If you have a weight loss goal for health or athletic reasons, you might need to eat less. While eating smaller portions is an option, this post will show you how to create an energy deficit without sacrificing satiety and nutrition.
How to create an energy deficit
1. Cook most of your food (or buy low energy pre-made meals)
Foods from restaurants and takeaway shops are usually higher in energy than home-cooked meals because they rely on large amounts of energy-dense ingredients mainly for taste purposes. Many of these ingredients are cooking fats and oils, which are very energy dense.
Cooking most of your food allows you to control how much and what goes in your food. It also allows you to control portion sizes without falling in the “I paid for this, therefore I’ll finish it” mentality.
If you don’t have the time or desire to cook, there are many pre-made meals available in supermarkets and via online ordering. Make sure you pick those that align with your energy requirements.
2. Load on low energy, nutrient dense foods
Part of the satiety equation is volume. Loading on low energy, nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, legumes and fruit, ensures you hit satiety earlier without packing on too many calories. In addition, they provide many of the nutrients you need for optimal health.
3. Drink only low energy fluids
If you need to create an energy deficit, water should be your beverage of choice, followed by unsweetened coffee, tea and infusions. Energy-containing drinks such as juice, soft drinks, cordial, smoothies, energy drinks, flavoured coffees, alcoholic drinks, etc. are way too easy to consume, adding up to your energy intake without necessarily filling you up.
4. Limit fat intake (even from whole foods)
Fat is the most energy dense macronutrient. This means that a gram of fat has more kilojoules/kilocalories than a gram of carbohydrate, a gram of protein and even a gram of alcohol. If you need to reduce your energy intake, you can limit your fat intake by:
- Choosing leaner sources of protein (e.g. tenderloin vs rib eye steak, skinless chicken breast vs chicken thigh, pork loin vs pork belly, trimmed lamb leg vs lamb shoulder)
- Limiting added fats in cooking and dressings. In many instances, you can cut down the amount of fat used in recipes without sacrificing flavour too much.
- Choosing canned fish packed in water rather than oil
- Choosing reduced fat dairy foods (milk, cheese, yoghurt)
- Not overdoing whole foods that are rich in fats, such as avocado, olives and most nuts
5. Always choose the least processed version of foods
This includes avoiding processed snacks. Sorry, but these are not going to reach your goal.
Even if you are not eating chips, biscuits and chocolate, you might be eating too many calories from more processed version of some healthy foods. Examples include:
- Choose whole nuts (e.g. peanuts, almonds) rather than ground (e.g. peanut butter, almond meal)
- Choose plain rolled oats (or even better, steel-cut oats) rather than quick oats
- Choose fresh fruit rather than a fruit cup
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