Grilling lean cuts of meat, chicken and fresh veggies is a good way to add to a healthy, lower-fat diet. Yet, even with the flavor of the charcoal or wood, plain chicken or unseasoned lean steak can be a little bland. Lean cuts of meat and chicken are missing the one thing that makes them the most flavorful: the fat! It is the lean-cut, removed fat that makes these meats healthier for your diet, but lose their flavor at the same time.
However, eating healthy or healthier doesn’t mean you should have to compromise on flavor! So what can you do to add flavor to your meal without breaking your diet or ruining your healthy eating habits? Condiments!
Condiments are those items we use to add flavor and spice to our foods.
Some condiments can add flavor without adding calories or unhealthy substances to our food and other condiments should be avoided, because they can turn healthy food unhealthy, and may contribute to weight gain too.
One rule to help pick healthier condiments for cooking is to look at the consistency of the condiment. Generally speaking, healthier and leaner condiments are the thinner ones, such as soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, small amounts of worcestershire sauce (be careful, some contain extra sugar or high fructose corn syrup and both of those add calories). These thinner sauce condiments are full of flavor, most can tenderize meat too, and they contain fewer calories per flavor level than their thicker condiment counterparts.
The thicker condiment sauces such as BBQ sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, jelly or jams, syrups, mayo type salad dressing spreads, and cocktail sauces all contain more sugar or high fructose corn syrup for sweetening and therefore, more calories per flavor than the thinner condiments.
Two exceptions to the consistency of condiments showing which are good for you is mustard and wasabi sauces. Both of these condiments are thicker, but you would use very little of them for flavor, and they do not contain a lot of unhealthy ingredients. In fact, both mustard and wasabi sauce have some very unique potential health benefits!
There are some thick sauce or liquid condiments that are okay to use, but you want to check the labels to ensure you are using the healthiest versions. For example, spaghetti/tomato sauce can be an excellent condiment to season some chicken and pork dishes, even to cover meatballs and the like, but some spaghetti/pasta/tomato meat sauces have added sugar and salt that are not necessary for the flavor of the sauce. Learning to read condiment labels can help determine which ones have good ingredients for a healthy, lower fat, lower sodium, lower sugar lifestyle, without compromising flavor. The processed, pre-packaged or canned/bottled sauces might not be as healthy as learning to make your own sauces from all natural, fresh, healthy ingredients.
Of course, salt and pepper are good dry condiment choices, but sodium/salt should be limited, so why not try more natural sea salts? Sea salts are naturally lower in sodium than table salt, but are packed with much more flavor. In fact, you can buy all natural sea salt rubs for your grilling meats that are excellent condiment choices. AC CP Charlotte Kuchinksy wrote an excellent article about sea salt rubs if you’re interested in the variety of flavors available.
Garlic is also another dry condiment that may promote good health and give flavor to meats. Don’t forget using herbs for flavor too, because herbs are great condiments for flavoring food without adding a lot of calories, and some herbs have excellent health benefits as well.
You can read an article I wrote about herbs that aid with digestion and promote good health by clicking here.
Other good condiments choices include herb infused olive oils, lemon and lime juice (all natural or fresh squeezed – excellent on chicken!), cilantro, jalapeno juice, onion powder, cracked pepper (red, white and black peppercorn), and so many others. Chili lime flavoring is amazing on chicken and some veggies. Don’t be afraid to explore the spice aisle at your grocery store and take a chance on a new flavor.
Learning to read labels, checking the ingredients, and trying a variety of new flavors or herb and spice condiments can help you eat a healthier but also more flavorful diet. Don’t be afraid to explore with different tastes of condiments to find those that work best for your unique tastes and nutritional needs. It’s proven that the more flavor we experience when eating, the less we need to eat to feel satiated. Food should be more than just energy for our bodies, and if we learn to truly appreciate food, make it a full sensory experience of flavor, taste, scent, appearance, texture… we awake all our senses and can choose healthier choices without comprimising flavor.