When trying to increase how healthy our diets are, many people will look to cut any food vices altogether in an effort to lower the number of calories we eat. Chips, biscuits, sweets and desserts will probably be amongst the first to go in any new regime, especially in people who are overweight.
However, this may not always be the best route to follow. While it's true that losing weight can be difficult without changing the types of food you eat, you don't have to completely deprive yourself of your favourites. Indeed, the odd sweet now and again can actually help with willpower as you won't feel quite as deprived, which in turn should help with weight loss in the longer term.
If chocolate is your vice, there's no reason you can't satisfy that need if you ensure the rest of your food is healthy. Considering the quantity of what we eat is key here.
Filling up with healthy foods
Eating low-fat, high-fibre foods will help you control your hunger, as well as helping to ensure you get the vitamins and minerals your body requires. Carbohydrates should make up half of your daily calorie count, and making them as unrefined as possible will help keep your blood sugar stable, too. Choose brown pastas, breads, and rice instead of white options, minimise your intake of saturated and trans fats, and try to vary your protein sources.
Many people can struggle to control their willpower when it comes to sweet foods, so if that applies to you, these useful tips should help you enjoy healthier versions of sweet treats:
- If you find you often have an evening craving for chocolate, you can help supress it yet still get that fix by having a cup of low-calorie hot chocolate. They come in a variety of flavours too
- Add sweetener to your hot drinks and baking, instead of sugar. If you're not that keen on sweetener, use a half and half combination of the two
- Buy fun-sized chocolate treats instead of full size. You can freeze bags of 'nibbling' chocolate (such as buttons) as eating them frozen will make them last longer
- Pre-prepare a big bowl or tub of chopped fruit in your fridge that you can pick at any time you desire
- Avoid the 'fat-free' yoghurt trap. Even though a yoghurt may state it is fat-free, it may still contain a lot of sugar - make sure you check the label
- When making jelly, you can replace your normal jelly cubes with reduced-sugar jelly crystals. You could even make it up with diet lemonade to give it a 'fizz'
- If you feel the need for a biscuit with your drink try to avoid the chocolate or creamed varieties
- Drink diet, 'zero', or low-calorie fizzy drinks instead of the normal full-sugar varieties - and for squash, choose the 'no added sugar' versions
- Replace your normal ice cream with a refreshing sorbet
- And of course, if you bulk out your main meals with lots of filling vegetables, you'll reduce the need to snack on nibbles an hour after your meal
Remember to check the label - you should minimise as far as possible your intake of sugary foods and drinks. Less than 5 g of sugars per 100 g of food is classed as low-sugar whereas 22.5 g or more per 100 g of food is classed as high.