Diets are generally associated with bland food – brown rice and plain chicken for lunch, or an uninspired salad for dinner. The thought of boring mealtimes is undoubtedly a big part of why diets and weight loss schemes are so tricky to stick to.
Despite this perception, cutting your calories doesn’t need to go hand in hand with cutting out flavour. How, you ask? Well…
Substitutions aren’t just game changers in football – they can also make or break your diet. Instead of removing everything tasty from your cupboards, try to swap them for healthier alternatives instead.
For instance, rather than using mayonnaise or salad cream in your lunches, consider grabbing some mustard instead. It’s low in sugar, has almost no fat, and has far fewer calories.
If you’re a sucker for a sandwich, stick to brown bread, and try to switch your fillings/ butter for hummus. The whole wheat in brown bread will give you greater amounts of fiber and important nutrients. Meanwhile, Hummus offers similar nutritional benefits, as chickpeas are high in calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. They also clock in with a much friendlier calorie count.
Carbs are another calorie-heavy food staple that can often be switched out without too much impact on taste. Supermarkets and shops often sell pasta, noodles and couscous alternatives made of vegetables, such as courgetti, spiralized squash or crushed cauliflower. Pair them with your usual sauces, and they’ll be just as delicious, without the impact on your belt size!
You can even switch out ice lollies and ice cream for tasty, healthier alternatives. Try blending bananas and raspberries together, and throwing them in the freezer for a few hours – it makes a smooth, creamy ice cream imitation! Likewise, frozen grapes can be a sweet alternative to a calorific ice lolly.
Spice up your life
Most herbs and spices have fewer than five calories per teaspoon, so they’re the perfect go-to when you need to liven up your meals, without moving up a few points on those bathroom scales.
A herbs and spices guide can give you an in-depth look at which herbs work best with certain foods, but some staples you should keep in your kitchen are basil, which can rouse even the plainest of salads or tomato-based sauces. Coriander pairs wonderfully with onions, avocados, tomatoes and lime. Cayenne pepper, meanwhile, can give almost any meal a spicy kick!
Feeling the heat
Speaking of spicy foods, have you ever wondered why certain foods taste hot? Chilli peppers have an active ingredient known as capsaicin, which binds to receptors inside the mouth and on the tongue.
These receptors usually only activate at temperatures above 42C, to warn us that there’s something bad happening inside our mouths. However, capsaicin also switches them on, tricking the brain into thinking that the food is literally hot!
Spice doesn’t just make your food more interesting though – studies have found that consuming capsaicin can increase the amount of calories that you burn, so it’s definitely worth including some spice in your diet. If you’re not sure what your limit is, try using the scoville scale as a guide, to find the level of heat that you enjoy.