Ditch the diet
The world of food and dieting has become a little bit murky of late. What with every other person whipping up zero-calorie lunches and flaunting their Insta-perfect bodies all over social media, the focus, it seems, has become incredibly shallow and is all about losing weight. On the flipside, there is a growing army of body-positive influencers who are channelling healthy eating and a ‘strong not skinny’ message, which can only ever be a good thing. We are all different shapes and sizes and what works for one may not work for the other – it’s time to ditch the diet and instead educate ourselves on nourishing the marvellous bodies that we have, rather than coveting those that we don’t.
A massively important point to remember is that our bodies crave nutrients and not calories. Since long before the dread-inducing phrase ‘bikini body’ was invented and we all started juicing like there was no tomorrow, a common misconception surrounding ‘healthy eating’ (often the sheep’s clothing in which the dieting wolf is dressed) is that it equates to calorie control alone, so people started obsessively totting up every bite that passed their lips and opted for the lowest numbers on the label instead of what was in the packet.
Of course, a calorie deficit will lead to weight loss – albeit short term and depressing – but a focus on calories alone can cause us to lose sight of proper nutrition and inadvertently starve ourselves of some really valuable nutrients. Lots of really nourishing foods such as whole grains, legumes and healthy fats have a relatively high-calorie count when compared to, say, rice cakes, but will a rice cake keep your hunger at bay and boost your body’s natural fat-burning mechanisms? Nope. High-fibre carbohydrates such as quinoa, brown rice and oatmeal will though, as will food high in healthy fats like avocado, salmon and nuts.
Our body gets calories from three main sources: fats, carbohydrates and proteins. While one calorie from a healthy food provides the same amount of energy as one calorie from an unhealthy food, different types of calories have different effects on overall health, which is where the unhealthiest trait of the calorie counter rears its ugly head. You could fill up on two apples to rack up a 100-calorie snack, and although one 25g cube of cheddar cheese only adds up to the same number of calories, by choosing the apple your body is benefitting from a life-affirming hit of antioxidants, soluble fibre and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C, whereas cheese, although delicious, is loaded with saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol and is best saved for a treat.
The message? Become more mindful of your food choices. Swap out quick-fix sugary, fatty foods for those that are more nutrient dense and higher quality (without obsessing over the calories count on the label) and it’s likely you’ll feel more energised, trimmer as well as eliminating the need for calorie counting altogether. This quick-fire roundup of our favourite nutritional powerhouses should help point you in the right direction.
Not only are they high in fibre to stop you feeling hungry quicker, they’re also packed full of good fats, which, yes, may make them pretty high in calories (so just eat a handful, not an entire bag), but does mean they won’t contribute to unsightly tummy fat. They’re also packed full of vitamin E, so do wonders for your skin too.
Over 75 percent of the fat in an avocado is unsaturated (good fat), which means not only are they heart healthy, but they’re filling too. Add them to salads and you’ll feel fuller for longer and you’ll also reap the rewards of their high potassium content, which helps regulate your body’s fluid levels and keeps your nervous system functioning properly too.
For years now there have been countless whole grains who have tried to steal quinoas crown, but it’s still the undisputed Queen of all superfoods. High in protein, it can easily be swapped into salads in place of high-fat meats and cheeses, and if you pair it with exercise, it’ll help you build more lean muscle, which in turn burns calories.
A surprising entry on the list because many feel that bananas – regarded widely as a carb-heavy, calorie-heavy fruit – actually contribute to weight gain, when in fact they don’t; not only will eating a banana fill you with slow-release, fibre-rich energy, they also help to relieve water retention thanks to their high potassium levels.
If you’re prepared for the bad breath that may come with it, start adding garlic to everything and not only will you benefit from all of its wonderful antioxidant properties, but you’ll also reap the rewards of all of the allicin contained in it. A naturally occurring chemical, allicin reacts with our blood cells to kill off any harmful bacteria in the gut and also regulates the formation of fat cells, so less fat is likely to be stored.
Bashed by the carb police from every angle, potatoes have been given a bad rap for decades, but they’re a great source of resistant starch, which can gee up a sluggish digestion, and they’re really filing too – a medium-sized spud will only set you back about 170 calories, so if you go easy on the butter and skip the cheese, piling your potato high with salad and low-fat fillings instead, you’ll be full up (guilt-free) in no time.
While we’re not suggesting you guzzle a bottle with every meal, research has shown that resveratrol, a substance found in grapes, berries and red wine turns our excess flabby bits into calorie-burning ‘brown’ or ‘beige’ fat, which reduces weight gain by burning up calories. Cheers to that.
WE LOVE… Bounce Protein Energy Bites
Made up of three irresistible flavours – Blueberry Banana, Cacao Orange and Sweet & Salty Almond – these delicious, chewy snacks are made from a mix of protein, good fats and carbohydrates, all bundled into a nutritious, convenient snack that’s a fabulous source of fibre and protein. They’re vegetarian and gluten-free too, so they’re a guilt-free, healthy treat at any time of day and they’re really tasty too.