As a country we spend millions to try to lose weight and get healthy.
We go to great lengths but there are some really simple steps you can take that will make a huge difference to your life.
Below are 10 fast fixes put together by dietitian Juliette Kellow in the Mirror that could seriously improve your health with minimal effort.
Use your blender
Making food look “bigger” simply by adding air can trick us into thinking we’ve eaten more – so we eat less at our next meal.
An easy way to incorporate air is to blend or whisk foods like smoothies, shakes, yoghurt or eggs for an omelette, for longer.
In one small study, men drank either a 300ml, 450ml or 600ml milkshake before lunch.
The ingredients were identical for each – the difference in quantity was purely down to the shakes being blended for longer so they contained more air.
Compared with the 300ml shake, when men had the 450ml shake they consumed, on average, 53 fewer calories at lunch. The 600ml shake resulted in 96 fewer calories at lunch.
Reshuffle your kitchen
Studies confirm we’re more likely to eat food when we can see it, so put less-healthy foods out of sight – such as biscuits in a tin and crisps in a carrier bag on the top shelf of a cupboard.
At the same time, put the fruit bowl in a prominent place and move carrots, peppers and cucumber from the fridge salad drawers to an eye-level shelf.
The evidence: in one study, office workers ate an average of three sweets when they were in a covered container placed two metres from their desk.
When they were in a clear container on their desk, they ate around eight sweets each.
If we don’t chew properly and gulp food down, our digestive system has to work harder to digest it, which can cause gas and bloating. Extra chewing also helps us eat more slowly, which is important for staying slim.
Regardless of the amount we eat, it takes 15 to 20 minutes for our brain to get the signals it needs to register our stomach is full so we stop eating. The faster we eat, the more calories we consume before getting this “fullness” message.
For example, in one study adults who chewed each mouthful only 15 times consumed 12% more calories than when they chewed each mouthful 40 times.
Go to work on an egg
Poached, scrambled, boiled or as an omelette – eating just one egg will give you a hit of nutrients, including phosphorus, selenium, iodine, and vitamins A and D, as well as B vitamins.
Eggs also provide choline, which is used to make neurotransmitter acetylcholine that’s involved in nerve and brain functioning and memory.
Studies also show that eggs keep us fuller for longer, probably because they’re rich in protein, and this can help us eat less. For example, in one small study, when faced with a buffet lunch and dinner, men who’d eaten two poached eggs on toast first thing consumed 123 fewer calories at lunch and 315 fewer calories at dinner than those who had cornflakes and toast for breakfast.
Make a brew
As well as contributing to our daily fluid needs, tea is packed with antioxidants, particularly flavonoids which are linked to better heart health and may also protect against strokes.
Other studies show that drinking tea – even just one or two cups daily – can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Tea is also rich in fluoride, which protects against tooth decay and keeps bones strong.
Many people avoid them because of their high calorie content, but studies show nut eaters often find it easier to manage their weight – probably because nuts contain a satisfying combination of protein and fibre.
They’re fantastic all-round health protectors too.
In a review of 20 studies, eating 28g nuts each day – around one handful – reduced the risk of stroke by 7%, cancer by 15% and coronary heart disease
The risk of dying was also reduced by 35% for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, 39% for diabetes, 52% for respiratory disease and 73% for kidney disease.
Use a bowl
Ever got to the end of a family-sized packet of crisps and can’t believe you’ve eaten them all? Eating food from containers, packets or tubs means you can’t see how much you’re eating and there’s no visual warning to stop.
Putting crisps, biscuits, sweets, chocolate and ice cream into a bowl means you’ll be aware of the amount you’re consuming.
Do the dab
If food looks oily or greasy, dab it with a napkin to mop up the excess oil.
Try it on anything with melted cheese – such as cheese on toast, pizza and lasagne – as well as kebabs, burgers, bacon and fries. You’ll save 30 calories for every teaspoon of oil dabbed off.
Snack on low-fat yoghurt
Yoghurt is rich in calcium, and important for strong bones and teeth.
One in 10 adults and 16% of teenagers have exceptionally low calcium intakes, so they are at risk of a deficiency, resulting in osteoporosis in later life.
Studies also show good intakes of yoghurt help control blood pressure , protect against type 2 diabetes and keep us slim.
Choosing live, bio or probiotic yoghurts also boosts good bacteria in our digestive system, which aids immunity and may improve conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea.
Choose plain, unsweetened yoghurt to keep sugar down and add fruit for sweetness.
Eat one extra portion of fish a week
On average, most of us only eat one portion of fish a week, yet health experts say we should eat two – one of which should be oily, such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, herring, pilchards or trout.
All fish are rich in protein and provide many nutrients, including phosphorus, selenium, iodine and B vitamins.
Oily fish – the type that’s most likely to be missing from our diet – is also one of the few naturally rich food sources of bone-friendly vitamin D and long-chain omega-3 fats, which help keep our heart healthy and maintain normal blood pressure.
One omega-3 fat in fish (DHA) is also important for a healthy brain and eyes.