Want to lose weight without hunger pains? The key is eating light – and smart! Many of us snack at work, so dinner shouldn’t be too heavy or calorific. We’re often sedentary during the week, as well, so weight loss depends on being food savvy.
In this article, we’ll give you some recipes for light dinners that we hope will spark your creativity. They’re simple to prepare and will leave you feeling satisfied so you won’t go to bed with a grumbling tummy.
Is your dinner to blame for your weight gain?
There are differing schools of thought on the matter, but it’s safe to say that what you eat later at night – especially if it’s quite late and after you’ve stopped being physically active – will not be readily burned and so will make up a part of your energy reserves. If these reserves are never efficiently used, they become accumulated fat, especially if the foods you tend to reach for aren’t nutrient dense. As tempting as it might be to reach for that quick fix, those junky foods may leave you feeling sated…but it’s a false economy, however, because they’re not easily digested.
Time is on your side
As important as what you eat is the time you choose to eat. In some European countries, the evening meal is taken before 6pm. In those places, it’s fairly common to eat something light a bit later on. The opposite situation is the norm in other countries where a light snack is taken late in the afternoon, but dinner isn’t eaten until 9 or 10. Expert opinion is mostly in agreement that eating your evening meal before 8pm. This gives your body sufficient time to completely digest the food before you go off to sleep. Of course, if you’re a night owl, you might get away with eating later, but give yourself at least 2-3 hours between eating and sleeping. If you find yourself waking in the middle of your sleep cycle and you have a hankering for something to fill you up, help yourself to a piece of fruit or drink a cup of tea.
A delicate dinner balance
Now, when we suggest that you have a light dinner, we’re not advocating a starvation diet. Don’t restrict yourself to a few leaves of sad iceberg lettuce and a cherry tomato. Sure, you’re trying to lose a bit of weight. Remember what we said from the start, though: eat smart! Your dinner should be a healthy combination of carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit or grains) and protein. With that in mind, we’ve devised these recipes to contain the perfect proportions of both.
Cream of vegetable soups are easy to digest, satisfying and so quick to prepare. On top of that, they’re comforting (especially in the colder months) and always nourishing. You can really unleash your culinary creativity here, too. Mix and match different vegetables according to the seasons. Try different combinations to pump up the originality. You’ll never be bored! For instance, try:
- Pumpkin and cinnamon
- Courgette, garlic and porridge oats
- Leeks, onion and pepper
- Carrots and ginger
To add a bit of zing – & a nutritional boost – put in a pinch of protein or other healthy foods such as:
- Brewer’s yeast – for a wonderful, nutty toasted flavour
- Wheat germ – for vitamins B and E (both valuable antioxidants)
- Seaweeds – to remineralise the body
- Flaxseed oil – for those all-important essential fatty acids
Do you know gazpacho?
If you’re thinking, ‘Soup’s all well and good, but I’m not going to fancy it on a hot summer day’, we’ve got a nice surprise for you. Gazpacho, a Spanish soup that is a bit like a vegetable smoothie, is traditionally served cold and is perfect for warmer weather. It’s probably obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: gazpacho’s souper healthy because it’s loaded with raw vegetables.
So, how do you make it? Just blend the following ingredients:
- Red pepper
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Vinegar (try apple cider or balsamic)
If gazpacho is your choice for dinner, pair it with some sort of protein – maybe a handful of dried fruit, some legumes (refried beans would be a good match) or a bit of smoked tofu.
Apples and pears
We’re not talking about just grabbing a piece of raw fruit and calling it a meal, but if you’ve had a large lunch you might want a light and sweet dinner. If that’s the case, prepare a simple apple and pear preserve by cooking the two fruits on the hob in a bit of water or by baking them. Once soft, add a pinch of cinnamon, a drizzle of agave nectar and a few nuts. Walnuts are a substantial and nutritious option.
Vegetables meet mushrooms
When you eat plenty of vegetables, you’ll have no trouble getting enough fibre. It’s this that helps relax the body, but there are other benefits, as well. Vegetables are easily digested, so they’re a wise choice for your evening meal. There’s so much variety, too. Choose your favourites, from artichokes to asparagus and Swiss chard to spinach. Accompany your veg with a bit of protein – legumes or beans, for instance. Mushrooms are also a marvellous source of protein and they are irresistibly delicious when sauteed in with fresh garlic, parsley and a some smoked pepper. Bet you can’t wait for tea time!
Onion and silken tofu soup
Finally, here’s our last recommendation. This one’s a spin on the traditional onion and egg soup. It’s lower in cholesterol (so low, in fact, that there’s nary a trace in it) and is extremely therapeutic for cold days or when you feel the sniffles coming on.
Fry a whole, chopped onion. When it’s soft and translucent, add some vegetable broth, minced garlic, thyme, cumin, some spice (peppers, chillies, sriracha or tobasco). Once all the flavours have mingled, remove from the heat and blend in 175g of silken tofu. Make sure that it’s silken, as anything else won’t be as smooth. The most common brand in the UK is Mori-Nu and it’s usually available at larger supermarkets. Return to a medium heat and your soup will be ready two eat in two minutes. It’s delicious and filling when served with a slice of whole grain or seeded toast. You can even pop the rest of your tofu on top for an extra hit of protein.