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The No-diet Diet - For Anyone Not on a Diet

The main foodstuffs to cut down are the ones your body doesn't need. Unless you are leading a very energetic lifestyle, most fats sugars and carbohydrates are surplus to requirement and will be stored as body fat. As the primary provider, you can reduce your intake of these by making a few simple adjustments; if someone else is preparing your meals, ask them to help you with your no-diet; and when dining out, order less and leave some on the plate - by that I don't mean just the salad! Check through your notes and put a red cross next to those foods which you know contain any fat or sugar, also the ones that are high in carbs. Put two crosses against the real naughties like cakes and cookies. To get some idea of the problems they have caused you, check out a cook-book recipe for biscuits and you'll see that most are loaded with calories. Reducing these by only a small amount will make a difference. Cutting back on the frequency will be even better. Wherever there is a red cross, the calorie-culprit needs pruning back - but just a little to start with.

It is easy enough to cook less potato, pasta and rice for the meal. Make this one of your priorities, taking off about 10% to 15% from the serve of carbs you've been having in the past. If your normal practice is to present food in dishes for the diners to serve themselves, try not to put out too much; and if there's some left over, don't you be the one to finish it. Preferably, serve up individual plates. When additional fats and sugars are part of a standard recipe, experiment by reducing them, just marginally so that the taste isn't noticeably affected. Over time, you will get used to the new mix and will ideally be able to cut it back even more. Mashed potato, for example, tastes great with butter and full-cream milk to make it creamy. A bit less fat, skim milk and some seasoning isn't much different. Or you can leave out the butter and milk altogether, then fry it as patties in a pan that has a bare coating of Canola oil for a really tasty, cholesterol-free vegie with very little fat.

Pastry can be a problem because it isn't easy to make a good one unless you rub in enough fat - usually just under half the weight of the flour. I've had reasonable success using:
      120g plain flour     30g self-raising flour     15g maize meal       50g margarine     ¼ tsp salt     50ml cold water
Mix the dry ingredients together, rub in the fat until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add the water a little at a time to produce the pastry dough. This makes a light, textured pastry suitable for many savoury dishes. I know it doesn't sound much different with respect to the fat content, but every little helps. And that's your guideline - bit by bit.

Here’s another variation you might like to try:
  120g plain flour     30g self-raising flour     35ml Canola oil     40ml cold water

Mix dry ingredients together, work in the oil using the back of a fork, then add water. This pastry is more pliable than usual and once rolled will line baking tins and dishes for pie bases with less chance of cracking. The bonus, however, is that you have a lower-fat, cholesterol-free, no-salt pastry that you don’t have to be an expert to make. If I were you, though, I’d still relegate your favourite pie to one meal a week. Same with the cookies and cakes - try not to have any of these fatty dishes too often. Substitute fresh fruit to give yourself plenty of variety and your metabolism a break.

You probably love take-out. The trouble is, you can't buy two-thirds of a burger, and pizzas are usually fattening. Make these yourself and you can control what goes into them. For a reduced-fat alternative to the usual, check out our No-cheese Pizza – Recipe 06, and replace the smoked sausage meats with low-fat cooked meats. Also, boil the ham and bacon in plain water for five minutes, then drain to reduce fat and salt content. And what about finger food? There seems no sense in heating up just a couple of dim sims or curry puffs. Actually, though, it does make a lot of sense, so do it; but think of these foodstuffs as special treats which you have only once a week, always assuming you can survive that long without them. In conjunction with a cup of soup, you have quite a tasty feed. If you can't go without for seven days because you usually have this type of food every day, try resisting for a day, or two. Don't make the mistake of total abstinence in the beginning - you'll most likely fail and that will wreck the no-diet completely. Even French fries aren't all that bad as long as you steer clear of the take-out ones - they are deep-fried in oil and usually loaded with calories and cholesterol. Buy some no-cholesterol, oven-bake fries from the supermarket. A recent survey in Australia proved them to be a far healthier option. They are our treat once in a while, and we reckon they taste pretty good.

While on the subject of snacks, see if you can get yourself off grazing - that's when you have a constant supply of crisps, savoury nibbles, cookies, etc, that you keep dipping into. It becomes an automatic hand-to-mouth process and is often an accompaniment to a distraction like TV or a casual chat with friends. If you can't do without some kind of food during these sessions, try preparing some club sandwiches. Use plenty of salad filling and cut them into quarters, then nibble them while having your soup.

Along with the kind of food you eat and how much you serve of it, the way you eat has an important bearing on hunger and satisfaction. Taking small bites and chewing properly not only aids with digestion, but also helps satisfy hunger without stretching the stomach. Even the amount you put on the fork or spoon can help with your no-diet. If there's so much that it keeps falling off, that's too much. And if you can't talk and make yourself understood with food in your mouth and without spraying it all over the place, then you probably have bitten off more than you can comfortably chew - it doesn't impress present company, either. Taking time over a meal increases the enjoyment of it, and the satisfaction will last longer.

Drinks are one of the worst traps for the weight-watcher. They swell the stomach, but only temporarily, and introduce many unhealthy additives. Even diet sodas can be detrimental and are not recommended for children because of certain metabolic and psychological side-effects. As an adult, you may not be bouncing off the walls, but don't make the mistake of believing they are harmless to you. Aside from the effect of the additives, the fizz alone will blow you out and once the liquid and gas has been disposed of, the space it took up in your stomach will need filling.

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