Summer is just around the corner but, after the gluttony of Easter, how can we ditch those extra pounds and save on the weekly shop at the same time?
Dr Ranj Singh’s healthy meal-planner for Sunday Mirror readers is the answer – making food prep easier and healthier than ever.
All the recipes come in below the recommended maximum daily intake of 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 a day for men.
ITV doctor and former Strictly star Ranj, 39, says: “These meal plans will help you understand the calorific content of your food – which is the key to losing weight.
“Many people think nothing of tucking into a bag of crisps with their sandwich at lunchtime, but these add-ons can have huge calorific consequences.”
If you need to eat a little extra, while still keeping calories under the recommended amount, his book Save Money, Lose Weight – out this week – also contains healthy snacks.
Porridge is undoubtedly a great way to start your day – inexpensive, packed full of fibre, quick and filling. The banana and cinnamon here add a great warmth and sweetness.
2 Add the sliced banana and cinnamon, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
A zesty, warming and low-calorie soup packed full of good-for-you ingredients. This soup is creamy and sweet and a great one to try on kids or soup sceptics. It will keep well in the fridge for a few days and also freezes perfectly. Freeze the soup in individual portions and defrost overnight (or in the microwave) for those days when you’re short of time. Keep an eye out for frozen butternut squash chunks in your local supermarket; they are a thrifty and time-saving ingredient to have in your freezer.
3 Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and bring to a light boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20–30 minutes until the vegetables are nice and soft.
4 Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10–20 minutes. Pour the soup into a food processor and whizz until smooth. Season with black pepper. Add a little more water or stock if you prefer a thinner soup.
Instead of splurging on a takeaway, make this fresh and zingy curry. If you’re making it for kids leave out the chilli. You could swap the chicken for any firm white fish or prawns. You could even make it vegetarian by using extra veg and adding a tin of chickpeas or butterbeans.
2 Meanwhile, place the vegetable oil, onion, garlic, ginger, lime zest and juice, coriander and chilli
3 Place a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat, add the paste and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t burn or stick. Add the chicken pieces and mushrooms and continue to cook for 3–4 minutes, until golden. Pour in the coconut milk and 200ml water. Combine the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, then pour this into the pan, stirring well. Bring to a gentle simmer, reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
This is a great smoothie recipe and a really good way of getting some leafy greens into your diet. Frozen spinach is a wonder ingredient – inexpensive, readily available and it’s so handy to have a stash in the freezer for times when you are out of fresh vegetables. You can use fresh spinach if you have some – just add a few ice cubes to the blender if you do.
1 Defrost the spinach – either in the microwave (place in a bowl and cook on high for 1–2 minutes) or place in a sieve over the sink and pour boiling water over the top. Squeeze and drain out the excess water.
2 Place the flour, egg, milk and spinach in a food processor and whizz until you have a smooth batter.
3 Heat a little of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add a ladleful of the spinach mixture, swirling it around the pan to coat, and cook for 1 minute on each side, or until golden. Repeat with the remaining mixture to make three more wraps.
4 Serve straight away with your favourite filling or save to eat later. The wraps freeze very well between baking parchment.
Lentils are a great way to make meat go further. This freezes really well and is delicious served on its own with lots of green veg or with brown rice.
1 Heat the oil in a large pan over a high heat. Add the beef mince and cook for 5 minutes until brown.
2 Reduce the heat and add the onion and carrot. Sauté gently for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetables have started to soften.
4 Add the lentils, tinned tomatoes and stock, bring up to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and the flavour has developed.
This is a great midweek breakfast option – you prepare it all the night before and it is ready and waiting for you in the morning. Perfect for taking into work.
1 Combine all of the ingredients, except the milk, together in a bowl and mix well. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
1 Boil the eggs in a pan for 8 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly in a bowl of cold water. Peel the eggs and place in a bowl with the cottage cheese. Season with black pepper and mash everything together well.
1 Preheat the oven to 220C/Fan 200C and line a large baking tray with a layer of foil, with enough overhang to wrap it up into a parcel.
2 Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the potatoes for 10 minutes. Add the green beans to the pan for the final 4 minutes of the cooking time. Drain and set aside.
3 In a large bowl, combine the basil, capers, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the courgettes, cherry tomatoes, spinach, cooked potatoes and beans. Mix everything together well and season with black pepper.
4 Tip the vegetable mixture on to the tray and spread out evenly, leaving enough space at the edges to fold the foil over and close. Lay the cod fillets on top of the vegetables and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Season with black pepper, bring the edges of the foil together to seal into a parcel and bake in the oven for 15–25 minutes (depending on whether the fish is fresh or frozen).
Omelettes are really versatile (and cheap to make) and this recipe is designed to use up those odds and ends of vegetables you might have lurking in your fridge. Use a good non-stick pan and add a little grated Cheddar or crumbled feta if you have the calorie allowance.
350g vegetables, finely chopped (use some or a mixture of carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers, courgette and broccoli – whatever you have in your fridge!)
15g fresh soft herbs, finely chopped (use one or a mixture of parsley, coriander, dill and basil), or 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tin and drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the oil. Roast in the oven for 30–35 minutes.
3 Once the vegetables are roasted, whisk the eggs in a small bowl, add the chopped herbs and season with black pepper.
4 Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture, swirling the eggs with a wooden spoon as they start to set. Tip your roasted veg on top of the eggs, spreading them out evenly. Leave to cook in the pan until just set.
1 Measure the couscous into a heatproof serving bowl and just cover with 250ml boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave for 10 minutes.
2 Whisk the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a small bowl or pour them into a jam jar and give it a good shake. Season with black pepper and add the garlic. Mix or shake again.
3 Fluff the couscous with a fork then stir in the veg and dressing. Crumble in the feta and sprinkle with chilli flakes, if using, to serve.
Turkey mince is a great substitute for beef and brings down the calories. Serve these with brown rice, spaghetti or a big green salad, depending on your calorie allowance.
1 To make the meatballs, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Sautéfor 5–10 minutes until soft. Set aside to cool.
2 Combine the cooked onion with the garlic, turkey mince, egg and breadcrumbs in a large bowl and mix well (I find this easiest to do with my hands). Shape the mixture into meatballs and set aside.
3 Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add the meatballs and fry for 2 minutes, turning them to colour each side. Don’t worry about cooking them through. Once golden, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
4 To make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and sauté the fennel for 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn. Stir in the tinned and sundried tomatoes and 100ml water, season with black pepper and simmer for 15–20 minutes, adding more water if it starts to dry out.
5 Pour the sauce into the frying pan with the meatballs and place over a medium heat. Simmer gently for 5–10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
Being able to eat pancakes for breakfast when you are trying to lose weight is a real joy! These are quick and easy to make and will be a hit with the whole family. Try different toppings according to your calorie allowance – extra fruit or a compote made from frozen fruit would both be particularly delicious spooned over the top.
2 Heat half the oil or butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Spoon tablespoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and fry the pancakes for 2–4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining mixture, adding more oil or butter to the pan if necessary, to make 4–6 pancakes per person.
A one pan, quick and easy lunch that also keeps well for a packed lunch the next day – just slice the frittata up into portions and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge. It’s a great low-calorie and low-cost meal for all the family.
2 Meanwhile, heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan over a low heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes until soft. Turn the heat up, add the courgette and cooked potato and cook for 2–3 minutes, until the potato and courgette are starting to brown.
3 Pour the eggs into the pan, sprinkle the parsley over the top and season with black pepper. Give it a quick stir to ensure the vegetables are all encased within the egg, pulling the egg in from the sides. Leave to cook for 2–3 minutes until it is starting to set. Finally, place it under the grill for 2 minutes to cook the top or slide the frittata on to a plate and flip it over back into the pan to cook the other side for a further minute.
2 Combine the flour, baking powder and yoghurt together in a bowl until you have a dough. Divide into four and roll out each piece on a floured worktop into a thin, round pizza base, about 20cm in diameter.
3 Meanwhile, place the passata and crushed garlic in a small pan over a medium heat and season well with black pepper. Bring to a light simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.
4 Place the pizza bases on the prepared baking trays and bake in the oven for 3 minutes until they start to puff up slightly.
5 Remove the bases from the oven, flip them over then spread the passata mixture evenly over each one. Top the pizzas with your favourite toppings, tear the mozzarella and scatter over the top, drizzle with olive oil and return them to the oven for
Baking the eggs in the tray with the rest of the ingredients means you use less oil – you want to create a little nest in between the vegetables and bacon so they are contained.
2 Place the courgettes, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in a large roasting tin, drizzle with the oil, season with black pepper and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
3 Remove the vegetables from the oven and move them to one end of the roasting tin. Lay the bacon on the other end and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
4 Finally, remove the tin from the oven once more, make some space between the bacon and vegetables, crack in the eggs and return to the oven for 8–10 minutes until the eggs are just cooked.
This tart is quick, easy and really delicious and, most importantly, it doesn’t feel like diet food. It’s a great recipe for entertaining – any leftovers taste great eaten cold the next day!
2 Defrost the spinach – either in the microwave (place in a bowl and cook on high for 1–2 minutes) or place in a sieve over the sink and pour boiling water over the top. Drain and squeeze out any excess water and add the spinach to a bowl. Add the eggs and nutmeg to the bowl and season with pepper. Stir to combine.
3 Unroll the puff pastry and place on the prepared baking tray. Using a sharp knife, score a rectangle approximately 3cm inside the edges of the pastry, making sure you don’t cut through the pastry. Place in the oven and bake blind for 10 minutes.
4 Remove the pastry from the oven and spoon the spinach and egg mixture into the centre, spreading it out evenly to the edges of the scored rectangle. Sprinkle the feta and pine nuts over the top and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.
The roast vegetable ratatouille is a great way to help you reach your 5 a day. It’s a perfect side dish for any grilled meat or fish. The paprika rub on the pork chops gives a delicious crust as it grills.
2 Place the courgettes, peppers, aubergine and red onion in a roasting tin. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with black pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
3 Remove the tin from the oven, add the garlic and tinned tomatoes and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, mix the remaining vegetable oil with the paprika. Rub the paprika and oil paste into both sides of the pork chops and season with black pepper.
5 Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the pork chops and fry for approximately 7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Make sure to brown the fat. Remove the pork chops from the pan and leave to rest for a few minutes.
1 Heat the oil in a large casserole pan (one that has a lid) over a medium heat. Add the onion and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and paprika and cook for a further 2.3minutes, stirring regularly to ensure it doesnft burn.
2 Add the tinned tomatoes, chilli flakes (if using) and season with black pepper. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
3 Make 4 slight dips in the sauce using the back of a spoon and crack an egg into each dip . it fs easier to crack the eggs into a mug or small bowl first then pour them in gently. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5.10 minutes until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny (cook for another 5 minutes if you prefer the yolks cooked through).
A Sunday roast minus the fuss. Keep the chicken carcass to make stock – simmer for a couple of hours in a large pan of boiling water with an onion and carrot, strain and use for soup or stews, or freeze.
2 Place the chicken in a large roasting tin. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the chicken and rub it over the skin. Prick the skin of the lemon with the tip of a knife, cut it in half and insert it inside the cavity of the chicken. Season the chicken with black pepper and place in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.
3 Meanwhile, mix the sweet potato, onions, carrots and parsnip with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season with black pepper.
4 Remove the chicken from the oven, lift it out of the tin and set aside. Tip the vegetables into the roasting tin and place the chicken on top of them. Return to the oven and roast the chicken and vegetables for a further 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are tender.
5 Remove from the oven, place a large piece of foil over the chicken and vegetables and leave to rest for 10–15 minutes.
This is a fun recipe for entertaining – serve it with little bowls of sides (try chopped chillies, roasted sweet potatoes, chopped spring onions and lime wedges). Any leftovers reheat or freeze well. Serve with brown rice or spooned over a baked sweet potato, if your calorie allowance permits.
1 Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based casserole pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes until soft.
2 Turn down the heat slightly, add the garlic and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn. Add the paprika and cumin and continue to cook for a further minute, stirring well so the spices coat the vegetables.
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3 Add the lentils, tomatoes and 350ml water, bring up to a boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15–20 minutes until the lentils are soft.
4 Add the black beans and kidney beans and season with black pepper. If it looks like it’s drying out or catching on the bottom of the pan, add a couple of tablespoons more water. Simmer for a further 20 minutes.
5 Meanwhile, mix the mashed avocado with the lime juice in a small bowl and season with black pepper.
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