When it comes to weight-loss foods, spinach is a real nutritional powerhouse. A single cup of spinach contains just 7 calories and only 1 gram of carbohydrate, plus it provides you with iron, folate, magnesium, calcium and plenty of antioxidants. Making this filling, low-calorie food a regular part of your meal plan could aid weight loss
Blend spinach in a protein shake for an extra hit of nutrients in the morning. A study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in February 2013 found that a high-protein breakfast reduced hunger pangs and calorie intake later in the day. According to trainer Tony Gentilcore, you won't even notice the spinach is in there once the shake is blended up. Add berries for a little extra sweetness.
Cook up a spinach frittata on a Sunday and eat it cold for lunch on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Rather than just plain old spinach and eggs, though, author and television personality Jamie Oliver suggests a frittata containing spinach, red onion and feta cheese. Store this in the refrigerator in a sealed container and cut off roughly one-third each day. Having this low-calorie dish at hand and ready to go means you're well-prepared each lunchtime and won't be tempted to snack on junk.
Switch your sandwiches to a spinach-based salad for lunch on Thursday and Friday. Use spinach leaves as a base, then add other low-calorie veggies or leaves such as cucumber, lettuce, kale, shredded carrot and cabbage, scallions and zucchini. Add a lean protein source too, such as grilled chicken breast, ham, sliced turkey or cottage cheese. Bread and sandwiches can be part of your weight-loss diet, but they're much more calorically dense than spinach, so you get a lot more food volume for your caloric buck with a protein-based spinach salad.
Have a side of spinach with dinner instead of higher-carb items like rice, pasta and potatoes. Try sauteed spinach with garlic or pine nuts, or make a spinach curry. Use plenty of onion and garlic for extra flavor. Like bread, starchy carbs are calorically dense and may not fill you up nearly as much as a large serving of spinach.
Purchase both fresh and frozen spinach. Nutritionally, there's little difference between the two, and while you may prefer the taste of fresh, the frozen variety will keep much longer, so you can ensure you always have some to hand. This is all about being prepared again. If you planned to have a side of fresh spinach with your evening meal, then find you've run out, having the frozen variety ready to go prevents you from switching to higher-calorie sides.
Make a spinach dip using spinach, artichoke and low-fat cream cheese with a little salt, Parmesan and chili flakes. Have this with carrot and celery sticks for a lower-calorie alternative to chips and dip. When you have friends coming, or fancy watching a game on TV, high-calorie sour cream or mayo-based dips are often a first port of call. It's extremely easy to go overboard on these and really pack in the calories in a short space of time. A spinach-based dip, however, will save you up to hundreds of calories.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service: Spinach, Raw
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Beneficial Effects of a Higher-Protein Breakfast on the Appetitive, Hormonal, and Neural Signals Controlling Energy Intake Regulation in Overweight/Obese, “Breakfast-Skipping,” Late-Adolescent Girls
- Tony Gentilcore: Pretty Much the Best Protein Shake Ever Invented
- Jamie Oliver: Veg Frittata