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Keeping it simple, but still delicious dinners


Even though we know it’s bad for us and makes us fatter, many of us are still eating processed foods on the regular: It’s fast and easy and cheap and can be pretty tasty.

Recently, researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health did an experiment on people who lived at the research hospital. They split them into two groups:

Then for two weeks, one group ate ultra-processed foods, like pre-sliced white bread, hot dogs, sugary yogurt, pancakes, tater tots, apple juice and canned ravioli, and the other group ate unprocessed foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, grilled meat and plain yogurt. Then the groups switched places for the second two weeks.

At the end of the month, the results, which were published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that those on the ultra-processed foods diet ate about 500 more calories every day than the unprocessed group and gained two pounds over the two weeks. Meanwhile, the unprocessed group lost a similar amount of weight over two weeks.

It’s important the note the meals each group was given had the same number of macronutrients and calories. The participants were allowed to eat as much or as little as they wanted, yet those in the processed foods group ate more and ate faster.

Researchers think the faster eating is because processed foods are easier to chew and to swallow, which also delays satiety signals, so people keep eating processed food even when they’re full.

The weight gain is obviously just the tip of the iceberg in terms of processed foods negative affect on our health. Check out this recent study published in the British Medical Journal about processed food and its effect on our cardiovascular health.

The three biggest excuses I hear from clients about why they don’t prepare enough healthy, unprocessed foods, whole food-based meals are:

  • It’s too time consuming
  • It’s too expensive
  • I don’t like vegetables

Thus, to get you moving in the right direction, and with summer coming, I thought I’d give you two dinner ideas involving the BBQ that are not at all time consuming or labour-intensive, that are not expensive and are very very tasty, in my opinion (the key is butter and salt and pepper, of course).

BBQ Pork Tenderloin with BBQ vegetables and oven-oven-roasted sweet potato

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking commitment: Sit back and let the potatoes cook and do their own thing, and spend just 20 minutes monitoring the BBQ.

Pork tenderloin: I’m always amazed how inexpensive pork tenderloin is and it’s super easy to grill on the BBQ. Just rub it with some salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder and throw it on the grill at 450F for 20-25 minutes (20 for a little bit of pink in the middle). Flip the tenderloin two or three times in the 20 to 25 minutes.

Vegetables: Get vegetables that are in season as they’re usually less expensive and more fresh and toss them with olive oil and seasoning of your choice (salt and pepper is really all you need, but you can also get creative and add some dried basil or garlic powder or cayenne pepper etc). Place then directly on the BBQ to get those beautiful grill marks (or put them in tin foil if the holes on your BBQ are so big that they’ll fall through) at roughly the same time as you put on the pork tenderloin, or a little later if you want them a bit crispier. From mushrooms to zucchini to red peppers to broccoli or asparagus, really all vegetables with olive oil (or butter) and salt and pepper are delicious on the BBQ.

Oven-roasted sweet potatoes: Another inexpensive vegetable that goes a long way as its very filling is the sweet potato. And seriously, all you do here is throw the potato in the oven at 400F for 45 minutes. No prep. Nothing. Just the whole potatoes into the oven. Then split them open when they’re cooked, add some butter, salt and pepper and scoop it right out with a spoon. You could also do these on the BBQ if there is space for them and if you don’t want to heat your place. The cook time is about the same.

If you’re feeling like you don’t mind putting a bit more effort into this meal and have just five more minutes to spare, consider a parsley and chimchurri sauce to put on top of the pork tenderloin. Here’s how:


In a food processed, add 4 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup parsley, 1/2 cup basil, 1/4 cup olive oil, half a jalapeño, and the juice from 2 lemons and blend into a paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

BBQ Prawn Skewers, BBQ avocado, oven grilled yams and a simple mango salsa

Prep time: 10 minutes (5 minutes to prep the prawns, 5 minutes to make the mango salsa)

Cook commitment: Yams go in the oven and do their own thing just like the sweet potatoes, and spend just 8 minutes monitoring the grill.

Prawn Skewers: Place prawns in a bowl and toss with lemon juice, cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder to taste. Then skewer them up with 5 or 6 prawns per skewer and when you’re ready, throw them the BBQ for 2 minutes per side.

Oven-roasted yams: See sweet potatoes above. Same deal. Put them in the oven and sit back and wait.

BBQ Avocado: It might sound strange, but BBQ avocado with grill marks is particularly tasty, especially with prawns. Squeeze on a little lemon and salt and pepper after it’s cooked: A real game changer! These only take 3 to 4 minutes per side on the grill.

Mango salsa: Chop 2 or 3 tomatoes, half a red onion, 1 chopped mango and a handful of finely chopped cilantro and mix together in a bowl. Toss with lemon or lime juice and a splash of olive oil. As always, salt and pepper helps too. A hint of cumin is also tasty.

Give them a try and report back. Do you agree? Simple dinners with whole, unprocessed foods, especially when it’s BBQ season, can be as memorable as elaborate ones that took you all day.