Flavour Without Fat

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Excess weight or obesity is a problem for two-thirds of men in Australia, almost half the women, and one child in five. Nutritionist, Dr Rosemary Stanton, says that’s partly because most people eat too much fat. While some ‘good’ unsaturated fat (from nuts, olive oil or avocados) is essential in the diet, it’s the ‘bad’ saturated fat that causes problems.

Saturated fats give flavour to most fried foods and many processed items, but it is possible to have flavour without fat. The secret is to use fresh foods and add herbs, spices, chilli, garlic, lemon and concentrated ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes.


Salsas add low-fat flavour to barbecued or grilled steaks, chicken or fish. Supermarkets sell salsas in jars but you can make your own in just a few minutes.

(Note: when buying salsas check the labels – some products have too much salt. The recommended daily intake of sodium from all sources is 920-2300 mg/day.)

Mango salsa

1 mango, finely diced fresh chilli, chopped fresh ginger, chopped (optional) 1-2 tablespoons lime juice 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Tomato salsa

2 ripe tomatoes 1 red onion, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, chopped parsley, basil, coriander or chives extra virgin olive oil Core the tomatoes, then use a sharp knife to make a cross on the bottom of each. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and leave for about a minute. Remove the tomato skin and dice the flesh. Add the red onion, garlic, basil, coriander, parsley or chives, and just a slurp of extra virgin olive oil.

Mustards, chutneys and pickles

These add great flavours to food without any fat. A tiny amount of wasabi complements sushi or sashimi, and powdered wasabi can be mixed with a little water or natural yoghurt and served with grilled fish or steamed vegetables. Make a quick and easy sauce for stir-fried chicken breast by adding to the pan 1 tablespoon of mild or grainy mustard, 1/4 cup of raspberry vinegar and 1/4 cup of chicken stock or apple juice.


Many supermarkets now stock balsamic, red wine, white wine, raspberry, apple cider and sherry vinegars. Mix them with a little extra virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of mustard as a dressing for salads, or use them to make fat-free sauces. For example, mix apple cider vinegar with honey and a mild mustard and serve with pork or even on potatoes.

Caramelised onions

Caramelised onions have very little fat, and they’re delicious with just about anything. 1 teaspoon olive oil 2-3 onions, finely sliced 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon brown sugar Place in a saucepan, put the lid on and cook over very gentle heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Serve with grilled meats or use on top of whole baked potatoes instead of butter or sour cream


Combine herbs, spices, chilli, ginger or garlic with a little salt-reduced soy sauce, a spoonful of brown sugar, honey or pomegranate molasses, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and wine, sherry or fruit juice. Even 15 minutes in a marinade will enhance the flavour of chicken or meat.

Further reading

You’ll find lots more fat-free cooking ideas in healthy recipe books such as:
‘Simply Healthy’ (ISBN: 1582792046 $32.95) and ‘Fresh and Healthy’ (ISBN: 1876624302 $34.95) by Sally James, and ‘Good Food for Men’ by Rosemary Stanton (ISBN 1865087084, $29.95, available first week of March).