Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Slimming World: shopping list

In the spirit of demystifying Slimming World and sharing with you how it works for me, I wanted to share my next post; how to shop SW-smart. Last week I ran through the SW basics and my story so far. Since last Sunday I have lost a further 3lbs and have had a few 'this is worth it moments'. First, two colleagues on two separate occasions commenting on my weight loss 'transformation'... their words not mine. Second, buying size 8 jeans. Yes, they may be weird Primark sizing but I'll go with that! So I'm feeling good, and motivated to keep shedding the weight. 

To get SW right, you have to prepare. Unfortunately lots of snacks and shop bought lunches are high in syns, but with a little forward thinking you can keep on-plan fairly easily. These are my go-to shopping list items - they make cooking easier, keep the syn count down and help keep me full all day. 

Fry Light: using oil is a bit of a no-no on Slimming World. Of course, olive oil has numerous health benefits - a little internet search has informed me that it's high in monounsaturated fatty acids and can help prevent cardoivascular problems such as high blood pressure and strokes. You only need to look at those beautiful Spaniards and Italians to see why olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet. Now you can have 1 tablespoon of olive oil as your Healthy Extra B - but to me that doesn't seem like a good use of a HexB... one tablespoon! Insert shocked face here. Fry Light is a spray cooking oil which comes in at just 1 calorie per spray and is completely free on SW. There are several varieties; sunflower oil, olive oil and butter flavour. I used to be a bit of an oil snob but can honestly say I taste no difference when using Fry Light and it means my meals start off as 'free', without using any oil.

Muller Light Yoghurt: the toffee, vanilla and cappuccino are my favourite flavours and are all free! I especially like the vanilla with dark choc sprinkles - also free - and are a great sweet treat. 

Diet coke: completely free!

KitKats: only 5.5 syns for two finger Kit Kats, I have one every day! They are great for satisfying a sweet tooth without major guilt. In Lidl they often sell multi-packs of mini two finger Kit Kats (like treat-size almost) which have an even lower syn value - I think they're 4.5 syns. You get 20 in a pack for £2 so they're a bargain. Tip: they're usually in the biscuit aisle in supermarkets rather than the choccie aisle.

Pasta, rice and potatoes: probably the #1 reason why SW appeals to me; you can eat as much of these as you want. We know whole-wheat pasta and brown rice are better for you - they're less processed and refined, pack more nutrients, digest more slowly and therefore give you lasting energy levels - but on SW you don't have to just eat brown rice/pasta if you prefer white. I'm starting to re-assess my eating on SW and am starting to switch white pasta and rice for brown; but you don't have to if you don't want to!

Measuring spoons and scales: measuring is kinda important, but you don't need to be obsessive. I measure out my granola each morning (30g) and use measuring spoons to measure things like crème fraiche and sugar. This helps you work out syn values, especially in the early days. People seem to think this is a huge hassle or faff - its not, at all! That said, once you get your head round it and get an idea of what a tablespoon of mayo looks like you can ease up on the measuring front!

Tilda rice: makes life easy as it cooks in 2 minutes in the microwave and most varieties are low-syns. My favourite is the mushroom rice with is three syns for the entire pack! Yes, the whole pack. Pop a salmon fillet on top with some wilted spinach and it's a super quick, easy and tasty meal.

Skimmed milk: you can have 350ml a day as your Healthy Extra A, compared with 250ml of semi-skimmed or 175ml of whole milk. I never used to use or buy skimmed milk, but I'm a convert! Granted, I wouldn't like it in cereal but in my coffee I taste no difference and it means I can have more. Winner. 

Frozen chopped onions: not any 'healthier' or 'free' than fresh onions, but the ready prepped onions give me even fewer reasons not to cook fresh, healthy meals. I've also been known to buy frozen chopped peppers, garlic, coriander, chillis and spinach. Little short cuts like these mean you're less likely to turn to crappy dinners and going off-plan.

Frozen fruit: again, no better than fresh, but having it in the freezer means I have it to hand whenever I need it, without having to worry about it losing its freshness. I have fat-free natural yoghurt with raspberries and Special K granola for breakfast every morning; before bed I put yoghurt and frozen raspberries in a tupperware and leave in the fridge overnight to thaw. In the morning I throw in 30g of granola and eat at my desk when I get to work.

Lean meat: for most meat to be 'free' on SW it needs to be lean - usually 5% fat or less in the case of mince. Make sure you check the label to be sure!

Eggs: completely free on SW and so versatile. An omelette (as many eggs as you want) cooked with FryLight, mushrooms, ham, peppers and salad is completely free! Add 25g of reduced fat cheddar for 4 syns... or you can have 40g of it as your Healthy Extra A.

Crème fraiche: great for creamy sauces, without the guilt. Make sure you get half fat/light, which is approx 1 syn per level tablespoon. I get the Sainsburys Be Good To Yourself which is less than 3% fat... so I count it as 0.5 sysn per tablespoon! A dollop on chilli con carne or goulash is delish. I know others use quark which is usually 'free', more of a soft cheese.

I think that's all my brain can handle for the time being... but a fairly comprehensive list! Most of these items make it into my shopping bag each week, and have really helped me shift the lbs. Can you recommend anything else?

Make sure you're following me on instagram for more SW tips and ideas!

Friday, 1 May 2015


When it comes to eating out, I find myself in a pickle. I absolutely adore Italian food but struggle with the hugely calorific content of some of my favourite dishes. Given the choice I would choose carbonara every time - I flippin' love it! I blogged about my super simple carbonara recipe way back in 2012 and although I still love this recipe, I just can't cope with the kcals - it sure ain't Slimming World friendly! 

The good news is that on Slimming World you can eat pasta syn-free, which is one of the reasons it works so well with my greedy appetite. I'm trying to tailor my favourite recipes to be SW-friendly (check out my recipes tab) and here is another installation. I love Zizzi's strozzapreti pasta - this is my version. 

You will need (for 2)
1 pack chicken breast strips
2 handfuls spinach
1 lemon - juiced
2 tablespoons red pesto
3 tablespoons light crème fraiche

Start by frying the chicken in a non-stick frying pan with a few sprays of Fry Light. Add some mixed herbs and season lightly, before adding the lemon juice to the pan. Leave the chicken to cook (I pop a lid on to retain some moisture) for 5-10 minutes. When the chicken is almost cooked, throw in the spinach and stir through, putting the lid back on and turning the heat off/right down. 

Cook your pasta according to packet instructions, and when ready stir in the pesto and crème fraiche. Plate up with the chicken and spinach on top of the pasta. A sprinkling of parmesan is delicious!

Slimming world: the pesto is approx 2 syns per tablespoon and the creme fraiche (ensure it's half fat) is approx 1 syn per tablespoon. Remember to split the syns in two if you're making for two!


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Hanging planters

The kitchen is one of my favourite places in our home - I love cooking and see the kitchen as a really important social space. We're lucky enough to have a really lovely kitchen in our rented place; its big enough to fit a dining table which we eat at most nights, and is bright and fresh. For me, the perfect kitchen is one that is enjoyable to cook in but also nice to look at and a space you want to spend time in. I love cooking with fresh herbs, and am always after ways to grow and store them which is both practical and attractive. I think I've found the perfect answer!

I spotted these on the Ikea app last week and am trying to find the first date in my diary where I can get down to my local store (Southampton or Croydon, we're bang inbetween the two!) and pick a couple up. Great if you're short on space - these can hang from the ceiling in the kitchen and are stackable to allow for maximum use of space. Of course, these aren't just perfect for hanging herbs. I love the idea of these in my sitting room for that 'outside inside' feel!

The circular planters are a real bargain at just £8 each. I would place potted herbs into the planters in the plastic pots to allow for drainage into the planter - you don't want to drown them. They unhook easily for watering or snipping, so simple. They also have a rectangular planter in the same style. 

What do you think?
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