Fill up… and slim down!
In the minds of most slimmers-to-be, losing weight is equated with going hungry. But does weight loss have to mean a deprivation diet? Far from it – in fact, such a diet will almost certainly boomerang. If you starve, your body will lose pounds fast – initially. Then, your metabolism will slow down as your body begins to conserve its reserves, and very soon your scales will refuse to budge any more. Not only that – as you return to your normal diet, those scales will begin to climb again, often reaching weight levels higher than the one you started off with!
Not only is such dieting unsuccessful, it is also harmful because starving deprives your body of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong. Every body – whether fat or thin – needs vitamins, minerals, fibre, proteins, carbohydrates and yes, even a little bit of fat. The key to successful weight loss is to keep down the calories from fats (because those are the calories that convert most readily to body fat), while at the same time making sure you don’t deprive your body of other nutrients. This means opting for the so-called “nutrient-dense” foods – those packed with a wallop of nutrition, minus too many calories from fats. And, to satisfy your body’s psychological craving for “a feeling of fullness”, you need foods that will fill you up – without filling you out. Which are the foods that will do all this – while simultaneously helping you slide down the scale?
[Read: Lose 6’’ In 60 Days!]
Here’s our pick of the top ten:
POTATOES: Traditionally banned from the slimmer’s menu, potatoes are now gaining their rightful place – right back on the slimmer’s menu! The fact is that one medium potato gives you just about 90 calories – and they are, almost all of them, calories from complex carbohydrates, the body’s fast-burning fuel. The same-sized potato contains only .1 calories from fat – hardly enough to tip the scales! Boiled, steamed or baked in its jacket, the potato is actually a high-fibre, low-calorie, filling food. It becomes a fattening food only when we deep-fry it or mash it with butter or commit similar sins of excess. (Instead of deep frying, try slicing and roasting potatoes without oil in the oven – you’ll get the taste without the fat.)
In addition to carbohydrates, the potato also provides high-quality protein, Vitamin B and C, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.
SWEET POTATOES: Boiled sweet potatoes cost the same calories as ordinary boiled potatoes (24 calories per 25 g) and in both cases, these are useful calories from carbohydrates.
In addition, sweet potatoes also give you vitamin B6, C, folic acid, potassium and iron. Also, beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body, and is being shown to play an important role in fighting cancer and anti-aging process (One medium-size sweet potato packs in a whopping 11,410 IU of carotene, which is a little more than your daily requirement).
Don’t sabotage its nutritional goodness by mashing in butter and sugar. Peel, mash and eat as it is. Or try this easy-bake dish: Slice the peeled potatoes and place in an ovenproof dish, layering with sliced onions. Season with black pepper and add a little skim milk. Cover and bake at 200°C/400°F (gas mark:6) for 45 minutes.
Use sweet potatoes as a snack-time dish – a replacement for those fattening crisps/French fries.
LENTILS: They are a good source of protein, especially when they are combined with grains to give ‘complete’ proteins. You’ll also get fibre, iron and B vitamins. But steer clear of deep-fried preparations. Wiser choices for weight-watchers are steamed dishes. Also, soups and light gravies.
CARROTS: Crunchy slivers of young carrots are delicious eaten raw, and there couldn’t be a more obliging vegetable to add colour, taste and texture to cooked dishes. This low-calorie root vegetable’s main claim to fame is its beta-carotene content which your body converts into vitamin A. In fact, a good daily helping of carrots would provide all the vitamin A you need.
Carrots are also high in fibre. Raw carrots also bring in helpful amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorus and a bit of iron, too.
YOGHURT (From Skim Milk): A good source of protein, calcium and riboflavin (a vitamin of the B group). The bacteria that curdle the milk aid in its digestion. Yoghurt can be had plain, with fresh fruit, or as a replacement – for whole milk in sauces, for mayonnaise in cold salad, or for fresh cream/ice-cream/custard.
[Read: The Right Diet For You]
LEGUMES (Beans and Peas): A potent source of complex carbohydrates and very little fat (the great exception is soyabean – it has more fat than any non-vegetarian foods). Legumes are also a good source of proteins, iron and calcium (among them, Red Kidney Beans boasts the highest amount of the last).
The iron from legumes is better absorbed than that from spinach or other leafy vegetables. To boost absorption even more, eat along with a source of vitamin C.
CAPSICUMS: Those crisp, familiar green peppers are low in calories – an average-size capsicum contains only 20 – but rich in Vitamin A and C, with smaller amounts of B2 and E. However, buy the firm, glossy ones, free from brown patches and bruising – wrinkled capsicums will have lost much of their nutritional value (apart from being less juicy and tasty).
Peppers are wonderfully versatile when it comes to cooking. For weight-watchers, the best ways to have them are: filled with salad ingredients and eaten raw; stuffed with low-cal fillings and baked; as sliced salad accompaniments.
Also try eating them with low-calorie dips or as fillings for omelets made with egg whites.
BEETROOT: The slimmer-friendly qualities of beetroot often go unnoticed, which is a pity because it is one of the highest-fibre roots you can buy besides providing, gram for gram, fewer calories than potato. And almost all those calories come from complex carbohydrates. (A 100 gm cooked potion of beetroot would contain only 1 calories from fat).
In addition, beetroot provides amounts of calcium, vitamin C, and even a bit of iron.
Try it in salads (preferably raw and grated, not cooked), or in curd. Or as a vegetable dish – boiled/steamed with sliced onions and spiced with green chillis or other seasoning of your choice.
BANANAS: another source of complex carbohydrates, which provide slow-release, sustained energy; the banana is also an outstanding source of potassium (three times as much as other fruits) and a good source of magnesium. It also provides easily digestible fibre.
Among its other contributions: calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C and A, even some protein. (And, as a bonus, it is naturally low in sodium).
But don’t spoil all those nutritional advantages by having it in thick creamy custard, or in banana fritters!
TOMATOES: Munch one medium tomato and you’ll get:
- Your daily quota of vitamin A.
- About a third of your daily requirement of vitamin C.
- Some vitamin K and iron – both vital for healthy blood.
- Some heart protection (important to those who may be over-weight), thanks to potassium. Also, possibly, some cancer protection courtesy the carotenoid responsible for tomato’s red color. Yellow tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene – another cancer-fighter.
Apart from using them in salads, also try stuffing them with crumbled cottage cheese or other lightweight fillings.