With just under four weeks until Christmas we asked nutritionist Fiona Kirk how to lose weight fast with a few small, safe but powerful changes to your daily diet – they’re so easy too
1. Have eggs for breakfast
A protein-rich breakfast keeps us feeling fuller for longer than a starch-rich breakfast, which also all-too-often starts our day with rather too much health-disruptive sugar and offers little in the way of essential vitamins and minerals. Eggs score high on the ‘satiety index’ which measures the ability of foods to induce feelings of fullness and reduce subsequent calorie intake, they’re rich in energy-generating B vitamins, particularly choline which helps us focus and concentrate and contain good levels of skin and eye-protective antioxidants. When we opt for eggs from hens who are allowed to roam and have a natural diet rich in seeds – free range – their eggs offer good levels of Omega 3 fats which are also associated with keeping us feeling fuller for longer.
2. Get most of your carbs from breakfast
We need carbohydrates in a healthy, fat-busting diet but to many, this appears to mean concentrating on grain foods – toast or cereals for breakfast, sandwiches or wraps for lunch, pasta for dinner, grain bars for snacks and so on – and they treat vegetables and fruits as a separate entity and forget that they are carbohydrates! and offer excellent levels of fibre, essential vitamins and minerals and health-protective and anti-inflammatory plant chemicals. Wheat and other cereal grains have been shown to contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation over time and as inflammation is no friend where weight loss is concerned, your grain intake should be carefully controlled in my opinion. Let’s suppose you are working with a diet that provides around 1800 kcals and around 40-45 per cent are carbohydrate-rich foods. This works out at around 200g carbohydrates per day and that can easily be achieved without much in the way of grain foods. Here’s a sample diet day which provides a good and healthy balance of protein and fats and confidently meets the percentage of carbohydrates using vegetables:
A lettuce, cucumber, pear and melon smoothie alongside 2 scrambled eggs on buttered, sprouted-grain toast
A selection of raw baby vegetable sticks with a small pot of red pepper hummus
A chicken, lentil and vegetable broth plus a Greek salad
Half an avocado stuffed with mashed, tinned tuna or cottage cheese
Fish or tofu, parcel-baked with spinach, onions, and tomatoes with stir fried Thai-style greens
3. Have an apple before lunch
Work out in which meal of the day you are tempted to overeat most (we are creatures of habit and there is often a pattern) and have a piece of fruit beforehand. For some it may be breakfast, for others it is lunch or dinner. In one study, eating an apple before lunch resulted in the volunteers feeling satisfied with 15 per cent less food suggesting that eating solid fruit before a meal can reduce food intake and assist weight loss. One can only imagine that a pear, a peach or a couple of plums would work equally well – just make sure you eat the skin – that’s where most of the fibre and nutrients are!
4. Step away from the fizzy stuff
The full sugar versions of the majority of the fizzy soft drinks and ‘sports’ drinks that fill the shelves are full of added sugars and the ‘diet’ versions are full of artificial sugars and neither offer any benefit to our health whatsoever. Current findings indicate that whilst all sugars trigger enhanced activity within the brain’s pleasure centres, artificial sugars provide less satisfaction so we tend to crave more of them and more sugar in general. This can contribute to not only overeating and weight gain, but also to an unhealthy dependence on sweet and sugary foods and a greater risk of diabetes, heart conditions, strokes and mental decline. You may already be ‘sugar-dependent’ and getting added and/or artificial sugars out of your life is not easy but making a determined effort to step away from the fizzy stuff is an excellent place to start and can make a huge difference in a short time. Same goes for a great many non-fizzy soft and sports drinks which are regularly marketed as ‘healthy‘ or ‘energy-giving‘ – some even try to get away with suggesting that they slot into the ‘health food‘ category because they are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Not so fast, they are still packed with sugars and there are a lot better ways to get essential vitamins and minerals into our diet. If you want a few bubbles, go for sparkling water with freshly chopped fruit, vegetables and/or herbs added and perhaps as an occasional treat, a glass of extra dry champagne, Prosecco or Cava (there’s generally a quarter of a teaspoon or less per glass!).
5. Lunch on lentil and beans
A great many starchy foods are rapidly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. These cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly and drive up the release of insulin, the hormone which is rather too keen on telling the body to make and store fat which is why they should be carefully-controlled if you want to shed fat. But there is one type of starch that doesn’t follow this process and that is resistant starch which is particularly rich in the legume family. These starches are largely resistant to the digestive process and just carry on down to the colon where they go through a process of fermentation which produces short chain fatty acids (SCAs). These have a number of health benefits, one of which is encouraging a fabulous phenomenon known as the Second Meal Effect where the insulin response is controlled not just after a meal rich in resistant starch but also for hours thereafter and well into our next meal resulting in us eating less over the course of the day.
6. Go nuts for magnesium
Probably the best known ‘courting couple’ in the mineral world and vital for strong bones and teeth, muscle function, a healthy heart, a sharp brain, nerve transmission, restful sleep, good digestion and elimination and successful weight loss are calcium and magnesium. But, Western diets all too often provide the body with rather too much calcium and not enough magnesium which can upset the delicate balance between the two and prompt health issues. Enter the humble nut. Not only do nuts provide good levels of these important minerals, but they also offer them in good ratios. Many fear nuts, believing them to be ‘fattening‘ but a couple of handfuls per day as snacks or toppings or in the form of sugar-free nut butters and nut milks can make a forcible difference on the weight loss front. Almonds and cashews are the top magnesium-rich choices.
Nuts and nut butters are a good source of magnesium and calcium.
7. Eat more shellfish
The pigment responsible for giving salmon, shrimps, prawns, langoustine, crabs and lobster their pink colour when cooked is a plant chemical called astaxanthin which is synthesised as a direct result of the algae they feed on. Research suggests that this naturally-occurring plant chemical may be the most powerfully-protective antioxidant to go under the microscope thus far and has been shown to provide the body with an internal sunscreen, protecting us from the damaging effects of UV rays from the sun and increase the usage of fat as an energy source and accelerate fat burning during exercise. So I urge you to factor ‘a portion of pink’ into your day – that’s shellfish with pink hues. If you don’t eat, or like fish or you have an allergy or intolerance to certain or all shellfish, you may wish to consider a natural microalgae supplement.
For more top tips, eating plans and delicious recipes, see Fiona Kirk’s All New 2 Weeks in the Fast Lane Diet.