Small but permanent changes to your diet will make a real difference

It may sound unlikely, but if you can make a few small but permanent changes to the foods you eat you can potentially make them healthier, less calorific and still retain flavour.

I must admit, I don’t believe that I deny myself much when it comes to food; I enjoy a wide variety of ingredients including treats like crisps and chocolates. However, there are subtle differences between how I cook and how much of certain foods I eat.

Consider this meal that a friend and I cooked recently; version 1 is what I ate version 2 what my friend ate. 

Version 1

Version 2

Steamed potatoes with fresh mint

2 egg omelette with mushrooms

large portion of mixed salad with lemon juice and fresh herbs

Steamed potatoes then shallow fried

2 egg omelette with mushrooms and added ham and grated cheddar cheese

small mixed salad

mayonnaise on everything

Both meals had similar ingredients, but the calorie and fat contents varied enormously. Version 1 had approximately 242 calories and 9g of fat. Version 2 had 615 calories and 35g of fat.

It is easy to see where the differences occurred; the frying of the potatoes, adding cheese and ham to the omelette and finely covering the dish with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. To put that into perspective, version 2 contained nearly 1/3 of a woman’s daily calorie intake and 50% of her daily fat intake.

So, by making small but permanent changes you could reduce your fat intake and cut your calories without affecting the taste or enjoyment of your food.

Consider these food swaps and tips when cooking or eating your meals:

Breakfast cereals like Frosties, Coco Pops, Ricicles

Swap For...

Porridge, Weetabix, shredded wheat, homemade muesli

Full fat dairy

Skimmed, semi skimmed, fortified soya milk, low fat yoghurts, reduced fat grated cheese, Quark (0% fat soft cheese). Always read the labels to make sure that they are better than the full fat versions and only eat the same portion size, not larger.

White bread, pasta and rice

Wholemeal versions, which have more fibre and therefore fill you up for longer.

Mayonnaise, butters and seasonings

Salad cream, reduced-fat spreads, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs, pepper, chilli


Measure out the oil or use Light Fry. Try grilling, steaming or poaching instead


Oven chips, roasted potato wedges, thick cut chips, grilled Polenta chips


Steam vegetables to preserve their nutrients. Season with pepper and herbs rather than butter or oil. Make vegetables the main part of your meal, so they cover half your plate


Try rice cakes, oat cakes or Ryvitas with high fruit jam or wholenut peanut butter


Baked or light versions. Eat smaller crisp packet sizes i.e. 25g from multi-packs rather than the ‘grab bag’ size – it could save you 131 calories per bag


Non salty versions. Eat versions in shells like pistachio as you will eat less because of the time taken to unshell them


Lower fat versions like Jaffa cakes, fig rolls, ginger nuts, rich tea and garibaldi

Milk chocolate

Dark chocolate – because dark chocolate is so rich two squares are sufficient and only 50 calories compared to the smallest milk chocolate bar - ‘Dairy milk little bar’ (20g) 110 calories


A handful of dried fruits and nuts. If you eat individually wrapped sweets, leave the empty wrappers in sight; if you have visual reminders you can eat up to 28% less

Hot drinks i.e. latte, hot chocolate

Black coffee with skimmed milk, skinny latte, ‘Options’ hot chocolate, hot water with lemon juice, black and green tea

Sunday roast

Limit the amount of roast potatoes, stuffing, Yorkshire puds and gravy you eat as these are the most calorific and can add over 300 calories to your Sunday roast!

Plates, bowls and cutlery

Smaller versions will convince your brain that you are eating more, and you will therefore consume a whopping 56% fewer calories

Eating on your knee in front of the TV

Eating at a table or with the TV switched off. When you are distracted you could eat up to 288 calories more per meal. That could lead to over ½ lb a week weight gain just by watching the TV!

Eating out

Have tandooris or curries that are tomato-based, and share naans and boiled rice; it will halve the calories. Try and avoid battered sweet and sour Chinese dishes with fried rice as they are the most calorific (about 1400 calories); instead order barbequed spare ribs and boiled rice (about 450 calories). Avoid the carbonaras and garlic bread in an Italian restaurant; instead go for tomato-based sauces and a salad

It takes an over-consumption of only 500 calories per day to gain 1lb of fat a week; so a full Sunday roast, a full-fat latte and a small bar of chocolate a couple of times a week will do that! Eat smart and you will lose weight without too much effort.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG2
Written by Susan Hart, Nutrition Coach, cook and food writer MFHT, MFNT
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG2

As a nutrition coach I believe in and practice healthy eating. But why should you, your family or your organisation be concerned about what you eat? Because eating healthily helps you look and feel better.Did you know that two out of three adults in England are overweight? This can impair well-being...

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