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Updated 19 October 2015

How to add zest to boring diet foods

Does your diet bore you? Dietician Anthea de Villiers shares tips on how to give a few popular weight-loss foods a taste makeover.

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It’s true, creamy, fatty, sweet and decadent foods do seem more exciting and delicious than veggies and cottage cheese.

But just because something is good for you doesn’t mean it has to be bland. Eating healthy foods without sacrificing taste is possible.
Anthea de Villiers, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant from Cape Town, South Africa, shares a few tips on how to spice up a few popular diet foods.

Read: 10 healthy alternatives to the ‘bad’ foods we love

Broccoli

This cruciferous veggie is a power food, packed with vitamin C, K and A. Plus, it’s a fantastic source of fibre, immune-boosting minerals and antioxidants – and it’s low in kilojoules.

In fact, broccoli delivers more nutrients per kilojoule than most other common veggies, according to The Drop 10 Diet: Add to Your Plate to Lose the Weight by Lucy Danziger. It may also enhance fat burning due to its high vitamin C content.

The fibre in this vegetable also not only keeps slimmers feeling fuller for longer, but also stabilises blood-sugar and insulin levels. This helps to keep energy levels up while dieting, and also prevents cravings.

One of the reasons why many people dislike broccoli is that it is often overcooked, leaving it limp, dull and tasteless. To make broccoli go down easier, try light steaming and serving it in a salad dressed with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper and a dash of garlic. Delicious!

Spinach

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. It contains large amounts of vitamins A and C, fibre, folic acid (folate), magnesium and other nutrients known to keep us healthy.

It’s also rich in flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that help fight age-related memory loss. Spinach also contains a nutrient called lutein, which helps to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

Like broccoli, spinach also provides slimmers with filling fibre and sustained energy.

If you really don’t like this bright-green superfood, it might be easiest to camouflage it. Toss spinach in omelettes with cottage cheese or chicken, or chop up strawberries and walnuts and sprinkle over a bed of fresh baby spinach leaves for a delicious salad. Spinach is also a great ingredient to add to green smoothies.

Fish

Whether you love it or loathe it, fish is incredibly healthy – and great for slimming. All the different fish species in our oceans are relatively low in kilojoules and a good source of lean protein, fat-soluble vitamins A and D and, of course, the omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Omega-3s increase brain and visual function, and may play an important role in fighting a myriad of diseases. Higher doses are found in “fatty” fish species such as salmon, trevalla and sardines.  

Fish is also a good source of some dietary minerals that aren’t available at the same levels in most other non-marine foods. Some of these minerals include iron, potassium, iodine and selenium. Eating fish instead of other meats has also been found to reduce cholesterol levels.

By pairing protein-rich fish with carbohydrates (e.g. potatoes or rice), you can lower the glycaemic index (GI) of a meal, which means you’ll feel satisfied for longer. The healthy fats in fish also make for a more satisfying meal. Ultimately, this will reduce cravings for other unhealthy foods.

Give fish a second chance by eating meatier game fish such as tuna steaks or Dorado, and grill it on the barbeque to give it a smoky flavour.
Can’t stand the strong fishy flavour of some fish? Disguise it with a bit of hummus – it works like a bomb!

Read: Top 5 foods for healthy hair

Liver

Liver’s strong taste and distinctive texture means that many people steer clear of this budget-friendly protein food.

Even so, liver is nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A and a great source of protein. It’s also rich in iron and all of the B vitamins, making it ideal for people with iron-deficiencies. Like other healthy sources of protein, it can lower the GI of the meal. This works well if you’re trying to lose weight, reduce sugar cravings and stay satisfied for longer.

Instead of trying to eat liver in its original form, enjoy it as a pâté on low-GI brown bread. Liver pâté doesn’t have the chewy, grainy texture and the flavour is less pungent.

Beetroot

In need of a quick pick-me-upper? Then beetroot is the way to go. This dark purple vegetable is a fantastic source of magnesium, calcium, iron and vitamin B, as well as vitamins A and C.

Fairly high in carbohydrates and fibre, beetroot is also a great, quick energy source – without the crash you get from processed, fibre-poor carbohydrates.

According to Your 7-Day Cleansing Diet: Renew, Restore, Rebalance, Rejuvenate & Lose Weight by Sandy Considine, beetroot is furthermore great for skin, hair and cholesterol levels, and can also support liver detoxification, making it the ultimate detox food. Studies also show that beetroot consumption can reduce your risk of colon cancer.

Instead of eating soggy, sugar-laden beetroot out of a jar, rather roast beets whole in the oven (add a bit of olive oil), and add them to salads along with butternut and feta or ricotta. Sprinkle the salad with roasted pumpkin seeds for extra flavour and added crunch. Another way to enjoy beetroot’s marvellous health benefits is by drinking beetroot juice.

Read: 9 foods that keep you awake

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is your friend if you’re trying to lose weight.

High in protein and low in carbohydrates, this humble cheese makes a delicious addition to breakfast or lunch, as it keeps you satisfied for longer than just plain toast or cereal. This is because most of cottage cheese’s protein is casein, a slowly-digested form of protein that reduces hunger for longer periods of time.

It also has respectable amounts of the B vitamin riboflavin and is high in calcium, which is important not only for bones but for maintaining normal blood pressure.  

Cottage cheese has an unfair reputation as a boring diet food, as there are many ways in which to perk it up. It has a neutral flavour, which means the cheese pairs well with practically anything. Use gherkins, peppadews, bacon or fresh herbs such as chives for extra zip.

Read More:
Gas and diet
What to eat for strong nails
Should you try the Paleo diet?



Sources:
- Baldec, J. (2014). Fit For Life Diet: Smoothie Recipes Guide For Maximum Fit For Life Diet Results-3 In 1 Box Set: 3 In 1 Box Set: Book 1: Juicing To Lose Weight+ Book 2: Juicing Recipes For Vitality & Health+ Book 3: Paleo Is Like You!. Speedy Publishing LLC.
- Considine, S. (2014). Your 7-Day Cleansing Diet: Renew, Restore, Rebalance, Rejuvenate & Lose Weight. Speedy Publishing LLC.
- Danziger, L. (2012). The Drop 10 Diet: Add to Your Plate to Lose the Weight. Random House LLC.
- Isaac, I. (2014). Low Calorie Foods. Sea Salt.
- Johnson, G. (2013). Eat Smart-US Edition. NoPaperPress.

 
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