Stick to this one rule and you’ll never diet again

 
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If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the many Britons that have already had one or two attempts at dieting. Truth be told, we’ve all been there. 
From shifting those last few pounds to dropping that magic half a stone, we are a nation of serial dieters. In fact, two-thirds of us are permanently on a diet.
As a registered nutritional therapist, I see a fair share of individuals wanting to lose weight and have even been there myself (yup, you are reading that last bit correctly, even as a professional I’m not immune).
This blog focuses on the one “rule” that has worked for a large number of my clients and myself to avoid dieting and the good news is it’s not a magic potion or an unaffordable diet programme. 

If you read the first bit thoroughly, you may be wondering why I want to share this diet dodging trick with you, after all, I’m a nutritional therapist so I should be making big money from slimming you all down, right? Luckily, this is wrong. As a registered nutritional therapist, I help individuals that genuinely need to work on their health. From digestive issues to hormone health and some more complex conditions, nutritional therapy can be used to assist with the journey of returning to feeling your best. You can read more about it here.
Weight loss lets just say isn’t worth forking out such a high fee for.

In my opinion, dieting isn’t healthy. 
Yes the majority of us could do with a bit less weight around the middle but the constant yoyo-ing and food-related denial/ deprivation rarely leaves us feeling on top of our game. And that’s assuming that those lbs lost stay off.
Given that the UK diet industry is worth over £2 billion and we have approximately 65 million people in the country, each of us is spending a fair amount on diet “stuff”.
Yet with one easy switch, the loss of lbs won’t translate to fewer £££s.

The more I assess various diets, the more I realise that they are just lesser or greater variations of this one rule, with a few extreme exceptions of course.
Clean eating, paleo, vegan, Dukan, the zone and even the low-carb movement all share one common theme.
Luckily you won’t need a new book/ count calories/ invest in products or diet guidelines.

The solution that helped my clients and I is simple: prioritise whole foods.
Our modern dietary habits have become too focused on processed as opposed to whole foods, leaving us without many essential nutrients. Whole foods are the very things that supply these missing vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Nutrients are kind of a big deal for overall health not just for weight loss so you may notice a few additional positive side effects such as more energy.
The evidence isn’t just anecdotal when it comes to eating this way either. The Blue Zones project which assesses populations around the world that live the longest, for example, noted a predominantly whole food based diet in these healthy groups.
EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), a large study which has been following over half a million people across 23 European countries since 1993 also backs up this notion, highlighting better health, a lower BMI and lower rates of annual weight gain in those that eat a whole food based diet.

There is another good reason: our bodies don’t derive calories from whole foods the same way as we do from processed foods.
As an example, the average 100g bar of milk chocolate has a similar calorie content to 100g of almonds, both clocking up in the region of 600 calories. Yet when it comes to the almonds we only absorb give or take 200 calories. Needless to say, we get the full 600 calorie hit from the chocolate.
Whole foods, especially plant-based ones, aren’t that easy to digest and more often than not contain a good dose of fibre too. Couple this with the fact that we probably don’t chew foods well enough and you can see how calorie absorption would be more difficult. 

The chocolate, on the other hand, is a doddle since most of the “digestion” has already been done for us during processing. The cocoa beans have been crushed up, the sugar taken out of sugar cane or beat so the calories are readily accessible.

BANT (The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) have come up with a genius representation of a whole food based diet that makes getting our heads around this super easy. Their ideal plate looks like this:

 
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If you are looking at this for the first time, you may have just had a bit of a “what the ….” moment, so let me break it down for you. 
Simply switch half of what you eat in a day to a variety of non-starchy vegetables plus have some protein and a few starches at each meal.
Prioritise whole foods over processed ones. See the word prioritise. This doesn’t mean you can’t have cake ever again, it just means that the majority of what you eat should come from unprocessed sources.

So that’s it, the “secret” to achieving a slimmer body and better health is simply down to whole foods in the right proportions.
If this notion is still scary, start small. Start by adding in more and more vegetables, eventually aiming for 3 different kinds at each meal. Get more of the good stuff first and be kind to yourself along the way. Remember, this isn’t a diet, this is eating for health and the slimmer body is just a happy byproduct.

Switching to whole foods is something that can be achieved without much guidance but in case you need an example of what a personalised version of it looks like, the One Week Tweak is a great place to start.

Mexican-ish eggs

 
 

Another Monday calls for another meat free recipe, this time, in the form of these tasty Mexican style eggs.
These are a staple brunch option in my household but work very well for dinner too.
Whilst we are on the topic of staples, this is the kind of dish that can be thrown together from those last few ingredients from the back of the cupboard. Just keep some chopped tomato or passata in there and the rest can easily be adjusted.

Ingredients for 2
4 eggs
1 can of good quality chopped tomato
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 a teaspoon each of smoked paprika, cumin seeds and ground coriander
85g of feta cheese
a handful of parsley leaves to serve
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

Method
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook until softened (5-10 minutes). Add the spices (cumin, smoked paprika and coriander) and crushed garlic and cook for a further minute.
Pour in the chopped tomato, stir well, season with a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
Preheat a grill to the highest setting.
Make 4 wells in the sauce and crack an egg into each hole. Cook for a couple more minutes.
Crumble the feta over the egg and tomato mix and put it under a grill until the cheese is starting to colour (approximately 2-3 minutes).
To serve, divide the eggs and sauce between two plates and sprinkle some parsley over the top.

Seaweed away

Seaweed may not be the most obvious superfood, after all, most of us are used to seeing it in a less than attractive, washed up on the beach kind of scenario.
There is, however, a lot going for it. For starters, it's a good source of some essential nutrients, including folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, iodine and Vitamins A and C. 
Secondly, it's delicious. 
For this recipes, dulse (purple seaweed) is combined with orange, dill and toasted hazelnut. 
It's a simple yet impressive dish that is a total treat for the taste buds.

Ingredients for 2:
1 orange
a large handful of dried dulse or other seaweed
a small bunch of dill
a small cup of hazelnuts
sherry vinegar & olive oil to serve

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Toast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes until lightly coloured. Set aside to cool.
Soak the dried seaweed for 10 minutes. Discard the water and pat dry the rehydrated seaweed.
Peel and thinly slice the orange.
Strip the dill fonds off the stalk and discard the stalks.
Start by dividing the orange slices between two plates, lay the seaweed on top, scatter over the dill fonds and top with the toasted hazelnuts.
Drizzle the salad with a generous glug of olive oil and a teaspoon of sherry vinegar.
Serve immediately.

 
 
 

Sweet potato & turmeric curry

Some days only a warming bowl of curry will do the trick in filling you up.
The good news is this recipe is pretty amazing but takes next to no effort. It is one I regularly rely on for those evenings when there is nothing in the fridge and cooking seems like a hassle.

Ingredients:
1” piece of ginger roughly chopped
2x sticks of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and thinly sliced
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp turmeric
400ml (1 can) coconut milk
800g cubed sweet potato
3x cardamom pods
2x pinches of sea salt
black pepper to season
fresh coriander to serve (optional)

Method:
Blend all of the ingredients apart from the coconut milk, cardamom and sweet potato to puree in a blender, food processor or smoothie maker, adding some water if required.
Cook the puree on a medium/low heat for 10 minutes; pour in the coconut milk, add the cubed sweet potato & cardamom and cook on a low heat with a lid on for 30 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked, remove the lid for the last 5 minutes to thicken.
Garnish with fresh coriander before serving. 

Probiotic cashew mayo - plus a chicken & quinoa salad

Inspired by a recent trip to Planet Organic, this probiotic cashew mayo is nothing short of being a genius condiment.
It adds the kind of creamy and mildly acidic flavour that complements a wide variety of dishes very well.
Whilst it may sound out of the ordinary, blending cashews into a mayo foregoes the need for the addition of preservatives and added chemicals that commercial mayos are loaded with. 
It's a pretty easy to make and doesn't need to be constantly kept in the fridge, alas it's a perfectly transportable lunch ingredient.
The addition of raw apple cider vinegar means this cashew mayo comes with the added benefit of being "probiotic".
Probiotics are simply live bacteria and yeasts that are good for health, in particular, they boost the digestive system.
Raw fermented products such as apple cider vinegar, yoghurts, sauerkraut and now this mayo are good sources.

Ingredients for the probiotic cashew mayo
100g cashews, soaked in water for a couple of hours or overnight
125ml water
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1/4 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to season

Method:
Drain the cashews. 
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth.
Check the taste and season with more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper if required.

 
 

Chicken and quinoa salad
To make the salad, shred 1 poached chicken breast.
Put the chicken on a plate with a mix of greens such as sliced sugar snap peas, blanched asparagus and rocket.
Add 120g of cooked quinoa and drizzle liberally with the cashew mayo.