Do you ever have those days when you're just too busy or tired from work and need a quick meal or snack that will not sabotage your weight loss efforts? Sometimes we require convenience and the easiest thing to do is run to your nearest grocery shop and pick up a chocolate bar to snack on or a ready made meal that you can just stick in the microwave or oven. Or how about when the easy option is to just order a takeaway? Then the guilt.. I know the feeling but resorting to these solutions will do little for your health, let alone your waistline!
Well, don't despair, there may be some options to make your life easier but still stick to your goals... Here are my top five foods to keep in your kitchen cupboard or fridge/freezer and use as a snack or to make healthy, delicious meals in a matter of minutes:
1.) Frozen fish e.g. Birdseye flavoured cod or Young's flavoured salmon. Fish is a great source of protein and all our meals need to contain a sufficient amount of protein in accordance with our goals. Protein is important as it helps with recovery/repair and keeps you fuller for longer to avoid snacking in between meals. Protein is also your fat loss friend due to its thermic effect of food, which suggests that your body burns more calories in the digesting and absorbing of protein than the amount of calories burned when consuming carbs or fats. Furthermore, fish as a food source contains other nutrients such as vitamins B12 and B6, as well as magnesium. The advantage of buying frozen means you can keep it for as long as you need to, avoiding the problem of food exceeding it's best before date and being thrown out, resulting in less wasted food and money! As a serving suggestion, try your fish with 2-4 handfuls of peas and 1-2 fist sizes of rice.
2.) Frozen vegetables and fruit e.g. broccoli, carrots, spinach, peas, green beans and blueberries. This allows you to always have fruit and veg in the house without it going off, making it quick and easy to get in your 5 a day and ensure you consume enough fibre, which is important to keep you full and protect the health of your digestive system. I think the majority of people have generally preferred to buy fresh instead of frozen due to the belief that that fresh fruit and veg are more nutritious. However, studies (e.g. those conducted by Leatherhead Food Research and University of Chester) have found that frozen fruit and veg can actually contain more nutrients than fresh. This may be because they are frozen straight after harvest at their peak ripeness so retain their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants until they are eaten. In contrast, fresh fruit and vegetables are sometimes picked before they are ripe so don't always get the chance to develop their nutrients to the full. This is not to say you shouldn't buy fresh as the studies need further research but you definitely shouldn't disregard the frozen! As a serving suggestion, try sprinkling some frozen berries on your porridge half way through heating.
3.) Greek yoghurt e.g. Fage Total Greek Yoghurt. Compared to standard plain yoghurts, Total Greek yoghurt is high in protein and low in carbs or fats. Just to give you an idea, there's 20.6g of protein, 8g carbs and 0g fat in a 200g serving of Total 0% plain Greek yoghurt, all for just over 100 calories. It's so versatile too as it could make a great breakfast or snack if you add in some frozen berries, nuts or a square of dark chocolate. Plus it can be used in cooking or baking recipes too! If it's too plain for you to eat on its own, there are now flavoured options available, which may contain more carbs or sugars but if they can fit your calories/macros then go for it! Or try adding a spoon of Green & Black's organic dark hot chocolate powder in the plain version. As a serving suggestion, cut up some cooked chicken, place it in a low calorie wrap with a load of spinach leaves and add as many dollops of Total that your macros allow before folding and downing with ease!
4.) Protein yoghurts or milkshakes. These are new but quickly becoming widespread so if you can find a high protein yoghurt or milkshake, namely Arla, Acti-Yog or Skyr, stock up as it makes it so much easier to get in your protein whilst snacking! The advantage of these is that many of them contain calcium and possibly B vitamins, plus save you the cost of having to buy protein powder. In my opinion, the yoghurts and milkshakes taste better than a shake made with the powder anyway. You do need to check the nutritional labels for the amounts of carbs and sugars they contain though to ensure they will fit your macros. My advice would be to save the higher carb/sugar ones for after a weight training session and stick to the low carb/sugar options for the majority of the time. Since they taste so good, they are great on their own or if you follow our suggested 80/20 rule of nutrition, why not try it with a fruit or something carby from your 20% allowance e.g. a Belvita soft bake or a fibre bar to ensure a filling snack.
5.) Canned tuna. This has simply been a lifesaver for me! When I get in late after 9pm and have no prepped food, I can get out my tuna can and either make it in to a sandwich with spinach leaves, put it on a jacket potato and have with salad or quickly cook with some spices and serve with rice and veg. There are so many options and it makes it so easy to get that protein in! Tuna contains B vitamins and many antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, manganese, zinc and selenium. It also contains minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, iodine and magnesium. Plus tuna has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces inflammation and contributes to heart health, potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular-related problems. The only thing I would advise is not to eat it every day due to its Mercury content, in fact current guidelines (FSA) advise not consuming more than 4 cans of tuna a week but the whole topic of Mercury's negative effects on the body is controversial. However, don't suddenly decide you're going to start eating lots of tuna, ease it in to your diet slowly with a few servings over several weeks. As a serving suggestion, why not mix tuna with some tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach leaves, place on bread, top with cheese and then either put in a sandwich maker or under a hot grill. You'd never think healthy food could taste this good!