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08/20/2014 07:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Low-Fat Ways To Add Flavor To Weeknight Dinners

By Lynn Andriani

You're already shaking Sriracha sauce on practically everything...but here are four more ideas for kicking up your meals without packing on tons of extra calories and fat.

The Oil With Built-In Portion Control

la tourangelle

We know: How can pouring oil on food be considered "low-fat"? But if you're spraying that oil instead of drizzling it, you'll use much less, and if you're using one of the new flavored sprays, the taste payoff will be huge. We're loving La Tourangelle's new artisanal nonaerosol spray cans of oil, which come in varieties such as Thai Wok (safflower oil infused with Thai basil and lemongrass) and roasted pistachio. Use them the traditional way, meaning in a pan, or spray them directly on your grilled fish or meat, toasted bread or finished salad.

Nutritional note: A two- to three-second squirt adds only 10 calories and 1 gram of fat.

The Insanely Popular Drink You Can Cook With

coconut

We can't get enough of the refreshing water found in the center of fresh coconuts, so the idea of adding it to savory dishes is pretty brilliant. Terry Hope Romero, author of the new book Salad Samurai, puts pure unflavored, unsweetened coconut water in vinaigrettes because she loves the mellow, lightly tropical flavor it adds. Or try it in place of water when making rice; the subtle, sweet taste complements Asian dishes.

Nutritional note: A half-cup of coconut water has 23 calories and no fat.

A Reason to 86 Your Wooden Skewers

healthy ways to add flavor to food

Grilling (or grill-panning) shrimp or cubes of chicken is one of the quickest weeknight dinners you can make, but if you don't have time to marinate the shellfish or meat first, Sur La Table's director of culinary programs, Sephi Coyle, says you can still impart a rich and herby taste. The trick, Coyle says, is to thread the food on rosemary sprigs instead of wooden skewers; the herb's piney flavor will enhance your meal without the need for any extra sauces, rubs or other toppings.

Nutritional note: Cooking with rosemary skewers does not add calories or fat.

The Fruity Vinegar That Totally Changes Everything

vinegar fruit

Just as salt unlocks flavors, so do acids, yet many of us limit our use of vinegar to salads. But the sour-tasting liquid can be one of the most useful tools in a healthy cook's kitchen. The thing to remember is that adding a small amount of this powerful ingredient won't make your food taste astringent. Instead, it will help bring all the flavors into balance. Fruit-infused vinegars, in particular, can add a whole new dimension; try a tiny spoonful of Bellindora's peach vinegar drizzled over pan-fried chicken or Ah Love Oil & Vinegar's fig balsamic vinegar on pork.

Nutritional note: 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar has 14 calories and no fat.

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