NUTRITION // 8 ways to improve your diet without counting calories
This is not an article slating calorie counting. Actually I believe that episodes of counting calories and tracking meals can be extremely educational, and is my preferred way of teaching people how to become more aware of their portion sizes, and how many calories are in certain foods. Once you know the nutrition profile of say 100g chicken breast, then when you are eating out it becomes easier to estimate what you are eating.
That being said, there are ways of making improvements to your diet, whether you are wanting to lose weight or just feel healthier without having to weigh your food or eliminate food groups. Here are my top tips:
1. MAKE THE MAJORITY OF YOUR MAIN MEALS 1/2 VEGETABLES, 1/4 PROTEIN AND 1/4 STARCHES
Eventually you should aim for all main meals to be consistently built this way, however when you’re just starting out I recommend taking just one meal which you want to improve, and work on that first. For example, if you often grab takeaways or ready meals for dinner then improve it every day until it becomes a habit, then think about ‘levelling up’ the next one.
Small steps are more effective for improvement, rather than completely overhauling your diet. If we have too many new habits to build at once it can feel stressful, and you may feel more of a failure if you slip up.
Pictured are some example plates.
2. ADD TO YOUR DIET, DON’T SUBTRACT
This is a great way of enjoying your favourite foods without diverting from your healthy eating goals. A few examples could be:
- If you love pizza try adding a salad to get in micronutrients and filling volume;
- If pasta is your vibe, add a protein source such as chicken, prawns or tofu to balance out the carbohydrates;
- Add spinach to your eggs or smoothie in the morning;
- Have a piece of fruit with lunch;
- Have some sautéed vegetables with dinner.
See below for some tips on how to make vegetables taste great.
3. SWAP PROCESSED CARBS FOR WHOLEGRAINS
Wholegrains such as quinoa, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, millet and oats are higher in nutrients than their counterparts (white bread, pasta, cereals and biscuits etc.), and they also take longer to digest. This means that the body has to work harder to extract energy and consequently you burn calories eating them. In contrast refined/processed carbohydrates are easy to digest, so provide a quick energy spike. The body often cannot process all of these calories at once so excess is converted into glucose and ultimately stored as fat.
4. EAT MORE HEALTHY FATS
Your cells need fat in order to function properly, and many vitamins need it to be absorbed by the body. Healthy fats such as egg yolks, avocado, olive and coconut oils not only taste amazing but they also help to keep you full. I personally would rather eat full fat yogurt and feel satisfied until my next meal rather than have 2% yogurt and pick at food all afternoon in order to keep hunger at bay.
5. DON’T GO ALL IN
My philosophy is to make sure your nutrition is spot on about 85-90% of the time (maybe more towards 95% if you have a special event looming), and make some leeway for some treats which you love. The goal is to strike a balance between enjoyable healthy eating supplemented with some foods which are simply good for the soul. This style of eating is much more sustainable long term, as if you are constantly sacrificing your social life and emotional health you risk feeling isolated and resenting your diet.
So occasionally have that piece of cake, that pint in the beer garden or fish and chips on the beach, just make sure the rest of the time your meals are based around nutritious whole foods.
6. LEARN HOW TO MAKE VEGETABLES TASTE AMAZING
When on a mission to lose weight, my best friends in the kitchen are not sauces and marinades which can add a heap of calories but seasonings, spices, vinegars and citrus juices instead.
Jerk seasoning works well on chicken but also the vegetables you could eat alongside it. Salads taste great with a splash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice. Sweet potato wedges are so good when sprinkled with paprika before roasting. These flavourings will help you actually crave them rather than dread them.
7. USE SMALLER PLATES
When we eat we use all of our senses, including our sight. Large plates can make portion sizes appear smaller and we are tricked into thinking we are eating less. Conversely smaller plates can make smaller quantities of food appear larger, and therefore we feel more satisfied.
Using restaurant size starter plates at home for main meals is an easy and effective way of cutting calories without having to get the scales out.
8. GET HELP FROM A SPECIALIST
If you’re going to bulk up, lose fat, or stay healthy, then a goal-specific nutrition plan will get you the best results. My role as a nutrition advisor is to teach you rather than tell you about nutrition, so that when our time working together comes to an end you have skills and knowledge for life. I offer one to one hour consultations, online nutrition coaching as well as custom meal plans which are affordable, realistic, easy to follow and tailored to you – not just a copy and paste, one fits all approach.
Send me a message for more information or check out my Work with Me section!