Are you the type of person who is always on the go? Grabbing the odd bite when you can, out and about? Or perhaps you don’t consider yourself a great cook, and would prefer to give your family a meal you know is tasty, so tend to buy ready meals or takeaways, just to keep them satisfied. You might be one of us that looks in the mirror and thinks “how did I put on this weight?” not realising that subtle changes over the years in our food choices can have a huge effect on the way we look and feel. You may really want to eat healthy and well but don’t know where to start, or how to go about it.
The UK population is now the most obese in Europe and it’s not surprising really, with so much choice in fast foods and prepped ready meals laden with fat, calories and salt, we’re giving the US a run for its money! It’s sometimes tough to say ‘no’, especially when our lives seem to be becoming less time rich and much more hectic. It’s all too easy to grab a bargain bucket on the way home from a long and busy day at work, just to get the family fed, and fast!
However, it doesn’t have to take a complete food overhaul to start thinking smarter and eating a more nutritious and healthy diet. Much of the secret to food success is that of planning and we aren’t talking Michelin star meals here, just a little more thought and prep and you can get a great ‘three meals a day’ and in minutes.
For example, breakfast, being the most important meal of the day, should kick-start your metabolism and offer a nutritious meal, keeping you full until at least, your mid-morning snack. If you haven’t time to cook in the morning, how about hard-boiling some eggs on an evening where you have 5 minutes (literally). These, with some smoked salmon, a handful of spinach and half an avocado and you have a breakfast pot most gym goers will envy. If eggs aren’t your thing, thick Greek yoghurt with a big handful of sugar-free granola and fruit compote could be your way forward. Individual pots of porridge are now sold in supermarkets and many coffee shops and these can provide a hearty breakfast which will keep you sated for hours!
If you are one of those people who likes a hearty lunch, how about taking some home-made soup in to work? This can be made in huge batches and frozen in small plastic storage pots. Soup can be made with, literally any veg you like. Fry onions, garlic, tomatoes and add in your chosen veg (carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes are great). Add in some chilli if you like a kick and some Bouillon or vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes. Blitz in a food processor or with a hand-held blender and hey presto, healthy, hearty and very filling soup! Salads can also be prepped the night before and the choices are endless. Use one of your pre-prepared, hard-boiled eggs and some pre-cooked baby potatoes, a can of tuna and some leaves and you have a tuna nicoise! Tuna now even comes in ‘no-drip’ cans so no nasty fishy water!
Dinners tend to be a time when it all goes pear shaped. Especially when you’re feeling tired from a long day and don’t particularly feel like cooking. Again, pre-made meals could be the answer. Did you know you can freeze cooked pasta? And did you know that cooking pasta and cooling it down changes its structure, meaning that you absorb less calories? It’s a win win! This, with a simple tomato base, or better still a lean mince or meat substitute bolognaise which can also be made in batches can offer a hearty and tasty meal in minutes, with none of the additives and nasties that it’s microwave counterpart could contain!
If you’re a seasoned snacker, it’s worth thinking about the number of calories you can be consuming in as little as 5 minutes. For example, a bar of milk chocolate can contain around 300 calories (about 30 minutes on the treadmill). So, if you have a sweet tooth, it might be worth considering some fruit, date bars or, if you do need that chocolate fix, try buying individually wrapped mini rolls, which contain 116 calories each. Better still, crudités are a great way to crunch your way through a light snack and get some vitamins and minerals to boot! A mini pot of humus in addition to your veggie sticks can offer a more nutritious snack than any packet of crisps or sweets. Salted popcorn is also a great alternative to potato snacks, just be mindful of the salt intake and again, eat in moderation. Nuts can be great at staving hunger and are hugely nutritious. Choose a handful of almonds, cashews or hazelnuts. Again, be mindful that a handful is around 5 to 10 nuts as they can contain a fair amount of fat.
We all love a takeaway and on the odd, occasion this is fine. However, it’s worth thinking about your choices to keep the calories down whilst still feasting on your Saturday night treat. Chinese food doesn’t have to mean prawn balls and greasy stir fry noodles. Opting for sauce based dishes such as prawns with cashew nuts or beef in black bean sauce, along with plain rice and stir fried vegetables can drastically reduce the fat, calories and salt you consume in that one sitting. For a healthier Indian meal, try tandoori dishes which are dry oven baked don’t have the creamy sauces, rich in ghee. Plain rice and vegetable dishes such as spinach or chick peas will leave you full but without taking in too much on in calories, salt and fat. If you can steer clear of the naans you’ll be winning too!
Taking the healthier route doesn’t have to mean changing your entire life and chewing on nothing but twigs and leaves. Food should be a celebration and with a little thought, planning, some plastic storage tubs and a pretty spacious freezer, we can all take those steps to a healthier way of living and watch the pounds fall away!