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Your sustainable weight-loss meal plan

From delicious healthy recipes to the best nutritional advice, we guide you through what should – and shouldn’t – be on your plate this month

Many of us have been sucked into the promise of a quick-fix (often highly restrictive) eating plan while trying to achieve our health goals which, new research* suggests, means losing weight for 55 percent of us. But while cutting down on certain food groups might trigger results short-term, you could find yourself trapped in a pattern of yo-yo dieting before long. Not exactly breaking news, right? So, why do we go back to fad diets time and time again? “Weight is a hugely emotive topic for many people and if a diet can provide the answer, then they become desirable,” explains registered nutrition consultant Jenna Hope (jennahopenutrition.com). “They also remove responsibility from the individual. However, if you feel restricted and held by dietary rules, you’re more likely to potentially regain the weight after the diet ends.” In short, there are better ways to shape up, shift the pounds, and have a healthier relationship with food. So, consider this your no-nonsense guide to healthy weight loss management – and a happier you.

Nutritional know-how

Before we dive into the fun stuff, here’s Jenna’s take on common queries.

How important is moderation when it comes to healthy, sustainable weight loss?

“Improving your health, working on your diet and losing weight sustainably takes time and effort, so moderation is crucial to long-term weight loss and preventing a binge/restrict eating pattern.”

Where does willpower come into it?

“Willpower plays a minimal role in weight loss. Often, people mistake physiological responses as a lack of willpower, but in the case of a poor sleep routine, for example, ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases, which drives up appetite to increase energy. Instead, by optimising sleep and minimising stress, this can help with weight loss and encourage healthier dietary and lifestyle choices.”

Do I need to count calories to lose weight?

“For some people, counting calories helps them to become more aware of the food they’re consuming. For others, however, it can lead to nutrient-poor food choices, feelings of restriction and a negative relationship with food. For those who do choose to count calories, it’s important to remember that the nutrients in foods are more important than the calories alone. For example, almonds may be a more calorific snack than a rice cake, but the almonds contain proteins and healthy fats to help keep you fuller for longer. In essence, counting calories can be useful but nutritional components should play a vital role in dietary choices, too.”

What are your top tips for a balanced plate?

“I’m a big advocate for focusing on what you can add into your diet, rather than what you can remove. Adding nutrient-dense, fibrerich foods will naturally displace some of the less nutritious options without making you feel deprived. Adequate hydration is also key for supporting weight loss, as it can help to prevent misinterpreting thirst for hunger. It’s recommended you consume two litres of water per day, but keep in mind that large intakes of water are not recommended and can be dangerous. Two significant contributors that may impair your body’s ability to lose weight are sleep and stress – both will make healthy dietary choices more challenging, so focus on resolving them first.”

Meals for feels

Eating with a weight loss goal in mind doesn’t have to feel like deprivation. Here, Jenna suggests some of her favourite dishes to add to your culinary arsenal “Ensuring that you have a protein source with every meal or snack can help to stabilise your blood-sugar levels and keep cravings at bay.”

Breakfast of champions

Jenna suggests… Porridge with yoghurt

“Adding yoghurt to oats ups your protein intake and slows down the release of carbohydrates. To stabilise your bloodsugar levels, I’d recommend adding cinnamon, then topping with berries for an extra nutrient punch.”

You could try…

Apple and pear overnight oats

Ingredients: 1 small apple, cored and finely grated • 1 pear, cored and finely grated • 150g oats • 350ml oat milk, such as Alpro Oat No Sugars • 5 tsp of almond butter • A pinch of sea salt

For the compote: 1 apple, finely chopped • 1 pear, finely chopped • 1⁄2 tbsp maple syrup • A pinch of cinnamon or ground ginger

To serve:

1 tbsp of non-dairy yoghurt, such as Alpro Plain No Sugars

Method

1. Mix the apple, pear, oats and oat milk together in a medium mixing bowl, then stir in half of the almond butter. Add the pinch of salt, cover with cling film and store in the fridge overnight (about 12 hours).

2. For the compote, place the apple and pear into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp of water, put a lid on the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the maple syrup and spice, stir gently, then cover and simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes until the fruit has softened and broken down a little. Set aside, cool and cover until morning.

3. To serve, spoon the oats into bowls and top with a spoonful of the yoghurt and compote, then drizzle over the remaining almond butter.

Level-up your lunch

Jenna suggests… A quinoa and vegetable salad

“Quinoa is a source of complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids. I recommend packing in plenty of vegetables, which are low in energy, but high in water and fibre, leaving you feeling fuller for longer.”

You could try

Quinoa and edamame bean salad

Ingredients: 200g mixed quinoa • 350g edamame beans, frozen • 1⁄2 red onion, sliced • 2 garlic cloves, crushed • 8 radishes, thinly sliced • 1⁄2 cucumber, sliced • 2 spring onions, sliced • Handful fresh mint, roughly chopped • Handful Thai basil, roughly chopped • 1 lemon, zested and juiced • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar • 2 tbsp soy sauce • 2 tbsp olive oil • Pinch chilli flakes

Method

1. Rinse the quinoa well and transfer to a saucepan over a medium heat, covered with 400ml water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover with the lid. Cook for 12-15 minutes until tender. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool, before fluffing with a fork.

2. Lightly drizzle a saucepan with olive oil and fry the onion on a low heat for 2-3 minutes, until beginning to soften, before adding the garlic and edamame beans. Cook for around 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened and the edamame beans have thawed.

3. Pour the onion, garlic and edamame beans into a large bowl, and add the radishes, cucumber, spring onions, mint and Thai basil.

4. Combine the remaining ingredients in another bowl to make a vinaigrette. 5When the quinoa is cooled, tip it into the bowl with the vegetables and toss well to coat. Pour in the vinaigrette and stir until well combined.

Winner dinners

Jenna suggests… Shepherd’s pie

“I recommend making it with half mince and half lentils or beans. Pulses are lower in energy than mince meat and using beans and lentils can help to bulk out the meal. Try using celeriac, swede, butternut squash or sweet potato instead of potato to increase your micronutrients and mix up your plant sources, too.”

A tofu or chicken stir-fry

“Stir fries are great for packing in lots of vegetables, which keeps the energy lower. If you’re trying to lose weight, use soy sauce instead of the high-sugar alternatives.”

You could try…

Vegen shepherd’ spie

Ingredients: 1 tbsp olive oil • 6 dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 250ml boiling water • 1 large onion, peeled • 2 carrots, peeled • 5 garlic cloves, peeled • 2 sticks celery • 3 tbsp soy sauce • 4 tbsp tomato puree • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped • 250g puy lentils, such as 1 pack of Merchant Gourmet Puy Lentils • 250g red and white quinoa, such as 1 pack of Merchant Gourmet Glorious Grains • 240ml vegetable stock • A pinch of sea salt and pepper

Topping: 4 large potatoes • 4 tbsp vegan butter • 120ml non-dairy milk • 1 tbsp olive oil • A pinch of sea salt and pepper

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/356F/ Gas 4.

2. Place a large, non-stick saucepan over a medium heat and add a little olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the onion, carrots, garlic and celery. Sauté the mixture for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.

3. Finely chop the re-hydrated mushrooms, then add them to the pan with the tomato purée, herbs, lentils and quinoa.

4. Keep stirring the mixture for 2-3 minutes before adding the mushroom liqueur (soaking water), stock, salt and pepper.

5. Meanwhile, make your mash potato for the topping.

6. Add your potatoes to a medium saucepan and cover over with water. Place the pan over medium heat and cook the potatoes for around 10-12 minutes, or until they are soft enough to mash.

7. When the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a colander to drain away the water. Let the potatoes dry for 2-3 minutes, then pass them through a potato ricer to mash.

8. Once you’ve riced the potatoes, whip in the milk, vegan butter, olive oil and seasoning. Set the mash aside until you’re ready to top your pie.

9. When the filling mix is rich and the liquid has slightly thickened, transfer it to your baking dish and top with creamy mash.

10. Place your shepherd’s pie into your oven to bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the mash on top is crispy and golden.

Health & Wellbeing