Love digging into a big plate of food, but want to eat healthier?
You can, without piling up the calorie count, with volume foods. These generally refer to foods that are low in calories but physically have a lot of volume or size — meaning they take up more space in your tummy so you don’t wind up getting hangry.
They also typically contain more water and fibre, and have more nutritional value than your average processed food.
Quick note: eating volume foods doesn’t mean you’ll definitely lose weight if you consume more calories than you burn. At the same time, you don’t have to give up foods with high energy density, whether they are what’s typically considered “junk food” — a chocolate bar, a bag of chips, or a greasy burger — and especially those with healthy fats like nuts, dark chocolate, and avocado. A sustainable diet is a long-lasting one.
The easiest way to shave off the calories while getting in plenty of nutrients, fibre and vitamins? Vegetables.
Consider veggies like cauliflower, carrots, kale, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, spinach, and bell peppers. For instance, raw bell peppers contain just 30 calories per 100 grams, with 2.5 grams of dietary fiber.
Tip: Think salads are sad? Of course, a bunch of leaves isn’t exactly appetising. Add texture with different types of crunchy greens, beans, cauliflower rice, and fruits like berries. You’ll also want to add lean protein like tofu or lean meat to keep you satisfied for longer.
Low in calories (about 26 calories per 100 grams) and packed with fibre to keep you satiated, consider pumpkin or butternut squash if you’re looking for an alternative to other carb sources with more calories like white potatoes or rice.
Roasted, stewed, or air-fried pumpkin fries are great ways to enjoy the vegetable. Alternatively, blend it for a satisfying and comforting soup.
Skip sugar-laden store-bought granola and go for old fashioned rolled oats. Its high fibre content and ability to soak up water makes for a seriously filling breakfast or snack.
For a delicious grab-and-go breakfast, soak oats in milk (consider plant-based or low-fat milk for a low-calorie option) or or water overnight, then wake up to creamy overnight oats in the morning. They get a bad rep for being bland and boring but you can throw in fruits, nuts, seeds and even dark chocolate chips to give it extra panache.
Need a protein-filled breakfast or snack? Cook an egg. This protein powerhouse serves up just 75 calories and seven grams of protein. But you don’t want to miss out on the yolk, too. The whites of an egg come in at a mind-blowing 15 calories, but you don’t want to miss out on the yolk, too. This is chock full of healthy fats
Plus, you can cook this versatile food in so many delicious ways, from omelettes to poached eggs and sunny side ups.
Yoghurt and Greek yoghurt are healthy gut-friendly additions to your diet. But eschew pre-mixed, flavoured fruit varieties, which can contain added sugar. There are various low-fat Greek yoghurt options that pack on the protein.
Apart from enjoying it on its own, it can be used as a substitute in dips, dressings, and toppings.
Mushrooms comprise 90 per cent water, and have a ton of nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties including phytochemicals, antioxidants, and a fibre called beta-glucan, making them healthy diet options. Plus, they bring an earthy, umami flavour and can be cooked in a number of ways, from sauteing to grilling, baking, roasting and air-frying.
We’re not talking about the cinema or store-bought popcorn typically drowning in butter or sugar.
Instead, scan the supermarket aisles for microwaveable or air-popped popcorn that aren’t flavoured, heavily salted or drizzled with caramel. One serving of air-popped popcorn (approximately four to five cups) has just 120 to 150 calories. Plus, it’s high in fibre.
If you’re a meat lover, lean meats like chicken breast and ground turkey are generally lower-calorie options compared to proteins higher in fat like red meat.
One cooked chicken breast will give you roughly 284 calories with 54 grams of protein.
No, calorie-dense fruits like durian and avocado don’t count (these are higher in calories but they do also contain healthy fats and other nutritional benefits).
Instead, if you’re looking for low-calorie options, go for ones that contain lots of water, like watermelon, berries.
Mild in flavour, cottage cheese offers a lower-calorie alternative compared to other cheeses and full dairy products.
It also has nutrients like B vitamins, and minerals like calcium, selenium, and phosphorus. That being said, cottage cheese can be high in sodium, so enjoy sparingly, and look for low-sodium alternatives.
This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.