Cutting calories without cutting the fun

So I eat healthy, I work out, I try not to drink too much alcohol. All good. But on the other hand I still have a sitting job and even though I try to move as much as possible, I still have to watch what I eat. And as everyone I want to look good in my bikini. So of course, I also try to reduce the calorie intake on low activity days. But wait… Isn’t that connected with lame meals, sacrifice and no fun? Not necessarily.

First of all: as long as you keep the balance, never ever regret what you are eating and what might be considered as forbidden. Enjoy every bite of this piece of cake, eat that Quattro Formaggi Gnocchi meal – it’s all about the balance and hey, first of all, forbidden things always are the most tempting ones, and second, as long as you enjoy every second of that taste on your tongue, it’s worth it! Never loose the pleasure of eating! But: There are some simple tricks to reduce calories in your meals a bit without reducing the taste. You don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a closer look.

1.) Eat plain products, don’t use convenience packs, cook your own meals
Over and over again, always the same. Don’t use processed food. When you use plain products such as frozen vegetables, yogurt, water or spreads, you can easily make your own desserts, vinaigrettes or breakfasts and know what is in there. So there won’t be any hidden sugar, fat or other useless ingredients which will add on your daily calorie intake list. It’s insane what is added to convenience products or even something simple like water. And besides reducing calories, believe me, your body will feel a lot better as soon as you quit on that. Actually, you can’t always avoid them when eating out or on other places. But every time I have eat too much processed food, my stomach and guts tell me with pain, gases and feeling bad: your stupid, stupid girl, weren’t we over that crap?

2.) Dairy products
Dairy products usually are available in a range of fat levels. While you definitely shouldn’t eat fat reduced cheese (because yes, it will taste like rubber and leave you with this unsatisfied lonely feeling) there are some products, which work even better or taste the same when used with a lower fat level.
– Greek yoghurt: besides the fact that it is loaded with protein, nowadays the low fat version is as creamy as the “normal” one. I personally also prefer the lighter and fresher taste. You can use it for breakfasts or snacks, you can freeze it like ice cream or you also can make great dips or salad dressings out of it, replacing fat crème fraiche, sour cream and so on.
– Sour cream: sour creme has significantly less fat than for example crème fraiche or cream, so besides using it for dips, you can also use it for a lot of warm sauces for pasta dishes or creamy add ons for meat.
– Cream cheese: of course the full fat version is creamy as hell. But if you can find one with around 10% fat, you will recognize that there’s not much difference when you use it in your sandwiches. But be careful, if you want to bake with it, always choose the fat level which is in the recipe.
– Milk: Actually, real good milk foam works better with super cold low fat milk. As I don’t drink too much milk, it wouldn’t matter. But actually, after a while, I liked the low fat, lactose free version more due to taste and texture in my cappuccino.
– Curd cheese: It similar as with Greek Yoghurt, the low fat version is as great as the one with full fat in my opinion. Of course the 40% version we have in Austria (but actually you will only get it on farmer’s markets nowadays) is way more creamy and not so “dry”, but scientists found out that the low fat version is even better for a protein intense nutrition.
– Cottage cheese: Let’s be honest. Without veggies or spices cottage cheese is boring, right? So while cottage cheese is generally low on fat, the 0% or 3% version makes no difference in terms of taste and texture.
– Ricotta: this Italian fresh cheese is awesome for combinations with veggies and pasta. So you can have a creamy sensation without the use of cream.

3.) Reduce sugar
Well, I’m absolutely against banning sugar completely, I tried it, I failed, and I also think that completely skipping sugar (which would also mean that you have to refuse fructose, agave juice, honey and so on) would narrow my meal plan too much and I just radically reduced it.
The real problem is the hidden sugar. Always take a closer look on the ingredient list of what you buy. Sugar is hidden everywhere, also under names like fructose or saccharose. And the more it is on top of the list, the more will be in it.
And question how you cook. You think you need sugar in every tomato sauce or vinaigrette, because…. of what? Because your grandma told you? Bullshit. The food has changed so much in the last years and so maybe some of the old recipes are useless today.

4.) Produce your own bread spreads
For the non-low-carb-fanatics under us, it is always a good idea to produce your own bread spreads. So you can control what goes in, which is important, because strangely, especially in spreads they always mix a lot of sugar and high fat ingredients in there. But hey, that is not necessary. There are so many possibilities for spread bases and combinations to vary the taste, so start trying out.
I also love cooking jam, marmalade or chutneys. When you do it on your own, you will find out, that you can either reduce the industry sugar or you can skip it completely. And btw, therefore you will taste the fruits in it a lot more ;-)

5.) Watch what you drink
Drinks may look innocent, but they contain often immense amounts of processed sugar. Ok, always drinking only water is pretty boring. You need water, but if you want to have some drinks with taste, you definitely can exchange lemonade or soft drinks with juice-water-mixes. All kind of juices work fine, but be aware that the fruit sugar in there still is sugar and this means calories. So keep the balance! Also be careful with smoothies. Make your own and use it as a meal or snack rather than as a “drink”. Think about how many pieces of fruits you have in there, and just because they are liquid doesn’t mean that there calories just disappeared ;-)
In summer you can produce your own ice teas (mix cold tea with lemon juice and water) or mix water with fruits, herbs or veggies. Looks good, tastes grate!

6.) Spice it up
Sugar and fat are flavor carriers. So very often fat reduced meals are full of sugar and vice versa. You can simply solve this problem if you learn to cook and to season with herbs and spices. With a lot of taste, it’s also easy to reduce salt.

7.) Frying without crying
Invest in some good pans with teflon or other shields – with them you can reduce the amount of fat you need for frying a lot. I have a great pan (which was not too expensive btw and I got it at IKEA), and in this pan, I can bake pancakes without any butter or oil.
When you are preparing for a BBQ or have a little time, you can also marinate the meat, fish or veggies beforehand with oil, lemon juice and spices. There’s no need to drown it, as long as you turn it once in a while. Then take it out, let the oil drop down and grill it or put it into the oven without any more fat. You will get soft meat with a nice crusty surface.
If you have a piece of meat with some fat on it, simply put it into the pan without any extra oil or butter. The meat will be fried in it’s own fat, which will provide extra taste and afterwards, you can still cut off the fat before eating.

So you see, there are definitely tricks to have fun eating and cooking while you cut calories. Of course, it’s not the calorie itself that makes you fat, but hey, reducing some of them just by the way and still having great meals is a cool thing, right?

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