When it comes to making chicken or other meats taste delicious, you have a few options...
You could douse it in sauce and cover it in melted cheese, for starters.
That'd be delicious, but would cost you an absolute ton of calories.
OR you could simply spice up the meat with some low or zero calorie seasonings, and get yourself a much healthier meal option.
But beware: Some seasonings have more calories than you'd expect. They usually won't add a significant amount to your meal when used in small amounts, but you don't want to be taken by surprise. Don't assume that every seasoning is low in calories!
Below, I'll show you exactly which seasonings have zero, less than 10, or more calories.
(And psst, if your kitchen's looking a little bare when it comes to spices, here's an amazing spice rack on Amazon that includes 5 years of free refills on 20 different spices.)
Zero Calorie Seasonings
There are really only a handful of seasonings, herbs, and spices that qualify as no-calorie.
Even still, a few on the list below actually do have calories, it's just that the amount per serving is so negligible (less than 1 calorie per serving) that it's almost not even worth counting.
Others, like salt, truly have no calories no matter how much you consume.
Basil is a green, leafy plant from central Africa and southeast Asia. You can buy it fresh and chop it up yourself to add flavor to a dish, or simply buy dry basil from the spice aisle.
It has a powerful and pleasant smell to it, with a sweet flavor that's got a little bit of mint and pepper.
Cress is a green, flowery plant from the cabbage family. In terms of taste, it's a little horseradishy, with pepper and spice underneath a flowery aroma.
Dill / Dill Weed
Dill is a green garden herb that, again, can be bought and chopped fresh or added to your food via the dried, spice version.
People describe the taste of dill as a bit like celery and fennel with a little bitterness to it.
Simply, garlic salt is regular salt mixed with garlic powder, though the ratio tends to be more salt than garlic.
The garlic powder does have around 1 calorie per serving on its own, but its diluted so heavily by the zero-calorie salt that garlic salt has essentially no caloric content.
Salt, Iodized Salt & Sea Salt
Finally, pretty much all forms of salt have no calories.
A note on sodium
Salt and some of the other seasonings on this list may have no calories, but they're high in sodium. So while it might seem like there's no limit to how much you can use, it's a good idea to keep an eye on your usage. Most health organizations recommend we have somewhere between 1500-2300mg of sodium per day... that's a little less than 6g of salt per day at a maximum.
Overdoing it on the sodium on a regular basis could lead to higher blood pressure and put you at risk for other kinds of serious diseases.
Under-10 Calorie Seasonings
Surprised the list of zero calorie seasonings is so short? Me too.
Turns out, most of the seasonings we know and love have at least a handful of calories per serving (usually per teaspoon or tablespoon, though there are a few flavorings that are typically measured differently).
Now, to be fair, adding around 10 calories of seasoning to a dish is pretty much negligible and should have zero impact on your diet or cutting progress.
But if you like to really load up on the flavor, just be aware that you could be unknowingly adding more extra calories than you think.
Here's a list of seasonings, herbs, spices, and flavorings with 10 calories or less, per serving:
(I pulled this information from the very handy Calories.info, and double checked for accuracy to the best of my ability.)
- Arugula - 1 leaf (2 g) - 1 cal
- Chives - 1 tbsp (3 g) - 1 cal
- Cilantro - 1/4 cup (4 g) - 1 cal
- Coriander - 1/4 cup (4 g) - 1 cal
- Mint - 1 tbsp (1.6 g) - 1 cal
- Parsley - 1 tbsp (3.8 g) - 1 cal
- Rosemary - 1 tbsp (1.7 g) - 1 cal
- Capers - 1 tbsp (8.6 g) - 2 cal
- Ginger - 1 tsp (2 g) - 2 cal
- Serrano Pepper - 1 pepper (6.1 g) - 2 cal
- Cayenne Pepper - 1 tsp (1.8 g) - 3 cal
- Cider Vinegar - 1 tbsp (14.9 g) - 3 cal
- Grape Leaves - 1 leaf (3 g) - 3 cal
- Hot Pepper - 1 tsp (1.8 g) - 3 cal
- Marjoram - 1 tbsp (1.7 g) - 3 cal
- Oregano - 1 tsp (1 g) - 3 cal
- Red Wine Vinegar - 1 tbsp (14.9 g) - 3 cal
- Tarragon - 1 tbsp (1.8 g) - 3 cal
- Thyme - 1 tsp (1 g) - 3 cal
- Vinegar - 1 tbsp (14.9 g) - 3 cal
- Garlic - 1 clove (3 g) - 4 cal
- Jalapeno - 1 oz. (30 g) - 4 cal
- Lemon Grass - 1 tbsp (4.8 g) - 4 cal
- Maggi - 1 tsp (4 g) - 4 cal
- Black Pepper - 1 tsp (2.4 g) - 5 cal
- Broth - 1 tsp (5 g) - 5 cal
- Pepper - 1 tsp (2.4 g) - 5 cal
- Tamarind - 1 tamarind (2 g) - 5 cal
- Vanilla Bean - 1 pod (2 g) - 5 cal
- Chili Powder - 1 tsp (2.7 g) - 6 cal
- Okra - 1 tbsp (18 g) - 6 cal
- Orange Peel - 1 tbsp (6 g) - 6 cal
- Paprika - 1 tsp (2.3 g) - 6 cal
- Saffron - 1 tbsp (2.1 g) - 6 cal
- Sage - 1 tbsp (2 g) - 6 cal
- White Pepper - 1 tsp (2.4 g) - 6 cal
- Anise - 1 tsp (2.1 g) - 7 cal
- Anise Seed - 1 tsp (2.1 g) - 7 cal
- Chicory Greens - 1 cup (29 g) - 7 cal
- Fennel Seed - 1 tsp (2 g) - 7 cal
- Horseradish - 1 tbsp (15 g) - 7 cal
- Onion Powder - 1 tsp (2.4 g) - 7 cal
- Turmeric - 1 tsp (2.2 g) - 7 cal
- Cream of Tartar - 1 tsp (3 g) - 8 cal
- Red Pepper - 1 tsp (3 g) - 8 cal
- Chard - 1 leaf (48 g) - 9 cal
- Garlic Powder - 1 tsp (3.1 g) - 10 cal
- Mustard Seed - 1 tsp (2 g) - 10 cal
Higher Calorie Seasonings (11+ calories per serving)
If you're like me, you just assumed that almost all seasonings were pretty much calorie-free up until now.
And for the most part, that's true... I mean, what impact does it really have adding 10-15 calories of seasoning to a dish?
But there are a handful of herbs and spices out there that contain a really surprising number of calories. I personally was a little chagrined to see cumin on this list, as I've been using it in copious amounts to spice up my homemade burrito bowls (my main dinner for intermittent fasting.) I was definitely surprised to find out that cumin has around 23 calories per tablespoon.
Enough to blow your diet? Maybe not. But enough that you should at least monitor how much you're using.
Here's a list of higher calorie seasonings to be aware of:
- Nutmeg - 1 tsp (2.2 g) - 11 cal
- Savory - 1 tbsp (4.4 g) - 11 cal
- Poultry Seasoning - 1 tbsp (4.4 g) - 12 cal
- Balsamic Vinegar - 1 tbsp (16 g) - 14 cal
- Cardamom - 1 tbsp (5.8 g) - 16 cal
- Cloves - 1 tbsp (6.5 g) - 16 cal
- Cinnamon - 1 tbsp (7.9 g) - 17 cal
- Crystallized Ginger - 1 tbsp (5.2 g) - 17 cal
- Ground Ginger - 1 tbsp (5.2 g) - 17 cal
- Pumpkin Pie Spice - 1 tbsp (5.6 g) - 17 cal
- Caraway Seeds - 1 tbsp (6.7 g) - 20 cal
- Curry - 1 tbsp (6.3 g) - 20 cal
- Arrowroot - 1 root (33 g) - 21 cal
- Chili - 1 tbsp (8 g) - 23 cal
- Cumin - 1 tbsp (6 g) - 23 cal
- Cumin Seed - 1 tbsp (6 g) - 23 cal
- Dandelion - 1 cup (55 g) - 25 cal
- Juniper - 1 cup (55 g) - 25 cal
- Onion - 1 onion (85 g) - 34 cal
- Fenugreek - 1 tbsp (11.1 g) - 36 cal
- Almond Extract - 1 tbsp (10 g) - 37 cal
- Vanilla Extract - 1 tbsp (13 g) - 37 cal
- Poppy Seed - 1 tbsp (8.8 g) - 42 cal
- Chicory Roots - 1 root (60 g) - 43 cal
- Black Sesame Seeds - 1 tbsp (9 g) - 52 cal
- Minced Onion - 1 cup (160 g) - 64 cal
- Licorice - 1 tbsp (18 g) - 68 cal
- Fennel - 1 bulb (234 g) - 73 cal
- Taro - 1 cup, sliced (104 g) - 116 cal
- Parsnip - 1 parsnip (170 g) - 128 cal
- Yam - 1 cup (150 g) - 177 cal
- Cassava - 1 root (408 g) - 653 cal
- Sesame Seeds - 1 cup (144 g) - 825 cal
Though not all seasonings are as low-calorie as you might think, herbs and spices are often a great and healthy way of flavoring your food. As an alternative to sauces, oils, cheese, etc., you'll almost always save yourself valuable calories.
(If you're dieting, cutting, and/or eating in a calorie deficit, you'll need to be tracking every calorie in and out!)
In general, don't fret about how your seasoning usage is affecting your diet. Just be aware of sodium intake (many of these seasonings are high in sodium... read the container label to be sure and try to stay under around 2300mg for the day).
But in any case, I hope this information has helped!
If you're interested in spicing up your food with zero or low-calorie seasonings, definitely check out this awesome spice rack and tower on Amazon that includes 5 years of free refills on all the spices!