Keeping Fit In Korea

10410632_10152632361249305_1929176102883447371_n

I’ve spoken before about healthy eating in Korea and explained why I find it easier to follow a healthy diet here than at home in England. The other part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is obviously to exercise. Before coming to Korea I’d switch between using the gym and going for runs outside. Since moving, I’ve found some aspects of keeping fit easier, others more difficult.

Here are what I consider the pros and cons of exercise in Korea:

♥ Hiking

There are hiking trails everywhere. From the numerous mountains for keen hikers, to the smaller trails hidden inside cities. Whether you want want to go for an intense 3-hour long trek, or for a gentle hour-long hike, there’s an option for you.

In Wonju where I live, there are not only two mountains just outside the city, but numerous trails within the city, so there’s plenty of choice should I wish to get some exercise, without having to head to the gym or go for a run. Plus, with the beautiful scenery of the trails, it’s a much more pleasant way to get some exercise, especially for nature lovers.

♥ Fitness Equipment

581895_10151630108099305_1443705987_n

You see these blue things a lot- up hiking trails, in parks everywhere. Ok, it might not in any way rival fitness equipment that you’d find at the gym, but it is fine to use for a few stretches. I’ve used the machines a couple of times and yes, they’re usually rickety, squeaky and shaky, but I’ve also found that they’re perfectly alright if you just want to stretch/ warm up/down during a hike or a run.

♥ Walking

I find that I walk a lot more in Korea, especially if I visit Seoul for the weekend- if I can, I avoid the subway because of the crowds, and choose to walk instead. I imagine that if you live in Seoul, walking could easily be the easiest way to incorporate exercise into your daily life.

As it is, even in Wonju, I walk more simply because most things are within walking distance. And that’s one advantage of living in Korea- the vast majority of people live in cities, so you are able to walk 20-minutes or half an hour to get somewhere, rather than drive. In England, if you live in the suburbs, walking isn’t an option.

(That’s not to say a lot of people will still opt to drive for convenience, but it’s a definite positive that walking is an option. If you’re feeling saintly, you can choose to get an hour of exercise just by walking to the shops and back, instead of grabbing a taxi. It couldn’t be easier).

♥ Cycling

The pavements always have a cycle-lane, making Korea a lot more bicycle-friendly than England for sure! In the UK, you aren’t allowed to cycle on the pavement, meaning you have to go on the road with cars, and as a result a lot of novice cyclists (like me) would feel nervous cycling around a city. But you can cycle pretty much anywhere in Korea, because you can go on the pavements.

Perhaps there are cycle paths because of the driving in Korea; I doubt many cyclists would want to cycle on the roads lest for fear of being knocked off their bike by crazy drivers. Either way, I know that cycling is a lot more convenient in Korea, making it another option for easy exercise.

♥ ⊗ Gyms

I can never decide whether gyms are better or worse in Korea; they have both their good and their bad points. The good: in my experience, the gyms have good equipment, are clean, and there are usually a lot of gyms in a city, so it’s more than likely you’ll be able to find one close to your home (nothing worse than having to drive 20 minutes to a gym- it de-motivates you before you even get there).

On the other hand, there are negatives. I’ve found the average gym to cost around 50,000 won per month, or 150,000 won for 3 months. While this isn’t extortionate, it is expensive, especially in a country where a lot of other things are so cheap. Especially because in a lot of gyms, this price doesn’t include use of a sauna or swimming pool. You can easily find cheaper monthly fees in England, and there’s not a lot which I’d say is cheaper in England than in Korea.

Plus, the main downfall, in my opinion, is the fact that most gyms are closed on Sundays. It might be the ‘day of rest’, but it’s also a day off work; for me, that’s a day I want to be able to visit the gym, and it’s so annoying that the majority are closed.

⊗ Weather Extremes

Weather is the main reason why I find it hard to exercise outside for a large part of the year. Autumn and Spring are fine, in fact, they’re beautiful times to go exercise outside; the weather is perfect, not too hot or cold. But in winter or summer, the weather is far too extreme.

In summer, you break out in a sweat just by stepping outside, let alone once you’ve got your heart rate up. In winter, your hands and face are numb within minutes. Even if you can ignore that, there’s also usually ice or snow which prevents you from exercising outside, unless you want to risk slipping over and injuring yourself. I’ve tried exercising outside during these two months, and it was just horrible. As a result, there are periods of time when I can’t choose to go out for a run, which is something I am able to do back in the UK.

⊗ Exercise Classes

I know that this isn’t a negative of Korea, but it’s a negative of being an expat- not understanding or being able to follow fitness classes. It’s a shame, especially when you see good classes which you’d love to take part in. I was going to attempt yoga class once, but my Korean friend told me that without being able to understand Korean, you’d find it extremely difficult. So if you’re a fan of group exercise classes, like me, you will probably be sad to know that they aren’t really a logical choice in Korea.

1381432_10152041516949305_1928685922_n

In general, I manage to incorporate exercise pretty easily into my lifestyle, similarly to back in England. However, I know that if I didn’t have a gym nearby, I might find it more difficult to keep fit. As mentioned, exercising outside isn’t always the best option due to extreme heat/cold. And while in England I’d work-out at home if I couldn’t outside, I find this hard in Korea. Living in a flat with people below me, I’m well aware that the neighbours might get tired of hearing me thump around the flat to an exercise DVD. 

On the other hand, there is a huge positive in Korea, which is hiking. I was so happy to introduce hiking as a new way to exercise; it’s probably my favourite way to keep fit, and something I’ll definitely miss back in England. 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Sin-Free Stewed Apples

When it’s cold in the evening, there’s nothing better than a warming dessert. Well, actually, perhaps the best thing is a guilt-free warming dessert. I’m a huge fan of apple pie, apple crumble, apple strudel, basically anything apple-flavoured. But, it wouldn’t be too healthy to eat these every night. And let’s face it- the best part of these puddings is the sweet apple filling. So I decided to recreate my favourite apple desserts, minus the unhealthy pastry part.

What was I left with? A completely innocent apple treat, which you can enjoy any night of the week. After all, according to that famous saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away…

Here is the recipe for my sin-free stewed apples. Simple, quick and delicious (I apologize for the lack of photos, I got too excited whilst cooking/ eating to remember to take any).

Ingredients (for 2 or 3 servings):

Apples- 4 large

Water- 150 ml

Cinnamon- 2 large tablespoons

Brown sugar/ Honey/ Sweetener- 2 large tablespoons.

Directions

1) Peel the apples and chop them into small chunks

2) Put them in a large pan, and sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar/ sweetener/ honey.

3) Pour on the water- it doesn’t look like a lot, but it is enough once it has started cooking. If you need, you can always add more later.

4) Turn the heat on high until the water is boiling high up the pan and covering the apples.

5) Turn down the heat slightly, but make sure the water is still bubbling enough to cook all of the apples. Cook at this temperature for about 15 minutes, or until your apples are soft.

6) Take the apples off the heat. You can serve as they are, or if you prefer a softer texture (as I do), mash with a fork or potato masher, until they are at the consistency you desire.

7) Enjoy!

If you want to make the dessert a little naughtier, add a topping like custard, ice cream, peanut butter, whatever you desire! Or, eat alone for the perfect, warming, healthy dessert. It couldn’t be easier. 

Healthy in Korea

cbs.nl
cbs.nl

Korea is known for having low obesity levels, with only an estimated 4% of people being obese, much lower than the 35% of Americans, or 25% of Brits. It’s true that the percentage of overweight Koreans is increasing, but nowhere near as drastically as other Western countries. And I don’t find the trend at all surprising; In fact, I’ve found it a lot easier to maintain a healthy-eating lifestyle since living in Korea.

While it may be true that if I lived in Seoul, I’d be a lot more tempted by unhealthy foods due to the abundance of Western cafes and restaurants, as it is where I live in Wonju, the majority of food places are Korean and therefore offer much healthier menus. Eating out at restaurants, which in England would lead to large calorie-and-fat laden meals, can be just as healthy an option as eating at home because there is always a healthy choice on the menu.

That’s not to say that the unhealthy alternatives aren’t there to choose from; you can still find fried chicken, huge fried donkas, or greasy fried rice, which obviously aren’t as good for your waistline. But, as a whole, Korean food is decidedly more guilt-free than Western food. And luckily, it also happens to be tasty and delicious!

Here are some of the reasons which it’s easier to stay safely on the healthy wagon in Korea:

Meals

644415_10200325594855428_557284242_nThe most obvious first- Korean meals. Compared to Western meals from around the world (pizza, hot dogs, burgers, fish-and-chips, pies, curries, mac-and-cheese…), Korean meals are decidedly healthy. Soups and stews filled with vegetables; low-fat noodle or rice based meals; barbecue with salad on the side instead of bread rolls, cheese, mayonnaise and ketchup. Then there’s the fact that rice is always given as the carbohydrate component to the meal, in place of mashed potatoes, roast potatoes or chips.

Again, the unhealthy alternative is there if you want to find it, but the vast majority is healthy. Plus, when you eat out, you’re not tempted to order an additional calorific starter or dessert, simply because the option is rarely available. A definite positive if you’re trying to be good whilst dining out.

Vegetables

Boribap
en.wikipedia

A lot of the meals are packed-full of vegetables, and if they aren’t you have endless side-dishes: kimchi, radish, seaweed, mushrooms, spinach, bean-sprouts, the list goes on. And they’re varied, so you often get a few different veggies as side dishes; definitely helps you getting your 5-a-day.

Alternatively, choose a main meal packed with veggies: my all-time favourite bibimbap, shabu-shabu where you get a huge plate of greens to add to your soup… There’s no excuse not to eat your veg!

Bakery Items

IMG_7295I’ve found (to my annoyance at times when I crave a naughty treat) that even sweet bakery items aren’t as calorific, greasy, or fatty as their Western alternatives. Fillings such as red-bean, sweet potato, corn, and fig take the place of things like chocolate. Result? The food is more nutritious and you don’t have to feel guilty at the thought of what you’re eating.

In England, all of the options are buttery, greasy, and you’d be pushed to find something for under about 500 kcals (I know, I’ve tried). There pretty much isn’t a healthy-option. In Korea, I wouldn’t call bakery foods ‘healthy’, but I also wouldn’t call them ‘sinful’.

(Again, there are worse options to choose from: doughnuts, cream-filled pastries, fried things, but on the whole, they are nowhere near as bad as they could be).

Rice As A Side Dish

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Ok, it would be healthier if it was brown rice, but as side-dishes go, it’s definitely better than a load of buttered bread, chips, or fried potatoes. It’s a good, fat free carbohydrate to add to your meal, and far less calorific than the alternatives.

 

Lack Of Unhealthy Additions To Food

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

There’s a definite lack of added sauces, dips, or spreads in Korea. Though you can still find them in foods, the use of things like cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, or butter is a lot less.

You don’t find sandwiches dripping with butter and mayonnaise as you would in England, cheese is usually only found in Western meals like pizzas or burgers, and gochuchang is the most common sauce to be added to food, in place of ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard.

In general, then, it’s not hard to see why the obesity levels are so much lower in Korea. Meals are more nutritious and packed with goodness, fatty-foods like butter, cheese, mayonnaise are used less, and even snacks are, by comparison to other countries, less detrimental to your diet. 

However, there are some mistakes you could make in Korea which could have a negative impact on your diet:

  • Fatty meats: Samgyeopsal is the worst offender here. Barbecue is so popular in Korea, and can be so healthy if you eat it right- what can be better than lean, grilled meat alongside some salad? But, if you choose the fatty meats, it is obviously far worse for you. And Samgyeopsal, with more fat than meat, is the worst option you could choose.
  • Fast food: A bit of a no-brainer, but true nonetheless. There is so much fast-food on offer in Korea, not only the Western burger chains and pizza places, but the Korean favourite of fried chicken. I know people who eat a lot of this, so much so that my students call chicken an ‘unhealthy’ food, because they’ve only eaten it after it’s been deep fried. Um…
  • Instant food (especially ramen): Something which all my students are guilty of, snacking on microwave burgers or instant ramen pots (and for breakfast too, which is just gross). These foods are everywhere and it couldn’t be easier to pop into CU and buy a quick-fix if you’re hungry. But really, these instant meals are unhealthy and completely lacking in nutrients. Not a good option!
  • Eating too much (especially rice): Again, fairly obvious, but it’s easy to do. Especially when rice is added as a side to the majority of main meals, even when your main meal is carbohydrate-based. I’ve eaten a ton of noodles before, only to be offered rice as well. Is there any need for the rice? No. Do you eat it anyway? Well, if it’s there… An easy way to add un-needed calories to your meal. The same can be said for asking for more and more side-dishes to go with your meal, Well, if it’s free…

So, if you choose to eat at places like Pizza School, Lotteria, and Baskin-Robbins, buy instant snacks from CU and eat extra rice with every meal, you might not realise how healthily you can eat in Korea, But, I think it’s fair to say that if you avoid the pitfalls, it’s quite easy to eat guilt-free. And if that involves being able to eat out and enjoy delicious meals, that’s definitely a good thing in my opinion.

Saying Goodbye To Sugar

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

There’s been a big change in nutritional advice over the past few years; while before, fatty foods were seen as the worst thing for your diet, evil options which instantly add inches to your waist and clog your arteries, nowadays it’s sugar which is viewed as the enemy. Things with a higher fat content like eggs are suddenly ‘superfoods’, and nutritionists are advising increased consumption of such foods, advising people to restrict their sugar intake instead. (This isn’t to say that your entire diet should be made up from fats- it isn’t an excuse to eat unlimited amounts of cheese, unfortunately).

I’d read a lot of negative things about sugar, without really taking much notice. That is, until I read Nicole Mowbray’s Sweet Nothing which made me re-think things and make the effort to decrease my sugar intake. The reason? I simply didn’t realise how much sugar I was consuming; I am a healthy eater, and am not one to snack on sweets, cakes or to drink full-sugar drinks, and therefore didn’t for a second think I ate much sugar at all. As it turns out, I was eating sugar that I didn’t even realise existed in the foods I was eating, and my diet was in fact a lot-less varied than I thought.

The foods I’d eat daily would be things like: cereal, bread, fruit, low-fat yoghurts, crackers and cereal bars, dried fruit, noodles or rice with shop-bought sauces. All healthy options- or so I thought. After all, my diet wasn’t full of takeaways, fatty foods or sweets, and I’d choose a low-fat option over the ‘unhealthy’ alternative. But in reality, I was actually eating a relatively unbalanced diet  which was high in sugar.

Here are some of the worst foods for being deceptively high in sugar (and which my old diet consisted mainly of):

  •  Granola/ Muesli/ Cereal

    en.wikipedia
    en.wikipedia

Even the healthier-looking cereals contain a fair amount of sugar: Dorset Cereals Honey Granola has over 11 grams of sugar in one portion- more sugar than you’d find in a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. Even Bran Flakes which are regarded as the plainest, healthiest of cereals have 12 grams of sugar in one portion- almost twice that of a Krispy Kreme. It turns out that cereal doesn’t have to be chocolate-flavoured or brightly coloured to be full of sugar.

  • Refined Carbohydrates- The ‘White’ Stuff

White bread, pasta, rice, etc. These refined carbohydrates turn into sugar very quickly in the body, causing your blood sugar level to rise sharply and then drop, leaving you feeling hungry after only a short amount of time. If you eat a lot of white carbs you might not think you’re eating a lot of sugar, but the effect on the body is similar. Plus, quite often sugar is added to things, especially to baked foods like breads/ bagels; this could lead to you eating sugar you’re unaware of.

  •  Low-fat Yoghurts

    KS_California_strawberry_yogurt
    BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons

Another one of my mistakes- always choosing the ‘low-fat’ or ‘low-calorie’ choice. In reality, these aren’t the healthy option, as they are packed with added sugar. Fat-free yoghurts have up to 14 grams of sugar in one serving, more than you’d find in a chocolate mousse and the same amount as in a portion of Haribo jelly sweets.

  • Fruit Juices/ Smoothies

Orange juice contains around  9 grams of sugar per 100 ml, while Coke has 10 grams per 100 ml. Would you drink coke with your breakfast? Obviously not. Orange juice, on the other hand, is largely marketed as healthy, despite their almost identical sugar content. If you have a glass of around 300 ml orange juice, you’re drinking almost 30 grams of sugar and a third of your recommended daily intake.

Smoothies are no better; they’re largely marketed as being super-healthy, a way to get your daily portion of fruit along with numerous vitamins and minerals. In reality, they contain more sugar than anything else. Take Innocent smoothies, branded for being completely natural and, well, innocent.Well, they contain up to 12 grams of sugar in only 100 ml- more sugar than coke. It might be natural sugars, but it is still an exceedingly high amount.

  • Low-Fat Products

Another thing I’m guilty of; thinking I’m being healthy by choosing low-fat desserts or ready-meals. But while they may be low in fat, there is a ton of added sugar in such foods: one Weight Watched Chilli and Wedges ready-meal has nearly 13 grams of sugar, while their desserts have over 23 grams of sugar- the same amount as a bar of Galaxy chocolate. It could be better to have a full-fat treat once in a while, than frequent ‘healthy’ treats, it seems!

  • Alcohol

    en.wikipedia
    en.wikipedia

It’s easy for forget that you’re consuming calories and consequently, sugar, when you’re drinking alcohol, when in fact alcohol is brimming-full of sugar. Beer can contain up to 20 grams of sugar in one pint and a glass of wine can have around 10 grams of sugar. Not to mention cocktails, which are loaded with sugary fruit juice…

  • Packaged Soup and Sauces

Another way you could be eating far more sugar than you realise. Even in savoury sauces and soups, there is a fair amount of added sugar. When looking at many different brands of sweet chilli sauce, one thing is the same: ‘sugar’ is the first thing written on the ingredient list. There is over 6 grams of sugar in one serving, and over 40 grams in 100 grams. In pasta sauces, you can see around 10 grams of sugar in one serving, even in the ‘healthy living’ version.

And then there’s soup- not something you’d think of as sugary. Well, in one can of tomato soup, there are, in fact 20 grams of sugar, and even in the ‘diet’ version there are nearly 10 grams.

  • Cereal Bars

I used to eat tons of cereal bars, thinking they were so healthy, when in fact, some bars have around 20 grams of sugar in them, double that of something like a Kit-Kat. Pretty shocking for something marketed as the ‘healthy’ alternative to a chocolate bar. Plus, if you look at the ingredients list, sugar (and alternatives to sugar: syrup, glucose etc) is always present high-up the list.

tips.stayhealth.xyz
tips.stayhealth.xyz

There are a few easy swaps you can make to your diet to dramatically decrease your sugar intake. Here are some foods which have become a staple in my diet:

  • Oats and oatcakes
  • Rye bread
  • Eggs (mainly for breakfasts to replace sugary cereals)
  • Grains- quinoa, oats, buckwheat, rye, brown rice
  • Protein- chicken, fish, eggs, tofu
  • Avocado
  • Vegetables in the place of fruit.

I have spoken before about easy, healthy food swaps here. It only takes a few smalls changes to make a big difference: swap white for brown, swap fruit for vegetables, swap processed for natural. If you’re like me, you’ll actually find that your diet becomes a lot more varied and interesting; my meals consist of much more flavour-full food now that I’ve replaced the refined carbohydrates with other, more tasty things.

I have found the benefits to be worth the effort; I used to get sharp hunger pangs a couple of hours after breakfast, even feeling shaky if I hadn’t eaten for a little while. This has now changed, and I feel fuller for longer, which is great! And you are safe in the knowledge that you’re filling your body with good stuff; I thought I was already pretty healthy, but it turned out I wasn’t. Now, I honestly feel better for the changes that I’ve made.

Obviously, you still need some sugar in your diet, and it is almost impossible to cut it completely from your diet. But what is important is to make sure the majority of your sugar intake is natural sugars, those found in fruit and vegetables, and to not eat too many processed/ unnatural sugars.

So, if you want to feel healthier, trying making a few small changes and cutting the levels of the sinful white stuff in your diet… even if you’re not chomping down on tons of sweets every day, your diet still might be a lot sweeter than you thought…

ilmonitodelgiardino.it
ilmonitodelgiardino.it

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Warming Pumpkin-Corn Soup

McKay Savage Wikimedia Commons
McKay Savage Wikimedia Commons

In the past month, there’s been a distinct change in season; evenings are darker, the temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees, and I’ve gone from wearing sandals and skirts to covering up with a coat, gloves and scarf. I’m only one pair of wellies and a thermal vest away from my full-on winter gear.

Still, Autumn is a great time of year, when the temperatures aren’t arctic yet, and you can enjoy the beautiful colours of the trees before winter kills them off completely. And how can you make a chilly autumn evening even better? By making a nice bowl of hearty, warming pumpkin soup, that’s how!

This is one of my favourite recipes; it’s quick, easy, and extremely healthy- the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold evening. The pumpkin makes the soup velvety and thick, while the corn adds a bit of texture and gives it almost a creamy taste. Delicious. Even better, there is so much flavour from the vegetables that you don’t have to bother adding loads of herbs and spices, which makes the process ever simpler.

(Oh, and if you’re not a fan of pumpkin or find them hard to find, you can substitute them with butternut squash.)

Ingredients:

1 Pumpkin, around 1 kg

2 Large Onions

1 Tin of Sweetcorn (or fresh corn if you can get it)

2 Large Carrots

Chicken/ Beef Stock (around 800 ml depending on how thick you like your soup)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

Cream (optional)

Directions:

1) Chop up the onions into small chunks and saute in the olive oil until they’re soft and tender.

2)Chop up the pumpkin and carrots into chunks and put in a large saucepan. Add the corn and then the onions.

3) Pour in your stock until it is just covering the vegetables. (You can add more or less water depending on how thick you like your soup. I prefer to add less at       the start, and thin later if needed.

4)Bring the water to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft (the pumpkin should be almost mushy).

5) Blend everything. When the soup is ready, add salt and pepper to taste. If you would like to add cream, add some now and then re-heat the soup.

6) Enjoy!

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

And there you have it…a minimal effort recipe with maximum taste. Perfect.

Economical Eating In Korea- Be Healthy Without Being Bankrupt

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Eating healthily on a budget is sometimes difficult- why buy a huge bag of apples for 5000 won (at the very least) when you can buy 5 huge bags of popcorn, or two boxes of choco pies for that price? Tempting indeed. It seems that all the staples of a healthy diet- meat, fish, vegetables, fruit- are the most expensive things to buy, which is very annoying when you’re trying to live healthily.

Renee Comet Wikimedia Commons
Renee Comet Wikimedia Commons

This is a problem for everyone, and is even worse for expats, who have to get used to seeing something which was cheap in their home country being triple the price in Korea. My biggest upset: oats. A 500 gram bag in the UK is only about 40 pence (about 700 won). In Korea, they’re pretty much non-existent, but if you do find them (thank you Costco) they are ridiculously pricey. So, adjustments to diet have to be made- I’d never eaten pumpkin before living in Korea but it’s now a central part of my diet, along with tofu, persimmon, enochi mushrooms and spinach.

My main lifesaver, however, is I Herb. I’m probably completely jinxing myself, but I’ve always had perfect customer service and deliveries from America within a week, which is amazing. Plus, delivery only costs $4- the same it would cost me to get to E Mart and back in a taxi. So it’s pretty much the perfect option.

youtube.com
youtube.com

And the other benefit? It’s not too expensive- “I Herb is The Best Overall Value in the World for Natural Products”, according to their twitter, and from my experience I wouldn’t doubt that. Most products are the same price that they’d cost you in a Korean Mart, or cheaper. Plus there is so much which isn’t readily available in Korea. What does this mean? That I Herb makes healthy eating easy, and doable on a budget.

There are hundreds of thousands of products on the website, but here are some of the best things which I’ve found:

  • Healthy Bread- Rye bread, Flaxseed bread, Multi-grain bread from $3.30 for 500 grams

    http://riedsfoodbarn.com
    http://riedsfoodbarn.com
  • Quinoa- $5.60 for 400 grams (compared to 10,000 won in Homeplus)
  • Grains- Buckwheat, Amaranth, Bulgar, Rye, Couscous from $3.60
  • Oats- $3 for 500 grams
  • Crackers- Ryvita, Crispbreads, Multi-seed, Multi-grain, the list is endless. From $2
  • Stevia- My saviour. Amazing to add to drinks, oatmeal, cereal, baking. And the liquid type doesn’t have any strange after-taste. From $4
  • Teas- Every type of tea you can imagine. And, cheaper than in Korean Marts- from $1.95
  • Coconut Oil- from $8
  • Herbs and Spices- from $2.60
  • Cereal- Hot cereal from $2.80, Muesli from $3.50, Granola from $4, and so many other types for the same price/ cheaper than in Korea. Including Weetabix- 24 biscuits for $5
  • Nuts- from about $8 for 450 grams
  • Seeds- from about $3 for 400 grams.
Luigi Chiesa Wikimedia Commons
Luigi Chiesa Wikimedia Commons

You can spend hours searching on the website and there are tons of other healthy goodies: cereal bars, dried fruit and vegetables, soup mixes, healthy butters, baking goods, healthy crisps and popcorn, protein powder and protein  bars (Quest Nutrition bars are so much cheaper on I Herb than anywhere else, and CarbRite Bars are so yummy). It’s such a good option for getting good-value healthy foods. It’s so popular that there are literally deliveries every week to teachers at our school.

Miia Ranta Wikimedia Commons
Miia Ranta Wikimedia Commons

As for buying foods on a budget from Korean shops- it can be done. One of the best things is that rice is everywhere, and a nice, healthy staple to add to your diet. To get top healthy points, choose brown/ multi-seed/ add barely to your rice. Then you’re instantly making your meals healthier. Cheap, quick and easy- what could be better?

A few other things which I have added to my diet because they’re healthy, cheap and easy to find in Korea are: tofu (especially Pulmone Half & Half which is so good), eggs, greek yoghurts (you can find these from 2000 won), vegetables (things like cabbage, carrots, spinach, and lettuce, which don’t change much in price despite the season), and tinned salmon and tuna.

This leads me onto my next point- buying tinned food is a good option for things which are so expensive otherwise. As long as you don’t buy the flavoured options (like chilli tuna or salmon which are more artificial and contain more sugar), this is a good way to eat healthy fish without spending too much.

The same goes for buying frozen things- why spend 6000 won on 100 grams of fresh blueberries when you can buy over 1 kilo of frozen blueberries for 9000 won? The same goes for mango, pineapple, strawberries, etc- go frozen, and you can enjoy all the healthy benefits of delicious fruit for a fraction of the price. I also freeze meat- buy bigger portions of fresh chicken as they’re much better value and then freeze them separately, another easy way to spend less but still be able to afford clean, healthy food.

http://pixabay.com/en/photos/vegetable/
pixabay.com

I’ve also noticed how important it is when buying fruit and vegetables to only buy what’s in season; recently, the price of tomatoes went up by 2000 won in about 2 weeks and broccoli doubled in price- if you take notice of the price changes and only buy what’s in season, it’s much cheaper. This is especially true with fruit; there are a few weeks in summer when watermelon is actually affordable (yay) and the same goes for peaches and nectarines. At other times during the year, they’re just too expensive.

The thing I find which makes the biggest difference for fruit and veg is going to a local shop, rather than a chain. In my local vegetable shop I can buy carrots for 1000 won, a big bag of eggplant for 1000 won, a huge bag of spinach for under 2000 won, and a bag of 8 apples for 5000 won. Pretty good, when at the big marts everything is double the price!

I hope that’s given you some ideas on how to eat healthily for less. I manage to eat fresh, healthy food without going bankrupt, so it’s definitely doable. Still, if Korea decided to start selling oats for a reasonable price, that would make my life so much easier… Here’s hoping!

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Recently there has been a huge rise in ‘clean eating’; people discarding processed foods for fresh, healthy produce, in the hope of living a much healthier lifestyle. The benefits advertised certainly sound promising; weight loss, more energy, shiny hair, clear skin, even improvement in your mood. Indeed, it is definitely a beneficial lifestyle change to cut the rubbish out of your diet and embark upon a new, healthy eating regime.

But, as with everything in life, there has to be balance. We all know that broccoli is good for you, but do we eat 10 broccolis everyday? No, that would lead to intense digestive problems. The same goes for the healthy foods which we are all encouraged to eat as part of a clean diet; yes, they have numerous health benefits, but if we eat too much because we believe them to be  the cure to all our ailments, we won’t end up any better off. In fact, we could end up heavier than before.

Let’s have a look at the trendy foods which we have to be wary not to overdose in:

  •  Avocado
JJ Harrison Wikimedia Commons
JJ Harrison Wikimedia Commons

Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and are full of fiber; they are therefore good to include in your diet.

But be careful- they are much higher in calories than other fruits, having around 180 kcal in 100 grams: double that of a banana which has 90 kcal per 100 grams, and much higher than the 50 kcal in 100 grams of apple and  30 kcal in 100 grams of strawberries.

So while it is good to eat avocados, make sure you’re not eating them as ‘little extras’ without being aware of the calories they pack- eating a whole avocado isn’t the same as eating a whole apple and could have a negative impact on your waistline.

  • Nuts
en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Nuts have numerous health benefits- they’re a good source of protein, healthy fats and fiber.

However, they are deceptively high in calories: 100 grams of nuts typically contains just under 600 kcal and 50 grams of fat. What’s worse is that because nuts are so small, it’s easy to be eating a much bigger portion than you realise; eat just 20 nuts? That’s around 200 calories added to your daily intake. So be careful that you don’t eat a whole bag as if they were crisps!

  • Healthy Oils
Selinarif Wikimedia Commons
Selinarif Wikimedia Commons

There are many ‘healthy’ oils around these days, coconut oil being the current favourite. And it’s true that they are a much better option to cook with, but there is still no excuse to use too much of them.

For example, coconut oil has become the new ‘super food’, with promises of how it helps your skin and hair, lowers cholesterol and can aid weight loss. However, coconut has close to 90% saturated fat and has just under a whopping 900 kcal per 100 grams. Other types such as olive oil have around 800 kcal in 100 grams.

Therefore although they are better to use than their unhealthy alternatives, it doesn’t mean that you should choose to cook with oil if you can avoid it. If you can, choose to grill, poach or steam food to save adding unnecessary calories.

  • Seeds
en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

It is common for people to add seeds to food to make their food extra-healthy. And it’s true that seeds are abundant in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, healthy fats and fiber. The list of positives in endless.

But the same problem arises as with nuts; be careful how many seeds you’re consuming. There are around 500 calories and 30 grams of fat in 100 grams of seeds. And even more so than with nuts, it is easy to eat a huge portion without realising it.

So, by all means add some seeds to your cereal or yoghurt. But it would be advisable to take notice of how much you’re adding, because you could easily be adding a good couple-hundred calories or more, without being aware of it.

  • Greek Yoghurt
en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Greek yoghurt is hailed as one of the healthiest yoghurts because it has almost twice as much protein as other yoghurts and is naturally low in sugar. It’s a good choice for an afternoon or evening snack.

The reason why you shouldn’t eat too much? It is relatively high in saturated fat, having 6 grams per 100 grams (just under a third of your recommended daily intake). So while it is a healthy option, be careful not to have too large a portion, or you might unwittingly be taking in too much fat.

  • Coconut Water
en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Another new health craze is coconut water. Hailed for being high in potassium, low in calories and extremely hydrating, it isn’t surprising why. It’s definitely a better choice as a pre or post workout drink than the usual energy drinks.

However, while it is beneficial in small amounts, be careful not to drink too much. 100 ml contains around 5 grams of sugar- drink a 500 ml bottle and you’ll be taking in 25 grams of sugar. It’s therefore fine to have as one drink, but make sure you don’t over-do it and drink it as though it were pure water!

Oh, and if you’re buying coconut water from a shop, check the ingredients- some may not be as natural as others and contain added sugar, which will pretty much equal out the health benefits!

  • Dried Fruit
Alex Proimos Wikimedia Commons
Alex Proimos Wikimedia Commons

Would you eat 5 apricots in a row? No. Would you eat 5 dried apricots? Yes, quite easily. Here is the first problem with dried fruit- it’s easy to eat a lot because it looks like a much smaller amount than the fresh-fruit version.

This leads to you eating far more calories than you would with fresh fruit. As an example, there are only about 60 calories in 100 grams of fresh mango. There are about 300 calories in 100 grams of dried mango.

Dried fruit is therefore fine in small quantities; it’s a good source of fiber and a good way to satisfy any sweet cravings you have. Just be careful not to unknowingly eat the equivalent of 5 mangoes in one sitting.

  • Honey
en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Honey is often seen as the ‘healthier’ alternative to sugar. For adding to your cereal or drink, it’s thought to be the better option because it is less refined than white sugar, and therefore a more ‘natural’ sweetener.

Honey does have more beneficial nutrients than white sugar, but the level of the nutrients are so low that you’d have to be eating a huge amount of honey to benefit from them. In addition, honey actually contains more calories and sugar per spoonful than regular white sugar.

So if you like a bit of added sweetness to your food or drink, it’s not a crime to add something to it. But be aware that honey isn’t really a super ‘healthy’ option, though it might be promoted as one!

  • Fruit
en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Of course fruit is healthy, we all know that. But, not all fruit is equal and we have to be careful about how much we eat in a day. Why? Mainly because of it’s sugar content.

The fruits with the highest levels of sugar are: figs, grapes, mangoes, cherries and bananas. Figs and grapes contain around 16 grams of sugar in 100 grams. The fruits with the lowest levels are the berries: blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries. Strawberries only have around 5 grams of sugar in 100 grams.

It’s advised to eat 5 portions or fruit and vegetables a day, but nutritionists generally agree that the majority of this should come from vegetables, as they are much lower in sugar.

Fruit is obviously a good addition to your diet, but that doesn’t mean that you should be eating it in limitless amounts!

  • Kimchi
en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Koreans, please don’t hate me! I love Kimchi too, but just like the other foods, there is a limit to how much we should eat.

The benefits of kimchi are widely known; it is low in calories and fat, high in vitamins, and full of healthy bacteria which can lead to healthy digestion.

However, the main problem with kimchi is the high salt content, with around 670 milligrams in 100 grams, about a third of your recommended daily intake. Another problem is that too much fermented food such as kimchi can lead to digestive problems if eaten in too high quantities.

So by all means add kimchi to your meal, but don’t go overboard or it could be bad for your health.

All of the above foods are good choices to include in your diet, but not in high quantities. Imagine, for example, that you decide to go on a health kick, so add 50 grams of nuts, 50 grams of seeds, 2 extra pieces of fruit and an avocado to your daily intake: you will be upping your calories by about 800 calories and increasing your sugar intake. Suddenly that health kick doesn’t sound so good, does it?

20 Scrumptious and (sometimes) Strange Korean Meals

Ok, so I’ve spoken before about my ‘Top 20 Weird and Wonderful Korean Snacks’ which I’ve had the joy of trying while living in Korea. Now I think it’s the time to look at Korean meals, which I’m pleased to say have been on the whole, a positive experience. That is, after we learnt the names of some Korean foods. Let’s just say that our first meal here was a bit of a disaster- not knowing what anything was, we picked a random item off the menu, and ended up with a ‘jjigae’ (stew) that was so spicy we were sweating by the end (despite it being about 5 degrees in the restaurant). We went home with runny noses and burning mouths to down about a litre of milk each. Good times.

So my top tip for eating out in Korea? Learn the names of meals. After all, you don’t want to end up with chicken feet or intestines by accident, do you? Once you know what’s what, you can relax and enjoy the food in all its glory.

Of course, much like the snacks, there I some main meals I’d approach with caution and some I’d avoid altogether. Because no matter how delicious someone thinks it is, there is just no way I’m eating raw octopus. Luckily there are plenty of other options on the menu; here’s my list of 20 scrumptious, but sometimes weird, Korean meals.

1) Bibimbap- The Best

946025_10201378028685616_9070226_n

I’m sorry, I know I’ve mentioned it (gushed about it) before, but it truly is the best, so I think it deserves the extra mention.

Veggies, meat, egg, rice, red-pepper paste (gochuchang) in a glorious mix. I could eat this every day, for every meal (and I’d be a happy girl).

In my opinion, the best option is Dolsot (hot stone) Bibimbap- the rice and veggies go a little crispy from the heat, making them that much more delicious. The only downside is that it’s too difficult to wait and let the piping hot meal cool down. My impatience= a burnt mouth every time. Worth it though!

2) Boribap- The Bibimbap Alternative

Boribap en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia
Boribap en.wikipedia2
en.wikipedia

Similar in many ways to Bibimbap, only not quite as good.

You get a bowl of rice with barley, and then a selection of veggies, soups, meats, tofu (it will vary depending on where you are), and a few sauces.

Simply pick what you want, add it to your bowl of rice, and mix it all together. And there you have it- your own custom-made meal.

3) Hangover Soup/ Haejang Guk- The Weird One

Picture: en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

When you’re feeling hungover, do you ever think to yourself, ‘I really fancy some congealed blood’? Nope? Well, you’re obviously not Korean then.

This spicy soup filled with different vegetables and, oh, congealed ox blood, is the famous Korean hangover cure. It’s not as unpleasant as it sounds, I have to admit. But, if I was feeling worse for wear, I’d still prefer a McDonald’s, thanks.

4) Dakgalbi- Comforting Chicken Heaven

Dakgalbi commons.wikimedia
Nagyman commons.wikimedia

One of my all-time favourites.

Chicken pieces, sweet potato, cabbage and tteokbokki pieces (Korean rice cakes resembling gnocchi), in a warm sauce. Served on a hot plate so that it cooks in front of you. It’s slightly spicy and so tasty, it’s the ultimate comfort meal.

If you’ve still got room after the chicken, you can get some bokkeumbap- rice with a raw egg- to cook on the hot plate until it’s all crispy. Mmmm.

The only negative is that the chicken tends to have a lot of skin on, and there are sometimes bones. Without this, the meal would be a definite 10/10. Oh, and you have to share it- get ready to fight for the hidden pieces of tteokbokki!

5) Barbecue- The Korean Staple

BBQ commons.wikimedia
suksim commons.wikimedia

You can’t walk down a street without seeing at least one Barbecue restaurant- they are  so popular. In fact, one has just opened under our apartment, which isn’t the best thing- BBQ fumes are too tempting to have around permanently.

You can pick your favourite meat, and then cut and cook it yourself. You also get a selection of side dishes. The best BBQ places, in my opinion, are those which also give you an egg mix, which you pour around the BBQ grill. The heat turns it into a delicious omelette to go with your meat. Yum yum.

6) Gamjatang- The Difficult-To-Eat Dish

Gamjatang commons.wikimedia
The Wong Family Pictures commons.wikimedia

My winter favourite. A delicious soup full of vegetables, tender pork and potatoes (probably the only time I’ve had potatoes in a meal).

The meat gives the soup flavour and vice versa, resulting in an incredibly tasty meal.

But there is one major downside- this is probably the messiest meal I’ve ever eaten, as the pork all comes on the bone. Think the messiness of ribs x 1000. The first time I ate this, I think I ended up with more food on my clothes than in my stomach.

7) Shabu Shabu= yummy yummy

Processed by: Helicon Filter;
de.wikipedia

A light soup which you add veggies, noodles and wafer-thin strips of beef into. You can also get rice at the end if you’re still hungry, much like with Dakgalbi.

The reason I love this meal? The rice paper wraps which you get- you have a selection of vegetables (and the cooked beef) to put inside, and a few dips including peanut, soy and sweet chilli. All the ingredients you need to make your own Vietnamese-style rice paper rolls.

Be careful not to fill them too full though, I’ve had a couple of exploding rolls and it’s not pretty.

8) Jjampong- Chinese in Korea

Jjampong commons.wikimedia
Alfpooh commons.wikimedia

Seafood and noodles in a spicy broth= warming goodness. Although spice-phobes beware: this meal can be incredibly spicy. We had a friend who took one mouthful, choked, and couldn’t talk again for a good 5 minutes. True story.

In some restaurants there is also a stir-fried version of jjampong which is just incredible. Definitely worth a try, and it comes minus the spice, so it’s a good alternative for those who don’t like hot food.

9) Jjajangmyeon- Chinese in Korea 2

jajjanmyeon en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Again, noodles, but this time in a thick, almost gravy-like sauce made from black soybean paste. Trust me, it tastes a lot better than it sounds, enjoyed by both Koreans and expats.

Another positive is that unlike Jjampong, this meal won’t blow your head off!

 

 

10) Bibimguksu/ Bibimnaengmyeon- The noodle version of Bibimbap (sort of)

Bibim_guksu commons.wikimedia
abex commons.wikimedia

I have to admit, I find this ‘bibim’ meal far inferior to my all time favourite, but it is nice and a good vegetarian option too.

Cold noodles in gochuchang (red-pepper paste) with a few chopped veggies on top. Many pictures of the meal show an egg too, but I’ve yet to have been given an egg with mine!

It’s nothing special but worth a try, and it’s a good option during the boiling hot summer months when you don’t want anything hot.

11) Pajeon- The Korean Pancake

Pajeon commons.wikimedia
Jamie, commons.wikimedia

While this is miles away from a Western pancake (it’s served with soy sauce rather than syrup), it’s just as amazing.

A batter made from eggs, flour, a lot of onion and various other delicious fillings. The most common is the seafood pancake, complete with shrimp, clams, squid and more. It is fried to perfection, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, and it’s just amazing.

Forget American pancakes, Korean versions are definitely the winner for me!

12) Mulhoe- Overdose By Red-Pepper Paste

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
en.wikipedia

Ok, so Mul= water and Hoe= raw fish. So when I ordered this meal I expected some sashimi-soup dish. What it turned out to be was a huge bowl of crushed ice and gochuchang (red pepper paste) soup, with a few pieces of sashimi floating in it. And honestly? The overpowering taste of gochuchang was so strong you couldn’t even taste the sashimi.

One of the weirdest things I’ve had in Korea. I like gochuchang sure, but this was overkill.

13) Bokkeumbap- Korean Fried Rice

bokkeumbap commons.wikimedia
L.W.Yang, commons.wikimedia

This has been hit and miss for me. When it’s good, it’s really good- a juicy fried egg on a pile of fried rice, along with various flavourings such as kimchi, meat or shrimp. But when it’s done badly, you end up with a pile of bland rice and a few tiny pieces of dry meat.

Sometimes I’ve had it when it’s even come without an egg on top- cue anger and disappointment at a meal which is then just essentially a mound of rice.

14) Bulgogi- The Best In Barbecue

Bulgogi commons.wikimedia
alpha, commons.wikimedia

Thin strips of beef marinated in a soy-based sauce, served with chopped vegetables and barbecued. Sound good? That’s because it is. I’m not even a big fan of beef, but bulgogi has so much flavour that it’s definitely one of my favourites.

And the best thing ever is when you find a place which does ‘Bulgogi Bibimbap’. Two of the best foods served as one meal? Imagine my happiness.

15) Japchae- Nom Nom Noodles

800px-Korean_cuisine_japchae_2
Appleby, commons.wikimedia

These sweet-potato noodles are stir-fried in sesame oil and served with chopped vegetables. It may not sound like much, but honestly this is the best stir-fry you’ll ever have (think chicken chow mein, only better).

In case you were wondering, this carb-centered meal sometimes comes with a side of rice, in case the noodles aren’t enough for you. Good to know.

16) Sundubu- A Tofu Treat

Sundubu commons.wikimedia
titanium22 commons.wikimedia

So before I came to Korea I’d had tofu once and probably didn’t have the best opinion of it. Living here has changed my mind- it’s in so many meals and always tastes so good.

In this soup, a soft tofu is used, added to a spicy broth along with other ingredients, seafood and meat being two poplar options.

Oh and the little Korean twist to make it different? A raw egg is cracked into it at the last moment, so that it cooks in front of you in the boiling hot soup. Served with rice (surprise) and different side dishes, this is my favourite Korean soup.

17) Fried Chicken- KFC Eat Your Heart Out

Chicken en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

The Koreans adore fried-chicken. It’s slightly different from Western style because it’s fried twice which makes it less greasy and more crispy.

It’s the most common way in which chicken is eaten- so much so that unlike Westerners who speak of chicken as a healthy meal, Koreans call chicken ‘unhealthy’ and ‘junk food’.

Hmm.. not so sure it’s the meat which is unhealthy, more the fact it’s deep- fried twice over…

18) Donkas- Korean Schnitzel

donkas commons.wikimedia
yoppy from Tonkatsu Restaurant Houraitei, commons.wikimedia

This deep-fried pork cutlet is similar to schnitzel and served with a thick sauce which is similar to gravy. It’s another popular dish among Koreans and is filling and satisfying.

If you’re a big-eater you will be pleased by the portion sizes which are generally huge- I swear I’ve had plenty of Donkas which are roughly the size of my head. I’m not complaining though.

19) Kalguksu- The Never Ending Meal

Kalguksu commons.wikimedia
jslander commons.wikimedia

This fresh noodle soup is delicious- you get a large bowl of broth (different flavours such as meat, seafood, mushroom etc.) filled with ‘knife-cut’ noodles. The noodles are, in my opinion, the tastiest you can get in Korea.

Word of warning- this meal is one of those where you feel as if you’ve eaten forever but just doesn’t go down! I usually end up in an uncomfortable food coma, too full from gallons of soup and heaps of noodles. But if you’re not too full by the end, you can once again order rice to cook in any leftover soup. We just love the carbs!

20) Jjigae- The Versatile Stew

Jiggae commons.wikimedia
denver935, commons.wikimedia

There are so many different types of jjigae- kimchi, meat, tuna, tofu, seafood, vegetables, the list goes on. And even in one bowl of jjigae there are so many different ingredients and it changes wherever you go.

The main thing is that jjigae is a staple meal, a warming, comforting stew. Much like Sundubu it’s served piping hot so always ends up burning your mouth (or is that just me in my impatience to eat?). But never mind, it’s good so we forgive it.

I never feel more Korean than when I order a bowl of Kimchi Jjigae and eat it alongside a hefty side dish of Kimchi. Forget my alien residency card, I think that makes me a fully-fledged Korean!

Ok, so I’m not going to lie and say that I never crave an English meal- there are times when all I want is a big fat roast. But, as proven by the list, there are plenty of scrumptious Korean foods to satisfy my taste-buds.

And lucky for me, this food is cheap and healthy (if we forget about the fried chicken). So all in all, it’s really no wonder that Korean food is becoming the new ‘trendy’ cuisine in other countries, with restaurants opening all over the place. And I, for one, am extremely happy about that.

Food Swaps- Small Changes To Make A Big Difference

I am a total foodie- I love cooking, going out for meals and trying new things. I also care about being healthy and putting good, clean, fresh food into my body. But despite trying to be healthy the majority of the time, I also hate to deprive myself of things which I love. For this reason, I try to make small changes to make so called ‘naughty’ foods that much healthier.

Here are some of my favourite food alterations which make a big difference, so that  you can enjoy delicious foods completely guilt-free!

  • Spaghetti → Vegetable-etti
4617278380_bd6e02b499_z
Picture: Jessica Mullen flickr

I swear, the spiralizer must be one of the best inventions ever (for food lovers that is).

The most popular vegetable to spiralize is courgette (zucchini) but you can use most other vegetables if you’d prefer. It is so quick and easy to make, and if you don’t have a spiralizer you can simply cut the vegetable julienne style, or use a peeler to get a similar effect.

This simple food swap makes for a much lower-calorie, low-carb meal, but you can still have the fun of twirling your food onto your fork like spaghetti!

Let’s be honest, most of the taste in a pasta meal comes from the sauce and toppings anyway, right? This way, you can get the same taste for a fraction of the calories. Sounds good to me!

  • Rice → Quinoa
Picture: flickr
Picture: Geoff Peters flickr

Rice is by no means unhealthy, but white rice has a very high GI, meaning that it can causes your sugar levels to rise quickly, but then to crash to a low level, leaving you feeling hungry shortly after you’ve eaten.

The solution? Eat quinoa. Not only does it have a much lower GI, but it also contains more fibre than other grains and up to 8 grams of protein, meaning that it will keep you fuller for much longer.

It is also high in amino acids and it’s gluten free- really, you should be asking why you don’t eat quinoa.

  • Potato → Sweet Potato (and Chips → Sweet Potato Chips)
2246081241_8ebd02e75f_b
Picture: John Blyberg flickr

For me, this is another no-brainer.  Sweet potatoes not only have much more flavour than plain potatoes, but they have many added health benefits.  They’re high in Vitamins (200 grams of sweet potato has more than twice your daily recommended intake for Vitamin A and half of your Vitamin C) and contain high levels of iron, magnesium and potassium.

Oh and despite having more taste than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes actually contain fewer calories and lower levels of carbs. Plus, as they are high in fibre, they will keep you fuller longer.

So next time you’re buying potatoes, go for the sweet version- you won’t regret it!

  • Burgers/ Sandwich Wraps → Lettuce Wraps
5639486398_8b768d5b17_z
Picture:  Steven Depolo flickr

This is one of my favourite methods to make a meal instantly healthier while saving the taste: it is the easiest way to save on hundreds of calories and to make your meal carb-free at the same time.

By taking away the bread part of the meal, you lose none of the delicious taste of the filling, and you’ll lose that bloated feeling you get afterwards. Plus you still get the feeling of eating a real burger/sandwich because it’s still wrapped up nicely in lettuce.

Try it and believe me, you won’t regret it.

  • Crisps → Vegetable Crisps
2228891323_d415d2396a_z
Picture: rjp flickr

If you are a snacker and can’t resist the temptation of crisps, this is another easy substitution to save calories and load up on nutrients.

Veggie crisps are lower calorie, lower fat versions of the classic potato snack, but they still give you the same satisfaction.

The most popular version at the moment is Kale Crisps, which contain as few as 100 calories per bag, are gluten free and of course, full of vitamins and minerals.

To make this snack even healthier, make it yourself! Simply slice up your favourite veggies thinly, drizzle them with olive oil, add any seasoning (although watch it with the salt!) and then bake them in the oven until they’re crispy. Adding chilli is a favourite of mine because it gives the crisps a little kick. Mmmm.

  • Fizzy Drinks → Sparkling Water + Fruit
Lemonade_(Lime_version)
Picture:  Michael Fludkov common.wikimedia

Ok, so we all know how unhealthy fizzy drinks are- full of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, too much caffeine and additives- and the sugar-free versions are just as bad for you.

I used to be a diet-coke addict, until I realised that it was giving me headaches and wreaking havoc with my sugar levels. So, I  made a change.

I know that sparkling water on it’s own isn’t the most pleasant thing, but honestly once I got used to it, I began to enjoy it. Plus, adding some lemon, lime or any other fruit of your choice adds so much flavour that it actually becomes pleasant to drink!

Top tip- chop up the fruit/s of your choice and put them in a pitcher of sparkling water for about an hour for the flavour to fully develop. Keep the pitcher in the fridge so it’s nice and cool when you drink it.

Whether you want to cut out the empty calories from drinking too much soda, or avoid the unhealthy additives, this is the easy solution for you.

  • Tuna + Mayonnaise → Tuna + Avocado
Picture: nomnompaleo
Picture: nomnompaleo

Regular mayonnaise is full of unhealthy fats- nearly 80 g per 100 grams and high in calories- over 700 kcal in 100 grams.

Avocado on the other hand has less than 200 kcal in 100 grams and less than 20 g of fat. If this doesn’t already persuade you, then you should know that avocados are full of healthy fats, a good source of protein and fibre, and are low in sugar.

So how about next time you fancy tuna mayonnaise, mix the tuna with some avocado instead- you will get the same creamy texture and rich taste, but minus the unwanted fat and calories.

  • Tuna + Mayonnaise → Tuna + Natural/ Greek Yoghurt
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

For anyone who doesn’t like avocados, here is another easy substitution for the dreaded mayonnaise.

Find a natural/ Greek yoghurt to mix with your tuna instead. Yoghurt contains less than 130 kcal per 100 grams but will still provide the same texture that mayonnaise does.

Just make sure you don’t buy a yoghurt which has too much added sugar; go for as natural as you can!

  • Deep-fried Spring Rolls → Rice Wrap Rolls
Picture:
Picture: Vanessa Do flickr

There’s no denying that spring rolls are delicious, but because they’re deep-fried the calorie value automatically increases.

An easy way to counter this? Go for rice-wrap rolls instead. This way, you can still enjoy the taste and delightful fillings but for half the calories (and less fat content too).

Finally, a way to enjoy takeaway guilt-free!

  • Ice Cream → Banana Ice Cream
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Ok, this takes a little effort, but only a little, I promise. And the easy subsitution means that you can enjoy ice cream which is low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar, which is pretty amazing in my opinion.

All you have to do is cut up some bananas and freeze them. When they’re frozen, blend them- this can take a little time, but persevere, it’s worth it in the end! When they have blended into a creamy mix, simply mix in whatever other ingredients you like! Peanut butter, cacao powder, cinnamon, fruit, honey, nutella (if you’re feeling a bit naughty).

Voilla! Healthy ice cream… who would’ve thought it!

  • Flavoured Yoghurt → Plain/ Greek Yoghurt with Fruit/ Cinnamon/ Cacao
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Shop-bought yoghurt can be full of sugar, artificial flavourings, additives, etc. So, why not buy natural yoghurt and flavour it yourself? It couldn’t be easier.

Buy some natural yoghurt (as I said before, make sure there isn’t loads of added sugar) and then simply add what you like. If you’re a cinnamon lover like myself, I would recommend this for a start! It adds delicious flavour to the yoghurt, but it’s much healthier and lower in calories.

If you have the time, you can also add fruit a little in advance so that the flavour properly sinks in. Another quick, easy option for a healthy dessert.

  • Milkshakes → Yoghurt/ Fruit Shakes
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Yes, it’s tempting sometimes when you walk past a McDonald’s or a cafe and you really fancy a refreshing milkshake, but you just know how calorific and full of sugar and fat they are.

So, why don’t you make your own healthy version? Use yoghurt or milk instead of ice cream, real fruit instead of flavoured syrups, and you can even add your own touches such as honey or peanut butter if you wish.

This way, not only do you avoid the rubbish, but you can actually increase your fruit intake. It’d be a crime not to…

These are some of my favourite ways to avoid over-indulging and to still enjoy my favourite foods.

And I have one last tip which works in numerous different recipes to substitute sugar- use my favourite new ingredient, the increasingly popular Stevia. While I’ve found that in it’s powder form it can have a bit of an odd after-taste, there is a liquid version which is just amazing.

now_foods_stevia_drops
Picture: bh.steviadomain

I mainly use this to add to my porridge but you can use it however you like- add it to baking, coffee, smoothies, whatever you like. It’s available from www.iherb.com, and comes in many different flavours. In case you were wondering, vanilla and cinnamon is my favourite!

I hope this has given you some ideas of how to make your food healthier and cut back on calories, but not on flavour. Happy eating!