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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can low calorie foods be made to taste better?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    The more we know about how the taste buds actually work, the more we can trick them into being satisfied with and even happy about our new, healthier, lighter way of living.
    The Nose Knows
    Before we get to the taste buds, though, let's start with the organ directly above them, the nose. That's right, folks, while the tongue's taste buds are responsible for detecting basic tastes (salty, bitter, sour, sweet, and savoury), it's the nose that detects the specific flavours of foods through olfaction, or smell. Ever wonder why food just doesn't taste as good, no matter how great it looks, when you have a stuffy nose?
    Of course, we smell our food as we prepare our bite and put it into our mouth. But did you know you were inhaling the aroma at the same time you were chewing your food? When you chew, volatiles (odorous, gas-like substances) are released from the food and pumped up to the olfactory receptors located behind the bridge of the nose. Pretty efficient!
    Fat Tastes Good, Right?
    Think again: fat molecules are actually too big to be processed by the taste buds. Then how come high-fat foods taste so good, you ask. What you may be tasting are impurities and volatiles that are mixed in high-flavour oils such as olive and sesame, meats such as bacon, or my personal favourite, butter. Have you ever noticed how much flavour butter has when you brown it in a pan? The fat hasn't changed; the impurities in butter just come through better. Fat is also a solvent for smells that eventually make their way to our nasal receptors. In many cases, the greater the amount of fat, the greater the “aroma” for these particular flavours.
    Now let's talk about the king of fat: fried foods. Experts suspect that the high-temperature-frying process may release the volatiles in food, therefore triggering the “fat aroma.” Deep-frying at high temperatures also contributes two other desirable characteristics:

    • Crispy texture on the outside while moist and tender on the inside
    • Unique flavours from the caramelisation of sugars and starches and the browning of the food
    Keep in mind too that a food's flavour and our enjoyment of it actually rely on many of our senses: smell, touch, sight, and of course, taste.
    10 Ways to Trick and Treat Taste Buds
    Considering how the taste buds work and how the fat in food imparts a wide range of characteristics to food, from the crunchiness in crackers and chips to the moistness in cookies and cakes, here are 10 ways to trick your taste buds into loving lighter fare:
    1. Flavour your low-fat recipes with the best-tasting, freshest ingredients you can find. Fresh garlic tastes better than garlic powder; fresh basil and parsley have more flavour than dried. Lemon, lime, or orange zest (finely chopped) will add flavour to a dish that only calls for lemon, lime, or orange juice. Herbs and spices are your best friend and make any dish delicious!!!
    2. Toasting, roasting, or browning certain recipe ingredients – such as nuts and garlic – can bring out the natural flavours.
    3. Try some grocery store products that trick you by cutting the fat and calories in the products, but not cutting it so much that it tastes too different. Some great tasting examples are Fat Free Sour Cream, Evaporated skim milk with coconut flavour, Cracker Barrel Light Sharp Cheddar,  and light mayonnaise.
    4. Use half real eggs and half egg substitute in a mostly egg dish, such as a quiche, omelettes, frittatas, etc. You'll trick your taste buds into thinking it's all real eggs when you have really cut the fat and cholesterol in half!
    5. Australians need to get off the deep-fried train. Everything, it seems, is breaded and fried these days. Instead, trick your taste buds into thinking that the food you are eating is deep-fried when it is really browned by pan frying or oven-frying in a little bit of oil.
    6. Speaking of oil, let canola cooking spray save the day! We know about coating the pan you are pan frying or baking in with canola cooking spray. But did you know you can also use cooking spray to coat the outside of the food you are oven-frying or pan frying? It literally coats the food with a thin layer of small droplets of canola oil – just enough to seal the outside crust or breading and encourage some browning as it cooks.
    7. When it is necessary to maintain the character of a particular food, you can still use a cooking method that involves fat, but use a lot less of it.
    8. Fat tenderizes and moistens food like the oil added in muffin or cake recipes. In most cases, you can replace at least half of the fat in a bakery-type recipe with something else that adds moisture. Ingredients such as flavoured yogurts, fat-free or light cream cheese, light or fat-free sour cream, applesauce, liqueurs, buttermilk etc. all help serve this purpose in baked recipes.
    9. If you really don't care for some of the reduced-fat products out there, in some recipes you can always lighten your recipe up by simply using less of the real thing. In other words, if you prefer regular-fat cheese, use half the amount called for in the recipe. If you prefer regular-fat sausage or ground beef, cut the fat in half by using half as much in your recipe.
    10. One yolk often does the trick. The emulsifier found naturally in egg yolks (lecithin) helps bind the fatty ingredients with the non-fatty ingredients in bakery recipes such as in cookies, muffins, and cakes. Often, two or three eggs are called for when really one egg yolk will do. Often, you can add one egg to a recipe and replace the other eggs with two egg whites.

  • With over 25 years experience in clinical nutrition and dietetics I can help you achieve your health goals. I practice a client centered approach-I will … View Profile

    The best way to make low calorie foods to taste better is to buy the freshest best quality produce you can find. I always suggest that you take a leaf out of AN Italian and great grandmother’s book. You can see them sitting at a beautiful table with a bowl of fresh peaches, or some lovely fresh sun ripened tomatoes. They don’t really do much to them, they just let that taste and the flavor of beautiful seasonal produce come through.

    So, if we’re really looking at any healthy fresh foods, it's best to buy the best quality you can. Now, that doesn’t mean they have to be organic or expensive. Going to your local markets and buying the fruit that is in season, sometimes the supermarkets even have really good quality fruit.

    If you look for the fruit and veggies that are in the bins, at the front of the fruit and veggie section that’s usually the fruits and veggies that are in season at that moment and seasonal produce will always taste best.

    So it’s all about looking for the best quality. Storing it, tomatoes shouldn’t be stored in the fridge they should be really stored on the bench. Don’t buy in bulk; often those bags of apples or oranges aren’t really that nice. Nothing tastes nicer than a tomato or an orange that really smells delicious. So my tip is always to get fresh seasonal produce.

  • Mel Haynes


    Chef, Scientist and Nutritionist. I specialise culinary nutrition and disease prevention with plant based diets. View Profile

    What I recommend for being people on a low calorie diet, is they take full advantage of herbs and spices and things like vinegar and lemon juice. I also find that a more satisfying meal is actually a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, ensuring that you're not having something that is all carbohydrate or all protein.

    Fat being higher kilojoules, most people tend to cut that out first. But having a good mix of healthy fats is a good. You can include things like nuts, seeds or avocado in order to get that balance between the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which helps foods be more filling and satisfying. Generally making sure that you're getting those main taste factors in your mouth, so sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. So with umami, you can add in tomatoes, olives, cheese, and those sorts of things to get those flavors too.

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