46 Food-Hacking Ways to a Healthier You

46 Food-Hacking Ways to a Healthier You
46 Food-Hacking Ways to a Healthier You

1 Eat cold greens instead of warm ones. Crisp lettuce takes up more room on the plate and requires more crunching. While it’s probably not the greens themselves that pack on the pounds, there’s something to be said for filling up your plate (and your mouth) with salad instead of other stuff.


2 Blot oil off of pizza. Blotting the oil off of pizza can save you up to 200kJ per slice, says Ilyse Schapiro, registered dietitian and coauthor of Should I Scoop Out my Bagel. And if you abide by the belief that every kilojoule counts, that’s not nothing.

3 Eat plain, dark-meat poultry instead of light meat loaded with condiments. Dark meat (such as chicken thighs) get a bad rep for containing more fat and kilojoules than white meat (such as chicken breasts). But dark meat, which tends to be more moist and flavourful than its lighter counterpart, only has about 40 more kilojoules per 30g, according to Schapiro. And because light meat tends to be dry, you end up covering it in condiments, which can contribute loads of kilojoules that settle the score. As long as you eat dark meat without the extra toppings, it could be a better choice than white meat drowned in tomato sauce, mayo or gravy.

4 Top pasta and pizza with garlic powder, freshly grated pepper or red pepper instead of grated Parmesan. The kilojoules in spices are negligible, while two heaped tablespoons of Parmesan cheese can easily tack on 200kJ, Schapiro says.

5 Eat bagel flats instead of full bagels. This trick beats scooping out the dough, which saves kilojoules but also makes more room for high-kilojoule fillings.

6 Instead of sharing a starter and ordering your own meal, order your own starter and split a main. When you share starters, you’re more likely to agree to ordering unhealthy ones – and they tend to be more appropriately portioned for one than some of the colossal mains you see on menus, so you’ll save kilojoules by eating less food overall. Order a salad or broth-based soup as a starter to fill you up, and share one main (which tends to be large enough for two anyway).

Related: The Healthy Girl’s Guide to Eating Out

7 Dress your food yourself. Order salad dressing, aioli and sauces on the side to control the amount you eat. No shame if you down the entire portion: chances are it will still be much less than the amount you would have unknowingly eaten had the condiment been added in the kitchen.

8 Pour off the oil that collects at the top of peanut butter jars and dressing bottles.

Jessica Juliao

Natural peanut butter and vinaigrette sometimes separate because oil is less dense than other ingredients. Instead of stirring or shaking the container to combine, pour the oil off. You’ll skim off about 500kJ and 14g of fat for each tablespoon of oil you discard, leaving fewer kilojoules in every remaining serving.

Jessica Juliao

Pro tip: leave a bit of oil in nut butters to make spreading easier, and keep some oil in your dressing – your body needs fat to function, so you want to make sure you’re getting enough.

9 Order vinaigrette instead of creamy salad dressing. It often saves you kilojoules and fat, particularly if you pour off some of the oil that collects on top of the vinegar using tip 8. (It’s another reason to order your dressing on the side.)

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10 Use unsweetened almond milk in your coffee. While a splash of skim or 2% low-fat milk obviously won’t kill your diet, the kilojoules in creamers and whole milk add up. Unsweetened almond milk often contains half the kilojoules of skim, so the simple swap can save you quite a few over time.

11 Eat white fish instead of dark fish. Cod and tuna contain fewer kilojoules per 50g than salmon. While salmon’s extra kilojoules come from super-healthy fats (which are definitely worth eating), choosing a less fatty fish will save you kilojoules if that’s the ultimate goal.

12 Bake or grill instead of frying. When you cook food in a frying pan over direct heat, you need to add oil or butter to the bottom of the pan to stop ingredients from sticking. That adds kilojoules. But food sticking isn’t such a big problem when there’s no pan or when you cook using the indirect heat in your oven.

13 Eat whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Some whole-grain breads contain slightly fewer kilojoules than white bread (or just as many). But whole-grain breads contain more fibre to keep you full for longer, so you end up eating fewer kilojoules later on. (In other words, you lose the battle but win the war.)

14 Add chicken to your pizza. A measly 85g of chicken can add about 25 grams of protein to your meal, according to Smith.

15 Use Greek yoghurt instead of mayo. Smith likes this trick because Greek yoghurt contains about 10 times as much protein as mayonnaise does.

16 Mix in liquid that forms on top of yoghurt. As unappetising as the cloudy water might appear, it is worth eating because it contains valuable whey protein. Mix it back into the yoghurt and try to forget what you saw when you peeled back the lid.

17 Eat quinoa instead of rice. Quinoa may be a grain but it stands alone as a complete source of protein. It also makes a solid stand-in for oatmeal in the morning.

18 Combine two carbs to make a complete protein. ​It’s a trick vegetarians and vegans swear by.

Lauren Ahn

19 ​Scoop the dough out of your bagel. ​This can save you upwards of 800kJ, according to Schapiro, and it creates a cavity for you to refill that kilojoule void with protein-rich toppings such as tuna, cream cheese and smoked salmon.

20 Eat warm greens instead of cold ones. Veggies such as spinach and kale wilt when you cook them (see tip 1). When each leaf takes up less room, you’ll add even more of them to your bowl to constitute a substantial-sized serving, and likely eat more greens overall.


21 Order vegetables on your pizza or in your pasta dish. It’s not salad, it’s ‘pizza salad’.

Related: All I Ate for a Week Was Pizza and I Lost 2kg

22 Add fruit to cereal or oatmeal. A crisp chopped apple can naturally sweeten hot or cold cereal, and give every bite a satisfying crunch.

23 ‘Butter’ your toast with avocado. A ripe avocado spreads easily and gets your breakfast Insta-ready.

24 Stuff spinach and tomatoes inside your grilled cheese sandwich. Wrapped up as they are in cheesy goodness, you’ll forget the veggies are even there.

25 Add tinned veggies to tinned soup. While you’re in the tinned goods aisle, grab an extra tin of carrots, corn, peppers, green beans or mushrooms. (If your middle name isn’t ‘Lazy’, you can also use fresh or frozen veggies.) Add them to minestrone, chicken soup or chowder – you really can’t go wrong.

26 Dress your salad with more salad. Double or nothing: try pro chef Candice Kumai’s carrot-ginger dressing recipe. Combine 3 chopped carrots,  ½ cup rice vinegar and 2T each of chopped onion, reduced-sodium soy sauce, water and chopped fresh ginger. Blend until smooth.

27 Swap your bowl of cereal for a smoothie bowl. Smoothies are the easiest way to sneak green things into your breakfast – and fruit sweetens the deal. Just blend until smooth:

Lauren Ahn

​And if you miss your bowl of corn flakes? Pour the smoothie into a bowl, top with cereal and eat it with a spoon. (The frozen fruit in the recipes above makes for an extra-thick and creamy consistency.)

28 Use full-fat dressing. This doesn’t technically add more produce to your diet but consuming healthy fats (such as olive oil from vinaigrette) helps your body absorb more of the nutrients (like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K) from the produce you eat.

Related: 5 Eating Habits That Will Keep You Healthy for Longer

29 Buy plain yoghurt instead of flavoured yoghurt. This can spare you upwards of 15g of sugar, depending on the brand, according to registered dietitian Isabel Smith.

Chobani/ Lauren Ahn

30 Choose unsweetened nut milk instead of regular. This can save 5g to 15g of sugar depending on the brand – and that’s before you pour it into your cereal (which tends to harbour loads of sugar on its own).

Related: 10 ‘Healthy’ Food Types with More Sugar Than You’d Think

31 Eat real fruit instead of dried fruit. A cup of grapes has 15g of sugar while a cup of raisins contains 86g. And while you might not eat an entire cup of raisins, you’ll get a larger volume of food if you eat whole fruit before it’s dehydrated.

32 Eat pure dark chocolate instead of chocolate bars. Gram for gram, the chocolate bar will almost always contain more sugar.

Lauren Ahn

33 Drink cappuccinos instead of lattes.

34 Eat ice cream instead of sorbet. The fruit-flavoured treats sound innocent but you’re actually better off with cream-based desserts if your goal is to reduce your sugar intake. On average, sorbet has about 12g more of sugar per cup than ice cream does.

Haagen- Dazs/ Lauren Ahn

35 Top your burger with mustard instead of tomato sauce. Condiments are a sneaky source of sugar.

36 Use marinara sauce instead of tomato sauce. Marinara sauce only has about 25% of the amount of sugar found in tomato sauce, and it doesn’t taste half bad with sandwiches, French fries, eggs, etc.

37 Allow yourself at least some sugar. ‘The all-or-nothing approach is hard for most people and can lead to overindulging at some point,’ Schapiro says. ‘Refined sugar makes you crave more, so as you cut it down the cravings should lessen. I’m a big fan of having one treat per day of about 600kJ. This helps to keep the sugar to a minimum and cravings at bay.’

38 Wrap sandwiches in lettuce instead of bread.

39 Eat your sandwich open-faced. You’ll halve the carbs without sacrificing all of them.

40 Start your meal by eating protein. Protein is more substantial and satisfying than anything you’ll find in a bread basket. Start your meal by eating your protein – chicken, fish, etc – and eat the rice, pasta or bread afterwards if you’re still truly hungry, Smith says.

41 Use whole-wheat flour instead of regular when baking. It contains more indigestible fibre than white flour, so your body absorbs fewer carbs, says Smith.

42 Eat puffed oats instead of oatmeal. Puffed cereal takes up more space because it is filled with air, so it’ll fill your bowl up with fewer kilojoules than denser cereals, resulting in fewer carbs per bowl.​

43 Make mashed potatoes using cauliflower. Cup for cup, boiled cauliflower contains 27 fewer grams of carbs than boiled potatoes. When you combine both veggies, you get a lower-carb mash-up that still hits the spot when a carby mashed-potato craving strikes. Just swap in boiled cauliflower for half the potatoes in your usual recipe.

44 Eat thin-base pizza instead of thick-base. Thin-base pizzas can contain one-third of the carbs (and kilojoules) found in thicker-base pizzas, according to Smith.

45 Use courgette ribbons instead of paste. Half a cup of raw courgette has about 5g of carbs, whereas the same amount of dry pasta has about 40g.

46 Ask for extra broccoli in Asian stir-fries. Because broccoli (and cauliflower, mushrooms, snap peas and carrots) fill up space in a takeaway boxes, they’ll ‘crowd out’ the dish’s starchy noodles or rice, Schapiro says.

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