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January Diet Arsenal

This is a bit of a different post for me, but I get asked for diet tips quite a lot. I'm no expert, but I have spend a good proportion of my life trying to lose a few pounds so I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and thought I'd share them. The items above are all pretty key to losing weight quickly, and you should note that I generally follow a low cal, low carb diet - so you lucky people who do Slimming World and can eat all the pasta you like, this may not be for you. Also, some of these ideas are not the healthiest in the world and I'm not suggesting you take on some of my mental ways, I'm just telling you what works for me.

1) Sriracha

I wrote about this recently and mentioned how great it was for dieters. It is 14 calories per tablespoon, and that tablespoon delivers a good hit of moderately hot chilli and a hint of garlic, thus adding flavour to your food for very little effort and calories. Great on eggs, veg, fish, chicken, and most Eastern flavours. Stay away from the sugar laden sweet chilli sauce and use this instead.

2) Ready Made Polenta

Sure, this is a carb but this pack does at least 4-5 servings and only ends up being about 70-80 calories a go. A nice alternative to potatoes and very easy to use. I tend to dry fry or grill mine but you can also boil, microwave or even deep fry to make polenta chips. Obviously deep frying does not provide you with a saintly 70 calorie portion. Flavour with sage / parmesan / truffle salt / rosemary.

3) Black Coffee

Rightly or wrongly, I drink this all day. I've never been a caffeine dodger and a few cups of this keeps me going instead of snacking. Black coffee is zero calorie and also hikes up your metabolism for a bit, and people have been saying for yonks that it's great to have before a workout. You could put some coconut milk (dairy alternative not the cans you put in curry) in instead of milk if you like for about 10 calories. Lots of people report dairy to be bloating; personally I don't find it to be, but I like the taste of coconut milk and it has marginally fewer calories than standard semi skimmed.

4) Fat Free Natural Yoghurt

You've probably noticed by now that a lot of my recipes use yoghurt. I like creamy tasting things, and sadly that's a no go at the moment, so yoghurt provides a good alternative. Usually I'd say buy the full fat versions of things as they tend to pump reduced fat products full of sugar and all sorts of rubbish to compensate - this is particularly true of flavoured yoghurts - but natural yoghurt is fine low fat as long as you still pay attention to the overall calorie content. I use it in curries a lot, or to make a raita to go with the curry. Sometimes we even have it as an almost convincing sour cream substitute for Mexican foods. This pot is 48 calories per 100g and I tend to use about 50g per person, dependent on the dish.

5) Fake Berocca

I hate the taste of actual Berocca, but I can just about get on board with this Tesco knock off. I use it in the same way as black coffee - for an immediate pick me up, and I try to have one of these and wait 15 minutes before I decide if I do really actually need to eat something. They're not particularly healthy as they're full of sugar and additives, but at least there is some vit C and zinc in there too.

6) Virgin Coconut Oil

I love olive oil and it has a whole host of health benefits, but sadly weight loss is not one of them. So, at this time of year when I tend to eat more Asian type foods anyway then coconut oil is a good store cupboard addition. It is still a high fat item, but there is research to show it may help burn fat, plus it tastes good and I find I'm more conscious of how much I use (usually a teaspoon). Super fans bake with it, spread it on stuff and smear it on their faces but I just use it for my curries and stir fries. It doesn't have a massively overpowering coconut taste once heated, but I still don't think it works brilliantly for Mediterranean dishes.

7) Instant Miso Soup

At one time in my life when I weighed under 8 stone, I lived off this stuff for lunch and dinner. That is not to be advised. But if you're not *that* hungry, you can just about get away with having one for lunch. They're 26 calories per sachet, but after an hour or so, you will know it.

8) Crab

This can is about 50 calories worth of shredded crab meat and is really nice stirred into courgetti with chilli, garlic and maybe a bit of coconut oil. Or with an arrabiata type sauce. Or with a homemade no cheese pesto. Don't underestimate the power of canned seafood.

9) Crabsticks

I'm pretty sure these aren't actually allowed to be called crabsticks anymore due to the sheer lack of crab - these are mostly pollock. Whatever is in them, they're about 18 calories a stick and a couple of these mid-afternoon have staved off many a carb binge for me.

10) Ryvita

If I have lunch then it's usally these. I know they divide people as many believe them to taste of cardboard but I've always liked them. Depending on which ones you buy, they're about 35 calories a slice and they always seem to keep me quite full. I top with tomato and basil, or tuna and sweetcorn or maybe some leftover roast chicken and salad. Sadly the on-pack serving suggestion of goats cheese and red onion isn't as ok.

Despite not having a sweet tooth, I'm still searching for a way to ignore or replace the occasional sweet craving. All I do so far is have yet another coffee, sit on my hands or go to bed at 9pm to avoid eating, so do share if you have any solutions!

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