Dr Eva Orsmond is probably best known for her no-nonsense approach to nutrition on Operation Transformation.

Now thanks to her book, The Last Diet, you don’t have to go on TV to benefit from her expertise. With this book, Eva is hoping to educate the nation about good food choices. With easy-to-follow lifestyle changes and low-fat recipes, this is the perfect food and health bible for 2012.

Here, Eva shares some of her top tips and recipes for you to try at home

Guide to reading food labels
It would be great if our daily diet could consist of foods that we prepare fresh from basic ingredients rather than pre-packed processed food. In reality, we are just too busy and have other things to do, ‘forcing’ us to eat a certain amount of processed foods. However, this is not an excuse to forget about nutrition. There can be some major differences between food products and it is therefore important to know how to read the labels. This will help you choose the ‘real’ healthier product with the best overall value, not simply the cheapest product with the loudest claims.

There are a few basics to food labelling:

* The product name: This cannot be misleading. If it says it contains something, it must be true. There are some names that are ‘legal’ and these relate to specific products, e.g. milk chocolate must have at least 25% cocoa solids.

* List of ingredients: All the ingredients must be listed in descending order of weight. This is not compulsory for fresh fruit and vegetables or for products where the trade name is the same as the ingredient name, e.g. pepper.

* Nutritional information: Although this information is required by law only when a nutritional claim is made on the label, many manufacturers now have nutritional information on all their products. The nutrient values must be stated per 100g or 100ml and the energy levels given in kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal).
* Other: The product should be date-marked and state its weight and the manufacturer’s name – this all helps to confirm its quality.

A lot of this information can be confusing or misleading. Claims like ‘low fat’, ‘no added sugar’, ‘gluten free’, ‘high fibre’, etc. need to be backed up and this is done using the nutritional information.
When looking at the calories, be careful that you are considering the package size.

The calories are given per 100g and this can be misleading. For example, when prepared, readymade noodles could have 131 kcal per 100g but the serving size is 300g, meaning that it is actually 393 kcal worth of energy. Just to make it more confusing, the weight of the product (before preparation) is only 89g!

Consider this: low-fat milk has more fat than slimline milk. Lean mince has more fat than premium mince.
As for the ingredients list, many ingredients have different names.

Some of the more common ones are:
* Fat: also called vegetable oil, hydrogenated oil, butter, lard, suet, non-dairy fat, cream, sunflower oil, saturated fats and trans fats. All these are fats, all contain calories and they have all been related to some form of illness. They also occur in almost everything we eat and are impossible to avoid. To complicate things, trans fats do not have to be on the label. Your aim should be to be aware of this and reduce all fats in your diet.

* Sugar: can be sucrose, dextrose, glucose, fructose, maltodextrins, honey, golden syrup, molasses and treacle. Even though all contain energy, some of them are sweeter than others, which means you need less of them to get the same effect. For example, fructose (fruit sugar) has a glycaemic index of 22, whereas glucose has a glycaemic index of 100. Fructose has a very sweet effect so you will use less of it.

* Salt: can be called sodium chloride, NaCl, celery salt or sea salt.

Step by step to a new lifestyle
Before you begin a weight-loss programme, it is important to prepare yourself mentally for the changes. Your new lifestyle also requires physical tools and equipment and you need to equip your home accordingly. Don’t worry; you don’t need to buy everything in one go, but some investment is needed. Otherwise, you will find your new routine very time-consuming and you will struggle to follow the instructions.

Essential steps
1. Face the numbers – what are your BMI and waist measurements?
2. Write down why you want to lose weight.
3. Set yourself a realistic goal. I suggest about 10% of weight loss in 12 weeks.
4. Plan your eating and exercise routine for the next 2 weeks. Again, be realistic and write it down.
5. Have a health check-up and get your bloods done.
6. Raid your kitchen and give it a health check.
7. Explore new areas of exercise, e.g. running clubs can be very sociable. Try kickboxing and I recently tried belly dancing, then pole dancing and loved both.
8. Sleep well.
9. Treat yourself and reward your success.

Dr Eva’s cupboard essentials
Before you get going, it’s worth investing in some essential sauces and spices that are used in many of my recipes:

Balsamic vinegar, Chinese five spice, curry powder, fat-free vinaigrette, galangal, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, light coconut milk, light spray oil, low-fat soft spread cheese, e.g. Philadelphia Light or Laughing Cow, highifibre crackerbread, e.g. Finn Crisp or Ryvita, soy sauce, vegetable stock or powder, e.g. Swiss vegetable vegan bouillon, Thai red, green, yellow curry paste, lemongrass, tom yum paste, turmeric, good quality olive oil, bay leaves, cans of whole peeled tomatoes.

Helpful hints
* If using garlic, store in a cool, dry place but not in the fridge. Did you know that garlic is a natural antibiotic?
* If using curry pastes from a jar, store in the fridge upon opening.
* Fresh lemongrass can be kept, loosely wrapped, in the bottom part of the fridge for up to one week.
* For convenience, coriander can be used in the ground form.

Essential cooking utensils
* Cast-iron wok: used in most recipes. it is worth investing in a good quality wok as it will retain heat. It will also last for years!
* Garlic crusher: an essential!
* Measuring jugs (100ml, 500ml)
* Weighing scales: essential to get your portions correct
* Chopping boards – preferably different ones for meat, fish and vegetables
* Good quality sharp knives: can reduce the preparation time
* Kitchen scissors