7 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Boost Flavor

By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN

I’m a big fan of maximizing flavor in recipes without adding a lot of calories or SmartPoints® values. In my Grilled Asparagus with Lemongrass Garlic Rub, I use an array of 0 SmartPoints value seasonings like rosemary and garlic powder. In fact, the only ingredient with any SmartPoints values is the olive oil, making the recipe 2 SmartPoints values per serving!

I asked my colleagues for their ideas to add flavor for 0 SmartPoints values. I loved their ideas so much that I’m sharing them with you:

Citrus zest
“Lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges bring a freshness to salad dressings, meats, fish, soups, veggies, whole grains, and water,” says Robin Plotkin, RDN, culinary nutritionist at RobinsBite.com. “It’s the zest that gives the bright, acidic flavor.”

Mushrooms
“I like to use fresh wild mushrooms or dried mushrooms, lightly sautéed in a pan with some parsley,” says Denine Marie, MPH, RDN, owner of HealthyOutofHabit.com. “Then I add those to soups, salads, pasta dishes, sauces, and more. Anything from button mushrooms to shiitake to maitake work well for adding flavor.” Sauté the mushrooms in a small amount of fat-free vegetable broth or water.

Pickled veggies
“These add tons of flavor to any dish,” says Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, a private-practice dietitian in New York City. “Sauerkraut, pickles, pickled beets, and pickled carrots are some of my favorites to throw in salads or Buddha bowls, or to serve alongside a veggie scramble!” Choose a pickled recipe with no added sugar to keep the SmartPoints value at 0. And pickled veggies tend to be higher in sodium, so do use in moderation. 

Smoked paprika
“This adds a rich, deep, and smoky flavor to anything from beans and lentils to fish and chicken, without a grill or smoker,” says Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition. “I make a lot of vegetarian dishes and love adding paprika for more depth of flavor. It also adds a nice color to dishes for eye appeal.” Go light, since a little goes a long way!

Spicy peppers
“I’m a huge fan of cayenne, red pepper flakes, Sriracha, and peppers found in a jar such as jalapeños and banana peppers,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, owner of NutritionStarringYOU.com. You can also add a little hot sauce to perk up chicken breasts or pork loins, suggests Jennifer Bowers, PhD, RD, owner of DrJennBowersNutrition.com (drjennbowersnutrition.com).

Pureed marinated vegetables
“For a flavor boost, puree marinated veggies, such as artichoke hearts, red peppers, and mushrooms,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, nutrition blogger at SimpleCravingsRealFood. “These purees go a long way in flavoring sauces, soups, and whole grains—plus you can brush them on kebabs and grilled poultry, seafood, and lean meats.” Look for vegetables in a marinade with 0 SmartPoints values.

Infused vinegars
“Pick up some infused vinegars, or make your own to add incredible flavor to your salads, roasted vegetables, bean salads, whole-grain salads, and marinades for meat, chicken, fish, or tofu,” suggests Christy Brissette, MS, RD, owner of 80 Twenty Nutrition. “To make your own infused vinegars, put some rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar in a glass bottle or mason jar. Add flavoring agents such as rosemary sprigs, sun-dried tomatoes, slices of jalapeño peppers, some berries, or finely chopped fruit. Let it infuse for 10 hours, and then taste to see if the flavor is strong enough for you. If it’s too strong, strain out the flavoring ingredients and add more vinegar.”

What are your favorite ways to add flavor for 0 SmartPoints values? Tell me on Connect @amy_gorin!

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Amy Gorin is a freelance writer and registered dietitian nutritionist in New Jersey. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest