Diets are dull. Although an impressive exercise of willpower, we hear that eating limp celery sticks doesn’t give off the masculine ‘hunter/gather’ vibe that makes women weak at the knees….. Although a bland diet of low cal meals is a small price to pay for looking like a muscle bound hero, what if there was a way you could add a little bit of life back into your food, without breaking your strict diet plan and wasting all those hours spent pumping iron… You’re interested, right?
This is no ‘cheats diet plan’, and there’s certainly not some kind of miracle in progress where you can eat Big Macs and still retain a low body fat percentage. But you can add a few touches of creativity to your diet that will make meal times much less of a chore.
Pour some sugar on me
Having a sweet tooth and a sweet body have never really been things that go hand in hand, but there are ways of adding a little bit of sweetness back into your life while avoiding the granulated horror of empty calories. Honey, maple syrup and molasses will give you that sweet satisfaction without the evils of refined sugar. An even better alternative is agave nectar – a type of sugary syrup made from the agave plant. Not only does it have a low GI, it also tastes pretty good too. Adding it to tea or your morning protein oats will sweeten things up without sending your insulin levels through the roof.
Spice up your life
Fresh or dried, herbs and spices pack a punch when it comes to delivering on flavour, but most contain zero calories. Fresh herbs will add an extra zing to a plain chicken breast, while dried herbs can be picked up pretty cheap and last for a long time. If your dinner tonight is lacking something, try marinating chicken. This will completely change the taste of the meat, and will help to prevent it drying out when being grilled. For a snack, add garam masala to rye crispbread and cottage cheese, or put parsley, oregano, chives or paprika in scrambled eggs.
Not convinced….? Well, many spices have thermogenic properties, meaning that they make you produce more heat and therefore burn more calories. Eating a tablespoon of chopped red or green chilis can boost your metabolic rate, albeit temporarily. But before you make a mad dash to begin gulping down chilli sauce – just remember what goes in must also come out… ahem.
By now, you’ve probably realised that fruit and veg is just fruit and veg. A bit dull. But putting crudites with a dip like hummus is more exciting, and the chickpeas in hummus are rich in both protein and dietary fibre. If hummus doesn’t float your boat, there’s also low cal options like salsa, or yoghurt and mint. Just steer clear of anything containing mayonnaise – you’d be surprised just how many calories you can make a salad amount to with an ill-chosen dressing….
Get on top
Nuts are a great source of protein, and contain a nice dose of unsaturated fat too. Topping a salad, stir fry or vegetable dish with nuts can add a taste and flavour that is otherwise, well, somewhat lacking. Pumpkin seeds contain the most protein, with 16% of the nut as a source. Coming in just behind are almonds, with 13%, and flax seeds with 12%.
Oil me up
Forget vegetable oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, and even those one-cal sprays that are favourites of slimming clubs…. Coconut oil is where its at. Coconut oil is cholesterol-free and contains zero trans-fatty acids, plus it has a high concentration of ‘good fats’, such as medium chain triglycerides.
I can’t get no satisfaction
Overall, just make sure you eat smart. Some foods will leave you feeling fuller for longer, and others will leave you with sugar crashes and junk cravings. Going for foods with a low GI, like fish, eggs, oranges and apples, over foods with a higher GI like grapes, bananas and cereal will set you up long term and keep any cravings at bay.
We crave junk food because we’ve become reliant on the flavours that the additives they contain deliver. The answer? Making healthy taste good. And the results? Well, after your next workout, just look into a mirror and you’ll soon see the results….
Simon Jurkiw is a renowned performance nutritionist, who has previously written for or been featured in many publications, including: Men’s Health, Metro, WebMD, Fighter’s Only and AskMen, as well as appearing on MTV and Absolute Radio. Now working for Bulk Powders as their Product Director, he previously spent 8 years working for Maxinutrition, the parent company of Maximuscle. He is currently the nutritionist for Olympic gold medal winning boxer James DeGale, and worked previously with Watford FC.