We pick certain foods for their texture and taste, both of which contribute to the appeal of a meal; it’s just that these foods are seldom nutritive or low in calories. Here’s how to increase a meal’s nutritive value by making simple switches, while keeping it just as tasty!
Replace: Potato Chips (as a snack)
Popcorn is a wholegrain loaded with protein and fibre. It has 11g of protein and 14.5 grams fibre per 100 grams, with 375 calories. As is the case with protein, most people don’t even come close to the daily recommended amount of fibre from food, which is 25 grams for women, and 38 grams for men.1
100 g of potato chips, in comparison, has 536 calories with 4.8 dietary fibre!
Replace: Spaghetti Noodles
With: Zucchini Spaghetti
A bowl of spaghetti can add 200 calories to your meal, whereas a large zucchini has only 30-40 calories; plenty of kitchen gadgets out there that can transform zucchini into long spaghetti-like strips! Even a mixture of zucchini and regular spaghetti is a step in a right direction, since it cuts down the calories significantly.
Replace: Croutons (in your salad)
Although almonds are energy dense, they have the most fibre and vitamin E amongst most nuts and are especially good for people worried about their blood sugar, since they seem to decrease insulin resistance. In comparison to croutons, almonds have twice the amount of protein, three times the fibre, and a third of carbs – with just about the same crunch!
Replace: Sweet drinks
With: Lemon Soda
Sweet soda has added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, which do not make you feel full, so you keep guzzling them down and increasing the calorie count. Lemon, on the other hand, contains vitamin C, potassium and vitamin B6, as well as plant compounds called ‘flavonoids’ that have powerful health benefits. For example, the flavonoid ‘diosmin’ is included in certain drugs for the treatment of several illnesses of the circulatory system.2 Lemon also adds flavour to the fizzy soda, making it a very low-calorie refreshment.
Replace: Fruit Juice/ Energy Drinks
With: Coconut Water
The fact coconut water has very little sugar makes it much lower in calories than juices, which are full of sugar minus the fruit’s filling fibre. Because of this, one glass of fruit juice can make you have the amount of sugar that’s in several portions of the fruit, without one even realizing it; for example, one glass of orange juice could have about as much sugar as 3 full oranges! Moreover, coconut water is a superior thirst quencher that’s packed with nutrients. With about a third of the calories and some healthy fats, coconut water is also higher in electrolytes, which makes it excellent for rehydrating (and better than energy drinks, too).
Replace: Sour/Fresh Cream (in curries and desserts)
With: Greek Yogurt
In many curries, it’s the sour cream that delivers the rich, creamy texture. Filled with fats, cream can instantly turn any meal into a high-calorie affair. Replace the 200-calories-of-mostly-saturated-fat (in a mere half cup of) cream with yogurt, which has just 50 calories and a bonus of approximately 5 g of protein. Eating this probiotic dish raw also gives us the many health benefits of gut bacteria. 3Also, remember: adding fruits to Greek yogurt makes for a delicious low-calorie dessert, too!
Replace: Creamy Salad Dressings
With: Vinaigrette Dressing
All salads are not created equal. Some have a very high calorie count, while others simply lack nutrients. Holding off on the high-sugar, low-nutrients creamy dressings – and then replacing them with a vinaigrette dressing (or even a yogurt-based or citric dressing) – can do wonders to the nutritional value of your salad! The vinaigrette’s olive oil and lemon juice makes it a simple, tasty and low caloric dressing, as well as a good source of vitamin C and some healthy fatty acids.
Replace: Vegetable Oil (for cooking)
With: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is full of saturated fats, which don’t go rancid easily when exposed to heat. This makes it better for cooking as compared to the refined vegetable oils that are sold as cooking oils. When heated beyond their threshold, vegetable oils can produce compounds that negatively affect our health over time. Pure ghee and olive oil are also good options for cooking.
Replace: Breadcrumbs (in soups, gravies and meats)
With: Chia Seeds
A rich source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds have twice the amount of protein and a whooping twenty times the fibre as breadcrumbs! Chia seeds can take the crackly place of breadcumbs while preparing meatballs, meatloaf, and even as the breading in chicken breasts; using grounded chia seeds can also be great for thickening soups and gravies.
With: Almond Milk
Almond milk and cow’s milk are both packed with nutrients, but almond milk has six times less the amount of sugar. Unsweetened almond milk has 35 calories per cup, whereas regular milk has 80-100 calories!
1. USDA. Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Dietary Reference Intakes 2002 [cited]Available from: http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-and-Amino-Acids.aspx
2. Del R??o JA, et al. Food Chemistry 2004, 84(3): 457-461.
3. Adolfsson O, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2004, 80(2): 245-256.