such as rosemary, tarragon, bay leaves, sage and thyme during the last 20 minutes of cooking.
  4. Spices
    • Pairings: Coriander and cumin give an earthy, lemony flavor to Mexican and Indian dishes. Smoked paprika adds a sweet smokiness and red color to vegetables, stews and poultry. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and star anise add a sweet warmth to baked goods and Middle Eastern fare. There are also several good spice blends, including Chinese five-spice powder, curry powder, garam masala, herbes de provence and Old Bay seasoning that add an interesting dynamic – the same piece of chicken can taste completely different with each one!
    • Amount: Add with ¼ teaspoon of most ground spices per 4 servings, 1 pound of meat or 1 pint of soup or sauce, then adjust as needed. When doubling a recipe, do not double the spices, but increase amount by 1½ times.
    • Tips: Never store your spices above your stove as the heat degrade quality. Instead, keep spices in an air-tight glass jar in a cool dark place.
  5. Citrus
    • Pairings: Lemons, lime, grapefruit and oranges work well with seafood, poultry and all types of vegetables. Squirt some on dark leafy greens to enhance your body’s ability to absorb iron. They also counter some of the bitterness in whole grain dishes such as quinoa and barley.
    • Amount: Add 1 tablespoon of citrus juice and ½ tsp citrus zest per 1 cup of food.
    • Tips: To avoid creating bitter flavor and discoloration, be sure to remove seeds from citrus and remove the dish from the heat before adding citrus juice.
  6. Aromatics
    • Pairings: For Cajun dishes, try the trinity of onions, celery and green bell peppers. In Asian meals, add ginger, garlic and scallions. In French cuisine, use onion, carrots and celery. In Latin and Middle Eastern recipes, include garlic, onions and tomatoes. You can also experiment with more exotic options such as shallots, chili peppers and lemongrass.
    • Amount: Typically less concentrated in flavor than spices and herbs; aromatic vegetables are highly flexible in the amount you want to use; even a whole cup or more per recipe won’t overpower the other flavors.
    • Tips: Roasting aromatics in the oven can caramelize and brown their natural sugars. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the stems and roots from whole onions and slice the tops off of garlic bulbs. Mist with olive oil and wrap each piece in aluminum foil, then place on a cookie sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes. Then add to whatever you are cooking for a delicious, sweet and buttery flavor.

Rachel Wyman, RD, is Clinical Nutrition Educator at Mission Weight Management.

To learn more about Mission Weight Management and to sign up for a free information session, call (828) 213-4100 or visit missionweight.org.

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