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Max Tomlinson – The Nature Doctor

10 Common Food Weaknesses & How to Make Them More Diet Friendly (By Max Tomlinson)

One of the biggest barriers to weight-loss success is being too strict and cutting out all your favourite foods. There really is nothing more de-motivating than watching your friends and family enjoying their meals whilst you nibble on a lettuce leaf. It will send you rushing to the biscuit tin in a matter of weeks.

Nutritionist and naturopath Max Tomlinson, an advisor to chemistdirect.co.uk, gives his advice: "I have indentified the most common food weaknesses based on those my patients say they struggle with and given advice on how you can carry on enjoying these types of foods even if you are managing your weight. It's simply a case of swapping some of the ingredients for healthier choices and being more aware of portion sizes."

1. Fish & Chips

One of the nation's favourites but sadly fish and chips is a diet destroyer as they are loaded with saturated fat and starchy carbohydrates. If fish and chips are your vice, don't despair as there are much healthier options that are just as tasty.

As an alternative to battered fish, try baked fish with a pesto and breadcrumb topping which will make a healthy meal. Add dry roasted new potatoes with rosemary and garlic and some fresh vegetables.


2. Chocolate

Chocolate contains phenethylamine, the chemical that we naturally produce when we fall in love. This is why we can have such an emotional attach to it.

Ideally replace chocolate for healthy snacks but if you must have an indulgent treat, instead of having a large chocolate bar opt for one of the new small size varieties and go for at least 70% cocoa.


3. Take-away curry

Generally any meal which has the words ‘take-away' in front of it won't be any good for your waist line, but if you choose healthier options and smaller portions they are fine for an occasional treat.

If you can't resist a curry avoid those with a creamy sauce. Instead opt for dishes such as Tandoori chicken Tikka which is marinated chunks of chicken breast cooked on a skewer in a Tandoori oven. If you accompany this dish with a nice salad the calories and fat reduce significantly.


4. Cheese

Cheese is a big weakness for people as it's generally always in the fridge and goes with absolutely everything. Some varieties are worse than others for the waistline so choose wisely.

Mix up the types of cheese you eat as there are so many to choose from. White cheeses tend to be more protein based and yellow cheeses tend to be more of an animal fat base.


5. Roast dinner

Another British favourite, the roast dinner is a welcome end to a working week and a chance for the family to get round the dining table and catch up. Whilst you might not think a roast dinner is packed with calories – once you add sauces, goose fat for roast potatoes and Yorkshires puddings, the numbers stack up. You could be looking at around 1000 calories in a single roast dinner.

Choose leaner cuts of meat such as beef or chicken but trim off any excess fat or skin before you serve it. Try dry roasting new potatoes as an alternative to roasted with goose fat and add rosemary and garlic for flavour. Accompany these with several seasonal vegetables and you have a delicious and healthy meal.


6. Crisps

According to research people in the UK consume approximately X tons of crisps a day, so snacking on these potato chips will be a hard habit for some to break. Crisps are cooked in vegetable fat which is why they are so calorific.

Lower fat crisps are a good alternative to full fat options. These are still high in unsaturated fat so make crisps a special treat rather than a daily occurrence.


7. Sweets

It’s not just children who love sweets as many grown-ups have a passion for them too. Sweets are readily available and it’s no coincidence that supermarkets stock packets of them next to the till as a temptation. Without careful planning on what you have for breakfast and lunch, the afternoon energy dip can lead to you diving into the confectionary aisle.

Replace real sweets with natural fruit hits such as dried raisins, apricots, cranberries and sultanas. They taste great and are full of nutritious goodness so you won’t feel deprived.


8. Cooked breakfast

If you regularly consume ‘the full English’ then the pounds will pile on. Even worse if a fry-up is your regular hangover cure because if you add the cost of the calories consumed the night before, then you have double the trouble.

Eggs are a nutritious filler but you need to opt for the poached or boiled variety to save on calories. Swap traditional pork sausages for a leaner meat such as venison which are just as tasty and a fraction of the fat. If you add lots of grilled tomatoes with a sprinkling of herbs and some seasonal mushrooms, you won’t feel like you’re missing out. Finish off with a slice of granary toast and a scraping of marmalade.


9. Biscuits and cakes

Biscuits and cakes are many people’s nemesis as they tend to be readily available either in the cupboards at home or at work. Whilst these sweet treats give an instant energy hit and you feel satiated afterwards, that feeling does not last very long so you feel flat after only a couple of hours.

If friends are coming over and you feel you can’t live without a teatime treat, there are healthier alternatives to biscuits and cakes. Try low-fat Hot-Cross buns, malt loaf or reduced fat muffins. Don’t make a habit of these sorts of foods though, try and choose a healthier option so that becomes normal for you.


10. Pizza

Pizza is another dish that my patients struggle with as the combination of dough, cheese and toppings become too irresistible – worst still, they are so convenient for the time poor.

For a lower calorie option create your own pizza. Spread tomato puree or passata onto wholemeal tortilla wraps; add lower fat mozzarella strips and mushrooms. Top with herbs and then bake in the oven for a quick and easy treat.