This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.
If I’m going to eat something – anything – I want to enjoy it! I want my meals to be full of flavor… but not full of fat and empty calories. One of my hobbies is taking recipes that may be a little too full of calories and fat, and find ways to make them healthier, without sacrificing flavor. One of the easiest ways to do this is with spices, fresh herbs, and low-calorie condiments.
Some recipe ingredient swaps are piece of cake. It’s a no brainer to use reduced fat dairy products like low-fat cream cheese, sour cream, and milk for the full-fat versions in recipes. I usually won’t use fat-free, because I do notice a flavor difference. The one exception I make is using fat-free Greek yogurt in place of sour cream because it does have a rich flavor, plus an extra dose of slimming protein. When sautéing meats or veggies, I will cut back or eliminate the oil and replace it with chicken (or beef) broth or sometimes wine, depending on the recipe. When baking cakes or muffins, I typically replace half of the oil or butter with unsweetened applesauce.
Here are plenty of great seasoning options that I use to amp up the flavor of my meals to make them both healthy and delicious.
- Citrus – A squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange juice or the zest of citrus fruits are a great way to pack a punch of flavor without overdoing fat or calories. This Cilantro Lime Shrimp recipe is an easy and fantastic example of what a healthy squeeze of lime juice will do for a dish! I frequently use citrus to jazz up sparkling water, make my own salad dressings, and even to make snacks like my Key Lime Greek yogurt!
- Fresh Herbs – Fresh herbs are so easy to grow, that you should definitely give it a try. There’s nothing like making salsa or tacos with fresh cilantro or adding fresh basil to a host of Italian dishes.
- Garlic & Onions – The health benefits of both garlic and onions are well documented. I always keep fresh garlic on hand for a variety of recipes. Rather than drown my veggies in butter or cheese sauce, I will roast them with a touch of olive oil and plenty of freshly minced garlic. I especially love asparagus, cauliflower, and zucchini (alone or together) cooked this way.
- Hot Stuff – I’m a big fan of spicy stuff, so we go through a lot of red pepper flakes, cumin, and chili powder. Also try adding fresh or canned jalapeños, chili peppers, or habaneros to spice up your meals. A little goes a long way! I found a shrimp and feta cheese recipe that I spiced up and slimmed down, which you’ll find below.
- Sweet Stuff – Some spices have a natural sweetness that you can harness for your recipes which will mean less sugar needs to be added. Try cinnamon, cocoa powder, cloves, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice in your baked goods or even your morning coffee! I always put a generous shake of cinnamon or a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder in my brew, since I’ve given up using flavored powdered (processed!) coffee creamers in January. I went out to eat for brunch with family this weekend and did have some of the flavored creamer in my coffee. Too my surprise, I thought it was too sweet and definitely prefer half-and-half with a dash of real cinnamon.
- Other Flavorful Ideas – Experiment with different flavors of vinegar – red wine, apple cider, rice, or balsamic – for salad dressings and marinades. Mustard adds a great shot of flavor to meats and other dishes with hardly any calories! This crockpot recipe for Maple Dijon Chicken is a great one to try. I love putting a little bit of pesto on sandwiches for a big burst of distinctive flavor. (Yes, pesto does have olive oil in it, but you really only need a teaspoon or two.) If you haven’t had Mrs. Dash’s seasoning in a while, head to the spice aisle of your local grocery store. You’ll see that there is a huge selection of flavor blends to try, like Fiesta Lime, Caribbean Citrus, Southwest Chipotle, to name a few. Check out the Mrs. Dash’s website for more recipe inspiration!
Spicy Roasted Shrimp (Modified from original recipe on Annies-Eats.com)
- ½ Tbs. olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup of white wine
- 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 ½ tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- 1 Tbs. parsley
- ½ tsp. lemon zest (or dried lemon peel)
- 1 pound of large shrimp (uncooked, peeled and deveined)
- ½ cup of crumbled feta cheese
- Fresh lemon wedges, for serving
- Preheat oven to 400. Spray a square glass baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until liquid is reduced by half.
- Add tomatoes with their liquid, oregano, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Stir to combine, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest. Stir until thoroughly combined.
- When the tomato mixture has thickened, spread it on the bottom of the glass baking dish. Place the shrimp in a single layer (tails up) on top of the tomatoes. Scatter the feta cheese over the top of the shrimp, followed by the bread crumb mixture. Spray cooking spray (preferably olive oil cooking spray) on the bread crumb mixture before placing in the preheated oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until the breadcrumbs begin to brown and the shrimp are cooked through. Squeeze fresh lemon on top before serving.
Recipe serves four. Calories – 310; Carbs – 14 g; Fiber – 2 g; Protein – 28 g