We get it— we love good food as much as anyone, and in Singapore, we are truly spoiled for choice with all the different cuisines and dishes available to us. Of course, this means that we may tend to indulge in one too many extravagant meals.
If you are someone who is looking for ways to get healthier without the effort of counting calories or tracking all your food, we have a simple solution for you— making this one change in your diet can help you drop excess fat.
Common issues in the weight loss journey
It is human nature to identify a problem and want a quick fix. This usually causes people to go one of two ways:
Fast weight loss supplements, detox teas and juice cleanses are a billion-dollar industry for this reason. Not only are these expensive and usually have little to no real benefit, but there is solid evidence that drastic weight fluctuations contribute to visceral fat accumulation (the fat that surrounds our internal organs and increases the risk of the dreaded heart disease/ diabetes).
Other popular trends like a plant-based diet, keto or intermittent fasting may work short-term, but many followers get mediocre or unsustainable results due to following the “rules” without truly understanding that core diet principles still apply (like maintaining an appropriate balance of food groups). Without these principles, there are countless ways to mess up your health even while following the “rules” perfectly.
Once you understand that, just imagine not only being able to eat with abundance, but saving money on such gimmicks AND still getting the results you want.
Best of all, it’s for life! No special “superfoods” (which are never as super as they claim) or meal plans/ programmes whose effects are short-lived because they don’t teach you how to eat to maintain your results long-term.
Now for the big reveal.
Eating with abundance of course doesn’t mean an abundance of fatty meats like pork belly. We’re referring to plant foods. Specifically, unprocessed plant foods, as opposed to things like chips or deep-fried spring rolls, which can be vegetarian/ plant-based but are still laden with fat and stripped of fibre.
Why this works (on the Body)
Unprocessed plant foods are the simplest way to add volume and variety to the diet, while naturally reducing the total calories (because yes, all fat loss still depends on a calorie deficit).
For those unfamiliar with what calories are exactly, they are simply how energy is measured going into the body (via anything we eat/ drink) or out of it (from activity and simply breathing/ living). If we eat more than we expend, we gain weight, and vice versa.
For a clearer illustration,
Many people are familiar with food/ fitness trackers that tell you how many calories you’ve eaten, or burned in a workout. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to underestimate how much they eat, and overestimate how much they burn.
This applies even to trackers, because how can your Smartwatch (or even a database) truly know how much oil the hawker puts in your “500 calorie” noodles, or how many grams the serving size really was?
Before you give up, plants are here to save you.
(Disclaimer – picture is for illustration purposes and is not drawn to scale)
Plants can take up a whole lot more space for the limited calorie count, meaning you can eat until you’re stuffed without overloading on calories (provided you haven’t added a whole bunch of oil or carbohydrate from sauces and toppings).
The secret to this is fibre.
Contrary to popular belief, fibre isn’t only around to move our bowels (although it definitely helps with that too). Fibre makes up the bulk of most plants, providing maximum volume; yet provides minimum calories.
Fibre also provides a whole host of other benefits that are seldom talked about, which you can read about here.
There’s a reason we refer to generally unprocessed plant foods. Processing (and many cooking methods) often adds unnecessary oils, fat, salt and sugar to your food – this makes originally healthy plant foods unhealthy and usually strips the fibre off.
Why this works (on the Mind)
Consciously or subconsciously, we all know habits are psychological.
Merely using the words “diet”, “stop eating (a certain food)” or “eat less” can set us up for failure, because we instinctively associate them with deprivation – making us want to eat more. We also start asking ourselves when it’s going to end – which doesn’t bode well for a lifestyle change.
Looking for plant foods at meals and snacks will open up an entire new range of options, which is completely different from the “dieting” and “cutting down” mindset.
For those grappling with hunger from restricted portions, or confusion about how best to eat healthy, this is a start to natural portion control of high-calorie food, without the dieting mindset.
Maintaining a Balanced Diet
Any food-related hack is incomplete without addressing the diet as a whole. It is, of course, possible to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and still make unhealthy choices with our other food. It is also possible to eat far too many calories from large portions of fruit or high-fat plant foods. Here, it’s worth mentioning the Health Promotion Board’s healthy plate model, which helps visualise the rough portions of protein and carbohydrates we should have.
A note on healthier oils:
- In addition to “using healthier oils” (which applies mainly to home cooking), many of us will benefit more from simply choosing less oil/ fat when we eat out or look for snacks. Healthy oils have the same calories as unhealthy oils – it is still easy to over-consume them, which can derail weight loss efforts.
Stay tuned for more tips and real-life examples of how to include plants in our modern lifestyle!