food swaps, good chef, zoe bingley-pullin

It’s been one party of a silly season and a really festive summer. Between the late night cocktails with your gal pals and the continuous weekend dining that has carried over from Christmas and the New Year, not to mention the Valentine’s Day chocolates and the Easter eggs that have been sneaking into your shopping trolley, the weight is finally starting to catch up with you and no matter how hard you try to keep exercising, it just doesn’t seem to work.

RELATED: Top 5 Weightloss Super Foods You Need Right Now

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’ and to a certain point it is true. It’s very hard to maintain a great bod solely with exercise when your eating isn’t exactly healthy. Many women start diets by trying to eat healthy, without doing much research into what they’re actually eating, thinking that it will help them lose weight. Other women go into diets thinking that restricting calories and eating the lowest calories options will make them skinny.

There is a problem with both of these options. By not doing research into what you’re eating, you risk eating sneaky sugars and fats that creep into ‘healthy’ options to make them taste appetising. By restricting your calorie intake too much and essentially starving yourself, not only are you going to put the weight back on when you start eating more again, but you’re losing essential nutrients that your body needs to be healthy.

food swap, zoe bingley-pullin, good chef

There are so many options that you can eat during the day that are full of nutrients, are healthy and taste delicious! By simply swapping some food choices, you can eat healthy, get the nutrients you need, feel full and feel great!

Nutritionist, Vitasoy ambassador and chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin of Channel Ten’s ‘Good Chef Bad Chef’ (she’s obvs the good one), says: “Nutrients are important for growth and development, and are vital especially when you’re trying to look and feel good. It’s about balance and being clever with sourcing your nutrients.”

food swaps, good chef, zoe bingley-pullin

“Motivation to look and feel good is top of mind early in the year, as we assess our health and eating goals for the year ahead. Elimination diets are very popular at the moment, but does following these eating plans mean you’re missing out on important nutrients?” she asks.

Let’s have a look at Zoe’s Top 5 food swaps to maximise the nutrients your body is receiving and help you look and feel your best.

1. Meat

Swap meat protein for plant-based protein. Flexitarianism, or part-time vegetarianism, is a favourite amongst Australians, meaning many are giving up meat throughout the week. But it’s important to keep your protein and iron levels in check, as these help with tissue building and repair, immune system health and oxygen supply for your blood and brain.

Long gone is the stigma that protein and iron is only found in meat; a huge range of protein sources exist. One of these, and one of my favourites, is soy, legumes, and the many derivatives and exciting recipes that can be created using them. One of my favourite recipes is for Chickpea and Sweet Potato Burgers. Made from chickpeas (a plant-based protein) and using Vitasoy Soy Milky Lite (that contains 15% of your RDI of protein per serve), these burgers are real crowd pleasers.

2. Sugar

Look beyond sugar and at the bigger picture. Sugar is such a hot-topic at the moment, and the question is do we really need to give it up? It is important that we monitor the amount of added sugar in our diets. We can do this by checking the ingredients list on the foods we eat. Foods that feature ingredients like sugar, cane sugar, honey, brown rice syrup and fruit juice concentrate near the top of the list are foods I’d recommend eating in moderation.

Sugar is a very complicated and complex area with many conflicting opinions. I’d recommend looking beyond sugar to the whole picture, with a focus on nutrient-dense foods. For example, although fruit may contain natural sugars like glucose and fructose, fruit provides us with a range of vitamins, minerals, fibre and plant antioxidants, that can also be beneficial for good health.

3. Carbs

Swap High GI foods for Low GI foods. We need carbs in our diet, despite many recent misconceptions. I recommend that complex, unprocessed carbohydrates are a staple in everyone’s diet as they are your body’s main source of fuel and are vital for the function of your kidney’s brain, muscles and heart.

Try swapping High GI carbohydrates for Low GI carbohydrates. These are foods with a glycaemic index of 55 or less that help keep your body energised throughout the day. Low GI foods include soy products, beans, milk, pasta, grainy bread, quinoa, porridge and lentils. A breakfast favourite in my household is the Soft Quinoa Hashbrowns – offering us carbs AND protein (also in quinoa).

4. Dairy

Swap cow’s milk for calcium-fortified plant milk. Veganism is another highly popular diet, made famous by celebrities such as Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez. Key to the diet is cutting out dairy, but how do you keep up your calcium intake? 

Today, we can find a huge range of plant milks on supermarket shelves, many of them calcium-fortified. Plus, plant milks like soymilk contain a powerhouse of nutritious benefits; Vitasoy Soymilk contains the goodness of calcium and protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair. I love the taste of soymilk as it’s so nutty and creamy, and it’s one of my favourite plant milks to cook with. Plus, there’s no harm in having both cow and plant milks in your fridge! Look out for brands like Vitasoy, that provide high quality, vegan friendly soymilks, that are non-genetically modified, made from whole soybeans and with no artificial colours or preservatives.

5. Fats and oils

Swap bad fats for good fats. Many Australians have also recently been shying away from fat, with low fat diets widely considered the answer to losing weight. But, our diet actually needs good fats to protect our hearts and support our overall health. If assessing your eating goals, try swapping bad fats for good fats. Trans fat falls under the “bad fats” umbrella, while monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the “good fats”. For example, try swapping margarine for avocado on your toast in the morning. And check this article out for a reminder for what oils you should be using in the kitchen.

We all want to look and feel our best, but next time you’re assessing your eating goals, consider how you can keep your nutrition in check through simple food swaps. Consider where you might be able find nutrients and experiment in the kitchen – you never know what you might discover.

Image via Kidney Buzz