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Homemade sauces and salad dressings in mason jars including vinaigrette, ranch and honey mustard.

VeselovaElena/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

It’s no surprise that dieting is on many people’s minds at the moment. Between Christmas and the pandemic, weight gain is a big topic.

There are plenty of trendy diets from which to choose, but I find that simply eating less works wonders. Dietician and Globe columnist Leslie Beck says, “According to a 2020 review of weight loss diets published in the journal Nutrients, the best diet to help people successfully lose weight is one that reduces calorie intake, focuses on healthy and enjoyable foods, and, importantly, can be sustained for the long-term.”

Based on her statement, here are my tips for cutting calories and keeping flavour.

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Broil, bake or steam foods instead of frying. If you want to sauté or fry, use an excellent quality non-stick skillet with minimal oil. Both All-Clad and Le Creuset make superior ones. Or use an air fryer. Toss your protein or veggies with 1 tablespoon oil then air fry them.

Remove all visible fat from meat and poultry before cooking. However, leave on the chicken skin and remove after cooking for better flavour. Skim fat from soups and gravies before serving, or chill them and remove the layer of fat that solidifies on the surface. Thicken soups with extra pureed vegetables instead of flour. Finish with a little swirl of yogurt rather than adding cream.

Acids such as lemon, lime and vinegar boost flavour. Add a touch before serving. Balsamic vinegar is especially good over vegetables.

Fresh herbs and spices give vibrancy to food. There are lots of companies doing herb and spice mixtures you can order online. The Gorgeous Spice Company, for example, has a monthly spice club. You can also easily make your own.

If you don’t make your own stock, use low-salt, fat-free broths or Better Than Bouillon jars of chicken broth paste.

Be careful of low-fat products, especially yogurt, mayonnaise or sour cream. They can have hidden sugar to boost their taste. Instead, use full-fat ones, but less of them. Speaking of yogurt, fruit yogurts are high in calories, so buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit.

Lots of calories lurk in store-bought salad dressings, since sugar or honey are often an ingredient. Make your own balsamic, buttermilk or yogurt-based dressings flavoured with herbs. For a thick salad dressing, use ricotta as the base and blend.

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Learn to read labels for fat and sugar content to understand that “light” does not always mean fewer calories. Stay away from any ultra-processed foods. They are high in sugar, sometimes hidden. Corn syrup, which is highly processed itself, is often one of the ingredients. Buy fresh whenever possible.

When a savoury recipe calls for butter or oil, cut the amount in half. Cut sugar down in baking recipes. I find that ¾ of the amount of sugar works well.

Here’s a low-calorie dressing with flavour that’s a good match for mixed greens. It keeps about four days, when refrigerated. Whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice or wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add herbs of choice if desired.

Need some advice about kitchen life and entertaining? Send your questions to lwaverman@globeandmail.com.

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