23rd October 2018
A lot of people go about getting in shape all wrong. Spending hours each week running and lifting weights, but only a fraction of that time preparing meals to compliment their workouts. In reality, it is better to substitute some of the workout time into meal preparation. After all, what we put into our bodies has just as much impact on our health and fitness as what we actually do with our bodies, probably even more so. You don’t lose weight without cutting down on junk, and you don’t gain muscle without eating clean and upping your protein intake.
When it comes to diet, you’d think that people would put in a bit more effort. But a survey by Old Jamaica Ginger Beer found that 60% of people eat the same few dishes week after week. With one in four of us actually designating certain meals to a particular day, creating a dietary routine. Which is great if those meals are suited to your fitness goals; but here is what a typical week’s worth of meals looks like for the average Briton:
Monday – Spaghetti Bolognese
Tuesday – Chilli Con Carne
Wednesday – Pork Chops
Thursday – Lasagne
Friday – Casserole
Saturday – Stir-fry
Sunday – Roast Dinner
These meals aren’t necessarily bad, but they could be better. The real concern is that when meals aren’t planned in advance one in five of us tend to rely on easy options, such as takeaways or frozen pizzas. If that’s the alternative then the meals listed above are by far the better choice, especially if you can give them a few healthy tweaks. Here are some ways you can do that.
The main problem with pasta-based dishes is that they are pretty carb- and starch-heavy, which is why you should swap out the actual spaghetti for either zucchini or squash. Squash is ideal as it cooks itself into spaghetti-like strands anyway, and has a remarkably similar consistency.
For your mince, using turkey in place of beef or pork slashes the amount of saturated fat, as it is a much leaner meat. Blotting the mince with paper towels once it has browned will cut even more fat from the meal.
You should try and avoid buying jars of pasta sauce and instead make your own from fresh or tinned tomatoes, with lots of other vegetables and herbs thrown in for good measure.
Finally, and this might sound weird, but ditch the Parmesan and sprinkle yeast flakes on your meal instead. They taste cheesy, but are virtually fat-free and contain more protein and fibre than normal cheese.
Chilli con carne
First of all, swap your usual white rice for brown rice. If you are up for it, you can even use chickpeas or quinoa instead. Quinoa (which is inexplicably pronounced “keen-wah”) is the best choice; it’s low in calories, high in vitamins, and has a low glycemic index.
As with the spaghetti above, swap out beef or pork in favour of turkey. You can also save time by preparing enough turkey mince for both meals at the same time, leaving you with less to do on chilli-night.
If you usually top your chilli with sour cream, opt for natural Greek yogurt instead. The yogurt has significantly less fat and overall calories when compared to sour cream, it’s full of probiotics, and it tastes just as good.
Add in some raw cocoa powder to your chilli mix too, as it has been shown to lower cholesterol.
Homer Simpson’s favourite meal can immediately be made healthier by trimming the excess fat, and then grilling the chops instead of frying them.
Use some sort of dry rub to season your chops – either by making your own from your favourite herbs and spices or buying pre-made ones. Much healthier than lathering them in a creamy sauce.
Finally, by pairing your chops with parsnips instead of chips you will further increase the nutritional value of the meal.
As with the spaghetti, zucchini can be used in place of the pasta sheets, but so too can eggplant. Not only is the eggplant lower in calories than pasta, it also contains a fair bit of protein to help with your muscle building.
Think outside of the box when it comes to the meat you use in your lasagne and opt for bison instead of beef. Bison is leaner, has less saturated fat, and it even tastes better than beef.
Change up what you eat your lasagne with as well. If you are thinking of having chips, sweet potato fries are a much healthier alternative. You can even make your side salad healthier by skipping your usual dressing and making your own from vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.
There are already plenty of different kinds of casserole you can make, meaning you can mix up which sort you have on a weekly basis. Fish casseroles are a particularly good choice. Try one with tuna to ensure you get a good hit of protein without overloading on fat and calories.
If you tend to use flour to thicken casseroles, choose from whole wheat, coconut, or almond varieties. White flour doesn’t have as many natural vitamins and minerals as other types, and it often has harmful additives in there.
As an extra ingredient, you could include some black beans. They are high in thiamine, which can cut your risk of diabetes.
Stir-fries can also be made in a variety of ways, but one of the most popular is to include noodles in the mix. If this is your preferred type of stir-fry, try to find soba noodles or shirataki noodles in the supermarket. Both of these options are more fibrous and less carb-heavy than traditional noodles.
When frying your vegetables, pick olive or coconut oil rather than vegetable or sunflower ones. Coconut oil is especially good for the heart and for burning fat.
For meat, use prawns instead of chicken, as they have more protein per calorie. They are also a good source of vitamin D, which boosts your testosterone.
Finally, don’t buy packets or jars of sweet and sour or black bean sauces; just add a few splashes of soy sauce to your noodles.
Give your Sunday roast a bit of a Christmas feel by including our old friend the turkey in place of chicken (have I mentioned how good turkey is for you).
Mashed potatoes are one of the main offenders for bulging out your belly on a Sunday roast, so rather than mashing up spuds, boil a cauliflower and mash that up. It’ll taste good enough for you to forget you’re not eating potato. Honest.
Swap out roast potatoes too whilst you’re at it. Roast some turnips or celeriac instead.
Whilst we’re on the subject of potatoes, if you really do have to include a member of the spud family, choose new potatoes. They are more satiating than any other sort, so you’ll feel full sooner and ultimately eat less.
If these are the sort of meals you like to eat, but you aren’t sure how well they fit into your healthy lifestyle, you now have some easy swaps to make them that bit healthier.
What are your favourite nutritional meals to make? Do you have any tips to upgrade cheat meals or everyday recipes? Let us know.