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15 Ingredients that add flavor to bland healthy foods

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Mix it up to slim down

You need to eat that healthier option to stick to your diet, but you're craving the flavor of those drive-thru french fries. Cope with the cravings by adding a little flavor to your blander health foods.

Mix it up to slim down

If you hate the way your health food tastes (or are just sick of the same-old thing), sometimes it's just a matter of adding another healthy option to up the flavor. Remember that your additions, while they may be healthy, do add calories, fat, sugar and other things you may want to cut down on. So while you may want to adjust your serving size, keep in mind that you'll also be adding other nutrients you need.


Dried fruit

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Add a small handful of raisins, dried blueberries, dried apricots, dried cranberries or even dried prunes (chopped if desired) to oatmeal and other cereals.


Nuts or seeds (unsalted)

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Add nuts or seeds to salads in place of croutons. You can also add nuts and seeds to oatmeal, granola, yogurt, meat rubs (they usually have to be ground first) and even roasted veggies.


Plain yogurt

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Use plain, nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream or mix it with blue cheese and olive-oil mayo to create a yummy sandwich topper.



Mix it up to slim down

Natural popcorn isn't as fattening as the stuff you get at the movies. It's a great snack on its own, and you can also use it to make a crispy crust for chicken or seafood.



Mix it up to slim down

Skip the mayo altogether and add avocado to your sandwiches and burgers. Red meat's inflammatory effects can be reduced using this creamy superfood. Or use it as a topper for any lean protein, including fish (like halibut) and grilled chicken. You can also add it to salads instead of dressing.


Dark chocolate

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We don't recommend eating a bar a day because of the calories, but a bit of dark chocolate is actually good for you. It can help lower blood pressure. Drizzle it over yogurt cheesecake or fruits like strawberries, mandarin orange slices or bits of banana to add a sweet kick to healthier dessert options.



Mix it up to slim down

Add just a squirt of fresh-squeezed lemon, lime or orange to grains (rice, quinoa etc.) to brighten the flavor. Citrus is also delish on grilled seafood, chicken and even cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and greens.



Mix it up to slim down

Vinegars add the often-welcome tang of acidity to your foods. Use red-wine vinegar on salads or cook down balsamic vinegar mixed with drippings, broth or stock for a tasty topper over a cut of lean beef.


Maple syrup

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This is still sugar, so use it sparingly. But unlike refined sugar, maple syrup has trace nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and more. Use it to sweeten oatmeal or sweet potatoes.



Mix it up to slim down

Salsa is packed with sodium, but it also prevents you from needing (as much) salt. You can put it on everything from baked potatoes to salads in place of fattier add-ons like butter, sour cream, salad dressing and cheese.


Herbs and spices

Mix it up to slim down

If you find your go-to health foods are bland, try some herbs or spices to add lots of flavor with very few calories. Sprinkle hot or cold cereal with cinnamon, nutmeg or clove. Or top lean protein or steamed veggies with a bit of salt-free seasoning and/or fresh herbs like rosemary, sage or parsley.



Mix it up to slim down

Mustard is low-cal and adds a punch of flavor to a variety of dishes. You can mix it with Greek yogurt and seasonings to make a tangy dressing for your salad or a dip, use it in place of egg wash to zest-ify baked breaded chicken or add some extra flavor to low-fat Greek yogurt deviled eggs.


Flavorful hard cheese

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Many hard cheeses, like Parmesan and Asiago, are richer in flavor than their softer counterparts, meaning you can use less. Grate a little over veggies, whole-wheat pizzas or lean meats.


Feta cheese

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Feta is a soft cheese, but it's packed with creamy saltiness. You can use this delicious add-on in low quantities to accent cheeseless pizza, low-fat pasta salads or even (gasp!) watermelon.


Flavored "milk"

We're not suggesting you top your morning cereal with strawberry or chocolate milk, but soy, almond and rice milks come in flavors like vanilla, chocolate and even seasonal favorites like eggnog and pumpkin spice. These flavored drinks are easy to find in non-genetically modified brands, meaning no bovine growth hormone, whereas regular milk (cow, nut, soy or otherwise) is not.

Mix it up to slim down

More tips for healthy cooking

Haylie Duff's 5 healthy cooking must-haves
6 Tips to cook like a chef and look like a model
10 Great kitchen gadgets for healthy cooking

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