Ask any bodybuilder who diets more than once a year and he’ll tell you the things he misses most when elements are cut from his regular diet, are all of the embellishments that make up a meal – sauces, gravies, and the spreads and dressings that hold protein together. Tuna with mayonnaise is a far cry from dry tuna, drained of all its water and moisture. A juicy, fatty burger patty just isn’t the same without a bevvy of condiments.

Most reason that for 12 weeks, they can endure the loss of almost anything – from condiments to sex. But the truth is, dieting for competition and a lean look doesn’t have to be this spartan.

I remember a day back in 1989 when a gym friend said that going on a diet was like going into the Sahara Desert for 90 days. I asked why, and he said, “Because my food is going to be about as dry as it comes.” I asked him why he felt he couldn’t have seasoning without salt, the occasional artificial sugar to sweeten a bowl of oatmeal or the occasional sip of Crystal Light in his gallon jug at the gym.

“Oh no, I could never do that, dude,” he said. “If I did that it just blurs the lines.” I tried to convince him it was possible to get through a diet and still feel human, but he never relented and went right on eating tuna without so much as a shake of Mrs. Dash, a squeeze of lemon, or a packet of mustard.

There are those diehards – the ones who won’t compromise on taste because they think too much taste will rattle their cage and make them fall off the strict diet wagon. But there are plenty more bodybuilders dieting who are looking for unique and creative ways to make bland, low carb or low fat food taste good.

I prefer to look at diets as “meeting requirements” – no more no less. For me to lose body fat, there are few requirements in the carb area, so I don’t eat a lot of them. There are high demands placed on the protein group, and moderate demands on the fat group. How I get those, when I get those, I decide. And what’s left over – if it doesn’t cost me in calories, or macronutrient grams, are fair game.

I love sauces, because they dress protein in ways that are exquisite, often for few calories. With so many spices, it’s almost a guarantee that you can make any kind of ethnic sauce you want, with no guilt on a diet.

I love Indian curries, Thai dipping sauces that accompany ground chicken in lettuce cups, Asian-style, and Fresh-mex style salsas that cost absolutely nothing in calories and add a ton of spice and taste. And yes, you CAN lose weight when not suffering – suffering is not a prerequisite to the diet process.

Try these fabulous sauces to jazz up your protein meals or top salads. Don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty lean and you’ll be able to endure a diet much longer.

Low Carb Diet Peanut Butter Dressing for Salad

1 tablespoon Best Foods Mayo

2 tablespoons Red Wine vinegar

4 Equal or Splenda packets to taste

2 heaping tablespoons nutty Adam’s Peanut butter or other natural style without sugar

Optional: If you want the dressing to taste Indian, add a shake or two of your favorite curry

Red Bell Pepper Sauce for chicken or fish

Ingredients

2 Red Bell peppers, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, then removed and skin peeled.

1 clove garlic

1 large carrot, peeled and cooked soft

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream (Whipping cream in carton, not in cannister with sugar and CO2)

Process red pepper and garlic to a puree in food processor or mini-prep (If you don’t have one, they have small cheap ones at Ace Hardware). Add soft carrot and puree. Add cream and finish. Heat or keep cold and pour over chicken, pork, or fish.

Red Wine Reduction for Steak or Pork

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (or use onion – shallots are more flavorful)

1/4 balsamic vinegar

1 cup good red wine (Shiraz, Cabarnet – something you would consider drinking) Or substitute a sweeter wine, such as Marsala or Port for pork recipes

1 tablespoon beef or veal demiglace (available in a jar) diluted in 1 cup hot water. Or, dissolve 2 bouillon cubes in 1 cup water

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to moderate-high, and add vinegar. Cook another 2 minutes, then add wine. When sauce is reduced by half, add the diluted demiglaze and bring back to a boil, then reduce to summer and cook until liquid volume is reduced by half again. Sauce takes 20 to 25 minutes.