health

Ditch the diet this January – what to do instead get healthy and lose weight


Every January we’re bombarded with advertisements for fad diets, weightloss programmes and healthy eating alternatives as companies make the most of people’s New Year’s Resolutions.

After over-indulging at Christmas, many of us are tempted to search for a quick fix to lose weight or get into shape, but the truth is it rarely works.

So Tamara Willner, nutritionist for Second Nature, is urging people to ditch the fad diets this year and try something a bit different.

She explains: “This year we are taking a stand against unhealthy, unrealistic fad diets, because they don’t work.

“Although they usually result in fast weight loss, we know that 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 wants you to try a different approach this year

Tamara claims that it’s much better to look at your health holistically, focusing on the bigger pictre including sleep, stress, movement as well as nutrition.

She says it’s 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”, she adds.

She says: “Our movement 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.



Fad diets rarely work

“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’.

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

As part of their #stopfaddiets campaign, Second Nature has put together a list of things you can do instead.

15 things you can do instead of trying a fad diet in 2021

  • Adding extra vegetables to every meal I have
  • Having a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink
  • Starting each morning with a 10 minute walk.
  • Planning my meals ahead of time
  • Avoiding screen time for 1 hour before bed – E.g. laptops, phones, TV
  • Swapping fruit juices, squash, or sugary beverages to water, tea, coffee, or milk
  • Avoiding low-fat products so that I feel more satisfied
  • Snacking on whole foods rather than processed alternatives – E.g choosing cheese, nuts, fruit, boiled eggs, natural yoghurt with berries rather than crisps, biscuits, chocolate bars, or sugary cereal bars
  • Being kinder to myself and focusing on positive self-talk.
  • Standing up from my desk every hour to do 1 minute of activity – E.g. squats, star jumps,stretching, or running on the spot.
  • Allowing myself to eat a certain food when I really feel like it (e.g. chocolate), but eating it slowly and distraction-free.
  • Spending 10 minutes every day outside in nature, or near my window looking at nature.
  • Taking at least 15 minutes to eat my meals
  • Limiting takeaways to once every 2 weeks
  • Replacing any negative thoughts about my appearance with positive ones.

They’ve also come up with an alternative meal plan, filled with delicious and healthy ideas that will allow you to enjoy your dinner while still being healthy.

Meal plan for two people

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

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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

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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).

TUESDAY

BREAKFAST

Peanut butter jam oats



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.

WEDNESDAY

BREAKFAST

Leftover mini omelettes

LUNCH

Leftover creamy salmon + slice of sourdough toast

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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.

THURSDAY

BREAKFAST

Leftover baked beans + poached eggs and asparagus or spinach

LUNCH

Leftover lamb pitta massaman curry (no rice)

DINNER

Coconut dahl



Coconut Dhal

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.

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.

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

SATURDAY

BREAKFAST

Blueberry oat pancakes



Blueberry 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).

For more information and to read the other ideas on the list, visit the Second Nature website.





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