1. Drink water
Fruit juice and soda are full of free sugar. One large glass of orange juice has around 25 grams of free sugar, the WHO’s total recommended healthy daily intake. The same glass contains 150 Kcal, 8% of recommended daily calories, but it does little to sate hunger. Switching from juice to water could cut your calorie intake by a third.
Artificial sweeteners only work if you are very disciplined. Studies show those who drink them consume more sugar later because the artificial sweetener triggers a craving. In addition, those who kick all sweet things readjust their taste buds and crave sweetness less.
2. Cut down on animal products – meat, dairy, eggs
These foods are typically high in saturated fats which leads to high blood cholesterol and eventually clogged arteries. Meat, dairy and eggs are calorie dense low fibre foods. A small cube of cheese has the same calories as a serving of broccoli, but the broccoli has one third more protein. There are healthier ways to get protein than packaged with calorie dense foods high in saturated fat.
One study suggests eating cholesterol doesn’t automatically lead to high blood cholesterol. As well as containing cholesterol, eggs are high in saturated fat, not far behind frankfurters, and eating saturated fat is associated with high blood cholesterol.
Consider using these foods sparingly as flavouring rather than the centrepiece of a meal.
3. Avoid processed foods
Processed foods often contain lots of salt, free sugar, saturated and trans fat. These can be hard to spot and find their way into many breads – especially ones with a long shelf life, cereal bars, biscuits, cakes, ready-made meals, pre-made doughs, and processed meats.
4. Eat lots of unrefined grains, beans, pulses, vegetables and whole fruit
Fruit, veg and whole grains are full of vitamins, phytonutrients, fibre, protein and slow release carbohydrates. Plus they are low in saturated and trans fats, salt and free sugar.
It is very difficult to overeat these foods. They are very filling for the calories they contain. For example one frankfurter has the same calories as 900 grams of cooked spinach. But the frankfurter has virtually no fibre, 17 times the saturated fat and only one third of the protein of its calorific equivalent in spinach.
Try substituting refined foods for whole ones. Swap white breads for grainy ones, white rice for brown rice, white potatoes for sweet potatoes. Refined foods come with a high glycemic load. This means they cause the level of glucose in the blood to shoot up, something associated with high blood cholesterol, according to several studies.
Eat nuts. According to one study, nuts are the only other element of the mediterranean diet, along with vegetables, that bring significant health benefits. Another study suggests that a handful of nuts per week can halve the risk of a heart attack. But be careful with Brazil nuts. They are very high in selenium, a trace element that is healthy only in limited quantities.
5. Watch salt
The connection between salt and high blood pressure is well established. Despite this, food makers appear deaf to pleas from doctors to remove it from their products. Processed foods are often full of it. WHO recommends less than 5 grams per day. Much of the bread in Switzerland contains 2 grams per 100 grams, which means the bread in a large sandwich could exceed the daily limit.