Excess pounds: fast food and calories or homemade meals and weight control?

Take-out menus and ready meals save you time, but also a lot of calories. Go for a quick and healthy diet with these tips.

You know that oversized portions, bread baskets and heavy restaurant sauces can frustrate your efforts to lose weight. But do you know how many calories you consume in a restaurant or at your office from food that was prepared outside your home? This includes takeout, ready meals, pizzas and paninis, charcuterie plates and all prepared foods.

If you eat a lot of meals that you did not prepare by your own hands, you are in bad company. Studies show that spending on takeout and convenience foods has increased over the past four decades. This tendency is a serious contributor to weight gain and other health problems in adults and children.

What is the link ? When you buy takeout or prepared food, you often trade time and convenience for calories. Foods prepared outside your home save you time, but they often contain more fatty and sugary ingredients than those you normally use at home. Plus, portions can be large. Therefore, grabbing food on the go can add a lot of calories to your day. Additionally, prepared foods tend to be high in salt and low in fiber and other nutrients that help promote overall health.

The key is a minimum of organization

A little effort and minimal organization can cut down on your cooked meals. Choosing healthier options can make a huge difference in your weight loss efforts. Follow these tips:

Take your breakfast home or pack it

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This is ideal for avoiding take-out meals and less healthy prepared meals as much as possible. But that may seem difficult if you regularly eat on the go.

Plan meal after meal

Eat a quick, healthy breakfast like whole grain or whole grain toast and a piece of fruit before you leave home. Or take a healthy option, like a banana and nuts, with you rather than grabbing a croissant at your local cafe.

If you’re a little organized, figure out what you’re going to eat the night before and prepare some dry ingredients to save time. You can also prepare a breakfast to go the day before, which you can have in the morning.

Prepare a healthy and tasty lunch that you will look forward to eating

It doesn’t matter if your packed lunch is healthy if you skip it and head to a cafe with co-workers, or if you’re unhappy and want a cookie. If you’re in a hurry to eat a chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat bread and a piece of fruit every day, great.

Otherwise, prepare something you want to eat. Cook an extra chicken breast for dinner. Then cut it into slices and toss it with nuts and spinach for lunch.

Bring healthy snacks.

When you leave the house, pack fresh fruits and vegetables. Or keep them at your desk. By having healthy snacks on hand, you will reduce your reliance on convenience foods. To save time, cut vegetables or fruit when you return from shopping and put them in travel containers.

Prepare simple dinners, make your life easier

You can whip up a quick dinner from fresh ingredients in as long as it takes to line up at your local takeout counter. Rather than queuing, buy smoked salmon, a whole wheat baguette and the ingredients needed to prepare a Greek salad: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onions, olives, a little feta cheese, vinegar of red wine and olive oil for the vinaigrette. Mix the ingredients of the salad and serve yourself this salad with the salmon and the baguette.

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Better yet, put these ingredients on your shopping list and meal plan. This Mediterranean-inspired meal will be even quicker if you don’t have to stop at the store. And like any dish, the more often you prepare it, the quicker it is to prepare. Don’t like salmon? Substitute canned tuna or already cooked chicken.

Choose wisely when buying prepared foods. Despite your best efforts to cut back on convenience foods, they can still be part of your diet on occasion. When buying ready meals or meals to go, avoid fried foods and cheese options. Steamed, grilled, baked or poached entrees are generally healthier. Choose lower calorie sauces and condiments. Substitute brown rice, whole grain bread and other whole grains as much as possible, and stock up on fresh vegetables.


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