Vanessa has an MA in creative writing and has been writing about food since 2009. She is also a dedicated foodie and chronic yoyo dieter.
How DO You Enjoy Food Without Fat, Salt and Sugar?
If you have chosen to go on a diet, either for weight loss or to improve your health, chances are that you need to limit some of your favorite ingredients. So how do you create foods that give you the same emotional satisfaction?
Find a New Way to Love Your Food
For many of us, the day will come when we are told that we are suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol, food allergies or other food related illnesses. If you have used food for comfort or socialization, or even if you just love to eat, the need to give up our favorite foods feels the same as the death of a lifelong friend. There is a genuine grieving process involved: anger because this happened to you, despair at you deprivation, denial that dieting is actually necessary, bargaining that you will accept the consequences tomorrow for a little bite today, and finally acceptance when you realize that nothing else is going to work to achieve your wellness goals.
But dieting does not have to be a death sentence. It is possible to make beautiful and tasteful foods in a healthful way. By following these suggestions, you can learn to make friends with your new food choices.
Educate Your Tastebuds. Take the time to savor the foods that you are using so that you can become acquainted with their flavor. Many people eat with a lot of gusto, and that often means a lot of speed. How can you know what flavors you will actually like if you haven’t taken the time to truly taste them?
Your tongue has the capability to distinguish between five different tastes, sweet, sour, savory, salty and bitter. The best recipes will either achieve a balance between tastes or favor one of them. You need to learn what combination of sensations will give you the satisfaction that you need. Make it a point to set aside time to try some new spices. Experiment with some vegetables that you may not have tasted before. Try new ways to cook your food. Above all, take your time when you are eating.
Work With the Positive. Don’t dwell on what you can’t have. Rather, experiment with what you can. Find reasonable substitutes for your favorite flavors. For example, if you are a sweet eater, try making your favorite recipe with the sweetness of fruit or honey instead of sugar. Have the occasional fried food, but make it with healthy oils. Never be afraid to try something new.
Go for the Bold. Spices are one of the few food additives that are acceptable on almost any diet. Use them with abandon. Find herb-based condiments and rubs for your meat or veggies. Eat peppers. Try a little horseradish in your bean-based dip. You'll be amazed at how wonderful a little heat can be in a formerly boring dish.
Try a Recipe Remake. Take your favorite taboo recipe and brainstorm ways to make a similar dish with acceptable ingredients. For example, make your favorite custard with egg whites instead of yolks, use evaporated skimmed milk or fat free buttermilk, and sweeten it with stevia. Then go all out with the vanilla and some orange zest. Go through the ingredients one at a time and see if you can think of a reasonable substitute for whatever you can’t have, and then give the recipe a try. Just keep at it until you find your new love.
Share the Process. If you are a social eater, then become a social dieter. Have tasting parties and share the discovery process with those you love. Get feedback from your family and friends.
If you follow these steps, you should be able to find the joy of cooking again.
I had a friend many years ago that was a chef in a Chinese restaurant. He told me that the secret to the most flavorful dishes is the sauce. You can use the same meats, the same vegetables, and the same cooking method and still come out with dishes that are unique based on the sauce. Here are some of the most flavorful low-calorie sauce combinations that I have come up with so far:
A Hot Asian Sauce. This one is simple. Just get your favorite cayenne pepper sauce and your favorite low sodium soy sauce and mix them together in equal portions. This is rich and spicy and has virtually no calories.
Sweet Mustard Sauce. Take your favorite Dijon mustard and mix it with one tablespoon apple cider vinegar and the equivalent of two tablespoons brown sugar Splenda or other noncaloric sweetener. Blend it well and then adjust the sweetness level to your taste. This tastes like a honey mustard sauce, but it does not have the calories of honey or regular brown sugar. The number of calories that it does have depends on the type of sweetener you use.
Sugar Free Spicy Barbeque Sauce. To make this sauce, you must add two small cans of tomato paste and three tablespoons of water to a small saucepan and stir until the paste loosens up. Then add sugar substitute equivalent to two tablespoons of sugar, one tablespoon chili powder, four cloves of minced garlic, one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and two whole cinnamon sticks and stir. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add one teaspoon liquid smoke (optional). Boil for only one minute, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Steep for about ten minutes. The flavor of this can be quite strong, so be sure to taste and make any flavor adjustments that you require before using it in a dish. I actually love this sauce the way it is, but many people don't care for a taste that domineering, so feel free to make it your own.
Don't be afraid to try commercially prepared, diet friendly sauces. With the growing popularity of the "food as medicine" philosophy, there has been a proliferation of products geared to eating plans for weight loss, lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, food sensitivities, just to name a few. While home cooked food is better (in my opinion, at least), some of these preparations are great for variety or for a day when you're too tapped out to exercise your creativity.
Low Carb Peanut Butter Fudge
One Healthy, Tasty Snack
Popcorn is a snack that is good on many diets, especially now that 100 calorie microwave popcorn packs are readily available. But unbuttered, unsalted popcorn can be very bland.
To jazz up your popcorn without adding fat or salt, use this trick: While still hot, shake a serving of butter flavoring and some spices onto your popcorn. Garlic powder is good. Taco or chili seasoning mix is great if you like the heat. Also, try the various flavors of Mrs. Dash. Whatever your favorite flavor is, it can be used to make this healthy snack a real treat.
Cooking Brown Rice
Hey! It's turkey day!
Here in the US Thanksgiving, could not be a better time to begin you foodgasm journey.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a day when food is plentiful, and it is a great time to experiment with new flavors and new ways to prepare the feast. Even if you choose to eat your usual dishes in your usual fashion, the day after Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to experiment with diet.
After all, the favorite thanksgiving food for most people is turkey. Because it is one of the lower fat proteins, it's a favorite food of dieters as well. So why not try out some flavorful yet low-fat uses for your leftovers?
Here are a few suggestions:
Turkey salads: Turkey is good in almost any salad. You can cut up a few ounces of turkey breast and toss it on top of your salad mix. It is especially good with some added apple, citrus and/or some nuts. Also, try turkey breast in your favorite chicken salad recipe, but add dried cranberries and cut the mayonnaise by substituting mustard or plain yogurt.
Turkey chili: With the cold weather coming to most of the country, there's no better time to cube some leftover turkey and add it to a pot of beans with some chilis and onions stirred in. Add your chili seasoning and voila!
Turkey wraps: Get some whole grain tortillas and fill them with veggies and turkey pieces. Use no fat mayo, or substitute mustard or horseradish or your favorite fat free dressing. With a little experimentation you can create your own flavor sauce.
Turkey stir fry: Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and toss in your favorite fresh veggies, add your turkey and your favorite cooking sauce and quickly stir. Let fry for two or three minutes and you are ready to go.
Turkey skewers: Just because your turkey is already cooked doesn't mean it can't be skewered and grilled. Add your favorite grilling veggies to the stick with your turkey. Consider adding some hearty fruits as well (pineapple is wonderful grilled). Don't forget the barbeque sauce!
These are but a few of the things you can do to add flavor to your food while you cut the calories from your diet. So, happy turkey day and enjoy!
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The Joy of Citrus
The use of citrus fruit is a great way to add brightness, sweetness or acidity to food. You can use the pulp, juice or zest (the outer layer of skin that contains the color). The pith, or white connective tissue, is very bitter and not recommended.
The most common citrus fruits used in cooking are lemons and limes. Both of these have tart, almost floral scents that can be easily sweetened. Their unique flavors are prized in savory cooking and sweet baking alike. They can be used in reductions to make wonderful sauces and glazes. They are key components in some cool drinks and salad dressings, and their high acid content makes them prefect for cutting the richness of dishes that taste too fatty.
Citrus fruits are the source of several essential nutrients, including potassium and vitamin C. Their versatility makes them an important tool for the use of the healthy cuisine chef.
The Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper (capsicum)
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Compare Sweetener Calories
Spice Market Istanbul
A Final Note
This page is by no means a comprehensive primer on how to get taste in food, but it is a healthy beginning.
When trying to change your lifestyle, two of the most important traits you need for success are the willingness to experiment and explore. Start here, then take this information and run with it. This world is changing rapidly, and with it there is an explosion of new ideas. The world of the diet cuisine is no exception.
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Vanessa Kristovich (author) from Vineland,NJ on September 11, 2009:
Thank you. That's what it means to me. I have a real emotional attachment to food, which is both a blessing and a curse at the same time. And food with an exquisite taste is a real foodgasm to me! If I could I would share that feeling with everyone !
Kathy Love from Harrisburg on September 10, 2009:
I LOVE the term "foodgasm." Great eye-catcher!