The seven-day plan: eat to lose weight... and to keep it off
The simple rules towards a healthier diet, writes Zoe Harcombe
The menu plan offers simple meal options with minimal preparation time. There are full recipes for anything that requires more than assembly. Lunches are intended to be easy options that you can take to work in a Tupperware box.
The menu plan only has one course for dinner. You can add fat options to fat meals and carb options to carb meals. For example, cheese (no crackers) or full-fat yoghurt can follow a fat meal. Vegetable soup, or a fruit starter or dessert, could accompany a carb meal.
There are many starter and dessert options to be found in our recipe books, or any real-food recipe books you may have on your shelves.
Feel free to use the menu plan as a guide, and replace any meal you don't like with another. Have the same breakfast and main meals every day, if this works for you.
First, some pointers...
1 You want to get used to eating a maximum of three meals a day. So, eat enough to get through to the next meal without needing a snack. You may find your portions of meat, fish and eggs need to be more substantial if you are not filling up with (make that fattening up with) potatoes and pasta.
It might take a while to get the 'more satiating meals/no snacks' balance right, so have a real-food snack if need be until you've mastered things. Real-food snacks include yoghurt, fruit, boiled eggs, a chunk of cheese, some cold meat from the fridge, etc.
2 Salads and vegetables (not potatoes) should be enjoyed in abundance. Lunch and dinner should include an array of salads or vegetables - be inventive.
Our favourite 'super salad' contains: lettuce leaves, cucumber, tomato, celery, peppers, fennel, grated carrot, grated celeriac (in season) with char-grilled onions (for extra crunch) on top. When we have steak, we have mushrooms, spinach, peppers, onions, courgettes and anything else we can find in the veg box.
3 Food can be cooked in any of the following ways - roasted, fried (in a dash of olive oil, coconut oil or butter), grilled, baked, poached or steamed.
4 Drink as much water as you like (sparkling or still), as well as herbal/fruit teas. Try to cut back on caffeine, if not cut it out altogether, as it has an impact on blood glucose levels.
You can have milk in drinks with meals, but not between meals - or you'll be grazing - and never have sugar, of course, or sugary or sweetened drinks.
5 Nature tends to provide carb proteins or fat proteins. There are a number of reasons it is ideal to mimic this in the way we combine food. Therefore, I recommend consuming what we call fat meals (fat proteins) or carb meals (carb proteins), but not to mix the two in each sitting. Vegetables, some fruits, herbs, spices and seasoning can be eaten with either type of meal.
Carb proteins are foods that come from trees and the ground. These are things vegans and vegetarians would eat. They include fruit, vegetables, grains, beans and pulses (also known as legumes). Fat proteins are foods that come from animal sources: meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
Nuts and seeds are the rare natural foods that contain carbohydrate, fat and protein in significant amounts. This is one of the reasons I advise avoiding these foods if trying to lose weight. The carb fat combo, as I explain in my books about The Harcombe Diet, is uniquely fattening. The carb fat combo is also the domain of processed food.
There's a good mix of carb (C) and fat (F) meals here. You are likely to find that the fat meals are more filling and that they keep you satiated for longer.
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs (F)
Lunch: Nicoise salad (see recipe below) (F)
Dinner: Stir-fry vegetables and brown rice (C)
150g green beans, 4 eggs, 1 chopped iceberg lettuce, 24 halved cherry tomatoes, 1 diced cucumber, 4 tuna steaks or 400g tinned tuna (or salmon steaks or 400g tinned salmon), olive oil or another dressing, salt and ground black pepper
1) Chop green beans into 3-4cm pieces. Boil until al dente - or to taste.
2) Hard-boil eggs (5-10 minutes, depending on taste). Peel and quarter when cool.
3) If using fresh tuna or salmon, cook in frying pan or under grill.
4) Arrange lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber on four plates; add cooked green beans and hard-boiled eggs.
5) Add dressing to taste - olive oil is perfect.
6) Place fish on top.
TIP - add anchovies for extra flavour.
Breakfast: Porridge (with water or milk) (C)
Lunch: Brown rice salad (see recipe below) (C)
Dinner: Roast chicken with garlic and lemon, and vegetables or salad (see recipe below) (F)
Roast chicken with garlic & lemon, and vegetables or salad
You can cook chicken in the oven, in its own juices, with absolutely nothing else - but for more flavour, stuff it with garlic and fresh lemon as follows.
1 medium-sized chicken
6-8 garlic cloves
1 lemon, quartered
1) Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
2) If chicken contains giblets, remove and then stuff garlic cloves and lemon quarters into cavity.
3) Cook chicken breast down for the first 30 minutes to allow juices to penetrate breast meat, and then turn over.
4) Cook for a further 30-60 minutes. Serve with a selection of vegetables in winter or mixed salad in summer.
Breakfast: Plain Greek (full-fat) yoghurt with berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and/or blueberries. Frozen berries are quite cheap all year round) (F)
Lunch: Roast chicken salad (leftovers from the night before) (F)
Dinner: Vegetarian chilli and brown rice (see recipe below) (C)
Vegetarian chilli is a classic recipe that every household cook should be able to dish up. This is a really filling meal and great for reheating when you are in a hurry. As the beans provide decent amounts of protein, it can be eaten as a meal in itself, so don't worry if you don't have time to do rice or a baked potato.
2tbsp olive oil, 2 finely chopped onions, 1 deseeded & chopped red pepper, 1 crushed garlic clove,
1.5kg mixed vegetables (carrots, courgettes, cauliflower, broccoli, leeks) cut into 2cm cubes, 400g tin unsweetened drained kidney beans, 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 deseeded & sliced chillies, Chilli powder to taste (2-4tsp)
1) In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil and gently fry onions until soft.
2) Add pepper and garlic and fry for further 3-4 minutes.
3) Add all mixed vegetables, including kidney beans, tinned tomatoes and chillies and give a good stir.
4) Stir in chilli powder and put lid on pan. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
5) Serve with brown rice or crispy baked potato.
Breakfast: Brown rice cereal (C) (Available in the gluten-free section in supermarkets and/or in health food shops)
Lunch: Baked potato and leftover vegetarian chilli (Pre-cook a baked potato when you have the oven on for the roast chicken. Reheat lunch in the microwave at work.) (C)
Dinner: Salmon steaks with lime & coriander and vegetables or salad (see recipe below) (F)
Salmon steaks with lime & coriander and vegetables or salad
The easiest meals comprise quality meat, fish and/or eggs and vegetables. Often a few herbs on chicken or some fennel seeds on a pork chop can really enhance the flavour. This recipe is a prime example of getting a well-sourced salmon steak (ideally from your local fishmonger) and adding just a couple of simple ingredients to transform the basic fish into something with a zing.
2 salmon steaks, handful of freshly chopped coriander, juice and grated zest of half a lime.
1) Place salmon steaks skinside down in oven-proof dish and sprinkle fresh coriander and lime juice over.
2) Turn over and pop under hot grill for five minutes, or until skin is browned and crispy. Turn steaks over again and grill for a further five minutes, until nicely browned on other side.
3) Transfer steaks to warmed plates. Give juices in dish a quick stir and spoon over.
4) Serve steaks hot with fresh greens, or salad, or chill and enjoy cold.
Breakfast: Omelette (see recipe below) (F)
Lunch: Chef's salad (see recipe below) (F)
Dinner: Rice pasta in 15-min tomato pasta sauce (see recipe below) (C)
Rice pasta in 15-minute tomato sauce
This versatile sauce goes with spaghetti, quinoa, chops, tofu or just about anything else you can think of. Rice pasta is found the gluten-free section of the supermarket or a health food shop.
100-150g rice pasta, 2tbsp olive oil,
1 finely chopped onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 2tsp chopped fresh basil (or 1tsp dried), salt and ground black pepper
1) Cook rice pasta according to packet instructions.
2) Heat olive oil in wok, or large frying pan, until sizzling.
3) Fry onion and garlic until soft (five minutes) and then add chopped tomatoes and let warm through - which should take around two minutes.
4) Add basil, salt and pepper and it's ready to serve.
TIP - to add a spicy kick, stir in a finely chopped chilli with the onion.
Breakfast: Frittata (see recipe below) (F)
Lunch: Roast lamb, pork, beef or chicken with selection of veg (C)
Dinner: Stuffed peppers/tomatoes (F)
Frittatas are perfect for substantial breakfasts or lunches. This eight-egg version will easily feed two or more. It's lovely cold, so you can save the leftovers for another day.
2 diced courgettes, 100g (approx) broccoli cut into small florets, 25g butter, 4 diced bacon rashers (four strips of red pepper for the veggie version), 1 finely chopped small red onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 8 eggs, ground black pepper
1) Parboil courgettes and broccoli for two minutes, then drain and leave to cool.
2) Melt butter in heavy frying pan and lightly fry bacon for 5-7 mins (3-4 mins if using pepper strips).
3) Add onion and garlic and cook for further 3-4 minutes, then add courgettes and broccoli. Cook for further 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
4) Whisk eggs in mixing bowl, add some seasoning, pour over mixture in frying pan and pat down to form frittata. Cook on a low heat for 6-8 minutes, or until firm.
5) Remove from heat and place under hot grill until top of frittata starts to brown. Then flip frittata over on plate for serving.
6) Slice like a pizza and serve warm with mixed salad or your favourite vegetables.
Breakfast: Harcombe protein shake (see recipe below) (F)
Lunch: Fruit platter, plain oat biscuits, cottage cheese (C)
Dinner: Steak or mixed grill with vegetables or salad (F)
Harcombe protein shake
The ingredients in shop-bought protein shakes are numerous, many are unrecognisable - and don't meet our real-food principle. Here is a recipe for a natural protein shake - suitable for vegetarians, which you can swap for breakfast any day.
4 eggs, 500ml thick natural live yoghurt, 2 rounded tsp decaf espresso coffee powder.
The speedy method is to blitz ingredients in a blender and breakfast is ready in 1-2 minutes. To make the shake lighter, more voluminous, follow these steps:
1) Separate egg yolks and whites. Put yolks in one mixing bowl and whites in another.
2) Using an electric whisk, beat egg yolks for 1-2 minutes, until they turn pale yellow.
3) Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form.
4) Fold egg whites into egg yolks.
5) Gently fold yoghurt into mixture.
6) Stir in coffee powder.
7) Serve in a glass, and sprinkle a dash of coffee powder on top.
Sunday Indo Living