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To promote weight loss, my favourite starting place is to make some simple food swaps.
As we’ve talked about before, I hate the word ‘diet’. I much prefer the thought of a healthy eating lifestyle, where it’s more long term. But what we cannot expect is to cut out all the ‘bad’ foods and replace them with ‘good’ foods.
A great option is to look at what you eat and see what subtle changes you can make, substituting for a healthier alternative.
Below I have listed some of the simple food swaps you can make in your day-to-day life that still enable you to have some ‘treats’ without racking up the calories, fats and sugars, thus assisting with your weight loss;
Sweet Potato Wedges
Sugar-coated breakfast cereal
Wholegrain cereal, Porridge oats
White Bread, Pasta, Rice
Wholegrain Breads, Pasta, Rice
Squash/Cordial, Fizzy Drinks
No added sugar cordials or Water
Skinny’ coffee, Black Coffee
Some of these food swaps will be easier than others, but start somewhere and make more changes as the days and weeks pass to start your weight loss journey.
Make a food diary for a week or two, writing down everything you consume, including the calories if you can. There are some great apps that can help you with this. And then look at what substitutes you can make and how that would affect your calorie, fat and sugar intake.
- Dark Chocolate – Choose organic dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate. It is better for you, and is full of antioxidants.
- Sweet Potato Wedges – Much better than fried chips/fries, especially those deep fried in looking oil. Sweet potato wedges can be oven cooked, or you can use them in all the ways you would have regular spuds, mashed, boiled or baked as a healthier alternative. They are full of vitamins too.
- Frozen Yogurt – Get rid of the tubs of frozen fat and sugar (ice cream), and replace them with frozen yogurt, which has less of both, and contains probiotics – good for the digestive system. As with any ‘treats’, keep consumption to a minimum.
- Wine – Try to avoid alcohol as much as possible, but try to swap that pint of lager for a glass of wine, or a spirit (single measure) mixed with low-calorie tonic water and ice.
- Chicken Burger – A large beef burger can give you a whopping 350+ calories, more if you go for the fast-food restaurant option, with cheese, whereas a grilled chicken burger could drop that intake to 220. Go easy on the mayo though!
- Pitta Pockets – I looked up the calories for a Farmhouse Pizza at a well-known takeaway store, and you’ll gain a massive 552 calories per portion. Now they consider a portion to be a small pizza, or 3 slices of a medium/large. I don’t know about you, but I could easily eat double that amount, plus some sides – add a dessert and one meal is a good 1500 calories! Instead, you could have some nice, warm, wholemeal pittas filled with chicken and salad for a much healthier option, less than 350 calories.
- Popcorn – Ditch the crisps/potato chips, as they are full of salt and saturated fat, instead, go for some lightly salted or plain popcorn. There are many healthier popcorn options around in your local supermarket, just check the packet for details, and make sure you are looking at the amount you are eating as they often display the ‘per serving’ calories, rather than the bag.
- Dried Fruit – We all know sweets/candy is not good for us. They have no nutritional value at all, and are practically completely sugar, which we want to avoid altogether. There is another option though – dried fruits, such as mango, apple or cherry are healthier but still sweet, and there are many even healthier fruits available too.
- Wholegrain Cereals – We’ve all seen them, the colourful breakfast cereal boxes with cartoon characters, some even highlight the nutritional information, rather than the high sugar content. Ignore it all, and trade it in for wholegrain cereals like Bran Flakes or Weetabix, or better still – porridge oats. Use lower fat milk like skimmed or lactose-free, and sweeten with fresh or dried fruit.
- Wholegrain Breads, Pasta, Rice – Believe it or not, carbohydrates are good, they give you energy. Just make some changes to get the best out of them – try having your carbs for breakfast or lunch, and avoid them at dinnertime, and go for the wholegrain bread and pasta, and brown rice.
- Tomato/Vegetable Sauces – You may not have realised but those cheesy and creamy sauces rack up the calories with fats, salts and sugars, so think about making your meals with tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and other vegetables. Better still, make your own homemade sauces to omit the added salts and sugars.
- Cordials and Water – Obviously water is the best choice to quench your thirst free of fat and sugar, but for a bit of flavour you can add some fresh lemon or cucumber. Alternatively, you could go for some no-added-sugar squash/cordial.
- Unsalted Nuts – Quite a simple one, reducing your salt intake by switching from salted to unsalted nuts.
- Skinny/Black Coffee – I enjoy a cup of coffee as much as the next person. But now I chose to have mine with either skimmed or lactose-free milk, or better still, have it black. Without sugar of course!
- Green Tea – It’s easy to down a good few cups of tea a day. What is not so easy is swapping your regular builder’s cuppa for a healthy green tea. It has many health benefits, including caffeine to increase brain function, but less than you would find in a cup of coffee, antioxidants and it also promotes weight loss. Some people find it quite bitter, so have a look around for higher quality brands and various flavours.
- Lean Meat – There is a whole list of processed meats you can find, and many people buy them for convenience; Sausage rolls, hot dog sausages, pork pies, cooked ham, salami… the list goes on. What we are wanting to replace these with is lean mince, and those high in protein score top points; Chicken, steak, turkey, tuna, fish. Always get the lower fat choice, and you can get them from your usual supermarket or fresh from the butchers.
A nice, simple meal can be as easy as Brown Rice, Chicken and Broccoli – add some low calorie seasoning for a bit of flavour.
As with anything, buy the best quality you can afford, but check and compare the nutritional information before you purchase.
Cook everything at home using fresh ingredients, rather than getting a jar of unknown additives. You can prepare your meals in advance (meal prep), divide them into air-tight containers and refrigerate or freeze them as required.