Six salads to help you lose a stone

salads
salads

With the chunky jumpers finally being packed away, it’s time to shape up for summer. Despite the myriad diets available, the only proven way to lose weight is for the body to be in a calorie deficit. Whichever way this is packaged, be it old-fashioned calorie-counting, low-carb, low-fat or intermittent fasting, to shed the pounds we must ingest fewer calories than we burn, this is known as the energy balance equation.

Many factors influence this balance – our basal metabolic rate or the rate at which we burn calories at rest, our level of physical activity, the types of food we eat and the state of our gut health. Still, by far the most important factor is how many calories we consume.

As a nutritionist, I always advocate slow, steady, sustainable weight loss rather than adopting a crazy fad diet that is destined to fail. Two pounds a week is a realistic target and by adding a few other calorie-burning habits, shedding a stone in six weeks is achievable with a bit of focus.

Sam Rice
Two pounds a week is a realistic target, says Sam Rice - Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph

You’ll need to aim for a calorie intake of around 1,000 per day for women and 1,250 per day for men while in weight-loss mode to hit that 2lb target, which is about half the usual recommended intake of 2,000/2,500 calories per day. By eating nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, beans, seeds and plenty of fibre to help prevent cravings, it is possible to lose weight healthily and sustainably.*

Satisfying, robust salads are the perfect way to keep calories down but still provide the body with the nutrition it needs. Here are six of my favourite salad recipes, perfect for lunch or dinner to help you hit that one-stone goal.

* If you have any medical condition, are pregnant or breast-feeding, or have a history of eating disorders do not make any significant changes to your diet without consulting your GP.

Lentil, tomato and goats cheese salad
Lentil, tomato and goats cheese salad

Everyone needs an easy store-cupboard curry recipe up their sleeve, and this is one you will come back to time and again. It tastes even better the next day, so make double and you’ve got lunch tomorrow too. You can also freeze any leftovers.

If you aren’t already a fan of the pre-cooked lentils and grains you can buy in pouches, then perhaps this recipe will convert you. They are a simple way to get lean plant protein and lots of fibre into your diet, and can be added to curries, stews, soups or, as in this case, salads.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt

  • 50g soft goat’s cheese

  • 1 small green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom (or 2-3 pods, seeds removed and crushed)

  • Juice of 1 lime

  • 250g pack of pre-cooked puy lentils

  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved

  • ½ small red onion, finely sliced

  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • A few mint leaves, chopped, to garnish

Method

  1. Put the yogurt, goat’s cheese, chilli, cardamom, half the lime juice and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a blender, and whizz up to make a creamy dressing.

  2. Place the lentils in a colander and rinse with boiling water to refresh, then place in a serving bowl and break up with a fork if they are a bit stuck together. Mix well with the dressing now, or serve on the side if you prefer.

  3. In a separate bowl, toss the tomatoes and onion in the remaining lime juice and olive oil, then place on top of the dressed lentils. Add the chopped mint leaves to garnish.

Roasted veg Greek salad
Roasted veg Greek salad

Who doesn’t love a Greek salad? I certainly do, but at this time of year you need something a bit more robust, so this wintry version is made with roasted vegetables. It still has the classic herby, red wine vinegar dressing and hunks of salty feta on top. Serve with a wholemeal pita bread (1 pita = 145 calories).

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks

  • 1 large beetroot, peeled and cut into chunks,

  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • 200g cherry tomatoes

  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 100g feta, broken into chunks

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7.

  2. Place the chopped vegetables in a large glass baking dish, drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat well and then bake for 20 minutes.

  3. Take out of the oven, add the tomatoes and mix well. Place back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

  4. Remove from the oven, transfer everything to a serving bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

  5. Drizzle over the red wine vinegar and sprinkle over the oregano. Mix well, then dot with feta chunks on top.

Spinach, squash and halloumi salad
Spinach, squash and halloumi salad

Who says low-calorie food has to be boring? Serving halloumi as crunchy croutons, you get all the squeaky saltiness, but use less than you might normally, meaning fewer calories. The dressing has a distinctly Thai influence which brings a lovely hum of spicy heat from chilli and ginger. Irresistible.

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 300g butternut squash, deseeded and cut into 3cm cubes

  • 1 small red onion, cut into chunks

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • 100g halloumi, cut into 2cm cubes

  • 130g baby spinach leaves

For the dressing

  • 2 tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce

  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated

  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

  • 1 tsp fish sauce

  • Juice of 1 lime

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7.

  2. Place the butternut squash cubes and red onion in a baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. When cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

  3. Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a small airtight container and giving it a good shake.

  4. Heat a good, non-stick frying pan, add the halloumi cubes and fry on a medium heat for about two minutes, tossing them around in the pan to get as many sides golden as possible. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  5. To assemble the salad, place the spinach leaves in a large salad bowl, pour over the dressing and toss well to coat. Arrange the butternut squash and onion over the top and then sprinkle over the halloumi croutons.

Vietnamese chicken salad
Vietnamese chicken salad

I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy the zingy freshness of Vietnamese food, so I’m sure you are going to love this aromatic chicken salad. The recipe uses pre-cooked chicken, so allow extra time if you need to pan-fry some from raw.

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, to garnish

  • 75g green beans, trimmed and halved

  • 1 red or yellow pepper, sliced

  • 100g beansprouts

  • ¼ cucumber, diced

  • 200g pre-cooked chicken, without the skin, shredded

  • 2 spring onions, sliced

  • A small handful of mint leaves, chopped

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp fish sauce

  • 1 tsp rice vinegar (or other white vinegar)

  • 1 tbsp runny honey

  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated

  • Juice of 1 lime

  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Method

  1. Heat a small frying pan and toast the sesame seeds for 1 minute until golden, then set aside in a small bowl.

  2. Using the same pan, make the dressing. Add the fish sauce, vinegar, honey, chilli, garlic and lime juice to the pan and bring to a simmer. Stir for a further minute or so, then turn off the heat, stir in the sesame oil and set aside to cool.

  3. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and blanch the green beans for 1 minute.

  4. Drain and run under the cold tap to retain the nice green colour then transfer to a serving bowl. Add the pepper, beansprouts and cucumber, and toss together.

  5. Top with the shredded chicken, spring onions and mint. Dress just before serving and top with toasted sesame seeds.

Supercharged salad
Supercharged salad

The main event here is iron, but this ‘supercharged’ salad also contains vitamins A, C, E and K, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It can be easy to miss out on key micronutrients when you are consuming fewer calories, so this salad is a fabulously gut-friendly way to make sure you are getting enough.

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

  • 130g baby spinach leaves

  • ½ x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed*

  • 40g dried apricots, finely sliced

  • 100g cherry tomatoes, quartered

  • 40g kalamata olives, halved

  • 40g feta

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • Juice and zest of ½ lemon

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Method 

  1. Place a small, non-stick frying pan on a medium heat and toast the pumpkin seeds for 2-3 minutes, tossing a few times in the pan.

  2. Place all the dressing ingredients in a small, lidded container with some salt and pepper, and shake well to combine.

  3. Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl, add the chickpeas, apricots, tomatoes and olives, and pour over the dressing. Toss well to coat everything thoroughly.

  4. Now place in a large serving bowl, crumble over the feta and sprinkle over the toasted pumpkin seeds.

*To use the leftover ½ tin of chickpeas, mix 1 tsp curry powder with a little oil, salt and pepper, coat the chickpeas with the mixture and roast in a hot oven (200C/180C fan/gas mark 6) for 35 mins, stirring once halfway through. This makes two snack-size portions of 85 calories.

Mexican brunch bowl
Mexican brunch bowl

If you love the flavours of Mexico – avocado, tomato, chillies, lime – then this is a healthy, low-calorie assembly you can call on at any time of day. At just 312 calories, why not add a slice of crunchy wholegrain toast for extra texture (50g slice = 125 calories)?

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 large tomato, diced

  • ½ avocado, sliced

  • 2 tbsp jalapenos, from a jar

  • 50g cheddar, grated

  • Juice of 1 lime

Method

  1. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan. In a bowl, whisk the eggs up with a fork. Pour into the pan and season well with salt and pepper. Gently fold the eggs over a few times until scrambled.

  2. Divide the eggs between two bowls and arrange the other ingredients around the eggs, drizzling over the lime juice to finish.


Six more ways to cut some calories

  1. Walk for 15 minutes: This is an easy way to burn 100 calories and has proven mental health benefits too. If you’re feeling energetic you can burn 150 calories or more with a 15-minute run.

  2. Invest in a standing desk: You’ll burn 30 calories more by working standing up for three hours a day rather than sitting. It doesn’t sound a lot but over six weeks it could add up to as much as 1,000 calories.

  3. Do some gardening: An hour spent tending to the garden will burn 100 calories, double that if you are mowing the lawn.

  4. Cut out snacks: Save a couple of hundred calories a day by cutting out packaged snacks like crisps (1 x 25g bag ready salted 130 kcals), chocolate bars (1 x 40g Mars Bar 174 kcals) and biscuits (1 x chocolate digestive 83 kcals)

  5. Ditch the lattes: Latte lovers note, you will save 100 calories a cup by switching to black coffee with a splash of milk.

  6. Prioritise sleep: We tend to eat more when tired and make poorer food choices as our bodies crave sugary foods for quick-release energy.

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