1.Go for variety over quantity
While leafy greens are a health heavyweight, don’t neglect other fruits and vegetables. It’s so important to get a variety of colours in your diet, including white foods like garlic, mushrooms and bok choy. ‘Every colour group offers different phytochemicals and health benefits,’ says Nanci. ‘Research shows you’re better off to have, for example, five servings in a day of different colours, than 10 servings of just two different foods.’ Variety is going to beat out quantity, for the most part.
2. Dilute high calorie sauces, dips and dressings
Overdoing it on sauce, salad dressing or a veggie dip is a very common mistake. With an average of 60-100 calories per tablespoon, dressings and dips can drastically increase your meals calorie count. ‘When you consider how much you will use, most salad dressings have too many calories,’ says Nanci. ‘A great trick I tell my clients is to pick out a dip that’s nice and rich that you love, but dilute it with non-fat Greek yogurt.’ This cuts calories while also adding a dose of protein. Nanci suggests trying this with ranch or Caesar dressing, red pepper dip and even hummus. This trick retains the flavour of the dip so you won’t feel like you’re missing out, she says.
3. Bulk up store-bought soups
Convenience will often win when it comes to meal prep and planning. When you buy a pre-made soup, choose a high quality one (packaged in a jar or bag rather than a can), and use it as a base for a healthier, more nutrient-packed meal. ‘I like to add my own fresh ingredients such as mushrooms, corn and spinach,’ says Nanci. ‘This also creates more bulk or volume to the soup, which helps you feel satisfied, especially if you’re trying to consume fewer calories.’
4. Don’t forget snacks
We spend so much time planning meals that we often forget about the snacks we’ll inevitably need between meals. Including protein in your snacks (as well as all meals) will keep your energy up and cravings down. Quick and easy packable snacks include a hard boiled egg, a handful of trail mix or an energy bar like those from CLIF Bar, says Nanci.
5. Get used to reading food labels
We’ve heard this tip before, but it’s an important one. Nanci says that some packaged products can be misleading so it’s always important to check ingredients. Always choose whole grain products and stay away from products that list sugar as one of the first ingredients. Something else to take note of is the serving size used to calculate a product’s calories or nutritional values as it’s often a half serving or less than you would typically use. In other words, know what (and how much) you’re consuming.