Maximum Flavour on Minimum Calories: Some Tips & Tricks

Eating healthy foods and trying to cut back on calories does not have to mean mundane or tasteless meals. You can decrease calories without sacrificing taste. 

Some tips for adding great flavour to your healthy meals without sacrificing calories;

Grow your spice rack.

Cumin, smoked paprika and turmeric are some of my go-to’s for packing a big flavour punch. Some of my favourite combinations are:

  • Paprika, cumin, garlic and ground coriander for roasting eggplant or capsicum 
  • Turmeric and garlic for roasting cauliflower and carrots 
  • Fennel seeds and chilli flakes with broccoli, kale or fish 
  • All-spice, cumin and nutmeg for pumpkin and sweet potato

Avoid pre-made spice mixes like ‘taco seasoning’ or ‘Cajun spice mix’. They are often predominantly sugar, salt and anti-caking agents, all with a big markup! With a well-stocked spice rack, it’s easy to get the flavour combinations without all the fillers and for a fraction of the price

Hot stuff!

If you love chilli nearly as much as I do, you have to know about everyone’s favourite spicy-goodness-in-a-bottle (I’m talking about Sriracha, the original Vietnamese version, this one:)

It’s essentially just chilli, garlic and vinegar. At only 80 calories/100 grams, a couple of drops of this goes a loooooong way 

Here’s a line-up of some of my other pantry-staples that deliver tonnes of flavour without blowing your calorie-budget:

From left to right: Wholegrain Mustard, Apple Cider Vinegar, Sriracha, Jalapeno Hot Sauce, Habanero Hot Sauce, Red Wine Vinegar and Miso Paste. These form the bases of some great dressings and vinaigrettes, or can add some extra kick to your meal.

Choose your fats wisely.

Topping your salads with hummus or pesto is a delicious way to add some creaminess and big flavour to your meal. However, store-bought dips often have canola or vegetable oil as their first ingredient (cheap and bland!) The ingredients are also less fresh, the flavours have dulled and as a result, you’ll need a big dollop to get anywhere close to flavour-town. Compare that with some fresh homemade pesto- high-quality olive oil that’s full of flavour and so good for you, fresh zingy basil, sharp garlic and toasted pine nuts. It’s so simple, and the freshness of the ingredients will deliver so much more flavour. You’ll only need a couple of spoonfuls to dress your veggies.

Oil-free roasts.

Now let me clarify by saying I love olive oil. If I’m making a roast to bring to a dinner party, or want to impress friends while entertaining, I’ll add a good pour of olive oil to my roast veggies- it adds amazing flavour, and the veggies get great crisp and colour. 

However, for a pre-packed microwave lunch or quick midweek dinner, I can live without that extra crunch. For most of my meals, veggies are tossed in spices, salt and pepper, laid on non-stick baking paper and roasted dry in a fan-forced oven. And they roast just fine- they do char, and they do taste amazing! 

Do make sure that your veggies are completely dried if you’ve recently washed them, and don’t over crowd your trays- lay the vegetables in a single layer with a bit of space between each piece. Sort of like this:

Cauliflower coated in paprika, cumin, garlic powder and salt- ready to be roasted with no oil added

Quick note- sweet potato, pumpkin and eggplant do get a bit sticky. It’s best to monitor these and give them a flip halfway through roasting time-  otherwise they do get quite oozey. If they do end up getting all stuck on the baking paper, simply leave them to cool for 20 minutes, then you’ll be able to peel them off without too much fuss.

Take your grains to the next level…

Boiling grains in stock- if I’m cooking up quinoa, pearl barley or even pearl cous cous, I like to use vegetable or chicken stock to add a bit of extra flavour to my grains. If I’m soaking dried mushrooms or poaching chicken, the water used for these are another great too!

Melt-in-your-mouth meat…

The slow cooker is an amazing way cook leaner (and tougher/less flavoursome) cuts of meat and transform them into delicious, tender and flavoursome protein. Beef chuck, rump or eye round, or pork tenderloin and lamb shoulder cook amazingly well in a slow cooker. Add heaps of spices and canned tomatoes or stock, leave for a long while and come back to melty, meaty heaven. Yum!

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