A full-blown diet can be a grim and miserable affair but there are many simple and small dietary changes that can make a difference to your health, weight and energy levels without making you want to toss yourself off a cliff.
Eat a good breakfast
Start the day right and kick off your metabolism, but beware what you choose to break your fast. Breakfast smoothies may not be all they’re cracked up to be.
Swap it: “Although the ingredients are healthy and delicious, two bananas, cold-pressed orange juice, strawberries, coconut water and bee pollen will add up to quite a high-calorie content, although all are natural,” says nutritionist from Little People Nutrition, Amanda Dos Santos. “You might feel fuller and sustained longer with an egg on toast.”
Don’t super-size your coffee
A large coffee contains a lot of milk and if you have more than one a day, you may be blowing your kilojoule intake without even realising it.
Swap it: “Swapping a large mocha to a small cappuccino can reduce your kilojoule intake by up to 600kJ. You still get your coffee every day, but without the added hit of excess energy,” says Dos Santos.
Fill up on vegetables
“I have a shepherd’s pie recipe which uses cauliflower as the mash,” says cookbook author Lee Holmes. “I even have a cheesecake recipe using cauliflower. I actually inject more vegetables into my diet. Vegetables are uniquely high in fibre, full of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.”
Filling your plate with vegetables and salads and only small amounts of protein is a great way to satisfy your hunger with the right foods.
Swap it: You can also substitute vegetables for starchy pasta to reduce your carbohydrate intake.
“With pasta, I use either cucumber or zucchini ‘noodles’,’ Lee says. “I put them through a spiraliser, or you can ribbon them with a mandolin to help you cut out the carbs a little bit. I eat the cucumber noodles raw with pasta sauce, but sometimes I quickly pan-fry the zucchini with olive oil and garlic.”
Know your grains
Grains should make up a good portion of your diet but if you don’t know which ones are the best for your system, you may be unwittingly loading up your body.
Swap it: “I do half quinoa and half rice,” says a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, Emily Burgess. “I mix it all in at the same time and still get the consistency of rice.”
Quinoa is high in protein but low in carbohydrates, making it a great grain alternative. Basmati is the lowest GI of the white rice range. Brown is slightly higher in GI but much higher in nutrients. So if a recipe is best with white, go for basmati; otherwise, stick to brown.
“Adding vegetables to your rice base is also an obvious one but it’s one that you can push the limit on, ” says Burgess. “In my rice dishes, I’ll add chopped up raw capsicum and carrot before I even put my stir-fry on top.”
Make Greek yoghurt your friend
You don’t need to miss out on dessert, but you do need to play smart (but you don’t need to be a saint, aim for the 80:20 rule.)
Swap it: Swapping an ice-cream for a small yoghurt with a drizzle of honey, or fresh or frozen fruits can reduce your kilojoule intake by 200kJ a day. It doesn’t sound a lot but that can substantially add up over 12 months.
“I’ll put Greek yoghurt in all of the recipes instead of cream, instead of ice cream, instead of sour cream,” says Burgess. “I’m always using Greek yoghurt in all of my curries, in my desserts and baked goods. It’s a good one because it’s higher in protein and lower in sugar.”
Beware of liquid calories
One of the biggest faux pas people make regarding hidden kilojoules is liquid kilojoules, according to Burgess. “People don’t consider the kilojoules when they’re not eaten. Alcohol is an obvious one, but also iced teas and soft drinks have a lot of kilojoules.”
Swap it: Make low sugar iced teas at home and keep them in your fridge. Sipping a white wine spritzer instead of beer is good but don’t forget to simply drink water, especially in between alcoholic drinks.
Don’t follow diet fads
Simple, sustainable changes are always going to be the best solution to keeping your weight under control.
“Don’t pick the latest fad diet,” Emily says. “Don’t do a detox, a cleanse or a fad diet come January, because it just doesn’t work. It’s not sustainable and you end up eating worse after you do it anyway.
“Just make small changes to adjust your diet over time and that’s how you can maintain it.”