10 Healthy Flavor-Boosters

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Who says tasty foods needs to be high in calories? We’ve created a hit list of flavor boosting ingredients. So bring on the big flavor, no -- huge flavor for a minimal amount of calories.

1: Fresh Herbs

Parsley over roasted potatoes, basil in tomato salad, tarragon in a chicken dish, or dill in a warm bowl of soup are just a few of the very different ways to use fresh herbs. They’re also loaded with vitamins and antioxidants – use them frequently and the health benefits stack up.

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2: Spices

Dried herbs and spices are concentrated sources of flavor – a little goes a long way.

Curry powder, cinnamon, dried oregano, star anise and achiote are just a few of our faves.

3: Chile Peppers

Add some flavorful fire to your foods with all kinds of chile peppers. Chiles aren’t just hot and spicy – each variety has it’s own special flavor.

4: Wine

Wine adds depth and interest – a splash of red is the secret to my roasted tomato sauce. Always use a wine you would like to drink, because cooking concentrates the flavor. And don’t worry about the alcohol, most of it cooks out – and so do the calories!

5: Liqueur

Just like wine, a splash of liqueur can change the flavor of an entire dish. Try almond-flavored Amaretto or berry-flavored Chambord in, and anise-flavored Pernod in savory recipes.

6: Vinegar

Vinegar’s sharp edge gives salad dressings, soups and sauteed veggies a pop of tangy flavor. With so many different kinds to choose from, you can add zing to a variety of recipes. Try raspberry vinegar for homemade salad dressing, sherry vinegar in shrimp stir fry, or balsamic cooked down and drizzled over fresh fruit.

7: Citrus

Both the juice and zest from lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit are no-fail options when you want to turn up the flavor in sauces, vegetables dishes and desserts. The essential oils from the zest permeate everything from applesauce to salsa and the pucker of freshly squeezed juice can balance out sweet or salty flavors.

8: Garlic

Raw, sautéed or roasted, even the tiniest bit of garlic will bring meats, poultry, pasta, stocks, sauces and veggies to life. Check your local farmers market for this seasonal goodie.

9: Dijon Mustard

Yellow mustard has spice, but Dijon has pizzazz. Whether it’s a salad dressing, sandwich spread or marinade, at less than 10 calories per teaspoon, you can’t go wrong with this flavor-packed condiment.

10: Vanilla Extract

Vanilla isn’t just for baking -- a splash in oatmeal, smoothies or coffee adds an extra layer of flavor without any additional calories. Try it in homemade chocolate candy.

TELL US: What are your go-to healthy flavor-boosters?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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