Flavor Profiling & Umami for Weight Watchers
Umami is that deep flavor that makes you go “Yum”, found in stews, roast meat, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms bacon and a whole lot of other foods. Learning how to identify and use Umami in your cooking along with lower points can enhance your journey by adding great flavors even in combination, which I call “Exponential Umami”. It is likely the key reason I refused to join Weight Watchers over and over again – “I don’t want to give up the foods I love”, but I was wrong… I didn’t have to.
Being a Weight Watcher doesn’t mean eating flavorless “cardboard” & “rabbit food” in fact I expect that doing so will ultimately be your downfall and lead to willingly jumping off the wagon. Your new lifestyle needs to be enjoyable or you are less likely to stick with it over time.
I learned pretty quickly that the more flavor I can get into my meal, the more I enjoyed it and the less I needed to eat to feel satisfied. In fact, I transferred the notion of “satisfied” from being full into having a great tasting result; from quantity to quality.
I’m not talking about adding super-hot chilis or overdoing the spices, I’m talking about building a flavor profile which satisfies your pallet. In fact, you probably already do it, but you don’t know you are doing it. I hear things all the time which make me think of this. “I don’t like Brussel Sprouts on their own but cook them with bacon and drizzle them with Balsamic Glaze and I become a drooling puppy dog.
So let’s take a look at flavor. What is it and what makes something taste better than something else?
The experts agree that there are 4 obvious flavors, Sweet, Salty, Sour and Bitter and one hidden one that not many people recognize; the 5th flavor, Umami.
Umami is that earthy, savory flavor you get from things like beef, pork, chicken, meatloaf, burgers, tomato, mushroom, roasted squash etc… when you are thinking “comfort food” or “rich-tasting” you are probably recognizing Umami. I’ll bet pot roast comes to mind or maybe a ham bone in soup or chicken bones used to make chicken stock?
Interestingly, this Umami flavor was identified as the level of Glutamate (Glutamic Acid) in the food. Aging, roasting, grilling and stewing break down proteins into glutamate, hence aged steaks taste better as well as aged cheese and we fall in love with proteins which are stewed, braised, grilled or baked. If glutamate sounds familiar, it is the core ingredient for extracting MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate) found in a lot of Chinese food. Ever wonder why nearly everyone likes Chinese food?
When you combine Umami flavors you don’t just add another level of flavor, it multiplies the flavor many times. Think of how when eaten individually, a grilled hamburger tastes, how cheese, ketchup, and grilled mushrooms taste – now put them all together on a bun; much more satisfying right?
In fact, so satisfying that just a half or even a quarter of that burger will likely be enough to satisfy your brain, if not your stomach.
Now we’re getting to the Weight Watcher benefits. By converting your expectation of “satisfied” to that of great flavor rather than volume, you get the same result by eating less food.
Before recognizing Umami, my kryptonite snack was a dozen crackers with smoked oysters and camembert cheese, after joining Weight Watchers, my Kryptonite snack is 4 crackers with smoked oysters and camembert. It seems I had naturally fallen into a pattern of pairing foods high in Umami which suited my pallet. The problem was the whole can of oysters! I found, however, that eating only 4 was just as satisfying as eating 12.
Now we understand how this works, we can look at deliberately creating great flavor combinations and pairing foods together to maximize the flavor yet keep the points as low as possible.
As an example, I am much happier eating 2 turkey chorizo sausage sliders with egg at 2 points each (or 0SP as a lettuce wrap), than one plain full-sized Big Mac at 17SP.
Once you start thinking about this more, you might start looking at how to build flavor profiles and add a splash of that extra amazing flavor, which can increase your satisfaction much, much more and help with your weight loss or maintenance.