It’s no secret that sugar makes food flavourful. When we cook, it’s common to use packaged sauces and flavours that house a host of hidden sugars for the unsuspecting consumer. One of the biggest complaints our team hears is that low-sugar food is bland. However, cutting down on sugar doesn’t mean you have to cut down on taste. Here are several, healthier methods to increase the flavour without the sugar.
Fruits are packed full of vitamins, water and fibre, they also include plenty of healthy, natural sweetness. Baking with fruits instead of sugar can give you a deliciously sweet treat without using added sugar (or syrups). For instance, dates can be used to make a date paste, which can make for a great addition to muffins, smoothies and cakes. Ripe bananas are also an excellent alternative, as their sweetness can be added to different breads and desserts. Apples and pears, too, are great for baking pies, glazes and other savoury treats. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruits, are an easy way to keep the sweetness and the taste!
2. Herbs and Spices
Looking for something a little spicier? Having a well-stocked spice rack will help you avoid pre-packaged flavours, cutting down on a lot of the sugar we inadvertently consume. Make your meal more flavourful by adding different combinations of herbs and spice. Salt is often a staple, but we recommend using it sparingly. Instead, try using cumin, paprika, black pepper or oregano. Roasted garlic, onion powder and truffle salt are also great options. Adding spices such as these will add a twist to your dish in place of a sugary – or salty – alternative. Experiment with different flavours in your next pasta dish, omelette, homemade salad dressing or any other meal. If you need to inject some sweetness into your breakfast, baking or dessert, vanilla and cinnamon are our two favourite go-to’s, therefore we recommend you to have both of these in your cupboard.
3. Infused Olive Oil
Combine herbs and spices with olive oil for a touch of flavour in your next meal. Infused olive oil adds taste to chicken, salads or some fresh wholesome sourdough, spelt or whole grain bread among many more dishes. Adding ingredients such as chopped chili, garlic or rosemary into oil for about an hour can quickly produce a dynamic flavour. Want to get serious about infusing? Follow this recipe here to learn how to make your own infused olive oil. Take care to refrigerate your result to preserve its shelf life after infusion.
4. Caramelising Fruits and Veggies
Caramelise vegetables such as onions, pumpkin, zucchini and capsicum by slowly roasting them over low heat in a small amount of oil to bring out their natural sugar flavours. The same applies to caramelising fruits, such as apples, pineapples, stones fruit and oranges, which can make great additions to your next kebab, homemade salsa or grilled steak. Caramelised fruits and veggies will bring a burst of sweetness in your next meal.
5. Acidic Touches
Acidic ingredients such as citrus juice or peel, or vinegar help boost and balance flavour while offering a welcome tang. Citruses and vinegar can be added during preparation or simply as a fresh finish to a dish. With many vinegar variations such as red or white wine, sherry, balsamic and rice wine, you can find a perfect match for pretty much any cuisine. Acid enhances the natural flavours of the rest of the dish, and can feature in homemade dressings, marinades and sauces; it can be used to cut through fatty cuts of meat and fish, or simply squeezed on fresh veggies or salad. You can even find many dessert recipes that call for acid, usually to complement or slice through the sweetness. Have you tried the strawberries and balsamic combo?
Using roots such as ginger and horseradish can bring that sense of freshness and zing to your plate. Ginger has a versatility that allows it to complement dishes from savoury to sweet. Fresh ginger in stir-fry, stews, tea and even desserts can add a unique flavour experience. Likewise, horseradish also adds zing to plenty of dishes such as coleslaw, deviled eggs or poultry meals.
With these delicious alternatives, cutting back on sugar doesn’t have to mean cutting out the taste. Add plenty of flavour to your meals and snacks without the guilt! If you’re stuck for your next meal, browse through That Sugar Movement’s recipes for healthy meals for the entire family.
By Jennifer Peters, ANutr
Public Health Nutritionist