When you sit down for breakfast, lunch or dinner, what you eat should be loaded with taste -- fabulous food you truly want to sink your teeth into. Eating deliciously may sound daunting to the strictest of dieters or to the novice chef, but if you have basic cooking skills, you can achieve dining bliss without unnecessary calories, fats or carbohydrates. The following six flavor boosters will fit effortlessly into any nutritional plan and easily satisfy your need for dynamite dining.
Fresh, high-quality ingredients are a given. When you start with inherently delicious ingredients, you can prepare simple recipes with deceivingly complex flavor. Purchasing top-grade foods and keeping your pantry and refrigerator freshly stocked practically guarantee the tasty success of any dish. The best tasting produce is naturally ripe and fresh-picked, giving you reason to frequent farmer' markets, buy locally grown goods, choose organic and be more selective at the supermarket.
For protein-rich foods such as fish, poultry and meats, look for the leanest cuts with the fewest additives and preservatives. High-quality food sometimes comes at a higher price, but it also delivers a palatable payoff. The more flavor an ingredient has, the less you will need of it and, best yet, the more fulfilling it will be to eat. This gives you room to include more variety in your diet as well as supply your body with high-quality nutrients.
Variety is truly the spice of life. The large array of fresh and dried herbs and spices is staggering. Possibilities to enhance your meals with a little pinch here and a hearty sprinkle there are endless.
Freshly picked or grocery store herbs keep longer in the refrigerator if you place the cut ends in a container of water and loosely cover with plastic. Cilantro, parsley, sage, mint, thyme, dill and basil will supply a delicious brilliance to your food. Start simple with one herb, like cilantro, and experiment with its vibrant flavor. Then add more herbs to further liven up your meals.
Less common but highly recommended are saffron, garam masala and herbs de Provence. Be adventurous and try an unfamiliar spice to give a familiar recipe a twist.
The large variety of condiments gives you ample opportunity to fatten up the flavors of your eats and make your meals far more interesting. Flavored mustards, vinegars, oils, hot sauce, curry, wasabi pastes, prepared horseradish, soy sauce, tamari, miso, tahini, canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and Worcestershire all pack fabulous flavor in small amounts.
Drop the blah and bland from your foods and beverages with flavored extracts. Vanilla extract is the most commonly used, but give others such as mint, almond, walnut, banana, anise, butter and rum-flavored extracts a chance to wow some of your favorite recipes. Extracts aren't just for baking; they flavorfully infuse many other foods. Use sparingly for best results; a drop or two will do.
Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, dry Jack and other aged cheeses pack a strong punch in small amounts. This means lots of flavor with minimal calories and fat, and it reduces the need for salt. A little goes a long way.
Being stuck in a food rut that keeps you preparing and eating the same meals over and over again is tantamount to culinary torture. Enjoying your favorites is important, but if you find yourself unenthused about a dish you make daily, it's time for a change. Your tastebuds and body will thank you. Eating a variety of foods adds interest to your diet and supplies you with a wider range of vitamins, minerals and other healthful nutrients. The hundreds of food choices available make "rut diets" absolutely unnecessary.
Healthful food that is supercharged with taste will make any diet plan a joy to adhere to and easy to adopt as a scrumptious way of life rather than a short-term pop diet. Incorporate these flavor boosters into your menus and never eat dull again.
Information adapted from my first cookbook The Fitness Kitchen: Recipes for a fad-free diet (Taylor Trade, 2004).
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