If one of your biggest joys in life is good food, then going on a diet—even if it’s not to lose weight, but to lower your blood pressure or bad cholesterol—can be a little frightening because you think, “Then what do I have to look forward to each day?” When rich, decadent food is your happy place, and a diet threatens to take that away, you probably won’t succeed on that diet unless you can find a way to enjoy it. Unfortunately, American society has mostly taught us that more butter, more fat, more salt and more sugar equals more flavor and those are the only things that do that. But that simply isn’t true. We just need a little help from professionals. Here are taste hacks, from professional chefs, that can help make any healthy food delicious.

Add lemon to boring or bitter vegetables

If you’re charring things like celery or chard, adding a little lemon juice cancels out the bitterness and brings out the hidden sweetness in these vegetables, making them scrumptious.

Add candied nuts to salad

Instead of using bread crumbs, tortilla strips or wonton pieces for crunch, add candied nuts to a salad. They add healthy fats and protein, without the empty calories.

Reduce and simmer everything

Everything is more flavorful when you reduce and simmer it. Most foods have a stronger flavor profile than we realize, but we don’t give them enough time to marinade and release their flavor before we eat them.

Miso, rice vinegar, mirin, and lemon

This combination, whipped together, comes out with a consistency of mayonnaise, but is actually very low in calories and doesn’t contain any egg or dairy. It’s delicious on burgers and with just about any protein.

Use tomato paste instead of ketchup

Tomato paste is healthier than ketchup in that it doesn’t contain the long ingredients list and high sugar content, Plus, it’s so concentrated that you only need a little to get plenty of flavor.

Add anchovy paste

Anchovy paste is like tomato paste in that a little goes a long way. You can add it to stews, crab cakes, meat loafs and even use it as a tapenade for a burst of flavor.

Use flavored olive oil

Flavored olive oil is a little-known secret among chefs. The additional ingredients—whether they be jalapeno or sundried tomatoes—have sat in the oil for a long time, so there’s no need to add any salt to get a huge taste blast from these products.

Use flavored vinegar

Fig vinegar, apple cider vinegar, peach vinegar—you name it, it’s out there, and it’s salad dressing all in its own right. The darker ones, like fig vinegar, taste delicious on pot roasts and the lighter ones, like peach, bring a lot of flavor to fish.

Use coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is a natural sugar, so it won’t mess with your body the way artificial sweetener does, but it’s naturally lighter than cane sugar, and a little goes a long way.

Use cashew cream for thickness

If you need to add thickness to mashed potatoes, creamy soup, or even a dairy-free creamy dessert, cashew cream is your ticket. It’s very thick, so you only need a tablespoon or two to make things like cream of broccoli extra thick.

Read full list of hacks at www.madamenoire.com.

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