Out of all my “Low Calorie Meal Hack” recipes, the one I find myself using most often is also one of the quickest and simplest! This recipe can be thrown together in under 5 minutes from just a few kitchen staples. So as long as you keep your fridge and cupboard stocked with these basic essentials then you will always have a healthy and filling back up plan ready to go... Back in 2016, I first read Dr Greger’s masterpiece of nutrition research: “How Not to Die”. One of the ideas that really stuck with me was towards the back of the book, where Dr Greger tells about his own experiences trying to implement the findings of his research more into his family's lifestyle back home. He had discovered correlations between the increased intake of both leafy greens and legumes with longer life expectancy and low rates of diseases of affluence. So he put a little post-it note on the fridge door posing the question: “Can I add beans or greens to this?” and as a result he always made sure to leave an open tin of cooked beans and a bag of mixed salad in the fridge, to try and incorporate an extra handful of each into more meals.
This is a suggestion that I encourage many of my clients to try when starting to make improvements to their diet. It a simple intervention that introduces the concept of being more mindful about the content of our meals, by being frequently reminded of your goals every time you repeat an everyday habit (such as going to open the fridge).
And it doesn't just have to apply to diet, the same "post-it-note-in-a-frequently-visited-location" idea can work for encouraging many positive lifestyle changes, such as working on mobility and flexibility by incorporating stretches or positions in our daily habits and routine. Some successful examples I have witnessed are notes on the bathroom mirror encouraging the holding of a stretch while brushing your teeth, or in the kitchen on the kettle saying to hold a squat position while waiting for it to boil.
But I digress, back to the beans and greens...
Legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils) are a healthy source of protein which doesn't come with additional fat and cholesterol found in most animal-based-protein sources. The Blue Zones study I discussed a few weeks ago even found that legumes were the most important dietary predictor of survival among the elderly, for every 20g intake of legumes, the risk of death fell by 6 percent. Dark Leafy Greens are extremely low in calories but packed with nutrients, being a fantastic source of fiber and vitamins A, C and K. Increasing intake of these two food groups is one of the healthiest things you can do for your diet.
I have followed this principle for many years now, and over time I have begun to know which type of beans and which greens work best with different types of cuisines. It is not longer an afterthought to an already prepared meal, but an integral part of the recipes themselves. So considering they are the healthiest part of our meals, why not just make a full meal out of them?… …Well that is what I do whenever I feel I have eaten a bit too much earlier in the day but still fancy something. A large salad with a tin of beans poured over provides a ton of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, for very little calories. And it is surprisingly filling so it makes a satiating final meal of the day.
Simple “Beans & Greens” Salad Recipe (Takes less than 5 mins!) Ingredients For the sauce: 1/2 tin of “No Added Sugar” Baked Beans. (~200g) 1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast (Optional) A dash of turmeric (Optional)
A dash of black pepper (Optional) For the salad: (But any salad will do!)
Lambs Lettuce (~50g) Spring Onions (2-3) Cherry Tomatoes (6-8) Cucumber (1/4 of) Mushrooms (2-4) Grated Carrot (1 small)
Instructions 1) Open the tin of baked beans and place half of the can in a saucepan and get it heating up on the hob.
2) While you wait for it to heat up, chop up all the salad items into whatever sizes you prefer to eat them. I like to quarter the cherries, slice the mushrooms and spring onions, grate the carrot and dice the cucumber into cubes!
3) Throw it all in a large bowl, and (in under 5 mins!)itional yeast (which has a cheesy flavour and is a good source of vitamin B12) and a dash of turmeric and black pepper. Turmeric has powerful anti-cancer and antiinflamatory properties, and Dr Greger recommends 1/4 tsp as part of his “daily dozen”. Black pepper helps increase the absorption and uptake of the curcumin antioxidants in the turmeric. 4) Mix it all up so the flavour covers all the salad and then enjoy! Told you it was a simple one this week!
This whole bowl comes in at under 250kcal with a good 16g of protein and only 2g of fat. This can be a great solution to try and give your macros a nudge in the right direction if you've not made the best choices earlier in the day!