5 food swaps to help weight loss

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
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16 December 2019

What is healthy weight loss?

Swapping fatty or sugary foods for healthier alternatives may help you lose weight. Today, I'm going to talk about 5 healthy foods to include in your diet and how you can easily add these into your daily routine, including:

At different points throughout the year, many of us decide to go on a diet to lose weight; however, some of these diets aren't successful and you may find it hard to stick to the regime you've chosen. This could be down to setting unrealistic goals or being too restrictive. The NHS recommends losing weight gradually, at a rate of about 1-2lbs (0.5kg – 1kg) per week.1 You should also set yourself smart targets:

Specific – Be specific about what your goal is

Measurable – What is the timescale?

Achievable – Can your goal be achieved?

Realistic – Is the goal realistic and within reach?

Timely – Have a start and finish date.

An example of a smart resolution is: on January 3rd I will start eating healthier foods and obtain a gym membership. I will include healthier foods in my diet 7 days a week, but will have 1 treat each day and I will exercise 3 times per week at the gym. Every week, I will aim to lose 1lb of body fat. By the end of January, I aim to have lost 4 lbs of body fat.

1. Avocados

Avocados are the fruit of the avocado tree. These are very nutritious and have several health benefits.

Avocados contain high amounts of healthy fat (monounsaturated fat). Also, they don't contain any cholesterol. Having avocados as a source of fat in your diet may therefore help to keep cholesterol levels balanced.

On the other hand, an excess of saturated fats and regular intake of unhealthy trans fatty acids are associated with high cholesterol levels and may be a contributing factor to obesity. Research has shown that avocado intake is associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.2 Weight gain, obesity and metabolic syndrome go hand in hand since weight gain and obesity are risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Swapping unhealthy fats for healthier options such as avocados, along with a nutritionally balanced diet, may therefore help to reduce the risk of weight gain and obesity.

Avocados also contain a high quantity of dietary fibre. Foods that are high in fibre tend to have a low energy density (they provide fewer calories per gram), meaning that you can eat more whilst consuming fewer calories. Fibre also helps you to feel fuller for longer which may prevent you from snacking on high energy density foods.

If you wish to lose weight, consider adding avocado to your diet in place of less healthy fat sources such as cakes or crisps. Check out our avocado dip recipe.

2. Oily fish

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel can help maintain your heart health. They are rich sources of lean protein, which may help you to lose weight since this can make you feel fuller, ultimately preventing overeating. It is recommended that you consume 2 portions of oily fish per week. Research has found that including 3 portions of salmon per week in the diet helped to boost weight loss.3

As well as this, oily fish is a great source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). These are very beneficial to heart health since they can lower triglycerides and raise levels of 'healthy' cholesterol (HDL). High triglyceride levels and low HDL levels are known as dyslipidaemia, which goes hand in hand with obesity and an unhealthy diet. So, consuming oily fish may help to keep your heart and weight healthy!

If you wish to lose weight, consider swapping fried fish for oily fish. Check out our grilled honey lemon sardines with herbed rice.

3.Kale

Similar to avocado, kale is a low energy density food and may give you a sense of fullness, preventing you from snacking on high energy density foods. This is just one way that kale benefits weight loss.

Kale also contains folate (vitamin B9), which works alongside vitamin B6 and B12 to control the levels of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the blood. High levels of homocysteine may contribute towards heart disease.4 Being overweight or obese also puts you at risk of heart disease; so, consuming kale may help to keep homocysteine levels balanced and keep your heart healthy, whilst improving your weight.

If you find yourself snacking on crisps, why not try kale chips? They're a tasty and healthy alternative and are easy to make! Check out our kale chips and parmesan cheese recipe.


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4. Grapefruit

Grapefruit is a citrus fruit that can reduce body weight. A 12-week Japanese study investigated the effects of grapefruit on weight and metabolic syndrome. The results showed a significant reduction in weight and blood glucose levels in participants consuming half a grapefruit before meals.5 Both increased weight and elevated blood glucose levels are risk factors for metabolic syndrome. This research, therefore, suggests that consuming grapefruit may help to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.

As well as reducing body weight, grapefruits can also improve heart health. Regular consumption of citrus fruits may decrease blood pressure.6 As I've mentioned above, heart health problems and weight gain go hand in hand as high blood pressure is another risk factor of metabolic syndrome.

If you find yourself snacking on chocolate or sweets, why not swap them for some grapefruit? Or why not add grapefruit into your meals? Check out our avocado and grapefruit salad recipe.

5. Almonds

Like avocados, almonds contain fibre. As I mentioned above, fibre can help you to feel fuller for longer and may help you eat fewer calories. This is just one way in which almonds may help weight loss.

As well as this, almonds are high in monounsaturated fats which can lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL - the 'bad' type of cholesterol). High levels of LDL cholesterol may lead to atherosclerosis (a build-up of fatty deposits that clog the arteries). So, consuming almonds may help to keep your cholesterol levels balanced.

Several studies have been conducted to investigate whether almonds are beneficial to weight loss and the results are positive! One study in particular found that consuming 50g of almonds daily for 3 months significantly reduced weight.7

If you find yourself snacking on salted nuts, why not swap them for unsalted almonds? Or, if you wish to include them in a recipe, check out our strawberry and almond slices.

General weight loss tips

Below, I have listed some helpful tips for healthy weight loss:

  • Eat regular meals, but watch your portion sizes! Don't be tempted to load up your plate and overeat! Antique plates are smaller in circumference than modern equivalents. So, look out for some vintage crockery.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat; trim off the fat from meat and skin from poultry.
  • Boil, steam, grill or poach food rather than frying. If you're roasting food, use a small amount of rapeseed oil (this contains the healthy fats!).
  • Write down what you are eating as you are eating it each day. You are less likely to snack in the afternoon if you are fully aware of what you have already eaten that day. Many people are not aware of the full extent of what has gone into their mouths, and writing it down can shock them into avoiding piling into more food later on.
  • Always sit down to eat – sitting down to eat is much better for your digestion than eating on the go, and you are more likely to feel satisfied.
  • Chew your food properly! If you chew your food properly it is easier to break down foods and will aid your digestion. Eating slowly has also been linked to lower calorie intake.8
  • Having fewer types of food on your plate in one meal has been linked to reducing the amount of food that you eat. During a study, volunteers were given a bowl of different coloured M&M's and it was concluded that, the more colours on offer, the more they consumed. 9 Having fewer foods in one meal may reduce the amount that you eat.

So what can you take away from this blog?

  • When trying to lose weight, set yourself smart targets and aim to lose between 1-2lbs per week for healthy weight loss.
  • There are plenty of foods that benefit weight loss: try to include these into your diet.
  • Swapping junk foods for healthier alternatives may benefit weight loss.

What you said

We recently ran a poll to find out how many portions of fruit and vegetables you eat per day. We've crunched the numbers and here are the results.

Results: How many portions of fruit and vegetables do you eat per day?

It is recommended that we eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, so it's great to see that 37.7% of you are eating more than 5 portions per day!

References

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/start-losing-weight/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23282226
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17502874
  4. http://www.jhrr.org/article.asp?issn=2394-2010;year=2014;volume=1;issue=1;spage=5;epage=9;aulast=Mahmood
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16579728
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25880021
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116579/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24388483
  9. https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article-abstract/30/4/519/1828741?redirectedFrom=fulltext

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