Ooh, don’t you just want that last wedge of brie? Pow! Bang! 200 calories of ouch right there. But I still want the brie.

And in order to get the brie, something has got to go, or it certainly won’t be the extra weight I’ve been carrying around for the last decade…

I’ve been keeping a bit of a record of my eating habits in the hope of getting out of the bad ones and into the good ones… and I’ve found it helpful to think of equivalents – foods that are worth a similar number of calories that might keep me fuller for longer, or foods that might satisfy a craving that are worth less calories.

They have these popular little cheese-cubes here, served commonly at parties and drinks and whatnot, called ‘apericubes’ and one of these babies is worth about 15 cal. Which is about the same as a cup of coffee with milk. Or 1/2 a capsicum. Or a cup of cucumber. Or five cherry tomatoes. Or a carrot.

Yes, I know that the last four things on that list will rarely satisfy a craving except for generic hunger and even then, they won’t keep you going long.

Even if I’m not having a low cal. meal, I try to have lots of interesting flavours and a decent portion of something low cal (like cucumber) – that way it’s less likely I’ll be snacking again really soon.

Half an apple might though. But for the same number of calories (about 40) you can have pretty much any piece of fruit except a banana. Or six shrimp. Or a slice of ham. Or a slice of bacon if you’ve the energy to cook something. About 30g of hummus will do the same amount of damage. Pair that with the carrot and you’ve got yourself a decent snack.

That’s enough of the super low-cal stuff. If I’m hungry then chances are these options are actually a bad idea: I will still be hungry and I’ll graduate to naughtiness…

For 100 calories (approx.):

1/6 baguette
little pottle of chocolate mousse
a small slice of bread
a decent size bowl of soup: mushroom, carrot or courgette
an apple and a couple of tablespoons of greek yogurt
3/4 cup of cooked cous cous
1 oz (28g) of most types of cheese
a glass of wine
1/2 tin tuna
a banana
1/3 of a pastry (eg. pain au chocolat)
half a cupcake

Carrot soup, with lots of garlic, chicken stock, and a potato to make it a bit hearty – whizz it all up and it’s so satisfying.

Not just snacking? Cous cous with 25g smoked salmon (40 cal) and 20g feta (40 cal), some lemon juice and rind, salt and pepper, 1/3 cup of chunks of cucumber and a chopped up tomato (20cal for cucumber and tomato)… voila: delish. I always throw in a little butter because it makes the couscous gorgeous (or perhaps I’m imagining it) but you have to be careful because 1 tablespoon of butter (or most types of oil) is about 100 calories. 1 teaspoon butter: 33 cal. If it makes the meal more satisfying, and more likely to be repeated, then do it! But go easy. 200 calories without the butter for that couscous dish I just described.

The aim of the game is not to eat as little as possible, because that’s neither healthy or maintainable. The goal is to eat healthy, to stay full and to avoid over-eating, especially overeating on high cal things that leave you hungry in the very near future. A meal of 300-500 calories is fine. No problem. A snack of 1-200 calories – great.

Going out to a restaurant for a three-courser, especially if there’s a cheese course, a desert course, or much in the way of drinks to go with it, will probably go for at least 1000 calories. Fine, no problem, once or twice a week, and maybe go for salad another meal that day.

I’ve been having fruit salads for breakfast with a hearty helping of greek yogurt on the side. I have a coffee late morning if I get hungry, but often I’m fine till lunch (unless I get bored… and then there’s trouble).

Hungry at lunch? Eggs on toast is a good filler-upper and if I go easy on the butter it’s about 300 calories all up.

My dinner trick is to use lots of veggies and less fats and carbs without suffering the flavour. Better to do lots of green beans in some butter because then we’ll happily eat lots of green beans! Spinach cannelloni is one of my favourites – I mix the spinach with creme fraiche and a bit of cream cheese, salt and pepper and herbs, then smoosh it all together and stuff the pasta tubes with the mixture. We end up eating HEAPS of spinach and much less pasta than in a normal pasta meal. I tip tinned tomatoes over the top (80 cal or so for a whole tin) and then tear up a little mozzarella on top (80 cal for an ounce/28g). It’s a very filling, satisfying, cozy dinner – feels indulgent but calorie-wise it ain’t bad.

Something sweet in the evening is tough to skip and I’m loving the chocolate mousse pots we’ve recently discovered – single serving means rubbish (well, recycling mostly, but still) but it does help to limit how much we eat. Fruit, of course, is a great option.

But if ice cream is what you want, what you really really want, then some brands aren’t too bad – 1 scoop can be about 100 cal and sometimes 1 scoop is enough. Need pudding? Shake and bake apple slices with cinnamon, nutmeg and a little sugar (1 tsp is 15 cal and it doesn’t need much as the apple is sweet) – it takes a while to bake but you don’t need much ice cream with it and it feels nice and decadent.

I’m not a doctor or an expert or anything, but I’ve been keeping track and learning lots, and this is some of it. Hope it’s helpful. Promise to avoid boring health advice for about a month now… Christmas and all. Tomorrow: christmas challenge update – story-time, tree decorating and whatever I think of to do tomorrow.