Food swaps, cooking hacks and diet game-changers
Updated: Jan 7
Kitchen tricks to keep your calories low
Let’s face it – no one ever wants to be on a diet. This is usually because we associate the word “diet” with negative connotations. We think of everything we can’t eat, or everything we’ll be missing out on, or how much we’re going to have to change from doing things we love to things we don’t like so much.
It’s true, if you want to lose weight then your eating habits need to change. If you want to keep the weight off, then you need to be able to sustain those changes for, well, ever. The only way to do that is to make sure the changes tick all the boxes – healthy, tasty, and enjoyable.
I have tried many diets, eating plans and nutrition programs in the last 20 years, and I’ve learnt a lot along the way, not just about food and cooking, but about myself. I know what makes me feel good and I can therefore continue to do, as well as what isn’t worth the stress. So here are some of my favourite tricks that keep my calories in check without the feeling of deprivation.
I grew up in the 80s and I loved cauliflower. It was always steamed, and it was always served with white cheese sauce. It was my favourite part of any roast dinner. Then, when my eating habits had to change, I adjusted to eating it steamed with a little salt and pepper. I didn’t love it, but I ate it because I knew it was healthy. But steamed anything gets old fast, and I soon stopped eating it altogether.
However, over the last five years cauliflower has become a gamechanger. I have used it as a rice substitution in stir-fried rice and paella. I have used it to reduce the carbs in a pizza base. I’ve used it instead of potatoes when I’ve needed mash for a side dish or on top of shepherd’s pie. When roasted, it tastes amazing with any protein (even fish) and once it’s cooled down, it’s awesome for salads.
These days I will cut up and roast a whole cauliflower at a time – it never goes to waste. If it’s not all used up at dinner, it can be lunch or even part of my eggs for breakfast the next day.
Put it on your shopping list and start experimenting.
This is one of those twisty contraptions that turns veggies into long strings that look like spaghetti, which means spag bol night is back on the menu for me.
Let’s face it, the best part of any pasta dish is the sauce. It’s the only reason we’re eating the pasta. But we also know that the last thing we need to be doing is sitting down to a big bowl of high energy carbs at the end of a day.
With the spiralizer, you still get your pasta sauce fix, and you keep the calories way down. I like to use zucchini, but you can use carrot, beetroot, onions, or for a better carb option – potato and sweet potato. Mix them all up and have rainbow pasta, topped with your favourite sauce. No need to miss out on anything.
I am yet to find a vegetable that doesn’t taste better once it’s roasted. Gone are the days when it was just potato and pumpkin in the oven tray. Now it is pretty much anything – carrot, zucchini, cauliflower (see above), broccoli, beetroot, onions, capsicum, mushrooms… you get the idea. Roast veggies are great with any hot dinner and when cooled, are perfect for salads. Leftovers are just as tasty for breakfast or lunch.
So grab your biggest oven trays (yes, use more than one) and throw in everything. Cook more than you need. Trust me, it won’t go to waste.
I’m still human. I like treats as much as the next person, but I quickly learnt that they need to be limited. Therefore, each treat needs to be worth it and anything less than dark chocolate is simply not worth it.
I grew up eating white and milk chocolate, and who can deny the sugary deliciousness? But they carry little to no health benefits, so I decided to switch. I did not jump straight into the 80% dark. I started with the less bitter options (about 54%) and over the years, I started to prefer it darker and darker.
I admit I still like milk and white chocolate, but what I find is that one piece is never enough. With dark chocolate, a small piece of the bittersweet goodness gives me that “hit” I’m looking for, so I only eat a very small amount. Plus, the stuff that is 70% and above does have health benefits.
Make the switch. You’ll be glad you did.
Fruit and yogurt
Ice cream – my biggest weakness. By far my most favourite thing in the world and a huge part of how I gained all the weight. Not only did I have to cut it to lose the weight, at 22 I discovered I was lactose intolerant. This news from the doctor was devastating. I was crushed. Even now, nearly 20 years on, I still get excited when I see ice cream, even though I know I can’t eat it.
I don’t mind sorbet, but it’s really not a substitute for the creamy delight. It’s also not that healthy – just water and sugar. These days I’m all about fruit and full fat Greek yogurt (which is one of the few dairy items I can eat).
Frozen fruit mixed with yogurt is now my guilt free ice cream go-to. Frozen bananas, berries or mango can be put in a food processor with yogurt and is ready to eat immediately. Alternatively, blend unfrozen fruit and yogurt and pour into moulds and leave to set in the freezer.
I have used so many different fruits such as those mentioned above, as well as apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines. I have even used stewed apple. Another one to try is dates. Puree these with yogurt for a caramel-like flavour or mix with cacao powder to make chocolate. Cacao with banana and yogurt is another chocolate winner.
It’s guilt free frozen delights all summer long.
There is really no reason for you to feel deprived just because you are choosing to change your eating habits. Try these tricks or get on google and search for more – there are so many to choose from. And don’t forget to share them with the rest of us!
Happy eating xx
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