Swap and Drop
10 ways to keep your diet exciting
Don’t get stuck eating the same thing every day. Here’s how to keep your diet exciting so you can stick with it
Make your own salad bar
For a family dinner one night this week, put together a salad bar and invite the whole crew to create their own salads. Include at least two vegetables that aren’t usually on the menu – jicama, radicchio or artichoke hearts, for instance, as well as some cooked chickpeas and lentils for protein. Warm up a loaf of whole-wheat bread. For dessert, serve up a selection of colourful sorbets topped with berries.
Throw a taco party
Tacos are a terrific way to serve up vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce and grilled peppers. Spread all the ingredients on the dining table and let everyone make their own. Use soft corn tortillas rather than hard taco shells – they contain much less fat – and mix things up by using cooked black beans instead of refried beans. Help yourself to as much salsa as you want, dab on some guacamole and skip sour cream.
Slim down an old standard
Take one of your favourite comfort meals and give it a boost by adding a few servings of vegetables. Broccoli is terrific in tuna casserole, for instance, and chickpeas make a great addition to spaghetti with tomato sauce. Green peppers can liven, and lighten, up a bowl of chili. If you’d like, use an online calorie counter to tally up the precise calories in your revamped meal.
Order a feast of appetizers
Choose a restaurant with a wide range of appetizers and vegetable sides, such as a Spanish-style tapas restaurant, and have a feast. Share the dishes with your dinner companions, and you can order practically every small dish on the menu without having to worry about portion sizes.
Start with only as many dishes as there are people at the table. If you’re still hungry, order more. Steer clear of fried foods, of course, and include plenty of vegetables.
Chances are your local fish market features at least a few kinds of fish you haven’t tried. Be adventurous and cook up something new – giant prawns or mahi mahi, for instance.
Once you’ve got the fish home, choose a recipe that involves baking or grilling, not frying. There are many low-calorie ways to give fish a burst of flavour, such as Cajun spices or a simple squeeze of lime juice. Capers and spicy salsas are also terrific on fish and other seafood.
Try baking your own loaf of bread. Consider investing in a breadmaker if you don’t have one – then you can just pop the ingredients in, head out on a couple of errands and come back to a freshly baked loaf. Choose recipes that include whole-wheat flour and, even better, whole grains like oats.
Have a pizza extravaganza
Most markets sell do-it-yourself pizza crusts that make preparing a homemade pizza fast and easy. Get a group together for a pizza party. Include at least two vegetable toppings and use shredded cheese rather than slices, so you get more coverage with less cheese. Try grating hard goat cheese or smoked mozzarella for more flavour.
Create your own signature pasta
No other dish is as versatile, and pasta itself comes in a wide range of shapes and colours – from familiar fettuccine to fun shapes like orecchiete (shells) and cavatappi (corkscrew macaroni). And the ingredients that go with pasta are virtually limitless – from shrimp to sliced chicken, to kalamata olives, artichokes, basil, diced tomatoes, fava beans, tuna, capers, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, parmesan cheese…you get the idea. Put on your chef’s hat this week, and create your own pasta masterpiece.
Try a new food
Come home from the grocery store with a vegetable you haven’t tried before. Ever eaten daikon? What about fennel? Farmer’s markets are also a great source of inspiration; when you’re surrounded by all that seasonal bounty, it’s easy to find something delicious to try.
Travel the world
Sample a cuisine you haven’t tried before or have never prepared at home. Check your library or local bookstore for a cookbook that specializes in a particular ethnic cuisine, or read restaurant listings for inspiration before dining out. Chances are you’ll discover a world of new ingredients and tastes.