People are always looking to slim down, lose weight and cut calories. While calorie counting is not always the answer, infusing meals with more nutritious ingredients, and ditching unnecessary fats and carbs is a great way to start when looking to shed a few pounds.

1. Choose Almond Milk for Breakfast
For many of us, cereal is the go-to breakfast option and is often paired with milk, but cow’s milk is difficult to digest and can cause unwanted digestive issues. Although milk does contain good fats, almond milk is a wonderful alternative and is less than half the calories of 2% milk.

2. Go Paleo at Lunch
Sandwiches are a fan favourite for lunch, often made using white bread or a carb-heavy bagel. Bread spikes your blood sugar really fast and doesn’t offer much nutrition. Try going paleo for lunch, on occasion, by cutting out all grains and sticking to a hunter-gatherer’s style meal. Opt for lots of veggies and good quality proteins like fish, chicken or eggs.

3. Add Greens to Your Meals
The great thing about green vegetables is that you can indulge in them all you want without gaining a pound. Whether you’re steaming, sautéing, roasting or eating them raw, greens can really bulk up any meal. Keeping a box of spinach in the fridge is a great place to start: throw a handful in a smoothie, throw it in a tomato sauce, make a salad or toss it in a wrap.

4. Make Your Own Salad Dressing
Salad dressings can be quite fattening and contain many unwanted sugars and preservatives. Making your own salad dressing is not only a much healthier option but it’s also really simple. Toss some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, oregano and sea salt together and you have a quick and healthy low-cal dressing ready to go. Try one of these dressing recipes.

5. Go Lean
Choose lean cuts of animal protein such as chicken breast, turkey breast, pork tenderloin, fish or extra lean ground beef. Removing the skin and fatty parts eliminates a lot of the unhealthy saturated fats, with diets higher in saturated fat has been linked to cancer, high cholesterol and heart disease.

6. Season with Lemon and Herbs
Many people will add extra salt, butter or cheese to season their lunches or dinners. Opt for a fresh squeeze of lemon, a few pinches of dried herbs or a small handful of chopped fresh herbs. They all bring so much flavour to the dish, have antioxidant-rich nutrients and are low in calories.

7. Snack on Fruits or Veggies
This is an obvious one but a tip that many of us neglect. If you’re feeling like you want something sweet, opt for a handful of berries; they’re naturally sweet with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant powers. If you want chips or something crunchy, choose carrots or celery with some hummus for dipping, which can provide the same mouth feel without the added fat and salt.

8. Use Parchment
Parchment paper is a cook’s best friend; it makes clean up easy, it’s safer than aluminum foil and you don’t need to use any oil. Steam fish, veggies or chicken in parchment bags for a healthier cooking option, and line baking sheets with parchment paper before roasting, cooking or baking.

9. Be Creative
There are many ways to “have your cake and eat it too.” Simply because you’re cutting out the processed sugars or saturated fats doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour and satisfaction. There are amazing recipes and products now lining grocery store shelves that are much healthier than their sugar-laden, processed carb cousins. Keep your eyes open for interesting products and new recipes that are healthy, nutritious and delicious.

I’ll leave you with my favorite healthy dessert:

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Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients:
1 can black beans
1/4 cup raw cacao powder or cocoa powder
3 eggs
1/4 cup coconut sugar
3 Tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil
2 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut flakes

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Blend all ingredients except for the coconut flakes in a food processor or blender until smooth.
3. Place the batter in a brownie pan lined with parchment paper. Toss the unsweetened coconut flakes on top and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the middle is solid.