10 Things To Be Mindful Of At Dinner Time
Cooking at home is a great way to get a healthy dinner that’s high in protein but low in calories. Unfortunately, there are some common bad habits that can turn an otherwise healthy evening meal into a major challenge for your metabolism.
If you’ve been trying to watch what you eat, but you haven’t seen any results in terms of weight loss, here are a few things to look out for that could be the cause behind your difficulties.
1. Too much salt
Salt occurs naturally in the food we eat, but we also use it in cooking to enhance flavours. Overall this can result in an excess of sodium, which can actually trigger weight gain. Over time, you’ll also stop noticing the enhancing effects of the salt, so it doesn’t make food taste better in the long run.
Try reaching for alternative seasonings like black pepper or turmeric, or salt-free garlic granules, to pep up your dinner without adding to the sodium level.
2. Sauces for courses
Be smart about the sauces you use when cooking. A lot of shop-bought pasta sauces are loaded with sugar and – you guessed it – high levels of salt, to boost their flavour. Cooking from fresh ingredients gives you better control and also means you don’t consume so many preservatives and other additives.
Eatlean Sugar Free Sauces are a good option. They’re available in Ketchup, Sweet Chilli, Piri Piri or Smoky BBQ flavours and have been carefully formulated to be low in calories, with no added sugar.
3. Cooking methods
If you often fry your food, you could be ramping up the calorie count without realising it. Deep frying is even worse than shallow frying, and as well as adding calorific oil to your dinner, the harsh frying process could be removing nutritious minerals.
Try to use healthier cooking methods such as roasting, grilling or poaching, where you can more carefully control the addition of any extra fats. Air fryers are a popular choice nowadays too, and can give you that crispy fried texture you crave, without adding oil.
4. Serving size
If you struggle to fit your dinner on a full-sized plate, it’s possible you’re cooking too much for a well-balanced healthy evening meal. Putting less food on a slightly smaller plate can actually leave you feeling more satisfied, because the brain is fooled into thinking the plate is fuller.
Remember that a single portion of protein, starch, fruit or vegetables should be about the size of the palm of your hand, or about half the volume of space taken up by your clenched fist, so this is a ‘handy’ approximation when it comes to serving dinner.
5. Excess salad dressing
A salad is one of the most obvious healthy dinners, and opting for a side salad instead of chips can cut calories significantly – so don’t destroy the benefits by covering your salad in calorific dressings.
Like the sauce problem mentioned above, shop-bought salad dressings can contain all sorts of unwanted additives, and fridge favourites like full-fat mayonnaise are a no-no on a healthy dinner. Opt for a sensible-sized dollop of Eatlean Spreadable instead, or sprinkle over some Eatlean Shaker Cheese to add taste and texture to a simple side salad.
6. Eating too fast
Research has shown that people who eat more slowly typically consume fewer calories overall. There’s good reason for this – if you eat slowly, you have more chance for your body to tell your brain that you are full, and can stop eating when your hunger is satiated.
Slowing down can help you to enjoy your food more, too. Chewing releases flavour and allows your mouth to experience the textures of your food. So if you often find food quite dissatisfying, try taking your time next time you eat a healthy dinner.
7. Where you eat
Believe it or not, eating at the dining table might be healthier than eating the same food in front of the TV. That’s because television is a distraction and can lead you to not notice when you start to feel full.
Like eating too fast, this can mean you consume more calories before you decide you’ve had enough food. If you’re exercising good portion control this is less of an issue, but if you tend to serve up more food than you need, make sure you know when you’ve eaten enough of it.
8. When you eat
Just as important is the time of day when you sit down for your evening meal. Many of us live busy lifestyles and by the time you’ve made it home from a late evening at work, or fed the kids and put them to bed, it can be 9pm before you’re ready for your own meal.
Try to avoid eating too late, and especially just before bed, because you’re unlikely to burn off those calories if you immediately crash for the night. Plus if you eat earlier, there’s more time to decide on whether or not you have room for a healthy dessert!
9. Wash your ingredients
This is especially true of anything that comes canned or in a jar, as it’s likely to be supplied in a liquid that could contain lots of salt, sugar or other additives that you don’t need in your meal. Quickly rinsing your ingredients can wash off some of these substances, leaving you to cook your food the way you want it.
Of course, it’s even better to cook from fresh ingredients wherever possible, but even these should be given a rinse just to remove any pesticides, fertilisers or other residues from the surface, for the most healthful dinner possible.
We get a lot of hydration from the water in our food – even in solid foods like fruit. In fact, hydration is an important element in making your body feel like it has had enough food. At the same time, fizzy drinks and even fresh fruit juices can be high in sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Try to get into the habit of having a large glass of water with your dinner, even if you drink other things at different times of day. Water will not disrupt the nutritional value of your carefully prepared healthy dinner, and should help to fill you up without overeating.