Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply eat healthier, meal plans are an excellent tool for accomplishing your goals. A good meal plan is made up of nutrient-rich whole foods and lean proteins like fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish and chicken.
We know we need to lose weight but a diet overhaul remains so daunting that many of us don’t even start. How encouraging, then, to read a new study that reveals how “calorie shaving” – small but consistent changes in food intake – can have a powerful impact on your weight.
The research from Oxford University found that takeaway apps which offered smaller portion sizes reduced the calorie content of takeaways by up to 15 per cent, or 209 calories, per order.
“Simple interventions that make it easy to make small changes to what we eat could help reduce obesity, if delivered at scale,” says researcher Dr Filippo Bianchi.
Nutritionist Sam Rice agrees: “Calorie shaving can be an effective weight-management tool because you can incorporate it into daily life,” she says. “By shaving off 300 calories a day, you’ll lose a pound every 11 days.” Push it to 500 calories per day and the average person will lose a pound a week – or a stone in six months. Here’s how to lose that weight without feeling deprived.
Drop the morning pastry
Calorie cut: 340
“Most pastries are high in calories,” says Sejal Jacob, of the British Dietetic Association. “A better option is a toasted teacake, which contains around 160 calories.”
Better still to make breakfast at home. Overnight oats, yoghurt with fruit, porridge, oat-based cereals or a slice of sourdough toast, which is around 150
to 180 calories, are lower-calorie alternatives, says Sophie Thompson, dietitian at the Princess Grace Hospital, London.
Get the right lunchtime meal deal
Calorie cut: 300
A classic meal deal – sandwich, crisps and sweet drink – can be around 800 calories.
“Pick a sandwich made with brown bread, containing tuna and sweetcorn or salmon and watercress,” says dietitian Sian Porter. “Swerve sandwiches with a lot of cheese, mayo or processed meat, replace the crisps and cola with fruit and water, and save 300 calories.”
Embrace spray oils
Calorie cut: 300
Spray oil contains just one calorie per spray, whereas a tablespoon of oil is around 100. Replacing traditional oils and other fats with spray oil could save up to 300 calories per portion.
Count your nuts
Calorie cut: 200
“People buy a family-sized bag and eat the whole thing,” says Porter. Nuts are high in “good” unsaturated fats but also high in calories. A 200 calorie portion is just three brazil nuts, 16 cashews, 13 walnuts or 23 almonds. “Two handfuls of nuts contain 400 calories,” adds Porter. “Try measuring out portions into a small bowl.”
Calorie cut: 500
“Any takeaway is likely to be higher in fats, calories and salt than a home-cooked meal,” says Jacob, often as much as 500 calories more. She recommends using delivery apps no more than once a fortnight, and no takeaways for those with high cholesterol or cardiovascular issues.
Be picky about pizza
Calorie cut: 100
There are ways to cut down calories when you indulge in takeaways. “Ordering a thin-crust pizza rather than a thick one can save up to 100 calories per slice because it contains less dough,” says Thompson. Vegetable toppings, rather than processed meats, can save 100 calories per slice.
Cut curries in half
Calorie cut: 500
Opt for steamed plain rice rather than egg-fried rice, sticky rice or pilau, which can all often be up to 200 calories more per portion. You can also save around 500 calories by sharing a curry,
rice and a vegetable side dish, says Porter.