NOT every diet change has to feel like throwing your kitchen, eating habits, and sanity upside down. The following food swaps can make you instantly healthier and your waistline slimmer, without feeling deprived.
Puffed, popped, rolled or flaked, there’s a plethora of breakfast cereals (enough to make your head spin). But the fact is, some of the popular choices are high in added sugar, refined grains, and even salt.
In general, once any cereal grain (wheat, corn, rye, oat, rice) is processed, it loses many important nutrients such as fibre and antioxidants. Some fibre, vitamins or minerals can be “added” back, but these are not necessarily grain derived and the full benefit may be lost. Secondly, the more processed the grain, the quicker it is to digest, wreaking havoc on blood sugar and insulin levels — hence weight long term.
When choosing breakfast cereals, look for cereal varieties that contains the words ‘whole’ or ‘wholegrain’ in the first two ingredients. For example cereals made with rolled oats or whole wheat will give you much-needed fibre and nutrition and will fill you up faster so you’re likely to eat a reasonable portion.
Beware that “sugars” includes both added AND naturally-occurring, such as dried fruit. To avoid too much added sugar, choose less than 15g per 100g or less than 25g per 100g if cereal contains dried fruit. As for salt, anything under 300mg per 100g is good.
Downsize your coffee
Your morning brew can be a calorie bomb if you’re not careful. If you’re a latte drinker and like it large with full-fat milk, each cup (400ml) serves up roughly 940 kilojoules (223 calories) and 12g of fat — almost half a standard meal.
Curb the coffee calories by ordering a regular-sized coffee or switch to reduced fat milk (ideally both), and avoid adding flavoured syrups. Even better, wean yourself off coffee and switch to a herbal tea, a couple of times a week and feel the difference.
With proper timing, portion control and appropriate food choices, snacks can boost energy levels, control later binges and fill the nutritional gaps. On the flip side, grazing all day — particularly on foods that offer little nutrition apart from rapidly digested carbs, empty sugars and hidden fat — can trigger food cravings and stimulate the reward centre in the brain, causing you to crave more processed junk.
Snack smart by choosing nutrient-rich and filling combos, such as slow releasing carbs, protein and fibre. The best way to achieve this is to choose snacks from more than one food group (e.g. vegie sticks with cottage cheese, fruit with yoghurt, hummus or boiled egg with wholegrain crackers, or trail mix of dried fruit and nuts) rather than single-item snacks (eg, pretzels, banana bread, rice crackers, biscuits, crisps or cheese).
Limit liquid calories
Fluid calories do not hold strong satiety properties and don’t suppress hunger. That’s because the body doesn’t detect them the same way as it would detect solid food. Juice, for example is not equivalent to fruit. The natural sugars in juice are absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream than those in whole fruit making it similar to a soft drink.
In fact, researchers have found that adding fruit juice before meals actually boosted hunger and weight gain. Similarly, the calories from alcohol can actually stimulate appetite due to its affect blood sugar levels. Salty peanuts anyone?
Always quench your thirst with water first. Eat a whole piece of fruit instead of drinking the juice. If you fancy an alcoholic drink, stick to one to two standard drinks, avoid large glasses and high-calorie mixers, and enjoy wine spritzer instead of a glass of wine.
Right size your plate
Spaghetti and meatballs? Steak and mash? They’re only half a meal, incomplete without vegetables. However, when people are told to add adding anything to their diet, even fruits and vegetables, there’s a strong possibility that you end up eating more food overall. Instead it’s all about substitution. It’s as simple as scaling back on the meat and starchy portions and incorporate some veggies, which are relatively lower in kilojoules and means you can eat more of them without gaining weight.
An easy trick to a balanced and portioned-controlled plate is to divide it in half. Automatically fill one side with different coloured veggies (or chop some veggies in your meatballs), leaving the rest for equal parts protein (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu) and the remaining quarter of smart carbs, such as cooked, grains or legumes. Author and New York Times bestseller, Michael Pollan famously says “a little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main.”
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