Toasted nuts and seeds: After 5 to 10 minutes in a 350 degree F oven, nuts and seeds turn fragrant and flavorful. Almonds and walnuts add pleasing crunch to oatmeal and chicken salad, while cashews and peanuts lend depth to veggie stir fries. Use sunflower and pumpkin seeds to put the finishing touch on salads and soups. Just remember that nuts, while rich in healthy oils, are calorie dense. Chop them to stretch small amounts.
Low fat bettermilk: Despite its decadent sounding name, this dairy product won't derail your diet. Use it in place of oil or mayo in dressings, or as a base for meat marinades, its milk acidity tenderizes without toughening.
Balsamic vinegar: Sure, this aged condiment makes a mean salad dressing. But you'll get even more from the vinegar if you reduce it in a saucepan over low heat until it's thick and syrupy. Spoon the sweet tart reduction onto homemade pizza or, for a delectable dessert, over fresh fruit.
Pure maple syrup: Who needs pancakes? A drizzle of this antioxidant rich sweet stuff can balance the tartness in your grapefruit or heighten the caramelized flavors of roasted veggies such as carrots and Brussels sprouts. Brush a little on salmon after broiling, and you'll be hooked.
Low fat Greek yogurt: Consider this your fix for boring baked potatoes, it's creamier and higher in protein than light sour cream. It also makes a satisfying thickener for fruit smoothies and pureed soups.
Fresh herbs: They're often touted in low sodium diets because, like salt, they make flavors pop. Don't stop at savory dishes, though. Try adding fresh thyme or rosemary to whole grain pancake or muffin batter with a bit of lemon zest, or stir mint or basil into sugar free fruit preserves.
Roasted garlic: Raw cloves have a strong bite and can be a pain to peel and mince. During roasting, however, they mellow into a flavorful paste you can easily squeeze into a pasta sauce, sandwiches, dips and more.
Panko bread crumbs: These flaky bread crumbs add major crunch to recipes, no deep fryer necessary. Use them to coat skinless chicken cutlets and sliced veggies before baking, or give your healthful casseroles a guilt free crust.