Tasty Tips

You don’t need a magic potion if you want to shift some weight, fight colds, boost your endurance, defend yourself against major illnesses or run faster and better. All you need is food. Over the years, we’ve brought you some great nuggets of nutritional know-how - some weird, some wonderful - that’ll help make you healthier, fitter and even happier. And now is the perfect time to put those new eating plans into practice. We’ve pulled out 49 of our best food fixes to help you eat smarter and run better:

Feel The Burn
Eating spicy foods will make you eat more slowly, fill you up more quickly and slightly increase your metabolism so you burn more calories – three strong reasons to sprinkle some cayenne on your chicken.

Don’t Get Stoned On Beer
Drinking one beer a day has been associated with a 40 per cent lower risk of developing kidney stones. One explanation is that the hops in beer help to keep calcium from leaching out of bones and taking up residence in your kidneys.

Love The Egg McMuffin
Hard to believe, but you can eat two McDonald’s Egg McMuffins and swallow fewer calories than you would from a bagel with two tablespoons of cream cheese. The McMuffins have 580 calories, 24g fat and 34g protein. The bagel delivers 643kcal, 28g fat and 20g protein.

Drink Ginger Ale Instead Of Cola
Besides packing too many empty calories, colas (including the diet kind) are high in phosphorous, a mineral that can prevent the absorption of calcium. Ginger ale is a better carbonated sugar. It has no phosphorous and as many as 30 fewer calories per glass.

Blot Your Pizza
By blotting the grease on top of a pizza with a kitchen towel you’ll eliminate at least a teaspoon (4.5g) of fat per slice.

Sterilise Your Oysters
The next time you order oysters it may help to add a dash of Tabasco sauce before you gulp them down. Researchers found that spicy sauce kills dangerous bacteria found in raw oysters. Infection is rare but it can be fatal, especially in people with impaired immunity. Tabasco killed the bacteria in less than five minutes.

Drink Cow Juice After Eating Cow
Make that occasional juicy steak even better by washing it down with a glass of skimmed milk. According to research, calcium may help reduce the amount of saturated fat your body absorbs. Like fibre, calcium binds with fat molecules and helps flush them out through the intestines.

Instead Of Seconds, Chew
When sanity dictates that you stop shoving food into your face at the buffet or dinner table, pop mint-flavoured gum into your mouth. It changes the flavour of everything, and it makes that third helping of lasagne almost impossible to swallow.

Press Your Luck
The fact that your beef is brown doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to eat. Meat that’s old or has been exposed to too much air can brown prematurely, making it appear properly cooked. Press down on your burger and note what colour liquid emerges. If the juice is nearly yellow, with no trace of red, it’s safe. If not, send it back.

Freeze Some Melon Balls
Substitute frozen melon balls for ice cubes in fruit drinks; 110g of honeydew melon has 230mg of potassium and 20g of vitamin C.

Sweet Nurtured
If you love jelly babies, here’s the news you’ve been waiting for: they’re one of the best secret weapons a runner can pack. A handful of low-fat sweets will help keep your blood glucose stable during long runs and races. (Low blood glucose causes the dips we get in performance as the body switches from carb to fat burning.)

Make A Better Fish Finger
Fish fingers are the seafood version of hotdogs – delicious, easy, but not too healthy. Here’s a healthier DIY version: cut a salmon or tuna steak into finger-size portions. Dip the sticks into an egg-white batter and roll them in a bowl of breadcrumbs. Stick a few in the freezer, and when you’re feeling peckish simply bake in the oven.

Use Healthy Garnishes
One secret of weight-loss is making bland foods taste great. Smear the right mustard on a low-fat turkey sandwich and it becomes delicious. Use Worcestershire sauce to spruce up steamed broccoli and other healthy foods. Lightly brush barbecue sauce on grilled vegetables, and you’ll find yourself craving that aubergine.

Halve Your Beef And Eat It
Here’s a way to make meaty chilli, pasta sauce or meatballs with a good deal less fat: start with extra-lean minced beef. Crumble your meat and brown it in a frying pan. Watch it sizzle. Next, dump the browned beef onto a dish covered with a double thickness of kitchen paper. Place another paper towel over the meat and blot up the grease. Presto! Fat goes into the towel. Then, to remove even more fat, toss the cooked beef into a strainer and rinse it with hot water. Then squeeze out the water and add the meat to your bolognese. Blotting and rinsing can knock about 50 per cent of the fat from your beef. And you won’t taste the difference.

Fork Out On Chinese
Eating Chinese takeaway with chopsticks isn’t just a way of showing off – it’s much healthier than shovelling your chow mein down with a spoon. Scoop your takeaway out of the carton or bowl with chopsticks – or a fork – and you’ll be more likely to leave behind the fatty, artery-clogging sauce.

Put A Lid On It
You can dramatically reduce the amount of oil needed to pan-fry foods simply by keeping the lid on the wok. The lid catches and returns moisture that would usually escape, thus preventing the need for more oil.

Shake It, Don’t Bake It
To cut back on salt, don’t add it to food during cooking. Instead shake it on when the plate reaches the table. Research shows that people given totally unsalted food – but a free hand with the shaker – put one fifth of the amount orginally called for in the recipe.

Colour Your Diet
Buy the brightest vegetables you see. Vibrant colours usually correspond with more vitamins. This means going easy on iceberg lettuce and cucumbers, and loading up on carrots, tomatoes, red peppers and sweet potatoes – which are higher in vitamins A and C. Or go for darker shades of greens. Romaine lettuce for example, has nearly seven times the vitamin C and twice the calcium of its paler iceberg cousin. The same holds true for fruit. Pink grapefruit, for instance, has more than 30 times the vitamin A of its yellow-coloured cousin.

Drink Leftover Milk
Your favourite breakfast cereal may be fortified with a veritable alphabet of vitamins, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting all of the nutrients listed on the side of the box. Up to 40 per cent of the vitamins in the cereal quickly dissolve into the milk. To make sure you get the most vitamins from fortified breakfast cereals, pick up the bowl and slurp all the milk down.

Observe The Three-Quarter Rule
Three-quarters of your dish should contain fresh produce and grains, with the last quarter saved for fish, meat or chicken. This combination will supply longer-lasting energy and fuel for a good five hours.

Make A Healthier Marinade
When grilling chicken, try this oil-free marinade: combine three small glasses of apple juice and two cloves of crushed garlic with one cup of reduced-salt soya sauce.

One of the easiest ways to improve your diet is to stock your freezer with bags of frozen vegetables. Not only do they provide a variety of nutrients, they’re also convenient. Throw a handful in soups, stews, stir-frys and instant rice dishes. Frozen vegetables are usually frozen within a few hours of harvest, so their nutritional quality can actually be better than fresh.

Watch Your Bottom
Fruit is good for you, so the best yoghurt must be the kind with fruit in it, right? Not necessarily. For the most nutritious yoghurt, skip the ‘fruit on the bottom’ varieties. The fruit will be mostly jam, which packs the equivalent of eight or nine teaspoons of sugar per pot – nearly as much as a can of fizzy drink. Instead, choose plain low-fat yoghurt or flavours such as lemon, which don’t contain fruit, and add your own berries. Fresh berries will also provide a healthy dose of fibre.

Change Your Dips
Instead of buying fatty sour-cream-based dips to drag your nibbles through, think black-bean dip or go Middle Eastern and buy some hummus. It’s made from chickpeas, which are high in fibre, and it’s great with raw vegetables.

Spend Your Dough Wisely
Shopping in the bread aisle, you naturally grab a loaf of something brown – it must be higher in fibre than Sunblest, right? Well, no – that dark complexion may be courtesy of molasses or food dyes. Likewise, a loaf with seeds or oatmeal flakes gracing its top isn’t necessarily high fibre either; they could just be decoration. To be sure you’re a breadwinner every time, look for the phrase ‘100 per cent wholewheat or wholegrain’ on the package.

Buy The Best Berries
Before you buy strawberries or raspberries, turn the carton over. You’re looking for nature’s expiry date: juice stains. Dripping fruit is one step away from rotten fruit. If you’ve already bought berries that are going soft, place a single layer of them on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes.

Snack On A Stalk
Celery is pretty much the answer for anyone whose doctor has told them, “You have high blood pressure; cut down on salt.” Celery’s natural salty flavour can help quash your sodium urges, whether noshed raw or added to a wide variety of dishes. And as a bonus, it contains potassium, a mineral that’s been shown to help fight hypertension.

Last Longer With Coffee
Plenty of bad things have been written about coffee, but treat yourself to a strong cup an hour before a race and the caffeine will help your body burn fat more efficiently. That means your carbohydrate supply will last longer and you won’t run out of steam as early as usual.

Pamper Your Produce
Cut and wash fruit and vegetables just before cooking or eating them. This keeps vitamin levels at their maximum. And don’t cut them into tiny pieces. The more surface area exposed to oxygen, the faster vitamins lose their potency.

Pot Luck
A pot of low-fat yoghurt provides half the recommended daily allowance of calcium. And as studies have shown that dietary calcium intakes of athletes with bone injuries such as stress fractures are abnormally low, you should eat more yoghurt. You don’t have to just spoon it from the pot, though. Why not spread it on bagels and toast; add it to your favourite low-sugar cereal; or use plain yoghurt instead of sour cream on top of baked potatoes.

Brain Juice
A slug of orange juice first thing in the morning will make you faster. That’s because fruit juice is the best source of energy for the brain. Overnight the brain’s fuel – blood glucose and liver glycogen – drops so we feel sluggish come morning. Fruit juice is packed with fructose, the sugar that restocks liver glycogen supplies, and as it’s liquid, it gets absorbed quickly.

Zinc Again
Another way to keep your bones healthy is to load up with zinc. This mineral helps manufacture healthy bone and cartilage cells. We need about 15mg a day and the easiest places to get it are from red meat and zinc supplements. Or you could start necking the oysters. As well as doing – alleged – wonders for your love life, these little shellfish are mega zinc givers – down five and you’ll get 41mg of the mineral.

Stick With Carrots
It’s long been known that the beta-carotene found in carrots protects against diseases such as cancer and can protect against muscle damage and soreness. But this antioxidant can also make you faster. In one US study, 5K runners were given the equivalent of five carrots worth of beta-carotene a day. At the end of the 30 days, the runners ran on average 30 seconds quicker than before. If you don’t fancy becoming Bugs Bunny, other good sources of beta-carotene include peaches, apricots, and red and yellow peppers.

Make Some Courgette Crisps
Fancy some crisps to go with that burger? Try courgette crisps. Slice two courgettes into crisp-sized pieces. Sauté the crisps in half a teaspoon of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Sprinkle with basil.

Have A Bit Of Ginger
You should try to get a bit of ginger every day. Ginger root has natural anti-inflammatory properties, especially if you take it regularly. So, slice half a teaspoonful of the root and eat it with vegetables, or mix it with boiling water for a pain-relieving ginger brew.

Poke The Chicken
Barbecued or grilled chicken is tasty, but there’s a catch-22: leave the skin on and the bird will be as fatty as beef; peel the skin off, and it’ll be drier than the Gobi Desert. A quick solution: poke a few dozen holes in the skin with a fork before cooking. This will let the fat drip out, but will still keep the meat moist.

Chocs Okay
Obviously, stuffing 12 Mars Bars down your throat every day might lead to weight gain, but every now and again a chunk of chocolate is a rather healthy treat. Chocolate, especially the darkest varieties, contains the same phytochemicals found in red wine that have been shown to fight heart disease. In fact, some studies have found that chocolate contains more phytochemicals than other powerhouses such as tea and strawberries.

Do Some Porridge
A true wonder brekkie, not only is porridge a great source of carbohydrates – it’s also a great weapon in the battle of the bulge. It contains a high amount of water-soluble fibre so it keeps you full for longer – hence the saying ‘it sticks to your ribs’. Oats have also been shown to lower blood cholesterol.

Raisin The Bar
Sprinkle raisins into yoghurt, on your cereal or just snack on them throughout the day, as they are a fantastic energy snack. Four tablespoons of raisins contain 79g of carbohydrates, 302kcal as well as potassium, iron and phytochemicals. And they’re virtually fat-free, too.

Honey Train
You’d think something that tasted as good as honey would have to be bad for you. Thankfully, that simply isn’t the case. Honey is a mixture of glucose and fructose, so it’s great for a quick energy boost. Pure honey also contains a huge range of vitamins such as B6, thiamine, riboflavin and patothenic acid, as well as calcium, copper, manganese, phosphorous potassium, sodium and zinc. Added to that, it also contains several different amino acids and antioxidants. So go on, smear it on your toast.

Heal With Halibut
Fish, especially cold-water species such as tuna and halibut, is rich in Omega-3 fats, which contain a fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This reduces both inflammation and the pain-causing prostaglandins that it triggers. Fish is also a great source of muscle-repairing protein, so try to eat at least three servings of fish a week to beat aching muscles.

Chew Carefully
After a run, it’s easy to stuff food down without it touching the sides. By not rushing your meals, though, you’ll actually lose weight. Researches in the USA found that people who extended their meal times by an average of four minutes, simply by chewing more slowly and enjoying their food, burnt up considerably more body fat than greedy guzzlers.

Crunch Bunch
Between meals snack on crunchy foods to wake up your mouth and your mind. Fresh vegetables such as radishes, broccoli and cauliflower dunked in a spicy dip – such as chillis, lime and low-fat yoghurt – will stop you flagging at your desk mid-morning.

No Banana Drama
Bananas are chock full of vitamin B6, which helps boost your body’s production of feel-good chemical serotonin. This helps elevate mood, giving you a calm, positive feeling. Slice a banana over cereal or eat one as a mid-morning snack to keep smiling.

Cheers For Tears
Onions might make you cry, but they’ll also stop your nose weeping. Along with other vegetables from the allium family (eg garlic and leeks), onions contain querticin, an antioxidant that smothers invading bacteria. So if you want to avoid the sniffles, add onions to everything.

Pack Two Lunches
Not an excuse to gorge yourself on two Big Mac meals a day, instead a rather clever nutritional trick. We tend to get hungry every four hours, but most of us don’t eat to that timetable. Instead, we scrimp on breakfast and lunch before stuffing our faces in the evening. Instead, eat two 600kcal ‘lunches’ a day. Have one at 12pm and the next at 4pm and you’ll boost your energy when you need it and ‘ruin’ your appetite so that you don’t stuff yourself in the evening.

Mark The Almonds
Nuts are good for you. Period. But almonds are among the best. A 30g serving is 160kcal, with about two thirds of those calories coming from heart-healthy fats. Almonds have been shown to lower heart-disease risk thanks to their healthy fats and phytochemicals. They’re also a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that’s hard to get from food sources. Almonds are great on their own but also add flavour to cereals, yoghurts, salads and even stir-frys.

Oranges Are The Only Fruit
Any fruit is good, but oranges are the king. They offer a massive dose of immune-system boosting vitamin C – over 130 per cent of the RDA – and a good helping of potassium, folic acid and pectin. Pectin is a fibre that helps balance blood sugar levels and helps keep hunger at bay. And there’s a big bunch of cancer and heart-disease-risk-reducing flavanoids, too. So if only one fruit makes it into your bowl, make it an orange.

Wash It Down With Grape Juice
The best health drink for people with heart trouble is a glass of purple grape juice after a daily aspirin. The aspirin protects your heart by preventing bloodclots, but this effect can be blocked by the adrenaline that exercise and stress produce. Flavonoids in grape juice may stymie that response.

Tea’s Up
A brew doesn’t just provide you with vital fluids, it also helps protect against a number of age-related ailments. Tea, especially the black and green varieties, contains catechins and flavanols, phytochemicals that seem to fight the free-radicals that lead to illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson’s and osteoporosis.

Switch On Fat
Believe it or not, fat can actually help you lose weight. Researchers in Australia have found that switching from saturated fats such as butter to mono-unsaturated ones such as olive oil increases the amount of calories you burn. They found that if people ate a breakfast cooked with olive oil, they burned more fat and stored less fat than they did when butter had been used, so swap your cooking grease!

Fill It With Fish
New research shows that the super-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also stops you eating. Chew on a fish and the fatty acids encourage your own fat cells to send a ‘we’re full’ message to your brain. This in turn causes the brain to send the signal to your metabolism to burn more calories. Another great reason to swap the T-bone for tuna.