How to Add Flavor to Meals Without Salt or Sugar

Hello and happy Friday, my friends! Let’s talk about how to add flavor to meals without salt or sugar. 🙂 Hint: lots of herbs and spices are involved!

I’m partnering with McCormick this year to share some fun recipes and cooking tips once a month or so here on the blog. For this month’s inaugural post, I’ll be sharing my favorite ways to add flavor to meals using herbs and spices, not salt, sugar, and unnecessary amounts of fat. (You guys know I’m not anti-fat, but you also don’t need a boatload of oil/butter in dinner to make it delicious.) I think a lot of the time people have this idea that healthy food can’t be tasty, but it can, especially when you get a little creative!

Here are some of my favorite tips, mixed with a few cool new (to me) ones from McCormick. I’d love if you shared some of your favorite tips in the comments, too! Obviously it goes without saying that my #1 tip for decreasing sodium (and sugar) intake is to avoid processed foods, but this post will focus on tips for seasoning fresh foods prepared at home using things other than salt/sugar. I hope you find these ideas helpful! (Sidenote: the apple & sage pork chops pictured below are so awesome – more details in this post – we’ve made them a ton since, too.)

How to Add Flavor to Meals Without Salt or Sugar

Sprinkle cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice instead of sugar on fruit, or add red pepper to bring a surprise heat and unique flavor. The red pepper tip was from McCormick – excited to try it!

Add cinnamon to your coffee instead of sugar. This is one of my favorite tricks! If you’re making coffee at home, add the cinnamon (nutmeg is good too!) into your mug before pouring in the coffee/espresso/milk, so that way it melts in a little better. If you’re out and about, just sprinkle some on top. Most coffee bars have cinnamon available. 🙂

Make your own vinaigrette to control salt levels and customize flavor. I always make my own – it’s so much more flavorful than bottled! Try my homemade balsamic vinaigrette or McCormick’s Field Greens with Oranges, Strawberries and Chai Vinaigrette. If you are buying bottled salad dressing, a tip: go for the full fat version. Low fat or fat free bottled dressings (and other processed foods) just have extra salt/sugar/chemicals added to make up for the loss of fat!

Treat garlic as the new salt to bring a burst of flavor to dishes – Matt and I use this tip a lot, both in the form of fresh and powdered garlic. Some recipe favorites: lemon garlic string beans (you don’t even need any salt) and creamy garlic & herb pasta. We also discovered that garlic powder is good in slaw – just mix shredded/chopped cabbage, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and a few shakes of garlic powder. So tasty!

Make soups with a low sodium broth and add in herbs and spices for flavor instead. Matt made us a delicious chicken and veggie soup the other day that had a ton of dill in it, which was amazing. You won’t miss the salt! (And yes, that’s totally my foam roller in front of our fireplace. I think it adds something quite lovely to our décor…)

Herbs (dried and fresh!) are also awesome in salad – I love adding parsley, basil, and dill to my salads to amp up the flavor.

More tips:

  • Add herbs and spices into plain Greek yogurt to make a tasty and salt-free dip. Just mix onion powder, garlic powder, dried chives, and the yogurt, et voila!
  • Mix cottage cheese with basil and oregano for a savory snack. <—excited to try this!
  • Replace the salt in mashed and roasted potatoes with crushed rosemary leaves, garlic powder, and black pepper. (Here’s a recipe to try: garlic herb roasted veggies.) Another option: dill! It’s great with roasted or mashed potatoes. For sweet potatoes, try ground ginger and cinnamon.

      • Use spices and herbs instead of salt when boiling water for pasta. Some to try: oregano, basil, red pepper flakes.
      • Add herbs instead of salt to scrambled eggs. Dried or fresh thyme and oregano are great here!

  • Add thyme to cooked mushrooms to bring out their flavor.
  • Rub chicken with curry powder or cajun seasoning instead of salt before roasting.

I hope you found these tips helpful – let me know if you try any of them, and check out McCormick’s downloadable and printable Flavor MyPlate guide for more tips on how to make healthy cooking easier and more delicious. It has some great ideas and recipes!

In unrelated news, I’m on a plane right now on my way to a fun west coast adventure – follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see what I’m up to. 🙂 I’ll be back on Monday with a full recap! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

What is your favorite herb or spice? Any tips to add to this list?

Thank you again to McCormick for sponsoring this post as part of our partnership!

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