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.
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.
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.
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:
The 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.
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!
I’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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Eggs (mainly for breakfasts to replace sugary cereals)
Grains- quinoa, oats, buckwheat, rye, brown rice
Protein- chicken, fish, eggs, tofu
Vegetables in the place of fruit.
I have spoken before about easy, healthy food swapshere. 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…
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.)
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
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.
And there you have it…a minimal effort recipe with maximum taste. Perfect.
If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know all about my love of food, especially my new-found love of Korean food. So imagine my excitement when I found, quite by accident, cooking classes for foreigners in Seoul. I immediately booked a class, excited not only for the experience, but also so that I could start to recreate my favourite meals at home. After all, I will at some point go back to England, and if I don’t know how to make Bibimbap by then it will be a disaster.
I wanted to share my experience of the cooking class, simply because it was one of the best, if not the best thing I’ve done in Seoul. It’s fun, interesting, and you learn something new, Oh, and you get a delicious meal at the end (how delicious will depend on your cooking skills, of course).
A little bit about the classes: they are run by The Food And Culture Academy and you can find their website here. The Academy is located in Jongno Gu, Seoul and directions can be found on their website. The prices range from 20,000 won to 65,000 won, and this includes: the price of the class, the meal at the end with some side dishes included, and a copy of the recipe you followed. There is a huge selection of cooking choices, including: Bulgogi, Bibimbap, Dakgalbi, Japchae, Mandu, Paejon, Gimbap, and different types of Kimchi. If, like us, you’d like to cook more than one thing, there is a 1 + 1 option.
Don’t worry if you’re not a talented cook- the website calls the class ‘An Intensive Cooking Class for Avid Cooks’, but this shouldn’t put you off, as it’s not a scarily serious or difficult class by any means. Two minutes into the class, I chopped straight into my finger while cutting an onion, so I didn’t exactly prove myself as a super-advanced cook by any means! There is a chef with you at all times to direct you and make everything simple and easy (luckily).
So we chose two things off the menu, cooking one first and leaving it to rest while we started on the second. This was a good way to do it, but also meant that at the end of the class we had not one, but two meals to eat. For someone with a big appetite like me, it was obviously great, but make sure you go feeling hungry!
How it works- the cook simply instructs you as you go through, step by step. It’s good because you can also ask questions about what you’re making, which is pretty interesting! We learnt a lot about the history of the food and the different variations throughout the country. And obviously the main benefit of having your own chef is that you’re closely guided as you cook. You’re not just given a recipe and left to work through it.
When you’ve finished, there’s an area for taking photos of you standing proudly with your food; you can even dress up in Hanbok if you choose, to feel even more Korean and properly get into the spirit of things. Then, there’s a separate eating area where you can sit and enjoy your food. It’s nice that you’re given a few side dishes, as it feels like sitting down in a restaurant for a proper meal.
So, if there was one thing in Korea that I’d recommend doing, whether you’re here on holiday or living here, it would be this cooking class. It’s excellently run, the staff are so friendly and helpful, and it’s a chance to learn about your favourite foods and how to recreate them yourselves. Most importantly, it’s a great way to eat and have fun; it sure beats going down to the local cafe!
To find out more, check their website and get yourself booked in to a class. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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 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!
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.
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 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.
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!
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 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!
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!
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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!