Losing weight could be as easy as skipping a couple of common foods and substituting these eight easy (and skinnier) choices.

Dropping kilos – and keeping them off – isn’t just about cutting kilojoules.

The key is to choose more nutrient-dense foods, that is, foods that provide the most nutrition for the number of kilojoules they contain. This way your body gets what it needs, without an overkill of energy.

Try these tasty, convenient food swaps:

1. Skip rice, try barley Replacing 1 cup of cooked rice with the same amount of barley saves you around 100 kJ; it will also give you seven times more fibre, three times more iron, and 35 per cent more protein.

Barley has a very low Glycaemic Index (GI) of 27 (rice is 70-90), meaning that you feel fuller for longer. According to a study in Cereal Foods World, overweight women who ate a meal with barley reported feeling fuller than those whose meals’ carbohydrate came from wheat.

They also experienced fewer blood sugar ‘spikes’ after eating. This has to be one of the biggest win-win food swaps.

2. Skip grapes, try berries Swapping a cup of grapes for one of strawberries will more than halve the kilojoules provided, while also providing you with twice the fibre, more than eight times as much vitamin C, and seven times the amount of folate.

Berries are also a rich source of disease-fighting antioxidants.

3. Skip couscous, try quinoa Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a small, round grain that looks like couscous, but has a nuttier flavour.

Unlike couscous, which is fairly low in nutrition, quinoa is full of fibre, as well as being a good source of protein and iron. Plus it has a low GI, so it fills you up for longer.

If you’d like some additional information on the importance of low GI foods, you can read more here.

4. Skip potatoes, try cannellini beans These have the same starchy texture as potato, and make a great replacement for your usual mash.

Swapping ½ cup mashed potato for the same amount of mashed beans will double your protein intake, as well as significantly boosting your iron and magnesium levels.

Again, cannellini beans have a very low GI (31, compared to 80-90 for potato).

5. Skip soy chips, try roasted chickpeas Soy chips sounds as though they should be healthy, but they are still high in fat and low on nutrition.

Nibble on 50 grams of roasted chickpeas instead, and you’ll save almost 250 kJ, slash your fat and salt intake by two-thirds, and increase your fibre, protein and iron intake.

Cannellini beans and chickpeas - nutrition dense food swaps for weight loss

6. Skip pasta sauce, try crushed tomatoes Commercial pasta sauces can contain unnecessary salt and sugar.

It’s simpler (and cheaper) to use a can of no-added salt crushed tomatoes and add your own garlic and fresh or dried herbs. By swapping one half-cup serving for the other, you’ll reduce sugar by around 75 per cent, and sodium by more than 30-fold.

7. Skip diet drinks, try sparkling mineral water Diet drinks may be sugar- and kilojoule-free, but research suggests they do not assist weight loss.

In fact, studies in both the International Journal of Obesity and the International Journal of Food Science & Nutrition have found that replacing regular soft drinks with artificially-sweetened ones does not decrease daily energy intake and may even cause an increase in appetite.

A study in Diabetes Care also links diet drinks with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

8. Skip chocolate biscuits, try dark chocolate If you need a chocolate fix, go for quality.

Replace two chocolate-coated biscuits with 50 grams of organic dark chocolate, and you’ll save yourself almost 800 kJ, along with 6 grams of saturated fat and almost 20 grams of sugar. Now that’s top of the list of food swaps we can get behind!

Dark chocolate also comes with a range of health benefits, including its ability to reduce blood pressure, improve the health of your blood vessels, and improve insulin sensitivity, meaning it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Plus, its strong flavour means it’s harder to overeat.

Foods to help you lose

Want to curb your appetite and stop sugar cravings? Put these on your shopping list, too:

* Beans Californian researchers found that people had much higher levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone cholecystokinin after a meal containing them.

* Eggs A Louisiana State University study suggests that eating eggs for breakfast speeds weight loss, because they keep you feeling fuller for longer.

* Green tea In a Japanese study, men who drank it had a significant drop in their body mass index. Why? Green tea’s catechins rev metabolism and speed fat burning.

* Grapefruit Eating one before each meal has been shown to help people drop 1.5 kilos over 12 weeks. The fruit’s phytochemicals reduce insulin levels, forcing your body to convert calories into energy, not fat.

* Chilli Japanese women who ate breakfast foods with chilli (think: a spicy omelet) ate less than they normally did at lunch. The magic ingredient? Capsaicin, which suppresses appetite.

Kate Marsh is an accredited practising dietitian and the author of The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook and Low GI Gluten-free Living.

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