The new year has many of us scaling back on our eating habits and resetting our diets to focus on healthier, simpler foods that have fewer calories. But “better for you” doesn’t have to mean bland. Small additions can make a big impact when it comes to boosting the flavor and texture of healthier foods. A twist of citrus, a handful of fresh herbs, a splash of broth, a bit of crunch and a dash of heat are sometimes all it takes to turn simple food into something exciting. The bottom line is this: Delicious food doesn’t have to come at the cost of hundreds of calories. Here are 10 ways to perk up your food with little to no calories at all.
Add zing to your cooking routine with fresh citrus. Lemon and lime juices are the usual go-to choices for adding a splash of bright flavor to fish, sautéed greens, roasted vegetables and crisp salads, but don’t dismiss the oranges, tangerines and grapefruits, which add sunny notes, too. Skip the bottled salad dressings — which are often loaded with salt and sugar — and make your own. Start with a quick citrus vinaigrette: Whisk 1 part citrus juice with 3 parts oil, and drizzle over dark leafy greens to boost your daily vegetable intake. Even better? Stir fresh citrus into yogurt or oatmeal for a bright start to your day.
You can mellow the flavor of tart lemons, limes, and grapefruit by cooking them — simply slice the whole fruit and either roast directly on the pan with your meat and veggies, or place on the grill for a minute or two until charred. Citrus juice and zest add big flavor to marinades with no extra sodium or calories. Looking to hydrate more? A spritz of fresh citrus does wonders for that glass of water.
Tip: A little zest goes a long way and can overpower your dish very quickly. Too much can make your food bitter. Start with just a small amount, then add a little at a time until you reach your desired flavor. Use a fine grater or Microplane for best results.