The Slim Down

Top five foods every slimmer should have in their cupboards

1. Balsamic vinegar

Why? - Two tablespoons of salad dressing contain approximately 150 calories.  Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar contain less than 10 calories and yet your salad will taste every bit as good.

How? - When you're not drizzling it on your salads add it to your pastas.  A splash of balsamic vinegar, a little brown sugar and a pinch of salt will turn even the plainest tinned tomatoes into a mouthwatering, waistline friendly sauce that tastes great on pasta, home-made pizza, chicken, fish or pulses.

2. Tinned puy lentils

Why? - Once thought of as 'hippy' food, tinned green lentils are now all the rage.  Packed full of cholesterol lowering, blood sugar balancing fibre, these super convenient, ready in moments lentils are also a great source of six important minerals, two mood balancing B-vitamins and, as if all that wasn't enough, they are high in hunger zapping protein too - all with virtually no fat. At just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils these really do earn their 'super food' title.

How? - Lentils are the chameleon of the food world as they take on almost any flavours you care to throw at them so they taste great with everything from light, white fish through to rich and meaty beef dishes.

Use then in place of mashed potatoes, as a base for salad dishes, as a substitute for mince, add to soups, stews, and casseroles or mix with a little half fat crème fraiche, mint or flat leaf parsley and lemon juice and serve with a hot smoked fillet of salmon on top — delicious!

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3. Rapeseed oil

Why? - Rapeseed oil contains the lowest saturated fat content of any oil, has 10 times more omega 3 than olive oil and is a good source of skin enhancing, immune strengthening vitamin E. It also has a high 'smoke point' which means its nutritional value is maintained, even during cooking at high temperatures.  What's more, it's produced on our own British soils.  To learn more visit Wharfe Valley Farms.

How? - Blend with tinned chick peas and tahini paste to make a super healthy and delicious hummus.  Drizzle a little over salads, pasta or risottos, mix with lemon juice, garlic and balsamic to make a salad dressing and use in place of butter in mashed potato.

4. Oatbran

Why? - We all know how good oats are for us and oat bran, in many ways is even better.  That's because it is lower in calories and even higher in protein and cholesterol lowering fibre.  In fact, just one 40g serving of oatbran contains 83% of the recommended daily amount (3g) of betaglucan — a soluble fibre that binds with excess cholesterol and removes it from our blood stream.  This high fibre content is great for making you feel full for up to four hours after eating too.

How? - Oat bran is creamy in texture so it goes down effortlessly and makes a great thickener for soups, stews and casseroles.  Add it to home made breads, muffins, biscuits and pancakes or sprinkle it on top of your usual breakfast cereal.

[Related feature: All you need to know about cooking oils]

For a really delicious, super fast, incredibly healthy breakfast that will see off hunger pangs to lunchtime and beyond, mix equal quantities of oats and oatbran with nuts and seeds of your choice and store in an airtight container.  To serve mix two tablespoons with a little fruit juice or skimmed milk and top with fresh fruits such as sliced kiwi, blueberries, strawberries or grapes.

5. Tinned wild salmon

Why? - There are so many health benefits associated with eating this fish that the question should actually be 'why not'?  It reduces cholesterol, protects heart health, reduces the risk of stroke, helps prevent immune and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and some skin conditions, minimises the risk of some mental disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and is essential in infant brain and eye development during pregnancy and nursing.

Oh, and the delicate bones that are rich in calcium and magnesium are cooked in the can (don't worry, they're so soft you won't notice them in your finished dish) making canned wild salmon one of the most calcium-rich, bone strengthening non-dairy foods you can eat.  Of course, because it's wild it is relatively low risk in terms of contaminants such as mercury and pesticides.

How? - Use it as a main ingredient of fish pies, Thai fish curries, pasta dishes or chowders.  Mix with some vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish sauce and plenty of black pepper for a delicious sandwich filling.  Alternatively, combine the tinned salmon in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of bread crumbs, some finely chopped spring onions or chives, deseeded, red chilies (optional) and an egg to bind it all together.

Coat in a little more egg and bread crumbs mixed with finely chopped chives and a little oil and bake in a hot oven for approximately 30 minutes turning once for a super, healthy, delicious supper.