Need a snack? Check out our pick of healthy nuts

Almonds

Almonds are the perfect healthy nibble! Small, and perfectly formed, they can help to curb your appetite and prevent you from eating too much at mealtimes. Add a stash to your handbag for hunger emergencies.

Chestnuts

Not just a novelty Christmas food, you may be surprised to know that chestnuts are actually a superfood, packed full of nutritional goodness. 100g of these tasty nuts will provide you with 245 calories, much lower than other nuts such as almonds (weighing in at about 595 kcals per 100g). A 100g serving also contains 3g protein, 53g carbs, 2g fat and 5g fibre as well as being rich in antioxidants and containing vitamin C. What more reason do you need to roast a few of these dark brown beauties?

Nut butter

If you don't fancy the whole nut, why not try this alternative to peanut butter? It's nutty, nutritious and still tastes delicious, but it's a much healthier choice. Nut butters are nuts which have been ground into a smooth paste. Spread it on an oatcake or wholemeal toast for a tasty snack that will keep you full up until your next meal. Check out the range of nut butters available at meridianfoods.co.uk

Budget friendly foods that pack a nutritional punch

Forget fancy ingredients with their even fancier price tags. These cupboard staples pack a powerful nutritional punch without knocking out your budget - perfect when you have a whole family of hungry mouths to feed! Stock up on these healthy staples for cheaper, healthier cooking.

Onions

Red, white or yellow, onions are a super frugal food that can transform bland meals into something special. Why? Because what they offer in taste, they also match in nutritional value. ‘Onions contain more than 100 sulphur compounds renowned for their antibacterial properties,’ explains nutritionist Patrick Holford, author of The Ten Secrets of Healthy Ageing (£14.99, Piatkus). ‘Red onions in particular are high in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory that helps guard against heart disease. Recent evidence from the University of Berne in Switzerland has found that this unassuming bulb could also guard against the onset of osteoporosis. Expect to pay around 19p per onion. Absolute bargain!

Try it: Make a Greek salad by mixing red onion, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, olives and feta. Dress with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Apples

We all know the old saying, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away,’ but this is
no old wives’ tale, according to Patrick. ‘Apples are absolutely packed full of fibre and help to balance blood sugar levels,’ he says. ‘They are also very high in the
anti-inflammatory compound quercetin.’ In fact, a study reported in the journal New Scientist showed that taking high doses of quercetin can actually help to boost your immunity through periods of intense aerobic training. Scientists believe this is the result of quercetin’s ability to bind to viruses and bacteria to stop them replicating.

Try it: Grate one apple and add a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Add to natural yoghurt and serve as a topping on muesli.

Turmeric

Spices may cost a bit more than your average vegetable, but a little goes a long way and they last for months. And when you consider the amazing health benefits they offer, they’re worth every penny. ‘Spicing up your diet means you can buy cheaper foods, which you can transform with spices,’ explains British Dietetic Association dietitian Kelly McCabe. ‘Turmeric is particularly good as it contains an anti-cancer substance called curcumin.’ Turmeric lends itself perfectly to vegetable and meat tagine-style stews and curries, and at a purse-pleasing 99p for 100g, it’s a cheap and cheerful super spice.

Try it: Add a heaped tablespoon to root vegetable or lentil soups for a health-boosting meal.

Eggs

Long gone are the days when eggs were blamed for high cholesterol – they’re now widely recognised as a health food. A fantastic source of protein, eggs keep you fuller for longer and help support muscle growth and repair. ‘Eggs also contain phospholipids, which help to keep your brain healthy,’ adds Patrick. At around 23p for an organic egg, they’re super cheap and hugely versatile. And best of all, you don’t need great cooking skills to enjoy them, just the ability to boil a pan of water! What more could you want?

Try it: Poach two eggs in boiling water and serve on top of a few handfuls of steamed spinach for a nutrient-packed feast.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a savvy kitchen staple, perfect for stews, salads, houmous and beefing up your curries. They’ll set you back around 60p for a 400g can, and less if you buy them dried. Just three tablespoons of chickpeas equates to one portion of your five-a-day and they’re a pulse with powerful properties. ‘Chickpeas are high in isoflavones and phytoestrogens, which are believed to help regulate the body’s production of oestrogen to help lower the risk of breast cancer,’ says Patrick. ‘They’re also a great source of protein.’

Try it: Make your own houmous by blending cooked chickpeas with lemon juice, garlic, tahini and olive oil until smooth. Top with paprika.

Peas

Peas are a cheap and versatile legume, and are great in a whole range of meals from soups to salads. Like soya beans, they are also high in phytoestrogens, which are thought to help guard you against cancer and osteoporosis. ‘Peas are also a really great source of vitamin C,’ adds Kelly. ‘Frozen peas are also much more nutritious than fresh peas, because the flash-freezing process locks in their nutrients.’ At around 90p for 900g, that’s a seriously cheap eat.

Try it: Cook frozen peas in chicken stock until tender. Drain and season with chopped mint and freshly ground black pepper.

Oats

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so give sugary cereals the push and opt for a nutritious bowl of oat porridge to give your morning a real kick-start. ‘Oats are high in soluble fibres known as beta-glucans, which help to even out your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and keep you feeling full,’ explains Patrick. On a per gram basis, oats contain a higher concentration of protein, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin E than any other unfortified grain. And at 20p per 100g of organic oats, you can afford to splurge on this superfood.

Try it: Cook 60g of oats with a mix of half milk/half water and serve with a handful of fresh berries.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are available all year round, but they’re in season now. Prices vary, but the average tomato costs around £1.50 per kilo. That’s even better value when you consider their nutritional content. ‘Tomatoes are almost 90 per cent water, so they’re a great source of hydration,’ says Patrick. ‘They also contain more vitamin C than citrus when eaten raw.’ Prefer your tomatoes cooked? No problem – heat only increases the levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which can help prevent inflammation in the body.

Try it: Roast tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. Serve with toasted rye bread.

Trout

Like the sound of healthy, glowing skin, as well as protection against heart disease and arthritis? No problem. Oily fish, like trout, is the perfect choice for frugalistas.

‘Trout is full of omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to improve protection against inflammatory disease,’ explains Kelly. ‘It also contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, which improve skin health.’ It’s a super-cheap health booster!

Experts recommend eating two to three portions of oily fish per week, so if you’re on a budget, trout will also help to keep you in the black at around 98p per fillet.

Try it: Mix one smoked trout fillet with natural yoghurt, lemon and horseradish and serve on wholegrain toast.

These six key foods will help you loose weight and feel fitter

Celery – high in fibre and many minerals, this crunchy vegetable is best eaten raw, to slow the release of the nutrients from the rest of your meal. And it contains zero fat.

Quinoa – a seed rather than a grain, the combination of protein and complex carbohydrate in quinoa provides you with energy for several hours after eating.

Avocado – long considered a no-no for traditional dieters, this fruit is higher in protein than most, and supplies ample essential fats, together with a high dose of vitamin E – which is great for reducing stretch marks and wrinkles caused by rapid weight-loss.

Oats – the total superfood for energy, weight-loss and anti-ageing, oats are lower in gluten than wheat, which tends to bung up the digestive system. They provide slow-release energy, and reduce cholesterol.

Chia seeds – the newest kid on the block, nutrient-rich chia seeds add bulk, fibre, protein and essential fats to cereals, smoothies and salads. For a great energy boost and to stave off hunger for longer, soak overnight in water. A 28g serving gives you half your fibre RDA.

Green tea - Research in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that drinking green tea combined with resistance training helps reduce body fat, waist circumference and triglyceride levels.

FIVE DIET NO-NO’s

- Don’t cook more than you need for each meal, unless you are planning to use a protein, such as chicken or salmon, in your salad lunch the next day.

- Don’t buy bulk packs of foods to reduce costs – you will never shrink your waistline this way!

- Don’t go back for seconds – stick to the ‘one-plate’ rule.

- Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach – it’s high in calories and will sabotage your slimming programme from the start.

- Don’t embark on a limited food range – your body will quickly rebel, and you’ll find yourself craving inappropriate foods.

Feel and look great with our smart eating tips

Eating healthy meals and hitting the gym religiously, but still carrying those extra few pounds? If you're topping up your calorie count with one too many sneaky snacks, it might be ruining all your hard work. Snacking between meals is fine, but your snacks need to be portioned out and nutritionally sound. So no, a chococlate biscuit (or two!) and a handful of sweeties definitely won't cut it. Follow our top tips below for smart snacking and watch the pounds fall off.

 

    • The key to good eating habits during the day is a nutritious breakfast. Make sure it contains protein, as well as slow-releasing carbohydrates to fill you up. Cereal and porridge are popular options, but they’re low in protein. Top them with fruit, natural yoghurt and nuts and seeds to ramp up the protein and fibre content, it’ll keep you going until lunchtime.

 

    • When packing your lunch for work, throw two snacks into your bag of roughly 200 calories each. Your snacks should be well-constructed mini-meals, just like breakfast, lunch and dinner, and contain fibre, protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat. Being prepared will stop you picking at the unhealthy offerings at work.

 

    • Banish snacks to your desk drawer, but have a bottle of water in view at all times. Each time you have a snack attack, take a sip of water instead. Switch your caffeine fixes to herbal tea to boost your hydration. Coffee is a diuretic, which means it makes you thirstier, and you could be confusing thirst for hunger.

 

  • Birthdays in the office can seem a weekly occurrence. Of course you should allow yourself the odd cheat treat, but make sure there’s a trade-off. If you have a chocolate biscuit (roughly 100 calories), commit to a brisk 15-minute walk at lunchtime.

 

Healthy snack choices

Half an avocado  140 calories. Full of fibre and essential fats.

One apple and 20g almond butter  175 calories. Almond butter contains magnesium, vitamin E and calcium.

One hard-boiled egg  70 calories. Contains healthy fats and 6.5g protein.

90g edamame beans  120 calories. 36 per cent protein and high in fibre.

Natural yoghurt with berries/seeds  185 calories. A sprinkling of seeds contains 35 per cent protein.

Crudités and houmous  50g low-fat houmous contains 125 calories. Carrots contain 37 calories per 100g.

Get the most from your workouts with these gym-friendly foods

For a cheap and easy snack, the banana is the ideal pre-workout snack. They are full of potassium and magnesium to help fuel up your cells and muscles.
Spread some nut butter on an oatcake for an easy-to-make snack that will provide a slow release of energy to keep you going. We like the range available from Meridian Foods, (www.meridianfoods.co.uk) who make speciality nut butters such as cashew and almond, as well as more traditional peanut butter.
A CLIF bar is a great option either before or after exercise. Organic oats and dates provide a tasty treat that's full of fibre and protein, plus they contain 11 different vitamins. Healthy and delicious, what could be better? Grab one at Boots or Tesco for £1.60.
To keep hydrated, swap out sugary sports drinks for coconut water, which naturally replenishes any lost electrolytes. Make sure you keep drinking water, aim for at least two litres every day.

Looking for a protein shake that really packs a punch? We can help

Protein shakes are often associated with bulging, muscly men who've just left the gym after a session of god knows what. But actually, women need protein too, and if you're an especially active one, chances are you need a fair amount of the stuff.

You might find it tough to get enough protein through food if you exercise a lot, or your busy lifestyle might not allow you to prepare as many of your meals as you'd like. This is where protein shakes come in. You can chug one back immediately after a tough session to get the protein to your muscles quickly, and you can carry it in your bag until you need it. It's like they were made for us.

There are a lot of options on the market these days, so make sure you opt for a high-quality one that tastes good, too. You want to look forward to your post-exercise treat, after all. Here are our picks of the best protein shakes.

Protein World Slender Blend (£30)

Featuring a unique blend of whey protein and fat-fighting nutrients such as raspberry ketones and green tea, this weight loss-based protein drink comes in four yummy flavours. It's also vegetarian and gluten-free.

Maxitone Sculptress Diet (£24.99)

Not only is this shake packed with protein making it perfect for a post-workout meal, but it also boasts 21 vitamins and minerals, ensuring you're getting the nutrients you need on a daily basis.

PhD Woman Support & Recovery (£21.59)

It's not just the fact that this shake can be used before and after exercise, or that it's full of vitamins and minerals perfect for women that makes us love it. It's the to-die-for Chocolate Cookie flavour that we just love.

Solgar Whey To Go (£17.25)

With no artificial sweeteners and extracted using a low heat and no chemicals, this is definitely the health-conscious woman's choice. The hydrolysed form that the whey takes also makes it super-absorbant.

Nature's Plus Ultra Energy (£26.75)
For those who need to steer clear of dairy, this blend of pea, rice and soy protein is perfect. It also boasts a low GI and can double up as your daily multivitamin.

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Don't let the 9-5 sabotage your weight loss efforts. Try these tips and tricks to stay in control

Work can be one of the easiest places to fall off the weight-loss wagon. From coercive co-workers to the office biscuit tin, it's a minefield of potential diet disasters. Now, it seems a tidy desk can make or break your diet as scientists at the University of Minnesota have discovered that those who have a tidy desk are more likely to snack on apples, while those working amid mountains of mess are more likely to choose chocolate.

The theory is that an ordered workspace encourages good decision-making. So, if you want to keep your diet in check, clear up the clutter! And, after that, there are some simple, round-the-clock steps you can take to ensure your healthy habits stick. Try these techniques to transform your workspace into a diet friendly environment. Keep this up for a month and we bet you'll see results!

8am: Big up breakfast

It’s the healthiest start to the day, so why do so many of us avoid this morning marvel? Even if it means getting up half an hour earlier, eating breakfast is the best way to steer your diet in the right direction. Skipping it puts your adrenal glands under stress and inevitably invites you to reach for a mid-morning sugar hit.

Make it work: Time not on your side? Make your own Bircher muesli the evening before. Soak 50g oats in 20ml apple juice or water and 200ml coconut milk, and top with half a small apple, grated. Place the mix in an airtight container and stash it in the fridge. In the morning, add a few blueberries, some nuts and seeds and a dollop of natural yoghurt. If you don’t have a hearty appetite first thing, eat a few spoonfuls and save the rest for later.

9am: Lose the latte

Does your daily commute include a coffee-shop pit stop? Most of us need a morning pick-me-up, but that foam-filled large latte will add a whopping 299 calories to your daily intake.

Make it work: Kick coffee to the kerb and stick the kettle on instead. Green tea gives an energy kick similar to caffeine, minus the roller-coaster adrenaline crash (and those excess calories). Add a slice of lemon to give your liver a detox too. And don’t forget to keep a big bottle of water on your desk. We like the Gaiam Tree Of Life Water Bottle, £12.99, gaiam.co.uk.

11am: Snack smart

Mindless munching at your desk is too easy – and chances are, you’re getting a little peckish by now. Instead of polishing off a packet of pre-lunch crisps, fill up with a healthy option.

Make it work: Rice cakes (look for those made with brown rather than white rice) provide a similarly satisfying crunch to crisps, minus the trans-fats. Liven them up with slices of cheese and cucumber, or a cup of miso soup. Try Clearspring Organic Instant Miso On The Go, £1.29, clearspring.co.uk.

1pm: Liven up your lunchbox

A homemade lunch may sound like hard work, but that shop-bought cheese and pickle sandwich won’t help your five-a-day quota – so be smart if you want to slim down. Don’t have time to prepare lunch in the morning? Make enough dinner the evening before to leave leftovers for lunch. Easy peasy!

Make it work: Cook vegetable moussaka, hearty stews and Thai curries for dinner and pack up a serve for lunch before you dig in. Add as many fresh veggies as possible for maximum nutrition.

3pm: Snack smart, part two

Uh-oh, is that your tummy grumbling? When mid-afternoon munchies strike, it’s so tempting to reach for a treat, but that sugar fix could
undo the hard work you’ve put in all day.

Make it work: It’s easy to feel left out when your workmates are chowing down on choc-chip cookies – but it’s hard to stop at one once you’ve jumped on the sugar roller-coaster! Keep a stash of healthy treats, such as raw nuts or carrot sticks and houmous, to hand. If you’re feeling indulgent, enjoy a natural yoghurt with dried cranberries and a drizzle of honey or a Chia Bia fruit and nut bar, £1.55, auravita.com.

5pm: Fuel up

If you find that you feel ravenous by the time you reach your front door, be smart and fill up on something sensible before your journey home. Preventative measures are key!

Make it work: A cup of liquorice tea, paired with an apple and a spoonful of nut butter, should keep cravings at bay until you get home. Or, if you’re in a hurry, fuel up on the go with help from the Vegesentials Beetroot Kiwi & Carrot Smoothie, £1.99, ocado.com.