Healthy Meal Accessories

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Whether you're cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner, sometimes it's the sauce and seasonings that actually make the meal. The problem? Some of these condiments can be loaded with fat and salt - if you're not careful, you can get more calories from the sauce than from the actual food. Below are some kitchen staples, that don't just add flavor, they also offer big health benefits.

Salsa:One reason to spice up your meals: You'll crank up your metabolism. Capsaicin, the substance that gives kick to peppers and chilis, has a thermogenic effect, meaning it causes the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after you eat them. Plus, since you can't swallow your food in one bite, eating slowly gives your brain time to register that your stomach is full, so you won't overeat. Capsaicin also stimulates nerve endings to release chemicals, raising the heart rate and possibly triggering the release of endorphins, giving you the pleasurable feeling of a natural high. Serve up some salsa with chips, tacos or even as a bold and tangy compliment to grilled chicken or fish.

Parsley:If you use parsley just as garnish, reconsider! The leafy herb packs a powerful nutrition punch. Just 1/4 cup provides more than 300 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin K, plus it's a good source of vitamins A and C. Parsley's phytonutrients - beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin - can help safeguard your sight, and chewing on a sprig can even freshen your breath. Sprinkle some sprigs in your salads, or cook it right into your meal.

Parmesan Cheese:Cheese is often diet sabotage because it is high in calories and fat. Never the less, there are cheeses which are healthy and you can enjoy, like parmesan cheese. It adds a savory and strong flavor to any dish like salads, soups and roasted veggies on very few calories, two tablespoons of parmesan cheese is only 55 calories.

Oranges and Lemons:Most of the antioxidants and polyphenols in produce are located very close to the surface of the skin or in the skin itself. A study published in the journal Nutrition Researchfound that most fruit peels exhibited two to 27 times more antioxidant activity than the pulp of the fruit. Oranges and lemons can be used many different ways and in many different dishes. You can zest the peels as a garnish on a baked good or into a rice stir fry. Orange juice and lemon juice are usually found in most dishes or use them to prepare a salad dressing or marinade. These tangy fruits also compliment many protein dishes from lemon sole to orange beef.

Red Wine:Red wine is healthy for your heart and your romantic moods! It may help prevent blood clots and reduce the blood vessel damage caused by fat deposits. It is also a particularly rich source of antioxidants which raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Red wine can be used as a wonderful marinade for chicken and beef, or as part of a salad dressing.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto