Buy an air-fryer, go for wholegrain, eat more legumes: kitchen hacks to help you start 2021 a little lighter from our resident dietitian Melissa Meier.
It wouldn’t be a new year without someone you know and love vowing to lose a stack of weight over the next 12 months. Does “This will be the year I lose 20 kilos!” ring a bell, anyone?
If that sounds like you, I’ve got three big picture pieces of advice I’d love for you to seriously consider. The first is that fad diets get you nowhere. In fact, they probably leave you worse off, because they’re far too restrictive and often nutritionally inadequate. Make this the year you say goodbye to them, for good.
Second, your health is not dictated by your weight. Yes, it is a factor, but how much you move your body, what you put in your mouth, how much sleep you get and your mental state are far more important. Take your focus off the scales, and give more attention to how lifestyle changes make you feel from the inside out.
And last but not least – focusing on one small habit at a time is a much smarter strategy than drastically overhauling your lifestyle in one hit. That’s because bit by bit, you’ll build a repertoire of healthy habits that become second nature, rather than feeling overwhelmed from all of the dietary ‘rules’ you’ve placed upon yourself.
Cue: my list of 20 easy-peasy tweaks that’ll not only help you lose weight but manage your weight long term without feeling deprived.
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#1. Follow the healthy plate model
That’s half a plate of veg, a quarter of a plate of quality carbs and a quarter of a plate of lean protein – at every single meal.
#2. Swap white bread for wholegrain
With more fibre and micronutrients, wholegrains are far more nutritious than refined grains. Plus, wholegrain bread offers quality carbohydrates, so it’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer (read: away from the biscuit jar).
#3. Buy a set of measuring cups, spoons and kitchen scales
Not for you to measure and weigh every single thing you eat – but to recalibrate your portion size every now and then. For example, you could check that your muesli serving size hasn’t crept from a healthy half-cup to a whole cup.
#4. Swap mayonnaise for yoghurt
Homemade dressings and sauces can easily have a healthy makeover with this trick. Try it in recipes like potato salad and coleslaw.
#5. Try hummus instead of butter
Less saturated fat, more fibre, more veggies = winning.
#6. Water, water, water
Your body needs a lot of water to function properly – and the best part is, it’s kilojoule free. So, try your best to keep juices, cordials and soft drinks to a minimum and opt for water instead.
#7. Swap full fat for reduced-fat dairy
Science has recently proven that for healthy individuals, full-fat dairy is perfectly fine to include in a balanced diet. Nonetheless, if you’re trying to lose weight, making the switch to a reduced-fat variety can quickly cut a lot of kilojoules.
#8. Eat more legumes
Perfect for meat-free Monday, beans, chickpeas and lentils are packed full of gut-loving fibre, which fills you up and keeps you feeling satisfied.
#9. Invest in an air fryer
We all love the taste of fried food, but eating it regularly isn’t the best thing for your waistline. The solution: buy an air fryer for the fried-taste and texture you love without cooking in litres upon litres of oil.
#10. Swap juice for fresh fruit
Contrary to popular belief, juice isn’t as good as the real deal. Not only do you miss out on the fibre that whole fruit provides, but with a glass of juice, you’re also ingesting a lot more sugar than a single piece of fruit.
#11. Swap chips for roasted chickpeas
Another one with legumes in mind, a snack pack of roasted chickpeas satisfies the need for a crunchy, moreish snack, without the kilojoules and sodium a huge bag of chips provides.
#12. Swap pretzels for popcorn
Ditto, as above.
#13. Halve your booze intake by trying a spritzer
Alcohol is packed with kilojoules, which obviously isn’t good news for your waistline. A spritzer (read: half a glass of wine, half a glass of soda water) is a smart way to instantly halve your calorie intake on a night out.
#14. Try a leaner cut
Fatty meats are kilojoule-rich – but a simple swap to a leaner cut can make a world of difference. On top of buying a leaner cut, make sure you trim any visible fat off a piece of meat before you cook it.
#15. DIY breakfast cereal
The breakfast cereal aisle has come a long way – but I still think in most cases, you’d be better off making your own at home. Try an easy mixture of rolled oats, raw nuts and seeds for delicious, homemade muesli packed full of the good stuff, with no added nasties.
#16. Use cinnamon instead of sugar
Sugar isn’t necessarily bad for you on its own, but it is a source of unnecessary kilojoules – which is exactly what you need to minimise to lose weight (and keep it off). Instead of sugar, try cinnamon for a different sweet flavour.
#17. Swap flavoured for plain yoghurt
Another one with sugar in mind, one of my top recommendations is to buy plain yoghurt instead of sugary, sweetened varieties. If you need to add a little sweetness, add your own fresh fruit instead.
#18. Try poaching
Cooking without oil = a far light meal. Poached chicken, poached fish, poached eggs – you name it, it’s delicious.
#19. Choose fresh over dried fruit
Dried fruit is a concentrated source of sugar – so again, is kilojoule-dense. It’s fine every now and then, but I’d encourage you to opt for fresh fruit most of the time.
#20. Incorporate zoodles
Not because pasta is bad for you, but because this is an easy way to boost the veggie content of traditionally carb-heavy pasta meals. Try one cup of cooked pasta and one cup of zoodles next time you’re whipping up spag bol.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.