Whether you are trying to lose weight, or just aiming to eat as healthily as you can, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour to save those calories.
In fact, just making a few changes to the way you currently eat, can add up to make a big difference over time. And let’s face it, cutting a few calories here and there is probably easier than increasing your output via exercise (don’t get me wrong, I still encourage you to keep up with your exercise as much as possible!)
The idea here is to cut back on sugar, fat and salt, and thus reduce total calorie intake. Whilst we want some sugars in our diet – we want to include the naturally occurring ones such as those found in fruits and dairy products, but not added sugars. Similarly with fat, we want and in fact need some fat in our diet, but we want to be careful about the source and type of that fat. Generally choosing unsaturated fat is the way to go, but so long as the majority of your food choices are as nature intended (i.e. unprocessed) you can’t go too far wrong.
Take a look at some simple swaps to get you started.
Swap full fat milk for trim or lite milk – this will cut down your saturated fat content. Trim milk also tends to have a higher protein and calcium content per 100mls, so really this is a win win swap!
Choose wholegrain cereals with the least added sugar as possible. Take a look at the label and see if you can find something with less than 15g sugar per 100g you can afford a tad more sugar if your cereal has fruit in it already – it’s harder than it sounds! Best option here is something like rolled oats (porridge) or whole wheat biscuits.
I found this amazing website where you can make your own muesli. My variation has dried fruit in it but no added sugar, and as such only has 7g sugar per 50g serve. Check out their website here: www.themueslihub.co.nz
Try to avoid the pre-packaged flavoured instant oats, they often come packed with added sugar and chemical flavourings. Instead use wholegrain oats and add your own flavour like cinnamon and raisins or apple slices.
Ditch the added sugar with your porridge/cereal and use some cinnamon and vanilla instead. Depending on your preferences, some added cardamom and ginger can taste amazing as well. Top with some frozen berries for that extra flavour boost.
Swap flavoured yoghurt for a natural yoghurt or Greek variety and sweeten with some fruit. Greek yoghurt can have twice the protein content of regular flavoured yoghurt as well as a lot less carbohydrate overall.
Swap cornflakes or rice bubble type cereals for bran based cereals. Although they may seem like a good choice in terms of sugar content, there really isn’t a lot to them. You might find you’re hungry again in an hour after eating and craving an unhealthy morning tea. Whereas including a bran based cereal will add fibre to your diet and keep you full for longer.
Choose wholegrain bread over white. This is really a no brainer; you will feel more satiated, and increase your protein and fibre intake all at once.
Choose a sandwich sliced bread over toast to save those extra calories.
When having eggs for breaky, choose boiled, or poached instead of fried. Even scrambled eggs can be a poor choice if eating out, as cafes will often use butter and cream when cooking.
Have a piece of fresh fruit instead of a glass of juice – it is more filling, and you get a good dose of fibre with the whole fruit choice as well, which will limit the sugar rush. You will also save calories.
Again choose wholegrain based breads instead of white; including bread, wraps, English muffins, pitas and crackers.
Swap your daily bagel for a chicken and salad sandwich. Your bagel could have as many calories in it as 4-5 slices of bread!
Use Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese with some garlic and chives and tuna in a baked potato instead of sour cream and cheddar cheese.
Use hummus or avocado as a spread instead of mayo/ butter.
Make extra dinner so you have leftovers instead of buying lunch. This will save time and money.
Include veges in your sandwich with some protein instead of having just meat and cheese. This will noticeably cut the fat and calorie content whilst adding fibre and a whole host of vitamins.
Lunch doesn’t have to mean a boring sandwich, try a warming soup on these colder days or a chicken or tuna salad with some chick peas or other legumes in it to add protein, carbohydrate and satisfying fibre.
Trim all visible fat and skin off meat before you cook it and always aim to buy the leanest meat you can – it doesn’t have to be expensive – at least you’re not paying for fat!
Pad out meat dishes with extra vegetables and legumes – see how here in my healthier lasagne recipe.
Aim to have at least half of your plate made up of non starchy vegetables – the more colourful the better.
Leave the skin on when cooking vegetables – things like potatoes, kumara and pumpkin skins can all be eaten. Not only will this boost the fibre of your dish but this part of the vegetable is often the most nutritious!
Instead of using rice as a base for a dish, chuck a head of cauliflower in the food processor until it is coarse in texture and rice like, then heat it in a frying pan with a little oil, salt and spices to flavour and use it as a base for curries, stirfry or any other dish you would have rice in.
Use tomato based sauces instead of creamy ones. If you’re using a jar of sauce, try to find one with reduced salt and sugar and add more veges. You can never have too many veges!
When using cheese as a topping, try using parmesan instead of cheddar. The strong flavour of parmesan means you don’t need to use as much as you would using cheddar, cutting the calorie content drastically.
Try quinoa as a substitute for couscous – you will automatically boost your protein intake, plus add an interesting texture to your dish.
If you’re having a pasta meal, use whole wheat pasta instead of white.
Feel like a Thai inspired coconut based curry? Look out for coconut flavoured evaporated milk instead of using full on coconut cream – you will save a ton of calories and fat! If you can’t find that, use lite coconut cream or milk instead.
Some extra tips
Use a smaller dinner plate – this tends to mean you will serve yourself a smaller portion and eat less overall.
A slightly strange one – but it works; try using chopsticks to eat your meals – this will (likely) slow you down meaning you are less likely to go for a second helping when you aren’t actually hungry.
Drink a big glass of water before you start eating, this will start to fill you up before you actually consume any calories!