DIY Diet Success
Here are the secrets that helped me drop the weight and keep it off. They’ll work for you, too – no meal-delivery service required.
1 RECALIBRATE YOUR PLATE
My first breakfast on the plan was two super-thin slices of French toast with a thimbleful of syrup. It was then that I realised I’d been eating way too much food.
Turns out I’m not alone in my portion distortion. The average dinner plate has grown 36 per cent over the past five decades, Cornell University researchers say.
My delivery-service diet carefully measured portions. In my plan, proteins were 85g, about the size of a deck of cards, and grains were a half cup – say, half a cricket ball.
“To make sure you’re eating the right amount, measure your food for a day or two,” says dietitian Alison Massey, director of diabetes education at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
Getting used to these smaller servings took about a week. Following the plan’s recommendation to spend 30 minutes enjoying each meal also helped me quite a bit.
“Eating slowly gives your brain time to register fullness,” Massey says. To pace yourself, sit at the table for meals and put down your fork between bites.
2 RAMP UP THE FLAVOUR
“When you’re cutting kilojoules, using herbs and spices can prevent you from feeling deprived,” says dietitian Lauren Harris-Pincus, the founder of a program called Nutrition Starring You (nutritionstarringyou.com). According to a study in the journal Appetite, people enjoyed the reduced-fat version of a dish as much as they did the full-fat one when herbs and spices were added.
In my delivery meals, harissa – a Tunisian hot sauce – gave vegies a kick, and parsley and mint dressed up meatballs. So try subbing in herbs and spices in place of fat in your cooking. Fold curry powder into a cauliflower mash or mix rosemary into a turkey burger patty.
Along with delivering nutrients, these ingredients can lessen your salt-shaker dependence. Research by the American Heart Association found that when people flavoured food with herbs and spices, they reduced their sodium intake by 966mg a day. That’s a lot!
3 USE YOUR BEAN
Whether it was cannellini beans floating in a chickenvegetable soup or black beans flecked with red onion Cubanstyle, my delivery meals were often brimming with legumes. “Beans are high in both fibre and protein, which can keep you satisfied longer,” says Dr Rebecca Cipriano, founder of the Pop Weight Loss program.
In fact, researchers at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto found people felt 31 per cent more satisfied when their meals contained a cup of beans than when they didn’t.
Over time, this may add up to some dropped kilos. In another Canadian study, people who regularly ate beans weighed less and had a smaller waist size than those who didn’t. To bulk up your meals and feel fuller, add half a cup of legumes to soups, salads and entrées. For a healthy snack, Cipriano recommends puréeing your favourite beans with lemon juice, olive oil and spices to serve as a dip for vegies.
4 MAKE EVERY BITE COUNT
My delivery snacks – including a roasted pear and ricotta crostini with rocket, and spicy prawns with papaya salsa – resembled mini masterpieces. They were much more enjoyable than my typical vending-machine picks and far better for me. Munching a bag of chips doesn’t feel like an eating experience, Massey explains. “But having a snack that’s full of different tastes and textures is more memorable and satisfying,” she says.
For a treat worth the kilojoules, look for a combo of protein and veg with a mix of flavours, such as wholegrain bread topped with egg salad and a few red capsicum slices.
No time to prep? Jazz up basic snacks – dust almonds with cocoa powder or top low-fat Greek yoghurt with pomegranate seeds.
5 BECOME A GRAINIAC
My starches used to be all white. To my surprise, I really enjoyed trying the fragrant whole grains, like nuttytasting farro and smoky Chinese black forbidden rice, that featured in my delivered meals.
Besides boosting flavour, these whole grains helped to stop my urge to graze.
“Their high fibre content keeps you full, so you’re less likely to seek out sugary foods,” Harris-Pincus says. In a Tufts University study, people who ate mostly whole grains had 10 per cent less belly fat – the kind linked to chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease – than those who consumed no whole grains.
To incorporate whole grains into your diet, be creative. You can whip up hot quinoa topped with fresh apple slices and cinnamon for breakfast. Or try folding wild rice or barley into your favourite casserole recipe. You can use rolled oats in place of breadcrumbs in meat loaf.
6 PLAN AHEAD
Knowing what I was going to have throughout the day prevented me from eating mindlessly. It was also easier to hold off from snacking when I knew when my next meal was coming.
“Planning is the key to staying on track,” Massey says. She recommends setting aside time each weekend to prepare a few staples – grill chicken breasts and slice them ready for salads and sandwiches, roast vegetables for tasty snacks and make beans in the slow cooker.
“That way you can easily mix and match sides and proteins for your lunches and dinners,” she says.
During the week, take a few minutes every evening to portion out your breakfast for the next day and pack a healthy lunch and snack to take to work. The weekend is a great time to bulk-cook staples that make it easier to prep the next week’s worth of meals at home. Big batches of pasta sauce, black beans and hearty soups can be kept for a long time in the freezer and are super versatile.
Dining out? Review the restaurant’s menu online before you go and decide on some healthy options.
You can choose one once you get to the restaurant.