January is a month in which most of us are already making healthier choices in an attempt to shed the Christmas pounds. But did you know there are ways to shave even more calories, fat and sugar from your diet without even noticing?
Food swapping is an approach that suits all lifestyles, whether you are a busy mum who never has time to prepare meals for herself, a stressed-out office worker who eats on the run or someone who simply feels that they have been losing the battle of the bulge for way too long.
What’s more, the food choices you make will have health benefits beyond improving your size and shape: swap foods appropriately and your skin and hair will gleam, your body will become adept at warding off bugs and viruses and, in time, you will build resilience to a range of more serious illnesses and conditions that have the potential to kill.
Here are five easy swaps which, combined, will cut almost 500 calories from your diet (and there’s a treat in there too!):
Save 50 calories per slice by swapping multigrain sliced batch for rye bread:
SWAP: multigrain sliced batch
Per slice: calories 140; fat 4.3g; sugars 1.9g; salt 0.5g
This is very different from the kind of multigrain you might get from a bakery, which would contain a combination of flours that contain close to the complete grain, including wheat germ, kibbled grains, whole grains and usually seeds such as sunflower and sesame. The sliced version is often just wholegrain, barley malt and wheat bran with sugar added for sweetness.
Per slice: calories 90; fat 0.6g; sugars 1.2g; salt 0.4g
Made with flour produced from the rye kernel, rye bread has a dark colour from the caramelisation of the starch in the grain and a dense texture, which makes it filling. A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed rye bread to be more effective at maintaining bowel regularity than wheat bread. It’s also low GI, releasing sugars more slowly into the bloodstream for sustained energy.
Greek yoghurt may sound like a healthy option but the high sugar content and high calorie content makes it a key candidate for a food swap:
SWAP: Yeo Valley Greek honey yoghurt
Per 100g (3.oz): calories 148; fat 8.1g; sugars 14.3g
This is made with organic yoghurt and sweetened with 6 per cent organic honey, which pushes its sugar content very close to a high level. As with milk, there is some evidence that opting for organic yoghurt may offer nutritional benefits. Scientists have shown that organic cow’s milk, from which organic yoghurts are made, contains more fat-soluble nutrients. In this case, however, the downfall is the sugar and calorie content.
FOR: Rachel’s organic low-fat rhubarb yoghurt
Per 100g (3.oz): calories 84; fat 1.6g; sugars 13.3g
Containing only three ingredients – low-fat yoghurt, organic rhubarb (9.5 per cent) and some sugar – this is among the more natural choices of the vast array of yoghurts on sale. Generally, the fewer ingredients on a list the better. What’s more, you will save 64 calories and 6.5g of fat by opting for this over the full-fat honey yoghurt.
Your choice of coffee could be adding 215 calories to your daily intake!
SWAP: latte (medium with whole milk)
Per serving: calories 223; fat 11.5; sugars trace
The latte is a surprisingly poor choice. A large latte – made from 1–2 shots of espresso with steamed milk – contains almost one-quarter the daily recommended fat intake for women and much of it is of the saturated variety. If you are not careful, your drink could balloon to a whole-milk vanilla latte containing 380 calories and 14.5g of fat in each large cup.
FOR: Americano (medium)
Per serving: calories 8; fat none; sugars none; salt none
Made from 2–3 espresso shots topped with water. Most people add milk to their Americano – and that’s no bad thing. Whereas a few studies have suggested that a high intake of caffeine promotes the leeching of calcium from bones, adding milk to your cuppa will offset any such risk. Swap to this and you save 215 calories and 11.5g of fat.
Save 24g of fat and 140 calories by swapping your salad:
SWAP: Caesar salad
Per 100g (3.oz): calories 220; fat 19.0g; sugars 0.2g; salt 0.5g
A traditional Caesar salad uses cos (or Romaine) lettuce that has little nutrient content. Caesar dressing is often laden with fat, and the deep-fried croutons are an additional source of fat. There is protein in the cheese and chicken, if you have it, but a standard portion contains a whopping 45g of fat and, with 19 per cent of its weight from fat, it has a high fat content.
FOR: salade Niçoise
Per 100g (3.oz): calories 165; fat 8.4g; sugars 1.2g; salt 0.5g
There are a lot of good things in a salade Niçoise, including the boiled egg, green beans and piles of lettuce leaves. Adding peppers, tomatoes and parsley significantly increases the vitamin C content. Fresh tuna (as opposed to canned) has a larger supply of omega-3 fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The dressing and olives raise the fat level, but it’s still not too high in fat and contains about 413 calories a portion.
At home, check the label to make sure a low-fat dressing is not packed with chemicals – if so, stick to a drizzle of olive oil.
And if you are in need of a treat, make sure it’s a Jaffa cake, which contains fewer calories and 1/3 of the fat found in a bourbon biscuit:
Per biscuit: calories 70; fat 3.0g; sugar 4.3g; salt trace
Chocolate bourbons are highly sweetened with sugar, dextrose and glucose syrup. They also contain hydrogenated vegetable fat, unless it states otherwise on the packet. They are not the highest calorie biscuit around, but are far from the lowest.
FOR: Jaffa cake
Per biscuit: calories 46; fat 1.0g; sugar 6.4g; salt trace
Containing only 8 per cent fat – very low for a chocolate covered biscuit – jaffa cakes are a firm favourite among athletes and sporty types. Each biscuit has 24 fewer calories than a bourbon. They have a fairly high sugar content – almost one teaspoon per biscuit – but are free from hydrogenated fats and contain virtually no salt.
The Food Swap Diet by Peta Bee is available to buy now from all good bookshops. It is also available to download as an e-book from all the major e-book retailers, so you can read it on your Kindle, iPad, Kobo or Sony Reader.
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