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Eating healthy can be kind of boring when you first start out.

Don’t throw your mouse at me! Hear me out: I grew up eating fast food galore, throwing back sweet stuff all the time, and learning to love the taste of any diet soda that crossed my path. I like flavorful foods, and this means I absolutely love to add condiments. Barbeque sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, tartar sauce – you name it, I’d smother my food in it. Plain veggies or baked fish just seemed so…bland. 

Then I learned just how much extra sugar and fat – not to mention how many extra calories - I was cramming into my meals by drowning my food in sauces. It was quite the reality check. Think about it – you can add 130 calories to a meal just by putting two tablespoons of barbeque sauce on your chicken. And who stops at two tablespoons?

I quickly learned that it grossed people out when I simply substituted ketchup for its healthier bedfellow, mustard. I certainly couldn’t serve steamed vegetables coated in low-fat Thousand Island at a dinner party. It was time to put my big-girl apron on and learn how to add flavor to food without morphing it into something unhealthy.

Here are some quick, easy, CHEAP tips that I picked up along the way (for those of us who may not be blessed with kitchen savviness):

  • Try dry rubs on meats. They’re easy to use (you really can’t screw them up) and they pack a punch of flavor that’s much tastier and healthier than any sauce you’ll find at the store.
  • Cooking chicken or fish? Citrus juices – lemon, lime, and orange – are a great way to add a summery zing to your plain old poultry.


Photo: Tina Phillips 

  • Want to add some yumminess to your morning oatmeal or yogurt? Throw in nuts – almonds are my favorites, but pecans, walnuts and even peanuts add tons of flavor.
  • Cinnamon is a perfect addition to anything sweet, especially fruits. It also helps bump your metabolism up a notch. Win-win.


Photo: Grant Cochrane 


  • If you’re in the mood for Italian, sick of marinara, and trying to avoid cream-based sauces, sprinkle some fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes on top of your pasta. Add a splash of olive oil and you’ll never go back to Ragu – don’t forget the garlic!
  • Trying to spice things up? You’ll definitely want to invest in some quality hot sauce, fresh zesty salsa, or cayenne pepper and chili powder. They’re cheap, and spicy food makes your metabolism zing!

 chili powder.jpg

Photo: Paul 

  • Curry powder adds a kick to any dish – I love sautéing tofu or tempeh in curry powder and serving it up with some brown rice and steamed veggies. Ginger and turmeric are also excellent additives for punching up your proteins! 
  • If you like onions, try adding leeks to your dishes. They’re a bit sweeter and not as powerful as onions, but still add a delicious little hint of flavor to whatever you’re cooking.
  • Cilantro makes Mexican-inspired dishes taste amazing without adding tons of cheese, sauces, or refried beans. Delve into your spicy toolbox (see above) and combine with cilantro – you won’t even miss the queso!

Inspired? Check out The Laughing Cow website for a more detailed list on how to get your Rachel Ray on. 

For more information on healthy eating, plus a ton of nutritious meal plans, check out our Food-Drink-Nutrition and Recipes sections! And remember, make a healthy choice – for life!

4/26/2012 10:01:48 AM|KRIS.VANVONDEREN

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