Kick Up the Flavor to Eat Less?

I read an interesting New York Times article a few weeks back, which said that people may be less likely to overeat if they are eating foods with strong flavors. The theory, posed by food author Peter Kamitmsky, is explored in his new book, Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well). He shares the idea of FPC, or flavor per calorie, encouraging people to eat more foods that have bold flavors in fewer calories (and to avoid high-calorie foods that are more bland).

Foods he likes: anchovies, chickpeas, capers, plain yogurt, olive oil, roasted almonds, bacon, butter, Italian sausage and dark chocolate. The New York Times author points out that Kaminsky is promoting small quantities of some of these foods, like a few crumbles of sausage or bacon in a lentil stew.

I don’t think this concept is suggesting something totally off the wall. I agree that it’s more satisfying to eat foods that richly satisfy the taste buds, and it’s definitely important to find the intersection of flavor and modest nutritional profile to avoid weight gain. Here are a couple of ideas I’ve tried out recently to do just that:

Jalapeno mustard: I found this in the market, and as a lover of spicy foods, I had to give it a whirl. It tastes like regular yellow mustard, but with a lot more attitude. One teaspoon is 0 calories.

Salad rocking the jalapeno mustard vinaigrette, with a lunch of black-eyed peas and ham with rice.

What I’ve done with the mustard so far is to use it in a relatively light vinaigrette: 2T of the mustard, mixed with 1/2 T agave nectar and 1 T apple cider vinegar. It made a slightly sweet, all-bold presence in a salad made of spring greens, grape tomatoes and vidalia onion. I think it would also be good on a turkey hot dog, served on a light hamburger bun. Add pickled jalapenos to give it even more punch. I’d also like to try making a potato salad, with the jalapeno mustard in place of good old yellow, and some southwest spices, to take this picnic classic into a new direction.

Balsamic vinegar: I have had balsamic vinegar in my house for a long time, occasionally using it in sauces for chicken dishes, and making a pretty standard salad vinaigrette out of it. I love the rich, subtly tangy taste of it, but I didn’t know what else to do with it. Then I got a mint plant, and I my brain pulled into focus on a simple dessert idea that many people enjoy: strawberries and balsamic vinegar.

A handful of sliced ripe strawberries; a few leaves of mint, shredded; a packet of Splenda, and a teaspoon of the balsamic vinegar is all you need. Mix the ingredients together, and enjoy the complex richness of this simple meal-ender.

I second Kaminsky’s suggestions for bacon and dark chocolate. I’d also add cheese to that list. A tablespoon of real bacon bits on a salad can be yours for 30 calories. A small piece of dark chocolate, alone or with fruit, is a good dessert or pick-me-up snack. The same goes for an ounce of a flavorful cheese, like a smoked gouda, chipotle cheddar, or havarti with dill. You could eat the cheese with an apple to make this snack a little more substantial.


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