A lot of people can benefit from increasing their variety a little bit more at dinnertime. Even if you’re not vegetarian, you don’t have to eat meat every single day. By reducing the number of days you eat meat, you not only cut down on calories, but also on saturated fat and salt intake too. Try out the following food swaps for a healthier, more nourishing meal this evening.
Swap out the red meat
The World Health Organization has labelled red meat as “probably carcinogenic” in a recent statement, linking the likes of beef, pork and lamb to pancreatic and prostate cancer. Try swapping out the beef or pork mince in a lasagne or bolognese with a turkey or quorn alternative. Not only will this save you around 100 calories per serving for the same level of protein, but it will also reduce the saturated fat intake.
Using cauliflower to make couscous or a pizza base isn’t just for health bloggers – it’s simple to make at home and is a great way to cut calories in your diet. Blitzing and steaming a cauliflower leaves you with a couscous substitute that goes great as the base of a tabbouleh or as a side to a tagine. And, you may be surprised to hear, makes a pretty good pizza base too – blend the cauliflower with ground almonds, eggs and herbs before baking in the oven. Once the “pizza” base has firmed, assemble your toppings of tomato, aubergines, goat’s cheese or mozzarella, basil, etc. before sticking it back in the oven to cook the topping. The cauliflower-base pizza turns a guilty treat into a healthy dinner, saving you around 200 calories in the process!
Time to get in-spiralised
A trend at the moment is to turn courgettes into noodles and to use them as a replacement for carbohydrates – with them working really well in stir-fries and traditionally pasta-based dishes.
I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t have any carbohydrates, but there is a need to rebalance dinners and move away from the staple of meat, a starchy carbohydrate (potatoes, white pasta) and a small portion of vegetables. Instead, by replacing your white pasta with the wholemeal version, and having a portion that is half courgetti (courgette-spaghetti)/half spaghetti, you will cut the overall energy density, and subsequent calories, of your diet, whilst increasing the nutrient density at the same time.
Ideally you need a “spiralizer” to slice the courgettes properly, but you can also use a potato peeler to make courgette ribbons.
Surprisingly sugary sauces
A lot of people use creamy sauces and ready-made table sauces, such as ketchup, sweet chilli and barbeque sauce, which are all packed with sugar – on average a couple of teaspoons per serving. If you’ve got a blender, why not make your own? Blitz in a little mango with some chilli, lime juice and coriander to make a sauce that goes fantastically with fish, chicken or in a stir-fry for a spicy, oriental kick. By cutting down on the sugar content of the table sauces, you can save about 30-50 calories per serving.
A sweeter spud
When it comes to potatoes, it’s always generally better to have the sweet variety. It’s higher in fibre, is more nutritious in terms of B vitamins and minerals, and is lower on the glycaemic index than its starchy-cousin. Also, unlike a King Edward, always try to use the skin of a sweet potato as that’s where a lot of the fibre and nutrients are found – whether that’s as a jacket potato or as wedges. If mashing, why not incorporate some butternut squash too – it’s a lot less dense in carbohydrates and calories than sweet or regular potatoes, and will boost the flavour too.
Ice cream’s a no-no. Instead try a “froyo”
If you want to treat yourself after dinner, but don’t want the calories of ice cream, give frozen yoghurt (froyo) a go instead. Throw together a sundae at home by layering up the frozen greek yoghurt with berries, natural yoghurt and honey; creating a dessert that is packed full of calcium, has Vitamin C from the fruit, but is also low in fat and sugar too.
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