Eating out – Restaurant meals aren’t good for you.

A cheeky dinner out can be costly for your waistline.

Researchers from the University of Toronto examined the calorie, sodium, fat and cholesterol levels of 685 meals and 156 desserts from 19 sit-down restaurants around Canada. They found that the average meal has 1,128 calories. Given the average daily recommended intake for a British woman is 2,000 kcals, that’s over half used up at once.

Even worse, these meals are some of the unhealthiest you can eat. Another recent study looked at fast food in the US for the last 14 years. It showed that the nutritional value of the food available has pretty much remained the same, despite pledges to offer healthy choices.

Food from the companies included – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell,  KFC), Arby’s, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen – were analysed and scored against a healthy eating index. In 1997 they scored 45/100. In 2009 that had risen to just 48/100. This was also compared to the average American’s diet, which scores 55/100.

So, food from restaurants is unhealthy and fattening. This isn’t surprising, but it shouldn’t be too worrying either – as long as your other meals are reduced in size accordingly. This is the problem for most of us; if meals out are normal, the other meals creep back up to standard sizes.So this is a Foodswap opportunity If restaurant food – (even a sandwich from Boots or Pret) are regulars in your diet. Reduce your meals-out frequency by bringing a lunchbox to work. Make your date night focus on a home-cooked meal, rather than one at a restaurant or the £10 Tesco deal.
A general focus away from pre-prepared food will help you set your own portion sizes and control your own calorific (and nutritional) inputs, leading to a healthier diet

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Foodswap: replace cake with sugar-free jelly

cake jelly

Sometimes it’s good to end on a sweet note. Sometimes a coffee won’t cut it.

A sugar-free jelly (Jello) can be a fantastic way to finish a special meal without the calories and carbs of a more traditional pudding.

To go one better, if you’re a low-carb dieter, try replacing a little of the cold water with double-cream instead, to get a rich blancmange instead.

Foodswap: diet drinks replace full calorie ones. Really.

Coke and Coke Zero

It sounds obvious, but if you’re a big soft drink fan, trade over to the no-cal version.

Why am I posting this? Because sugary drinks are linked to 180,000 deaths every year. That means 1% of all obesity-related deaths are down to the soda fountain and the sugarwaters they dispense.

It’s hardly surprising; Just one can of sugary soft drink raises the relative risk of type II diabetes by around a fifth. Wow.

“But LazyFit!” Some of you are asking. “Aren’t diet drinks just as bad for you? They cause cancer and stuff!”

Well, probably not. Diet coke isn’t a saint. There is some evidence that some of the ingredients aren’t great for you – although the quantities involved would be equivalent to drinking 8 to 2,083 cans of diet soda every day.

So should you take up a soft drink habit? Not if you already only drink water. But it’s all a matter of small improvements (almost as if that’s the theme of this blog…). If ‘fat’ soft drinks are your sin, switch to diet versions. If you’re down to diet, consider the occasional fizzy water instead. Your liver, pancreas and waistline will thank you for it.

Plan your meals with Tesco

Are you bewildered by choice? Would you rather just have someone tell you what to do?

We at LazyFit are all about offering different approaches to weight loss and maintenance – we believe that there are small (and large) changes you can make to redesign your lifestyle into a healthy, sustainable approach. But sometimes we can feel the need for some outsider advice.

Tesco Health & Wellbeing is a new site (still in beta or ‘test mode’) from the supermarket Behemoth. Give it your current details and approach and you can select a range of diet approaches, like low GI, ‘Mediterranean’, diabetic support or healthy heart. These can then be tailored to you even more closely with a dizzying range of options from your activity level to your willingness to eat individual foods.

The site then prepares meal plans for you to explore, print, or even order online (naturally).

Once you’ve planned your food, the site then allows you to track how you really get on, both with a comprehensive food diary (with UK/IE nutrient levels) and even a place to record your exercise.

Despite the unwieldy name, it seems to share much of its DNA with its sister site, Tescodiets, with one very important distinction – it’s free.

If you’re just starting out, feel the need for a more focussed approach, or just fancy a change, give it a try – it may inspire you.

Two ways to enjoy your day’s carb count

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On the left, a pile of fruit, nuts and vegetables  that collectively contain 30g of carbohydrates. On the right, half a burger bun, which also contains 30 grams of carbs.

If you’re on a carb-controlled diet (and you probably should be), 30 grams could be roughly your whole day’s intake. Which would you prefer?

How sugary is your fruit?

 

Getting your5-a-day is important, right? So why am I advising you avoid fruit?

Because, just like any other absolute piece of advice, there are some that are better and some that are worse. It would have been better had the advice been 5 veg a day, but the authors knew people would struggle with that.

Fruit is a plant’s gift to you – it wants you to eat it. So it loads it up with lots of lovely sugars to make it sweet, appetising and calorific.

Here’s a helpful graph. The top-left offers the most sugar for your mouthful, down to the bottom-right where the sugar is also offset by the amount of fibre it gives. When planning a low-carb or a low-cal diet, the lower down the graph, the less sugar and therefore the less kcal/carbs you need to worry about.

1304-fruit-chart-o_2535202b

The lazy way to plan your meals

eatthismuchThe LazyFit ethos of weight loss is that different approaches work for different people. You need to experiment to discover the right method for you.

Eat This Much helps you test a number of different dietary approaches to see which might be right for you.It describes itself as an autopilot for your diet – tell it your height, weight, aim and even your dietary approach (vegetarian, keto, Paleo, Zone, etc) and it spits out a week of foods for you to eat. Even more impressively, it allows you to include or exclude particular foods, like beans or sardines, and asks you to give an idea of how much prep time you’re willing to spend on each meal – and even how many meals you wish to eat and how much you’re willing to spend.

Admittedly, it would be helpful if it was able to account for leftovers. Pricing aside, I feel awful if I waste food and the systems menus were generating options that required 1/3 a pack of cream cheese for the week. Being a US-originated site, you many not be able to buy every ingredient it suggests, although in my testing there were few that I could not substitute. In addition, for city-dwellers like myself not everything on the weekly grocery list will be available in my local Tesco Metro. But these are all solvable issues and the system is still in its early days.

I was impressed with the range and variety of recipes available, and that these recipes were even provided in the weekly ‘what you’re eating’ list.

Of course, real life can frequently get in the way of a rigid diet plan. Drinks with friends or meals out cannot be easily incorporated in any meal planner. But if you allow a ‘contingency’ number of calories per week for this then Eat This Much is a very clever way to use a database-driven system to give you specific, personalised advice.

Foodswap: spaghetti out, courgettes in

courgette

If you’ve a pasta-fetish and you can’t imagine how those on a low-carb diet cope without a big steaming bowl of spag bol, trust me and give this a go instead.

Get a Julienne Peeler if you’ve not already got one. I like this one as it has a guard, which means you can leave it in the drawer without worrying about slicing your fingers.

Get a courgette (or a zucchini, if that’s what you prefer to call them). Use the peeler to make thin strips of courgette and flash fry them in oil or butter for about two minutes.

You’ll find your new spaghetti-replacement has only 3g carbs per 100g. Fantastic. As an added bonus, the different colours of the green outside and creamy inside make the dish more interesting, too.

Serve with a Bolognese or cream-based sauce and there’s a midweek evening meal in about 8 minutes of total prep and cooking time.

Thirty 100 kcal snack ideas you’ve probably not tried yet

A great resource, this. Fitbie have put together thirty ideas for quick snacks (more like mini-meals, actually) that clock in under 100 calories. As that implies, they are more suited to those on a low-cal rather than a low-carb diet. There are some brilliant ideas, some of which are a little more inspiring that the standard offering, like these celery, peanut butter and cranberry sticks above.

Admittedly, evil rice cakes are on the list. You can’t have everything.