With summer body season rapidly approaching, many of us are looking to swap in some healthy alternatives to trim a few pounds. But there are two issues here: eating well isn’t an exact science and dieting, well, sucks.
Luckily, in his book Eat This Not That: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution, wellness guru and former Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko actually recommends eating Big Macs (providing it’s instead of, say, a Whopper). As he explains here, sensible food swaps are an easy way to cut calories, and this goes right down to perceived ‘healthy’ options.
Oh, so we can’t just eat Big Macs?
“You probably think swapping slices of bread for a wrap is an easy way to cut out calories and carbs. However, many varieties are actually worse for you than a couple of slices of wholegrain, containing more sugar and sodium than bread before you’ve even considered the filling.
“If you simply prefer wraps, look for 100 per cent wholegrain versions and avoid ‘veggie wraps’ as these are often just white flour wraps with a whole heap of food colouring.”
“While it sounds like all those vitamins in one go is a health no-brainer, the hidden trouble with downing your five a day in one go comes from the naturally occurring sugars in fruit. These will send the body’s blood glucose levels into overdrive, leading to sugar cravings an hour later when you crash.
“If you love smoothies, opt for one that has at least 80 per cent vegetables and 20 per cent berries – or cut out fruit altogether and go for ginger to add some flavour.”
Low Fat Cheese
“Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, but as everyone knows, it’s full of fat and calories. That sees a lot of people opting for low-fat versions – but some swaps are just not worth doing.
“Taste isn’t the only thing that’s sacrificed when you go low-fat. Full fat cheeses, especially fresh feta or goat’s cheese, actually contain a fatty acid that helps you feel full and burn more fat. Just keep the portion sizes under control.”
“Nuts are good for you, but portion size is especially important here. A portion of nuts should be about six nuts – any more and you’re downing a lot of calories.
“Walnuts are one of the best for you, containing tonnes of Omega 3 for brain function, along with protein, vitamin E and fibre. Almonds are calorie-packed, so keep an eye on that snack bag.”
“How do energy bars give you a boost? Sugar, sugar and more sugar. This will boost energy levels quickly, but be followed by a slump an hour later. Even ‘healthy’ energy bars can be pumped full of sugars – especially sports ones.
“If you love energy bars, go for one with low sugar that gives a more long-lasting boost via protein [or low-GI carbs] instead.”
“Studies have shown that eating the same foods in liquid form keeps you fuller for longer, so soup seems like a no-brainer. The issue is a lot of shop-bought soups are high in salt, sugar and cream.
“To get the perks of eating a liquid lunch, make your own. Blend vegetables, stock, spices and some protein (fish or meat) and you’ve got a cheap, easy and healthy meal with no hidden nasties.”
“Sushi is a high-carb meal with little protein. The rice used in most high-street sushi is white, short grain rice, and this, coupled with the high salt content of soy sauce, will spike your blood sugar levels and leave you hungry.
“Don’t disregard it, though – sushi can be healthy. Opt for sashimi instead of rolls, and brown rice where possible. Make sure it’s salmon or tuna rather than something fatty and check [any seaweed] is MSG-free as this can cause headaches and tiredness that typically see you eating comfort food.”
“Dried fruits sound [harmless], but remember that they’re just normal fruits that have had the water removed. That means in dried fruit there is five-to-eight times more calories and sugar than in the same weight of fresh fruit.
“It’s easy to get carried away when they’re bite-sized, so eat them sparingly or always go fresh.”
“Packed with good stuff, tofu is a low-calorie diet staple. At only 94 calories per half cup, it contains heaps of calcium, protein and iron – but the spongy texture means it soaks up anything you put it in.
“Unfortunately, this means that frying it will immediately negate any health benefits and makes it hard to keep track of the calorie count. Try steaming tofu instead, then top with chillies, ginger, spring onions and a splash of soy sauce.”
“Everyone’s favourite #instafood is packed with nutrients, antioxidants, fibre and heart-healthy fats. But if you’re looking to lose weight, these should be one of the first things to cut.
“A single avocado can have more than 350 calories, which means that even a small serving of guacamole or avo-topped toast can be a hefty portion of your daily allowance.”