10 kitchen hacks that help you lose weight

If you’ve read the Banting Red List, you will know what you need to give up to lose weight. For the most part it is processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and refined carbs.

Knowing to cut the red list out, however, is often not enough. Members need to take action to get the red list out of their lives and the best action to do this is to cook.

If you cook everything you eat, it is impossible to eat processed food.

That’s our logic, but it turns out there is some science behind it too. It was found in a recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity that there is a strong ‘association between home food preparations skills and behaviour and consumption of ultra-processed food.

The whole study can be summed up as follows: The more skills you have in the kitchen, the less likely you are to eat processed food (The Banting Red List)…

And we would add: …and the more likely you are to lose weight.

This makes the first kitchen hack obvious:

1 Expand your repertoire

Knowing how to cook lots of different things is the key to success on any diet. If you understand what methods create which flavours and how to manipulate them, you will improve the fun you have with cooking tenfold. As far as losing weight goes, by simply knowing more recipes you will be able to conjure up anything to satisfy a craving you’re dealing with.

If you know how to cook, you can turn any list of foods into something exciting. Whether it is Banting or not.

2 Get your hands dirty

Have you ever spent the day cooking and watched everyone else eat your food while you can’t face the thought of eating anything? There is a paradox in this one. Learning to cook allows you to create more enjoyable, pleasurable eating experiences, but it also takes your appetite away.

Take turns to cook or offer to cut the veggies or make the salad.

3 Buy foods in their most basic form

Following on from the above hack, having ingredients in their most basic form will create a little more work for you to do. Peeling, grating, pureeing and chopping are all tasks you can delegate to family members or get good at on your own.

Another benefit of buying whole foods is the lack of additives. You have 100% control over what goes into every dish. That’s power.

4 Stock up on Tupperware or storage containers

It sounds stupid, but having enough storage containers in an accessible place and corresponding storage space will make it easier to keep leftovers.

But how does that help me lose weight?

When you’re dishing up your dinner, put your plates out with the Tupperware and dish up as though the Tupperware is dining with you. Then before sitting down, pop the leftovers in the fridge. This way, whatever is on your plate is what you are eating and seconds will become lunch, a much safer bet.

5 Season and sauce with vinegar

You’ve heard that a glass of water with apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight. Vinegar has also been shown to lower the glycaemic load of even the starchiest foods like rice and French fries (no – don’t go and eat French fries).

But, salt and acidity can actually bring flavours in food to life and be healthy at the same time. A good vinaigrette will have enough acidity to do what it needs to do, enough salt to keep up your sodium levels and enough fat to help satiate you.

Vinaigrette made right (good quality vinegar or plain old lemon juice with proper olive oil) actually makes a better sauce in some instances than a cream or tomato based sauce.

Try adding vinaigrette or lemon dressing to your next batch of sautéed spinach, roast broccoli or cauliflower, steamed carrots or even a steak grill.

Remember, if you’re making a salad dressing, you can soften it by adding more oil and you can sharpen it by adding more lemon juice or acidity. And of course you can flavour it with whatever you want.

6 Don’t sweat, caramelise

We crave sweetness. It is in our DNA. Giving up sugar is tough. But there are natural sugars in everything you eat that can be brought to life with the right cooking skills.

When food gets grilled or sautéed until it turns golden brown, the change in colour is the result of a reaction called the Maillard Reaction. The Maillard Reaction is the caramelisation of natural sugars.

Whenever the Maillard Reaction occurs, a natural sweetness is brought out of the foods. Think about eating a raw onion, then a softened one and then eating an onion that has been fried until it is dark brown. The darkest onion will always be the sweetest and that is because the caramelisation of the natural sugars in the onion has made it taste sweeter and more delicious.

If you’re the kind of person who used to add a pinch of sugar to a tomato sauce or even a brandy and mushroom sauce, hold the sugar next time. Rather than following the recipe by simply ‘sweating the onions’, take it a step further and caramelise them to be darker and sweeter.

We all know quitting sugar helps us lose weight.

7 Cook your veggies to al dente

There are two schools of thought when it comes to eating raw or cooked. Raw foods are harder to digest and as a result keep you ‘fuller for longer’ if that is a thing. Cooked foods, vegetables in particular, have had the fibrous walls broken down, making it easier for your body to access the nutrients. These nutrients signal to the brain to tell you that you are sufficiently nourished (the appestat).

If you follow the appestat theory/model, you want to get the nutrients to your brain as fast as possible so you know to stop eating. This means eating nutrient dense foods prepared in a way that maximises nutrient absorption.

There are some vegetables that release nutrients more easily when they’re cooked, like broccoli. There are some vegetables that lose all their nutrients from certain types of cooking, like if you had to boil lettuce. That’s not great.

We say your best bet is to cook your veggies al dente which means ‘to the tooth’ in Italian. That is the point when they are no longer raw but they still have a bit of crunch.

If you do this, you will keep most of the fibre intact, but soften the veggies enough to maximise your access to nutrients (or nutrient absorption).

And don’t forget…

8 Reuse your cooking liquor

When you blanch veggies or boil anything for that matter, don’t throw away the water. The reason boiled veggies are low in nutrients isn’t because the nutrients evaporate, it is because they leach into the water.

Imagine the nutrients in vegetables as if they are chunks of dirt on a kitchen cloth. If you dunk that cloth into a boiling water for 10 minutes and stir it around a bit, it will come out clean. There will be nothing but cloth in your hand and dirt in the water. The same goes for vegetables. If you dunk veggies into boiling water for 10 minutes, the veggies will come out low in flavour and nutrients. The water will have all of those nutrients and some of the flavours in it.

Use this water for a sauce or even better, for a bone broth. If you turn cooking liquor that has blanched five batches of veggies into a broth, it will come out as a pure nutrient injection – this will tell your brain you’ve well satiated without you need to eat much at all.

9 Know your spices

Another way of addressing your constant craving for sweetness is to trick your mind with sweet associations. Spices like cloves, cinnamon, star anise, aniseed, fennel, nutmeg, all spice, ginger, cardamom and vanilla all have sweet associations.

If you’re absolutely dying, it might be better than having sugar if you have a slice of bread made with ingredients from the light red list and some spices. You could have it with a thick slice of butter.

Any of the above spices in some yoghurt or kefir will also calm a hunger pang.

10 Don’t cook

OK, maybe not ‘don’t cook’. But pickle and ferment. Fermented foods are becoming accepted as a major factor contributing to longer lives and lower obesity rates in countries like Japan and Korea. While scientist try and prove what we already know, our members have already lost heaps of weight eating fermented pickles, krauts and drinks.

Pickled things also last forever so you can take one day to prepare a supply of snacky things that will fill gaps for months, even years. Don’t turf anything. Just weigh your waste and add 2% of that weight in salt and cover it with water. (1kg of veg + 20g of salt. Mix well. Stuff into jar. Cover with water. Leave forever)