One of the biggest challenges to eating healthier is ignoring those loud protests from your taste buds telling you that you want salt, sugar and carbs. As you eat the standard healthy meal of grilled chicken, rice and steamed broccoli, you wonder if those cravings for all things destructive will ever subside. Flavor comes in many forms and it certainly doesn't have to be handed to you in a fast food wrapper or drenched in melted chocolate. Making an otherwise bland diet full of flavor is as simple as adding a single ingredient to your plate. Here are just a few seasonings, spices and condiments that you can use to make your bland food fancy.
>> Read more: Skinny Swaps for the Top 3 Condiments
Thyme: This small, fragrant culinary herb is frequently used in stews and soups and also pairs well with poultry and tomatoes. Combine it with pepper and olive oil to create a great marinade for your meat before you grill. Its subtle aroma and slightly minty flavor are best combined with other herbs like rosemary, parsley and oregano. Grow it fresh for the best addition to your meal. (via Culinary Arts)
Oregano: Oregano is commonly known as the "pizza herb" and is one of the most widely used herbs. According to Medical News Today, oregano helps with gastrointestinal disorders, urinary tract disorders and menstrual cramps. It also serves as a source for dietary antioxidants. So chopping up some oregano and adding it to chicken, burgers, beans and pesto is a no brainer! (via The Kitchn and About Food)
>> Check out these eight popular kitchen herbs and find out how to use them!
Mint: This gem is a great complement to so many foods, especially of the summer variety. Add mint to eggplant, squash, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers for a sweet, refreshing flavor that is so versatile. Add mint to salads, vegetables and even beverages. You can even add it to dressings, dips and marinades for the perfect summer flavor. Check out Kalyn's Kitchen for more great ways to use fresh mint.
Basil: Fresh basil has a peppery flavor at first that evolves into a slightly sweet flavor. Make sure to add the basil at the end of cooking to make sure that flavor isn't lost in the heat, resulting in a bitterness. Pair it with lemon, garlic or tomato for great complementary flavor. Basil is popular in Italian and Mediterranean dishes like this spaghetti with cheesy broiled tomatoes and basil.
Chili powder: This flavor booster is not limited to just enchiladas and tacos. Use this blend of spices to add a kick to your meat when you're grilling or add a dash or two to vegetables or beans for added flavor. You can use chili powder to make a healthy breading for your meats. Try this recipe for sweet chili salmon and garnish with a lemon for a healthy and flavorful meal.
Cinnamon: You can add cinnamon to flavor your oatmeal or even sprinkle a little in your yogurt. But don't stop there! Add it to your fruit or grill pineapple with it and serve with pork chops. Cinnamon is a great way to add flavor to breakfast like with these vanilla cinnamon protein pancakes. Don't limit the power of this spice!
>> Read more: 15 Tasty Takes Using Greek Yogurt
Horseradish: According to Life Extension Magazine, horseradish is a condiment that will keep you healthy in addition to adding a hot and savory flavor to your food. You can use it in dressings, salads, sandwiches and dips. Horseradish can add a pungent, strong flavor to any bland dish. Try this recipe for horseradish rosemary mayo and use it on anything from sandwiches to asparagus.
Hot Sauce: Those of you with an appetite for hot foods might struggle even more with sticking to a healthy diet. But there is good news! Most hot sauces are sugar-free so you can be liberal in using it to spice up your food. Make sure you check the salt content first as some hot sauces contain lots of sodium. Get creative and add it to scrambled eggs, grilled meat, mayo for a dipping sauce, or mix with olive oil for a heated salad dressing.
>> Read more: 16 Hot Sauces to Spice Things Up in the Kitchen
Salsa: Salsa is a ready-made blend of vegetables that is too often limited to a dip paired with tortilla chips. Use salsa to add flavor to eggs, serve atop grilled chicken, stir in with leftover rice or use it for a marinade when you're grilling. Try this Skinny Salsa Chicken for inspiration and get creative!
Salt-free seasoning blends: If there was ever a more versatile, go-to flavorful ingredient, it's a seasoning blend. You can make your own or go with something like Mrs. Dash® Seasoning Blends. These blends do the work for you and combine complementary flavors that add that final ingredient to a meal that would otherwise seem incomplete. Break all the rules and add your favorite flavors to anything from grilled meats to vegetables to grits.
Lemon juice: Lemon juice is the secret weapon for most amazing dishes. It adds complexity and amplifies flavor, sparking the taste buds and earning that wide-eyed "this is amazing" look from your family and friends. Use the juice and the zest at the end of cooking for the best results. Check out these amazing recipes using lemon zest for fish, chicken and even potatoes.
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