Want to say "goodbye" to bland? Say "hello" to 10 essential spices and seasonings for delicious, healthy meals

  • 3 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Is your pantry stocked with essential spices and seasoning ingredients? Not only can they add flavor, but many spices also add an antioxidant boost to your favorite foods!

Essential spices for pantry

10 Essential spices and seasoning ingredients for your pantry

Having basic spices and essential ingredients for cooking sets you up for creating endless healthy and tasty meals. Here are 10 essential spices and fundamental ingredients to keep in your pantry.

1. Garlic powder

A popular seasoning for many foods, garlic powder works on everything from meat to vegetables. Rub on meats before cooking and sprinkle on vegetables before roasting to boost the flavor. Make sure to choose garlic powder instead of garlic salt because the powder version has one mg sodium per 1/2 teaspoon, whereas garlic salt has 980 mg sodium in 1/2 teaspoon! You can also keep an unpeeled garlic clove for up to a month in a cool place in the kitchen. Finally, minced garlic from a jar serves its purpose well in various dishes. Of all of these options, garlic powder is the most shelf-stable. In addition, garlic is abundant in antioxidants. Evidence shows that garlic can lower cholesterol, may slow the development of hardening of the arteries, and may lower blood pressure.

2. Black pepper

Among the essential pantry spices, black pepper adds a savory kick to many dishes and is commonly used worldwide in recipes. Used on meats, fish, vegetables, soups, salads, pasta, and more, black pepper comes in different varieties, from finely ground to coarse. You can buy it ground or grind whole peppercorns at home with a peppermill for a fresher and more robust taste. Seasoning your food with extra black pepper can help you lighten salt usage, too.

3. Chili powder

Chili powder does the trick if you want to add Latin flavor to your foods. It can also add a kick to meats, soups, and stews. Chili powder is a spice blend that usually includes ground cumin, paprika, chile powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, coriander, and garlic powder. It has only 75 mg sodium in one teaspoon, which fits nicely in a low-sodium diet.

4. All-purpose seasoning blend

Many different sodium-free and low-sodium seasoning blends make it so easy to add a rainbow of flavor to your foods. Look for brands like Paul Prudhomme or Mrs. Dash. You can find all-purpose blends or blends that are specific to certain foods, such as poultry. Such combinations can be a super-convenient way to season food nicely using complementary spices meant for each other and expertly blended.

5. Hot sauce

There are so many hot sauces out there to add zip to your foods with just a few dashes. They range from mild to extra hot and add minimal calories and sodium to your food-one teaspoon averages about six calories and 138 mg sodium. Many people prefer to add the hot sauce to their liking right before eating.

6. Vinegar

Bottles of vinegar have gone from the ordinary distilled white and apple cider styles to multiple types that fill grocery shelves. Traditional cooking staples include white wine, red, and balsamic vinegar. Flavored vinegars make excellent bases for salad dressings or can be drizzled on cooked vegetables. The calories and sodium are minimal. For example, one teaspoon of white wine vinegar has only one calorie and 0 mg sodium!

7. Cinnamon

Cinnamon adds a warm essence to foods like hot cereal, yogurt, toast, a dish of fruit, baked fruit, and other baked goods. Enjoying cinnamon lets you cut down on the sugar or sweetener you add to a dish. It also has antioxidant properties and may help improve blood glucose in type 2 diabetes.

8. Bay leaf

Bay leaf comes in dried, crushed, and fresh forms but is primarily found as whole dried leaves in the market. Adding a bay leaf to your soups, stews, sauces, and marinades brings out a nice tea-like, aromatic flavor to these foods.

9. Lemon and lime juice

Keeping a lemon and lime on hand lets you quickly add a citrus flavor to cooked vegetables. Citrus juice brightens fish, tacos, sauces, and salads and is the perfect acid for marinades. Adding a lemon or lime wedge to water can turn water from plain and boring to refreshing and interesting.

10. Salt

You may be surprised to see salt on this list since sodium gets such a bad rap. Yes, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. This is equivalent to one teaspoon of salt. Using a slight to modest amount of salt in cooking is just fine. The key is to not rely on heavy salt for flavoring your foods but rather use it in combination with the many other seasonings available.

Stocking your pantry with a handful of spices and essential ingredients for seasoning your otherwise bland meals will prove more flavorful and enjoyable for the whole family.

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Foods & Recipes->"Herbs, Spices, & Flavor"
Mar 21, 2022

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