Dieting is no one’s idea of a fun time and the leaner you want to get, the harder you have to diet. Bodybuilders and fitness athletes often go to extremes in their pre-contest preparation and it’s not uncommon to hear that, in the lead up to a contest or important photo shoot, they survive on little more than salad, tuna and green tea for weeks at a time. Yes, the results from such an extreme regime are spectacular but fun? I think not.
Chances are, you don’t actually need or want to be as lean as the models you see in this and other fitness magazines so such an extreme nutritional approach is not necessary but what if you want to drop a few pounds or body fat percentage points without trying too hard or simply want to eat a little more healthily? What should you do?
Rather than go on a full-blown diet, I believe it’s possible to get in pretty good shape – better than 90 percent of the population at least – without restricting your food intake excessively. How? By making some simple food substitutions.
With that in mind, here are some common meals that most of us eat on a regular basis (or would like to) and some hacks that will make them more fitness and physique friendly. Maybe that old expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it” is not true after all!
Lasagne is an Italian classic that is great hot or cold. While it is packed with protein, lasagne is also heavy on fat and carbohydrates which mean it’s a no-go if you are trying to get lean or stay lean.
To make this meal more waistline friendly, try substituting the pasta with thin slices of courgette, making the white sauce with skimmed milk and substituting the regular cheese with extra strong low fat cheese – you’ll get the same flavors but considerably fewer calories. You can also use extra lean mince beef or even minced chicken or turkey instead to save even more fat calories.
Pasta is the cornerstone of many people’s diet and that’s hardly surprising. Quick to cook, enjoyable to eat and filling, pasta ticks lots of nutritional boxes. On the down side, pasta is a fairly refined carbohydrate and too many carbs can interfere with your efforts to lose fat.
Replace the pasta in your bolognese with thinly sliced cabbage. As odd as this may sound, the texture is not that dissimilar and you can have a huge quantity of this filling faux-pasta as it’s virtually calorie-free. Just boil it for a couple of minutes, steam it or sauté – it takes even less time to cook than real pasta.
Keeping our Italian theme going, lots of people enjoy pizza but the combination of lots of cheese, fatty meats and refined wheat means that pizza is a belly bomb waiting to explode! The combination of refined carbohydrates and fat means that a traditional pizza is ideal for converting to body fat and I know you don’t want that.
I suggest you replace the base with a three to four egg omelette and choose lean toppings like tuna, turkey, chicken or low fat cheese. Go heavy on the vegetables and you have an almost perfect meal for fat loss but with the great taste of pizza. It’s not going to compete with a big pizza with all the toppings but it’s certainly better than not having pizza at all.
Fish and Chips
The great British classic is by no means unhealthy but it is packed with calories and contains the dreaded fat and carb combo. Fish is an important source of essential nutrients while potatoes provide vitamin C, fiber and other important such healthy nutrients. Tossing the whole lot in a deep fat fryer is not such a good idea though.
Instead, why not grill your fish and make sweet potato oven-baked wedges instead? Sweet potatoes are even more nutrient-rich and grilling your fish means that you keep the protein but lose the fat. Grilled fish and baked sweet potato wedges mean that fish and chips need never be completely off the menu.
Chicken curry and Rice
Who doesn’t like curry? The aromatic spices, the succulent meats and a few cheeky beers is a regular Friday night treat for many people. As tasty as curry is, it’s not exactly easy on the waistline and the creamy Korma is probably one of the worse culprits.
You can, however, tweak this meal and make it considerably healthier by switching the rich coconut milk-based sauce for one made with low fat yogurt.
Alternatively, a chopped tinned tomato sauce works equally well. Cook your curry as normal but bulk up the sauce with lots of vegetables. In place of the rice, another source of unwanted carbohydrate, you can make a rice substitute out of grated cauliflower.
Simply cut the cauliflower heads into chunks and then either grate it by hand or whizz it up in the food processor to make rice-like grains. Boil it in chicken or vegetable stock for five minutes and you have a filling rice alternative that is all but calorie-free.
Hamburgers (or horse burgers!) are generally put pretty low on the food totem pole. In addition to being made form low grade meat, the floury bread roll is made from very refined wheat and all the mayonnaise, cheese and other condiments mean that while a burger is high in protein, it’s also high in carbs and fat too.
To make a better burger, use lean mince beef mixed with an egg formed into patties and serve in two large Portobello mushrooms (stalks removed) instead of a bread roll.
Add plenty of vegetables, some ketchup in place of the mayonnaise and thinly sliced low fat tasty cheese and you have a decent hamburger substitute. Don’t go ruining it all by serving with fries and a large milk shake though!
As you can see, there are lots of ways to turn meals that are considered far from healthy into ab-friendly meals designed to take you toward and not away from your fitness goals.
Eating healthy and dieting hard can be rough but, by making these substitutions, at least you don’t have to completely deprive yourself. Food is one of life’s pleasures after all.
You might also be interested : 3 of The Best Pasta Substitutes For Diabetics