Almost everyone could be eating a little more healthily, but all too often the dietary advice recommends sacrifices most people aren’t prepared to make. However, there are easy wins out there, small changes to what you eat, and indeed how you eat it, which will improve your diet greatly. Pick and choose what seems reasonable to you from the list below. Even if you only adopt ten of these tips, there’s every chance you will live forever.*
1. Spinach Salad Lettuce is watery, tasteless and basically useless. Use spinach as the base of your salads, or as the extra filler in your sandwiches, to cram more vitamins, minerals and flavour into your meals.
2. Cut the Sugar Three hot drinks a day, two sugars in each – that’s 4% of your daily calories right there. Leave room for something healthier, like virtually anything else.
3. Eat Slower Taking your time with your meal will cut the amount you eat, as your body has the time to recognise when it’s full. A study by Texas Christian University found that slow eaters ate 88 fewer calories per meal than those who wolf it down.
4. Broth Bests Cream in the Soup Wars You can cut away swathes of calories by opting for water-based soups. For example, Baxters Cream of Chicken soup has 232 calories per can, while the same brand’s Chicken Broth soup brings in only 140.
5. Sub Greek Yogurt in for Sour Cream Make Mexican night a little healthier. Greek yogurt is around half the fat, even if you go for the full-flavour variety, and only the pickiest burrito fan will notice the difference.
6. Corn Tortillas Over Flour Continuing the topic of Mexican food, making the change to corn tortillas will reduce your calorie, saturated fat, sugar and salt intake, all in one fell swoop.
7. Swap Butter for Olive Oil Spread A Mediterranean-inspired switch from saturated to unsaturated fats, a move recommended by the NHS.
8. Lean, Mean Meat Machine Switching to less fatty meats is easy: all supermarkets now have low-fat mince and sausages, while back bacon has less than half the saturated fats of streaky.
9. Use Tall, Thin Glasses Trying to cut down on alcohol? Stock your cupboard with taller glasses. A study from 2005 has shown people, including bartenders, automatically pour more into short, fat glasses, by as much as 30%.
10. Take Care with Your Coffee Skimmed Mocha = 232 calories. Skimmed Latte = 109 calories. Black Americano = 0 calories. Be careful out there. [All Costa medio drinks.]
11. Healthy Eggs Instead of scrambling or frying eggs, boil them. You won't need to add oil or milk.
12. Avoid Useless Cooking Oil A tablespoon of oil, of any kind, contains over 100 calories, so sloshing a load in can ruin even the most carefully planned healthy meal.
13. We Need to Talk About Bread For those lacking in fibre, ditching white bread in favour of wholemeal is an easy choice, with the latter packing in over twice as much as its bleached counterpart.
14. Go Dark with Your Chocolate The darker it is, the less sugar and milk there is in your chocolate and the more room that is left for cocoa, which is full of antioxidants and minerals.
15. Mayonnaise is Evil This is the Devil’s condiment. Mayo contains a massive 100 calories per tablespoonful. Switch to the light stuff (around 40 calories), ketchup (15 calories) or basically anything else and you’ll be eating more healthily.
16. Thin Crust Pizza Italian-style crusts pack in fewer calories. On a medium Domino’s margherita pizza, opting for the Italian crust over the classic will save you 352 calories.
17. Reach for the Herb Rack On average, UK adults eat 8.6g of salt a day, well over the 6g recommended maximum. One way to cut down on the stuff is to flavour meals with herbs and spices instead.
18. Cheese Beyond Cheddar Cheddar is one of the fattiest cheeses around, but its status as the UK’s favourite is untouchable, accounting for 55% of the country’s cheese purchases according to the British Cheese Board. The occasional switch to feta or Edam, or even just a low-fat cheddar, will save some calories.
19. Eat Natural Instead of Fruit-Flavoured Yogurts Most fruit yogurts contain a load of bad, added sugars, while the lactose in natural yogurt is a “healthy” sugar. Add whole fruit, with its natural sugars, to recapture the sweetness.
20. Burger Buns are Terrible Tasteless, cottony mush with barely any nutritional benefits, most burger buns offer nothing to meals except the means by which to hold their contents. Either trade up to better bread or use a knife and fork, saving more room for the good stuff inside.
21. Trade Crisps for Nuts You can still get the salty, calorific punch that makes snack times such a treat, but it’s mostly unsaturated fats, rather than saturated.
22. Go Big on Sundays Long workdays leave little time for dinner preparation in the evening, so whip up more than you need of something massive on Sunday, and ensure at least a couple of midweek meals to provide reheatable health.
23. Eschew the Fatty Mixers A big night out can be a diet-buster, so opt for low-cal alcohol by mixing your drinks with diet soda or tonic, which both contain zero calories, or skipping mixers altogether.
24. Fizzy Drinks for Sparkling Water You don’t have to ditch the bubbles to cut down your sugar – just add sparkling water to fruit juice.
25. Change with the Seasons If you buy in-season vegetables, they’ll be cheaper, tastier and healthier. Check Love British Food to find out the in-vogue veg.
26. Make Your Own Dressing Shop-bought dressings are a haven for hidden health no-nos. Whip up a batch yourself – it’s as easy as mixing olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a little mustard.
27. Smaller Plate, Smaller Meal This sounds like nonsense, but researchers at Cambridge University recently reviewed 61 studies involving 6,711 participants and found that people eat more when food is served on larger plates. The study suggested that people could save up to 279 calories a day with smaller portions and tableware.
28. Smash Your White Plates It’s not only the plate size that affects your portions, but also the colour. Having less contrast between the colour of the food and the plate encourages ladling more onto the plate. White plates, therefore, are part of the reason we go so heavy on the carbs. Try a green plate if you’re hankering for more veg instead.
29. Drink Vegetable Water This might be stretching the “easy” part of easy win, but if you’re up to it, downing the water you’ve cooked your greens in will ensure you nab any nutrients that have leaked out. Or you could use it for a gravy.
30. Drop the Doner Doner kebabs are dripping with fat and can add as much as 1,500 calories to your day. Instead grab a chicken shish kebab, with tzatziki and plenty of salad, for around 500 calories.
31. Eat Different-Coloured Vegetables Different colours mean different nutrients. If you’re picking up a pair of peppers, get one orange and one green.
32. Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail When the cupboard is bare, you’re more likely to order a takeaway. Stay well stocked with healthy canned foods, like chickpeas and lentils, and frozen veg, to make sure last-minute meals don’t automatically mean pizza.
33. Replace Your Croutons If you’re keen for some extra crunch in your salad, opt for nuts and seeds rather than croutons, which offer next to no nutritional value.
34. The Seeds of Success Seeds are small and generally inoffensive, meaning they can be added to almost every meal. The benefits differ with the seed, but most have plenty of fibre and vitamins, as well as unsaturated fats.
35. Brush Your Teeth After Meals Obviously, you get the oral hygiene benefits, but this will also ensure your meal doesn’t seamlessly lead on to snack-time. There’s nothing like the taste of mint in your mouth to ruin a bag of crisps. Chew sugar-free gum for the same effect.
36. Add Apple Slices to Your Cheese Course Everyone still has a cheese course, right? If half the cheese you guzzle down is accompanied by apple slices, rather than crackers, you’re looking at one of your five-a-day. And it’s a taste sensation.
37. Use Veg as Your Buffet Buffer If you have the fortune to find yourself at an all-you-can-eat buffet, hit the salad and veg section first. Fill up half your plate, leaving less room for the unhealthier options.
38. Tinned Fruit Without the Syrup Fruit in a can is a fine way to improve your puddings, but opt for those tinned in juice, as they’ll still be more than sweet enough despite containing over 10g less sugar per can than those stored in syrup.
39. Use Half the Seasoning in Instant Noodles Ramen is cheap, easy and tasty, but contains bucketloads of salt. Using half the sachet of seasoning will cut this down without really affecting the flavour.
40. Salsa: King of Dips Dips are a dietary minefield of hidden fats and lashings of salt, but rising out of this calorific chaos is salsa. Although it varies by type, tomatoes, onions and chilli peppers won’t steer you far wrong.
41. Carbs out, More Veg in Cauliflower mash instead of potato mash. Courgetti over spaghetti. Clock up your five-a-day with ease. Get started with these 3 simple spiralising recipes.
42. Ban the Bagel Bagels pack in around twice the calories of two slices of white bread, so unless it’s 3am and you’re stranded on Brick Lane, they’re not your best option.
43. Focus on Your Food Eating while distracted, by watching TV or working for example, means you not only eat 10% more at the time, but also stuff in 25% more food at meals later in the day because you don’t remember how much you’ve already eaten, according to a 2013 study.
44. Go Brown Wholewheat pasta might not look quite as appetising as white, but among other nutritional benefits, it will help hit your 30g a day fibre goal. Uk adults only eat around 14g on average, which is unwise because as fibre not only helps digestion, but can also help prevent heart disease, weight gain and diabetes.
45. Fork Your Dressings Rather than drenching salads in dressing, keep it on the side of your plate, and then dip your fork in before each bite. You’ll use far less.
46. Know Your Supermarket It used to be common advice to stick to the outer aisles of supermarkets, where most healthy foods were found, but many shops have got wise to this caper. Learn the layout of your local supermarket, and then studiously avoid the processed food sections, with their diet-busting two-for-one deals.
47. Opt for Chunky Chips Thick-cut chips absorb less oil when cooked than their skinnier counterparts.
48. Carrots and Cucumbers are Dip Kings It’s crudités time. Ditch the bread and tortilla chips.
49. Switch to Turkey in Your Sandwiches Turkey bests ham in several key categories – calories, fats and sodium – meaning it’s good for every day, not just Christmas.
50. Nutritional Value > Financial Value Getting a large chips might only cost 30p more, but all the extra food will do is make you overeat. Stick to small. You’ll even save that 30p.
*Note: you may not actually live forever
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.