Weight-loss diets don’t have to be filled with bland food. Give your taste buds a treat while still dropping pounds.
When you’re trying to lose weight, it can often feel like the flavour and enjoyment of foods is compromised, especially when you’re saying no to your favourite chocolate or weekend takeaway.
That’s why so many of us struggle to stick to a healthy eating regime and end up resorting to high-calorie foods. But, by adding a few simple ingredients, you can reinvent your dishes and start enjoying your meals again, even if you’re calorie counting.
Make your own salad dressings
Just one tablespoon of your standard Caesar salad dressing has a staggering 78 calories. And a tablespoon of Italian salad dressing has a whopping 111 calories! This means that your ‘healthy’ lunch could end up having the same calorie content as a BLT Subway sandwich. But by making your own dressing, you can guarantee you’re not consuming unwanted calories.
‘I love to make a low-calorie dressing that’s full of flavour using fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, mustard, crushed garlic and chilli flakes or chilli sauce,’ says nutritionist Mays Al-Ali. Citrus fruits, (think lemons and limes), and vinegars play an important role in healthy cooking.
These acids work like salt, in that they help bring out the natural brightness of foods and work to blend flavours together. Try making a quick salad dressing with lemon juice and zest or red wine vinegar with a drop of oil – or toss veggies and grains with citrus or vinegar to brighten them up.
When buying pre-made, Mays suggests brands with no added sugars such as Asda’s Light Vinaigrette Dressing (65p) at just 8.4 calories/tbsp and Morrisons Counted Soy Chilli and Ginger Dressing, (85p), which contains just under 8 calories/tbsp.
Hydration is really important, but 62 per cent of Brits don’t drink the recommended daily allowance of six to eight glasses, research says.* Instead we’re opting for flavoured sugary drinks or ‘diet’ drinks which are full of artificial sugars, proven to wreak havoc on our digestive systems and health.
To make water more exciting, try adding slices of cucumber or lemon or mint leaves. ‘All these flavour the water deliciously but some of the nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin C and magnesium, will also enter the water for an added bonus,’ says Mays.
Garlic adds flavour to any dish and with a variety of nutrients, including vitamin B6, which is essential for your metabolism, it makes a great addition to dishes. Not only is garlicknown to curb your appetite and stop you reaching for snacks, but a study published in the Journal of Nutrition also showed an association between garlic and fat burning.
To get the most benefits from garlic, be sure to crush it before cooking, then let it sit at room temperature for 10 mins. Studies have shown that crushing garlic releases health-promoting compounds trapped in the bulb.*
Instead of reaching for the salt, try sprinkling fresh herbs such as sage, rosemary and basil on vegetables. As an added bonus, they’re loaded with protective polyphenols – plant compounds with antioxidant and anti- inflammatory effects that help combat diseases including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Not to mention, they’re full of essential vitamins A, C and K that help protect the health of your cells for fighting infections.
Spice up your plate with chilli flakes, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. ‘All three contain a compound called capsaicin, which has a variety of benefits such as binding to receptors in our nerve cells to reduce inflammation and pain, and protect against inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, nerve damage and digestive issues,’ says Mays.
Peaches, plums, apricots and cherries can be enjoyed on their own or transformed into warm low-calorie desserts. Try cutting peaches in half, sprinkle with cardamom and ginger, pop under the grill for 4 to 5 mins and top with fresh mint. These stone fruits are also rich in vitamins A, C and K which are great for your immune system, skin and bones.
Cutting back on sugary snacks can feel impossible, but there are plenty of ways to fix your sugar cravings while still reaching your weight-loss goals. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries all taste sweet but they have a high-fibre content, so they’re low in sugar and calories. They also have high-antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, meaning they help reduce the risk factors for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Swap your artificially flavoured porridge, which can contain around 15g of sugar (17% recommended daily allowance), for plain oats and a dash of cinnamon. It has a delicious flavour, plus it can help lower blood sugar and boost your body’s ability to fight infections and repair damaged tissue.