Why you should ditch restrictive eating for healthy meals this January

The NO diet January: 15 unexpected habits to adopt that will help you to eat more healthily – from snacking on cheese to drinking more tea

  • Tamara Willner is nutritionist at NHS-backed healthy eating plan Second Nature
  • Revealed fad diets don’t work and that non restrictive eating is key to weight loss
  • Offered tips on what to do instead of fad dieting in January and gave meal plans

Every January, we feel the pressure to ‘make up for’ the indulgent Christmas period as many of us search for a quick fix to improve our health or lose weight.

Although they usually result in fast weight loss, we know that unhealthy, unrealistic fad diets don’t last in the long term.

Research shows two-thirds of people regain ALL the weight they lost and then some following a highly restrictive diet.

Tamara Willner, nutritionist at NHS-backed healthy eating plan Second Nature, revealed fad diets don’t work and that non restrictive eating is key to weight loss. Stock image 

Looking at our health holistically, including sleep, stress, movement, and nutrition, is the most effective way to lose weight and prevent regaining the pounds in the future.

Plus, learning to enjoy the things we love mindfully, whether that’s chocolate or wine, rather than restrict ourselves and then binge on these items, is much more likely to result in long-term results.

Visit stopfaddiets.com for the full list  

Our movement – NHS-backed healthy eating plan Second Nature – is asking individuals to stop fad diets. It asks people to stop opting for solutions that don’t work and advice that isn’t legitimate. 

Instead, we suggest sustainable changes you can make to improve your health and lose weight in the long term. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make healthy changes. 

The issue is when we make unrealistic goals, inevitably fail to achieve those goals, and then feel as though we aren’t good enough or we’ve ‘failed’. Plus, it’s common to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and see food as ‘the enemy’.

The reason why many of us quit our New Year’s resolutions after just a few weeks and why people, on average, try and fail 55 diets in their lifetime is normally because the diets we try are unrealistic so we end up setting ourselves up for failure from the start.

Losing weight and making healthy changes to our lifestyle doesn’t need to feel like a punishment. 

You can enjoy warming, filling meals, like the ones in this meal plan, put together by the registered dietitians and nutritionists at Second Nature, and still achieve your weight loss goals.

There are plenty of things you can do to benefit your health, small steps that once you’ve implemented, will become positive habits.  

What is Second Nature?

The Second Nature programme focuses on an individual’s health first, where weight loss is a natural consequence.

It’s a 12-week weight loss programme that combines digital tracking technology and evidence-based education with support from experts, all via an app.

The NHS-backed, digital programme helps you to rewire your habits and teaches you to enjoy food mindfully without counting numbers, calories, or fixating on weight.

The programme helps you to fall in love with food again, without using it as a coping mechanism. Second Nature takes a holistic approach to weight loss, that focuses on mindset, stress, sleep, and exercise, as well as nutrition, to ensure that changes you make actually last. 

YOUR WEEKLY MEAL PLAN  

 Monday

BREAKFAST

Baked beans

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, finely diced or

minced

1 handful fresh thyme leaves,

roughly chopped

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

500ml vegetable or chicken

stock

125g tomato paste

2 x 400g tins white beans

(haricot, butter beans, or

cannellini), rinsed and drained

METHOD

1. Heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan, over medium heat.

2. Fry the onion and garlic for 5mins, or until soft and slightly browned.

3. Add the thyme, mustard, stock, tomato paste, and beans. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 30mins, or until the liquid has reduced by half. The sauce should be fairly thick.

LUNCH

Mini omelettes

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 large tomato, diced

2-3 handfuls spinach, roughly

chopped

1 tbsp sundried tomatoes,

finely sliced (optional)

8 medium or large eggs

125ml milk

½ tsp ground paprika

½ tsp chilli powder

60g Cheddar cheese, grated

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan.

2. Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a frying pan, over medium heat. Fry the onion, pepper, and tomato for 8mins, or until soft.

3. Add the spinach, mix well, and cook for 2mins. Remove from the heat and add the sundried tomatoes (if using).

4. Break the eggs into a large bowl. Add the milk, paprika, chilli, salt, and pepper. Mix well with a fork or whisk.

5. Lightly oil a 12 cup muffin tin, with the other tsp of oil. Divide the vegetables evenly between the 12 cups. Carefully fill the cups with the egg mix and top with grated cheese.

6. Bake for 15-20mins, until the omelettes are just cooked through and slightly browned on the top.

DINNER

Chilli con carne

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely diced or minced

500g beef mince

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 ½ tsp hot smoked paprika

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp dried oregano

3 medium carrots

2 large red peppers

1 x 400g tin kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

150ml beef stock

100ml red wine

1 lime, ½ juiced, ½ sliced

4 tbsp sour cream (optional)

1 avocado, diced

1 romaine lettuce head, finely sliced

80g uncooked brown rice

METHOD

1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish, over medium heat.

2. Fry the onion and garlic, until softened.

3. Add the mince and break it apart with a wooden spoon, cook until browned all over. Mix in all the spices and stir for 1-2mins.

4. Add the carrots, peppers, beans, and tomato paste, and stir for 2-3mins or until slightly softened and covered in spices.

5. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, beef stock, wine, and lime juice. Cover with a lid, leaving a small gap so liquid can evaporate slightly. Cook for 20mins, until the liquid has reduced and the sauce is thick.

6. Serve with chopped avocado, romaine lettuce and sour cream. Serve with 1 portion of brown rice (20g uncooked/50g cooked per person).

Wednesday 

BREAKFAST

Leftover mini omelettes

LUNCH

Leftover creamy salmon + slice of sourdough toast

DINNER

Lamb massaman curry

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

500g lamb, diced

300g butternut squash, diced into 2-3cm cubes

3 tbsp massaman curry paste

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 x 400g tin coconut milk

200g green beans, diced into 3cm chunks

1 red pepper, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

200g cooked brown rice

2 tbsp salted peanuts

1 large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

80g uncooked brown rice (4 portions)

METHOD

1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish or wok, over high heat.

2. Fry the onion until just softened. Add the lamb and brown all over.

3. Add the butternut squash, curry paste, peanut butter, soy sauce and coconut milk. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low-medium and cover with a lid to cook for 8-10mins.

4. Add the green beans, red pepper, yellow pepper and a dash of water.

5. Cook for a further 5-8mins or until the desired vegetable texture is reached (we don’t like them too soft).

6. Serve with 50g cooked brown rice per person, sprinkle with peanuts and coriander.

Friday 

BREAKFAST

Toasted muesli

Serves 10

INGREDIENTS

200g rolled oats

45g desiccated or flaked coconut

45g pumpkin seeds

150g raw nuts, roughly chopped

1 tsp ground cinnamon

85g butter or coconut oil, melted

1 egg white (optional)

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan.

2. Combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix lightly.

3. Whisk the egg white (if using) in a separate bowl until it reaches soft peaks; it should start to look white and creamy. This can take 5-7mins with a fork or 3mins with a hand-held whisk.

4. Add the melted butter/oil and foamy egg white (if using) to the dry ingredients and mix well. Spread the mixture onto a lined baking tray evenly.

5. Bake for 30-35mins, or until golden. Check the baking at around 15mins for colour, and mix lightly. Adjust the heat if necessary.

6. Turn the oven off and leave the muesli in the oven with the door slightly ajar until it cools.

7. Once cool, store in an airtight jar or container, and consume within one week. Serve 4 tbsp of muesli with 200g yoghurt and berries per person.

LUNCH

Leftover coconut dahl

DINNER

Chicken fajita bake

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

600g chicken breast or thigh, finely sliced

2 large onions, sliced

3 red peppers, sliced

1 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp ground paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper

80g cheddar cheese, grated

1 handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

60ml sour cream

2 little gem lettuce heads

1 lime, cut into wedges

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan, over medium heat. Cook the chicken, and set aside.

3. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to the same pan, fry the onion and peppers for 6-8mins, until lightly coloured and soft.

4. Return the chicken to the pan, add the spices, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well.

5. If your pan is oven-proof, sprinkle the cheese on top and place in the oven. Otherwise, transfer the chicken mixture to an oven-proof dish, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10mins.

6. Serve in lettuce leaves with sour cream, coriander and lime wedges.

 

 

 

 Tuesday 

BREAKFAST

Peanut butter jam oats

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

80g rolled oats

500ml milk

4 tsp chia seeds or milled flaxseed

120g frozen berries

120ml water

2 tbsp peanut butter

METHOD

1. Mix the rolled oats, milk, and 1 tsp of the chia seeds or milled flaxseed in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat and simmer for 4-5mins, or until the desired consistency is achieved.

3. Meanwhile, make the berry jam in another pot. Stir in the frozen berries and the remaining 1 tsp of chia seeds or milled flaxseed with the 60ml water. Simmer for 4-5mins, or until lightly stewed.

4. Transfer the oats into a serving bowl and add a splash of milk if required, to get the desired consistency.

5. Top the oats with the berry jam and 1 tbsp of peanut butter.

LUNCH

Leftover chilli con carne + brown rice

DINNER

Creamy salmon

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil

4 salmon fillets, skinless and boneless

2 garlic cloves, finely diced or minced

250g asparagus spears

250g frozen peas

300ml vegetable stock

300ml single cream

1 large handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1 small handful fresh dill, roughly chopped (optional)

METHOD

1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a non-stick saucepan, over medium heat.

2. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper, then fry for 5-8mins, flipping once to brown the top, or cooked to your preference.

3. Set the cooked salmon fillets aside, and using the same saucepan, heat the other 1 tbsp of oil, over a medium heat.

4. Add the garlic and fry for 1min, or until softened.

5. Add the asparagus, and peas, and stir for 3mins, or until lightly softened. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.

6. Add the stock, salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to simmer for 8-10mins.

7. Stir in the cream, parsley, and dill, and stir for a further 2mins.

8. Add the salmon fillets back into the creamy sauce, turn the heat off and serve.

Thursday 

BREAKFAST

Leftover baked beans + poached eggs and asparagus or spinach

LUNCH

Leftover lamb pitta massaman curry (no rice)

DINNER

Coconut dahl

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp coconut or extra

virgin extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely diced or

minced

2cm fresh ginger, grated

2 1/2 tsp ground garam masala

1 tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp dried chilli flakes

200g red lentils or split peas

400ml vegetable stock

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

1 large handful baby spinach

1 handful fresh coriander

leaves, roughly chopped

METHOD

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over medium heat. Fry the onion, garlic, and ginger, until softened.

2. Stir in the spices and fry until lightly browned.

3. Stir in the lentils or split peas, and a pinch of black pepper.

4. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-25mins. If using split peas, add an extra 125ml water and cook for a further 15-20mins. The lentils or split peas should be soft and cooked through.

5. Add in the spinach leaves and stir the dahl.

6. Serve with coriander.

Saturday  

BREAKFAST

Blueberry oat pancakes

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 bananas

3 medium eggs

70g rolled oats

1 tbsp butter

50-100g blueberries

METHOD

1. If you have a blender, blend the bananas, eggs, oats, and ½ tsp of salt until smooth. If not, use a fork to roughly mash the bananas. Add the eggs, oats, and salt. Stir to combine until smooth.

2. Heat ⅓ tbsp of the butter in a frying pan, over medium heat. It should melt quickly but make sure it doesn’t brown.

3. Pour the batter into the pan to desired size (approx. 10-12cm), roughly 1cm thick for each pancake. Scatter the blueberries on top.

4. When bubbles start forming on the top, flip with a spatula.

5. Reduce heat slightly and cook until both sides are golden brown. Repeat until all batter is used up.

6. Top with yoghurt or cottage cheese and sprinkle with nuts.

LUNCH

Leftover chicken fajita bake

DINNER

Sweet corn fritters + poached eggs and spinach

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

80g fine porridge oats

½ tsp ground paprika

½ tsp dried thyme (optional)

2 x 198g tins corn, rinsed and

drained

5 medium eggs

80g Cheddar cheese, grated

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

1. Add all the ingredients except the oil to a large bowl and mix well. Store in the fridge for 15mins or overnight if you have time, until sticky.

2. Add 1/2 tsp of the oil to a large frying pan, over medium heat.

3. Fry four of the fritters at a time for 2-3mins each side.

4. Eat hot or cold, and store leftovers in the fridge. Enjoy 2-3 fritters per person with poached eggs and wilted spinach.

DESSERT

Banana bread

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

3 medium overripe bananas

2 eggs

80g butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g almond flour (ground almonds)

80g porridge oats

Pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

60g pecans, chopped

1 banana, sliced lengthways (optional topping)

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Add the bananas to a bowl and mash with a fork.

3. Add the eggs, cooled melted butter, and vanilla and stir well.

4. Add the almond flour, oats, pinch of salt, baking powder, stir well.

5. Add the pecans and stir lightly.

6. Transfer to a loaf baking tin (or any shape you like) and place the banana on top (if using), inside facing up.

7. Bake for 40mins or until golden on top.

Sunday  

BREAKFAST

Leftover sweet corn fritters

LUNCH

Warm lamb salad

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

200g plain natural or Greek yoghurt

½ lemon, zested and juiced

1 garlic clove, finely diced or minced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

400g lamb fillet or leg steaks

4 handfuls (100g) baby spinach and/or salad leaves

½ red onion, finely sliced

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced

METHOD

1. Combine the Greek yoghurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and garlic in a bowl.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, and cook to your liking (or 3mins each side). Cover with foil and set aside.

3. Mix the spinach, red onion, tomatoes, and red pepper in a large bowl. Dress with half the yoghurt dressing.

4. Slice the lamb diagonally into pieces and add to the salad, along with any juice from the pan.

5. Serve with extra dressing on the side.

DINNER

Chana masala

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 carrots, diced

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground or fresh ginger

1 x 400g tin plum/chopped tomatoes

1 x 400mltin coconut milk

2 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

200ml veg stock

1 tsp garam masala

250g spinach

1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Yoghurt (optional garnish)

METHOD

1. Heat olive oil in a large pan and add onion and carrots. Cook for about 10mins, or until softened.

2. Add garlic, turmeric and ground coriander and ginger then stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 mins, then pour in the tin of tomatoes, coconut milk, chickpeas and vegetable stock.

3. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 25mins or until the sauce has thickened.

4. Add garam masala once the sauce has thickened, followed by the spinach and cook for a further 5 mins.

5. Top with coriander and yoghurt (optional).

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