Avoid using prepackaged seasoning mixes because they often contain a lot of salt. Use fresh herbs whenever possible. Grind herbs with a mortar and pestle for the freshest and fullest flavor.
Add dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary and marjoram to dishes for a more pungent flavor – but use them sparingly because they’re powerful.
Use vinegar or citrus juice as wonderful flavor enhancers – but add them at the last moment. Vinegar is great on vegetables, such as greens; and citrus works well on fruits, such as melons.
Use dry mustard for a zesty flavor when you’re cooking, or mix it with water to make a very sharp condiment.
To add a little more “bite” to your dishes, add some fresh hot peppers. Remove the membrane and seeds first, then finely chop them up. A small amount goes a long way.
Some vegetables and fruits, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, chili peppers, cherries, cranberries and currants have a more intense flavor when dried than when fresh. Add them when you want a burst of flavor.
Use liquid vegetable oils or nonfat cooking sprays whenever possible.
Whether cooking or making dressings, use the oils that are lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol – such as canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil – but use them sparingly, because they contain 120 calories per tablespoon.
Stay away from coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil. Even though they are vegetable oils and have no cholesterol, they are high in saturated fats.
Instead of frying foods – which adds unnecessary fats and calories – use cooking methods that add little or no fat, like these:
Stir-frying. Use a wok to cook vegetables, poultry or seafood in vegetable stock, wine or a small amount of oil. Avoid high-sodium (salt) seasonings like teriyaki and soy sauce.
Roasting. Use a rack in the pan so the meat or poultry doesn’t sit in its own fat drippings. Instead of basting with pan drippings, use fat-free liquids like wine, tomato juice or lemon juice. When making gravy from the drippings, chill first then use a gravy strainer or skim ladle to remove the fat.
Grilling and broiling. Use a rack so the fat drips away from the food.
Baking. Bake foods in covered cookware with a little extra liquid.
Poaching. Cook chicken or fish by immersing it in simmering liquid.
Sautéing. Use a pan made with nonstick metal or a coated, nonstick surface, so you will need to use little or no oil when cooking. Use a nonstick vegetable spray to brown or sauté foods; or, as an alternative, use a small amount of broth or wine, or a tiny bit of vegetable oil rubbed onto the pan with a paper towel.
Steaming. Steam vegetables in a basket over simmering water. They’ll retain more flavors and won’t need any salt.