Calories, Weight-loss

Eat Well

Cooking at home: 3 tips for reducing calories

Henriette H

Often, it can be easy to make food that is higher in calories than we are aware of. For instance, covering the pan in oil when panfrying, creating meals that have a surprisingly high energy density yet small serving size (leading us to eat more than planned), or struggling to manage our snacking habits. Here are 3 ways to reduce calories in your cooking, recommended by a Registered Associate Nutritionist.

1. Limit oil in your cooking

Fat is higher in calories compared to fat and protein: 1g of fat = 9 kcal. When it comes to cooking, every tablespoon of oil (12g) you add to your cooking adds 108 calories. For reference, the daily requirement for men is 2500 kcal, and 2000 kcal for women. What type of oil you use matters too - oils that are solid at room temperature (coconut oil, full-fat dairy products, hard butter, palm oil and fatty cuts of meat) are high in saturated fats which are linked to heart disease.

Opting for fats like extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, softer butter, avocado and leaner cuts of meat are healthier fat sources, and can help you reduce the calories in your meals. You might also want to consider cooking at a lower heat to avoid burning food, adding a splash of water to the pan instead of oil, or using a low-calorie cooking spray instead. Look at the illustration below to see how many calories you can save every year by going from 4 tablespoons of cooking oil to 2; this example only includes 4 days of cooking per week, so you would reduce your calories even more if you cook on a daily basis!

2. Bulk up your meals with vegetables and beans

With the cost of living increasing, this tip helps your wallet and ensures your meal is higher in volume, but lower in calories. Add some frozen vegetables or a can of tinned beans or lentils (or other protein sources) to your stews, pasta sauces or similar, or simply have them on the side (steamed, boiled or roasted).

This means you can have a larger serving size for the same amount of calories - good news if you enjoy large portions of food and find it difficult to down-size! The protein will make you feel fuller for longer, as it takes longer for your body to break down. The added fibre also works as a sponge absorbing water inside of your gut, which 1) makes you feel full for longer, and 2) bulks up your stools, meaning going to the toilet is easier. Lastly, make sure to drink extra water to get the best effect from fibre!

3. High-volume foods

Try choosing foods and snacks that are high in volume, but low in calories. For instance, half a shared bag of air-popped popcorn contains 200 calories, whilst 2 portion packs of regular salted crisps come in at 260 calories - yet the amount of popcorn visually appears bigger. Even better, switch out some of your sweets for fruit. For 3-5 pieces of pick and mix (25g, or 125 kcal), you can instead have either…

  • 2.5 apples
  • 2 small bananas
  • 1.5 cups of grapes
  • 1/4 of a whole pineapple
  • 3 medium-sized wedges of watermelon

For dinner, you might want to try only having half the serving of rice, potatoes or bread that you normally have, and substitute the remainder with unlimited, non-starchy vegetables. These are generally very low in calories and contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. This means you can still eat a large portion, but feel full and stay in control of your calorie intake. Good examples include roasted vegetables, a vegetable soup to start with, or a big side salad (be mindful of the dressing).

Want long-lasting weight loss results, for free?

The key to sustainable weight loss is finding a method that works for you. This doesn’t have to be a diet, but instead small changes you make to your lifestyle to gradually lose weight - and maintain the results. For instance, relying on walking more than your car on short-distance trips, introducing fruit as an evening snack in addition to a couple of squares of chocolate (and slowly reducing the amount of chocolate), and our tips mentioned above to reduce calories in your cooking.

Does this approach sound like something you would like to try? Achieve Oxfordshire offers several free weight management programmes, including Gloji Groups, which…

…helps you change your lifestyle gradually

…gives you group accountability and support

…doesn’t judge your struggles but invites you to talk about them and find solutions together with your practitioner and the other clients.

…lets you book 1-on-1 chats with your practitioner when needed.

…is a free programme that lasts 12 weeks and can be done either in-person or online.

Learn more here and sign up using the red button in the top right corner.

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