When I face any challenge, such as trying to get my kids to eat their veggies, I take comfort in Pete Seeger’s folk tune Step by Step:
“Step by step the longest march can be won.
Many stones can form an arch, singly none.”
This paean to the value of diligence and small steps holds the secret to building good eating habits. Do you need to overhaul your diet? Don’t empty your fridge and sign on for the latest crash diet. Start small, gradually increasing the number of right choices you make each day. That’s the sustainable path to weight loss. Here are 10 tips to get you started.
1. Create an optical illusion
Slicing meat and cheese thinly will make your portions appear bigger and more satisfying. In a study at Japan’s National Food Research Institute, participants who compared equal amounts of sliced and whole vegetables rated the sliced piles up to 27 per cent larger.
2. Build a hierarchy
When making a sandwich, you need to start with a solid foundation. The hierarchy of health, in descending order:
* Turkey and chicken
* Roast beef
* Processed meats like salami
Sub roast beef in for that Italian sausage and you can trim your fat intake by up to 30 per cent.
3. Stuff your burgers
Scoop a hole in the middle of your burger before you cook it, then fill it with olives, mushrooms or any other veg. This will make the recommended serving of beef (85 grams) look and feel like a house brick.
4. Just add water
Canned beans – kidney, butter, chickpeas – are a quick and easy way to add protein and fibre to your meals. But they can also spike your sodium intake, potentially increasing your risk of high blood pressure. Simply rinsing them will shed one-third of their sodium.
5. Power shake
One tablespoon of fresh oregano is an antioxidant powerhouse, containing significantly higher antioxidant counts than other popular herbs like sage, peppermint and thyme, according to the Journal of Nutrition. One of the most versatile herbs, oregano can be added to anything from sauces to salad dressings. Shake with abandon.
6. Breakfast in bed
Surprising your partner with a breakfast of pancakes in bed? Replace a quarter cup of flour with a quarter cup of polenta. The polenta will not only give your pancakes great texture, it’ll add a dose of gut-healthy fibre and cell-fortifying magnesium to an otherwise nutritionally empty breakfast.
7. Bring the heat
The jury’s in – chillies burn fat. Researchers at Adelaide University found that the TRPV1 receptor in chillies can activate nerves in the stomach that send messages to the brain about how full you are. A Korean study published in the journal Obesity, meanwhile, found that capsaicin – the chemical that makes chillies hot – can help the liver clear insulin after a meal. Nachos, anyone?
8. Harden up with soft cheese
Use softer cheese like goat’s milk, feta and ricotta as a pizza topper and sandwich filler – they’re naturally about a third lower in kilojoules than harder cheeses. Stinging for the hard stuff? Go for strong flavours like parmesan and extra-sharp cheddar and you’ll naturally eat less.
9. Sow your oats
In any meat recipe that calls for breadcrumbs, use an equal amount of rolled oats instead. This ramps up your soluble fibre intake, which can help lower your cholesterol while also stoking feelings of satiety.
10. Burn off blood-sugar spikes
Start dinner with a salad or roast vegies drizzled with a vinaigrette. According to nutritionists at Arizona State University, the acetic acid in vinegar interferes with enzymes that break down carbohydrates. Just a few teaspoons of vinegar when you sit down to eat can keep your blood sugar from rocketing skywards then crashing back to Earth.