1. Reduce sugars and starchy foods.
Most people realize they should be eating less cake, sweets, biscuits and sweetened drinks, but those are just the tip of the iceberg. There are all sorts of other culprits that contain hidden sugars, such as fruit juices, instant oats, most processed and many pre-prepared foods, white pasta, rice, and bread, as well as potatoes and sweet potatoes.
These foods convert into sugar in your blood almost as quickly as the white stuff itself.
A cautionary word on fruit – although fresh fruit contains fiber and healthy nutrients, it also contains lots of sugar. (See overleaf for more on which fruits are best and when to eat them.)
2. Eat decent amounts of protein every day.
Your body can’t store protein. If deprived, it will break down your protein and muscles to get what it needs. Aim for around 45–60g of protein most days, even on 800cals days. Include plenty of oily fish, seafood, chicken, eggs, some full-fat dairy, some red meat, as well as tofu, beans, lentils, Quorn and nuts. Restrict processed meats, such as bacon, sausages or salami, although we do include small quantities in some recipes for protein and flavor.
3. Increase your consumption of natural healthy fats, mainly plant-based.
Being energy-dense, fat is an excellent slow-release form of energy that keeps you going without pushing up sugars. And many high-fat foods are extremely nutritious. So, enjoy adding in lovely extra-virgin olive oil, and eating some full-fat dairy, ideally in fermented forms, such as cheese and yogurt, as well as satiating avocado, salmon and oily fish, and nuts and seeds.
Avoid low-fat diet products and highly processed fats.
4. Fill half your plate with non-starchy veg,
such as spinach, kale, chard, spring greens and cabbage, as well as green beans, peppers, courgettes, broccoli, cauliflower, and salad leaves. All these vegetables contain lots of nutrients, as well as fiber that helps the ‘good’ microbes in your gut to thrive. These are so important that we have decided to release you from having to calorie count them!
If you are not a fan, you might find that eating these vegetables cooked with extra seasoning, or with added flavors, converts you, particularly on a fast day – it is said that hunger is the best sauce! (See page 241 for ideas on how to add interest to your greens.)
5. Avoid snacking between meals, or late-night grazing.
The trouble with snacking is that it reduces fat burning. If you must snack on a fast day, eat a small portion of non-starchy vegetables, such as sliced cucumber, broccoli or celery. We include some recipes for dips (see pages 106–7), but this is best eaten as part of a meal. Alternatively, try a few nuts (one portion is the amount that will sit on the palm of your hand) or a sliver of cheese.
6 Swap white rice and pasta for wholemeal versions and pulses, such as lentils, quinoa, and beans.
Best eaten in moderation, these ‘complex carbohydrates’ are a particularly good source of fiber – the ideal ‘fertilizer’ to keep your microbiome happy and healthy – and are key to the success of a Mediterranean diet, which is ‘lowish’ in carbs in contrast to a very low-carb diet where many high-fiber healthy carbs are avoided, too. We encourage you to add them in on non-fast days.
7 Drink healthily.
It is vital when you are reducing calories and losing weight, to make sure you remain well hydrated by adding extra fluids –mainly water if you can. Otherwise, stick to black tea, fruit teas, and black coffee (see page 244 for some suggestions for other no-cal drinks). Avoid anything with added calories. And any drinks containing sweeteners. Although it’s best to avoid alcohol on 800cals days, you can enjoy the occasional glass of red wine on non-fast days in the spirit of the Mediterranean diet.