1. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Got a craving for chocolate that won’t go away? Who says you can’t give in? Try preparing a delicious treat using unsweetened cocoa powder. Trading in handfuls of Hershey’s for this alternative not only cuts down on sugar content but also ups your intake of dietary fiber. A quarter-cup serving contains just 49 calories, 2.9 grams of dietary fat, and 0.4 grams of sugar, while boasting 4.2 grams of protein and 7.1 grams of dietary fiber. It’s hard to beat that nutritional profile.
Add some unsweetened cocoa powder to almond milk, sprinkle in a touch of stevia, and heat over medium, and you’ll have a delicious mug of hot cocoa in minutes. If you’re craving a late-night snack, add some cocoa powder and stevia to vanilla casein and low-fat milk for a delicious high-protein chocolate pudding. For an everyday treat—or flavorful change of pace—add cocoa to protein shakes and pancake batter, or even stir it into Greek yogurt.
2. Balsamic Vinegar
If you are looking for a simple way to add delicious flavor to your dishes, balsamic vinegar can help. When mixed with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar is great drizzled over a salad or paired with steamed vegetables. Balsamic vinegar also adds a perfect finishing touch to soups and sauces, and it’s great for marinating. The tangy, savory touch can turn the same-old protein into a delicious dish you can’t wait to serve.
No pantry would be complete without adding some nuts into the mix. Nuts are a highly versatile food. You can add them to salads, stir them into your baking mix, toss a few into your morning bowl of oatmeal, or simply eat them on their own or as part of a high-energy trail mix.
Most people turn to almonds or peanuts to fill their nut craving, but try and break away from that every so often. After all, variety is the spice of life. When you’re looking to try something new, the kidney-shaped cashew is a great way to go.
Cashews are a rich source of antioxidants and heart-healthy phenolic compounds. They also boast a distinctly delicious taste that leaves its mark on any dish. For something really special, get some cashew butter and use it in place of regular peanut butter. It’ll give cookies, smoothies, or even that slice of Ezekiel bread you eat in the morning an interesting new twist.
4. Sesame Oil
Ever wonder what gives Chinese food that unique taste? While some plates are loaded with MSG—which you don’t want to include in your diet plan—authentic Chinese cooking involves sesame oil. This oil isn’t overly strong, but it does give the foods you use it with a fresh, light flavor that is much different than what you’d get with olive oil.
Refrain from too much high-heat cooking with sesame oil. Instead, think of it more as a condiment that you’ll add once cooking’s nearly done. Brush it over meat before it’s served, drizzle it over cooked vegetables, or toss it into a whole-wheat Asian noodle salad for a delicious dressing.
5. Almond Flour
If you love baked goods, but don’t love all the refined carbs that come with them, try almond flour. Almond flour is much lower in carbs than traditional all-purpose flour, it’s virtually sugar free, and it provides an excellent healthy fat source in your diet plan. Just 100 grams of almond flour contains only 2 grams of carbs. Compare that to the 76 grams of carbs in the same amount of all-purpose flour.
Just about anything that is normally prepared with white flour can be made with almond flour. That means cupcakes, muffins, cookies, and brownies can all still have a place in your diet—the protein versions, of course.