Losing weight and eating well can easily become confused! This Autumn I have put together my first ‘Eat Well’ cookery course. Showing people how to cook using the fresh seasonal vegetables, learning how to incorporate food groups such as beans, pulses and non gluten grains into our families meals and eating more fish!
Whilst I believe you should eat well to lose weight; the must always bear in mind that to lose weight, you must have a deficit calorie control intake. If we eat too many healthy foods such as: avocados, bananas, nuts and dressing our food in extra virgin olive oil (any oil in fact) is going to mean our daily calorie intake will quickly surpass what we actually need, despite eating healthy foods!
Losing weight is simply maths…
I’ll freely admit the only simple thing to losing weight is the maths… the rest of it can be hard work!! But hear me out! Our bodies to get through each and every day need a set amount of calories.
Once our bodies have used this amount of energy, we rather need to be more active to burn the excess calories off, or they become stored in our bodies as fat. Our bodies are excellent at converting sugars in to fat and this how we put on weight.
If we wish to lose weight and it is believed right now due to Covid-19 and lockdown, around half the British population has put on weight, including me, it is essential we understand how much we are eating. We do need to know the maths.
Calorie counting, good or bad?
Back in my teens I knew the calorie content of every food that I consumed, I was kind of obsessed and it took me a long time to break that chain. It made me miserable, my diary was very similar to that of Bridget Jones!
Since having children though eating well has been my priority and in the past twenty years I rarely think about calories, because along the way I have learnt roughly the amount my body needs and the foods I should eat to feel well.
Generally speaking women should have around 2000 calories a day and men 2500 calories. (This does depend on your age, metabolism and levels of activity).
If we want to lose weight we must eat less than this. If we reduced our calorie intake by 500 calories of the recommended daily intake, we will gradually and sustainably lose weight.
To lose weight I believe it is essential we understand the true amount of calories we are consuming. It helps us to understand the foods that are high in energy and can help with portion control, another area where we often surprised at how much we actually need.
Well if its maths, why can’t we eat what we want, just less of it?
If your only goal is to lose weight and if you do eat less calories than your body requires, then you will lose weight.
However if your diet is full of too many unhealthy fats, sugars and processed foods, then your body will be malnourished. Your body won’t thrive and you can put yourself at increased risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
A woman could eat 2 Big Macs per day (a total of 1100 calories) and lose weight but her body would be missing out on healthy essential good fats, fibre, minerals and vitamins. We need to eat well so that our bodies can work at their optimum.
We must educate ourselves as to the best way to ‘eat well.’
The NHS recommends following a Mediterranean diet. I am a big fan of this, I know they are many diets now that look at removing whole food groups such as Paleo or Keto, but it is vital that you find an eating system that you can stick to. That’s why the Mediterranean diet is my personal favourite.
The key is to understand that our plates need to be full of fresh fruit and vegetables, a little protein, especially fish (oily fish is the best of all!) then a little carbohydrate. If you would like to read more about the Mediterranean diet, here is the link
Pitfalls of eating well whilst losing weight
This is when understanding calorie intake can be so useful.
Vegetable oils are generally good for us. Olive oil is part of Mediterranean cooking, where butter is used much more sparingly. However the calorie difference between olive oil and butter is little, with actually olive oil being slightly higher than butter. Per tablespoon of olive oil there is 120 calories and butter 100 calories.
Right now there are lots of discussion about which fats are healthier for our bodies. Again I look at the evidence, those countries eating a Mediterranean diet have some of the highest life expectancy levels in the world. Looking at future predictions it doesn’t appear that this will change, in fact it looks likely that Spain will take the number one spot!
Tips for losing weight whilst eating well
- However, if you are counting calories beware of the amount of fats you are putting in to your cooking.
- When using pans for frying a non stick pan will require little or no oil to cook with.
- If you are using dressings, try different vinegars or citrus fruits to add a zing to your salads. Use less oil, it will reduce your calorie intake!
- Remove the skin from poultry and the excess fat on meat joints.
- Nuts are another hugely calorific food item, even though they are packed full or vitamins, minerals and healthy fats which are so good for us, if we aren’t trying to lose weight. Instead of eating nuts consider fresh vegetables and fruits which will have the goodness but will not have the fats.
- Dried fruits and fruit juices can be packed full of sugars, eating fresh fruits, berries are particularly good for us, and drinking more water will help.
- Becareful of the calories in your favourite coffee! Whilst an Americano with hot milk, may have 20-50 calories, depending on the milk type, a coffee with an added flavoured syrup, whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles will have hundreds!! may be as many as 400-500 for just one cup of coffee.
- Alcohol can be full of hidden sugars. My personal favourite tipple, when I want to limit the amount of calories I’m consuming is vodka, sparkling water and a squeeze of lime!
- Understanding the calorie content wlll help make losing weight easier. There are some fabulous apps for your phone that can help with this. You scan or input the meals you are consuming and it will give you all the information you need about your calorie consumption!
I hope these tips help, remember if you have a bad day, draw a line, start again. We all have bad days, it doesn’t mean it needs to be a bad week!
If you would like some wonderful recipe ideas where we focus on ingredients that will benefit your health, come along to our course at Create98 in Leigh on Sea. Held one evening a week over four weeks, I’ll create dishes full of delciousness, in a friendly and informal kitchen, that you can help prep and improve your cooking skills on; they’ll be plenty of tasting and a recipe booklet to take home too!