It took a few weeks until I settled into an eating routine that satisfied both requirements. Reducing my calories was the easy bit — recording every piece of food that you eat really scares you off once you realise just how many calories there in everything you eat. The tougher bit was getting to 100/120g of protein. Once I had got through all the old food in my house and could start afresh, I made sure to go for foods that satisfied the requirements of being high in protein, as well as being relatively lower in calories, nutritionally satisfying, and of course, delicious.
I learned a lot over those weeks, making a few random discoveries over that time — like vegan cheese, unlike its dairy-counterpart, can contain no protein whatsoever, whilst still having the same amount of fat and carbohydrates. Also, many foods that claim to be “protein” varieties end up being nowhere near the sort — one packet of “Protein Noodles” ended up only containing 3g per 100g, barely any different than a regular packet of noodles.
Lunch — my go-to lunch has become chicken sandwiches, given its high amount of protein per gram. I’d make this using wholemeal bread (less calories, more protein than white bread), and using light mayonnaise instead of the regular kind. Alongside this, I would have a banana & two little oranges to get my fruit fix and a little natural sugar. This lunch would usually end up being around 500 calories.
Dinner — my dinners are usually split into three main types of meals. The first would be a stir-fry, of which high-protein chicken breasts are the main ingredient. I would usually do this with a packet of noodles (in spite of being “ordinary” noodles, there’s still around 10g of protein in them), a sauce that’s under 100 kcal, and a vegetable of some sort (usually mushrooms, there’s less than 20 kcal in 100g of the stuff, plus you get some protein in there as well). This dinner usually comes in at less that 700 calories, and I’d usually make this in bulk to last me over a few days.
The second is good old steak & potatoes. A decent steak can yield at least 50g of protein, although some of them can have quite a bit of fat as well, so worth checking for leaner cuts. Alongside that, I would have about 150g of boiled potatoes (not fried in oil), and would eat this with a little bit of sweet chilli sauce for added flavour — all in all coming in at less than 700 calories.
And for when I can’t bring myself to cook, I do allow myself a ready meal every now and again. Given that I know there can be a lot of things in these that aren’t the best for you, I will usually go for the one that has the greatest yield of protein — the one I usually end up going for is a chicken & bacon pasta ready meal, which has 44g of protein and comes in at less than 700 calories. I wouldn’t eat them everyday, but as long as you’re smart about it, I can’t see the harm in eating them every now and again.
Snacks — this is where I have probably made the biggest changes. Firstly, whilst I do continue to drink lots of coffee a day, I have taken to using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, saving me about 20 kcal for each cup, and still giving me a little sweet kick. I still put milk in my tea, my reason being that I get some of my required protein from this — from around 200 kcal of milk daily, I get about 10g of protein. The milk also keeps me a bit more satisfied through the day, especially in the morning before lunch (I still only have a cup of coffee for breakfast, although as above, I use a sweetener instead of sugar).
Since the start of the year, I have cut down on the sugary sweets & cakes almost entirely. In 2019, I have yet to have a single slice of Battenberg, and have not had any Squashies either, two things I would never thought I could have avoided this year. If I do feel the need to snack, I instead have gone towards snacks that will satiate me whilst helping to get to my protein targets. The one food that I hadn’t eaten before this year were cured meats, like beef jerky and biltong. It was by chance that I looked at a packet of beef jerky and realised that 50% of its weight came from protein, and ended up buying every single packet in the supermarket. Biltong is even higher in protein — some of the brands I’ve used can have up to 60g of protein for each 100g, and at less than 100 kcal for a 25g packet, it’s a fairly low calorie snack with a mighty protein punch.
I’ve also started eating protein bars, which at 200 kcal usually have around 20g of protein in them. Some of them can be high in sugar, so I’ve been sure to go for brands that keep their levels low. They can be pricey too, so I’m always sure to shop around to find them at a more reasonable price.
My other snacking preferences have seen me eating a lot more nuts, which also contain a decent amount of protein (as well as fat, albeit of a natural variety). Given my love of Battenberg, it is no surprise that almonds have been my go-to nut for a snack, whilst I’m also partial to the odd cashew every now and again. When I’m going for these, I would usually eat around 25g of them, which works out around 150 kcal, which usually keeps me satisfied when I’m a little bit peckish.
All in all, this healthy eating regime means eating around 1,600 kcal per day, of which around 130g comes from protein sources.
Sticking to a healthy eating routine has had a massive impact on my weight since I started it, in addition to my exercise regime. In my first 2 months, I dropped nearly a stone (6.4kg). By May 2019, I had taken nearly 2 stone off by body (12.8kg), and as of August 2019, that had become a mighty 3 stone (19kg). I still have my moments where I do eat to excess — I’ve been to a few weddings and other events where I’ve eaten more that I usually would, and eaten foods that I’d swore off, and I’ll occasionally allow myself the odd treat, but when I do so I make sure that the next day my calorie intake is at a lower level than it needs to be to make up for my excesses.
I still get hungry following this regime, but unlike in the past where hunger meant a massive bag of sweets, now all it takes is a few nuts or a banana to satisfy me. Plus, it seems that my pallet has adjusted away from sweet things — on a recent trip to Edinburgh, I bough four small chocolates, and after eating them I literally couldn’t eat another bite. This time last year, that would have been a fifth of my usual snack, and I’d still be hungry.