Cooking With Herbs

These healthy additives add zero-calorie zip to your meals

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Food would be so much less flavorful were it not for the wonders of herbs. Think Mexican food without cilantro or pesto without basil. Herbs elevate any dish, be it scrambled eggs, a salad, grilled vegetables, a vinaigrette, or meat.

They're also a dieter's dream come true. These delicate leaves and pods are bursting with flavor yet contain not a single calorie. And what herbs lack in calories, they make up for in disease-fighting phytochemicals.

Not only that, but herbs can help fill in the "flavor gaps" when you decrease or eliminate fat, sugar, and salt from your favorite recipes. And folks who are not big fans of vegetables may find the addition of an herb or two will lift the vegetable to whole new level.

Another benefit is that generous flavoring with herbs and spices may help dieters feel satisfied with less food. Meals bursting with flavor tend to be more satisfying, and if you eat slowly, you might be surprised at how little food you really need to get that feeling of fullness.

Fun With Herbs

Lining our cupboards in little bottles are the familiar dried and concentrated herbs that we typically use when cooking. Also available at the market -- or growing outside your kitchen window -- are fresh herbs, more delicately flavored and more eye-appealing than the dried varieties.

Whichever type you choose, herbs are essential ingredients for any great cook. If you look at most any restaurant menu, you'll likely see that the kitchen uses herbs extensively.