Category Archives: diet

Butternut Squash Ginger Soup & the 5:2 diet

Soups deliver such concentrated nutrition, even the little girl is amenable to soup even if it is a few mouthfuls, I can be assured that my homemade soup is full of natural goodness.

Butternut Squash is one of my (many) favourite vegetables, with its dense, orange flesh, it is delicious and sweet with a nutty flavour.  I have wrestled with many a Butternut Squash and have now found the perfect peeler for the tough outer skin thanks to a visit to Lakeland, so now its less challenging and faster to prepare too!

Carrots can be used instead of the Butternut Squash or a mix of both is good too, soup has so many variations and each has their own place within each season.  Although this year the seasons have gone a little awry with snow in April here!

Butternut Squash Ginger Soup is satisfying and filling on my 5:2 fast diet days.  And just in case you haven’t heard about this yet, the 5:2 Fast Diet was brought to us by Dr Michael Moseley when he was researching the health and longevity claims for the BBC2 Horizon programme Eat Fast and Live Longer – for 2 days a week you aim for 500 calories for women and 600 for men.  I have got this down to a fine art now & can easily get around the 500 calorie mark with soups on the menu, I’ve gone a little soup loopy but they are just so easy and delicious, plus you can use up any lingering vegetables from the fridge so less waste!

I make up a pot which will last for the couple of days fasting and is extremely low in fat and calories.  The addition of Ginger gives the soup an interesting zing and warmth.  On non-5:2 days I add crème fraîche, chilli flakes and black pepper which lifts the flavours even more!

For my pot of soup, some of which can be frozen too, popped in ice cube trays for easy access to soup for kiddie meals, I used around 600g of butternut squash, I did weigh it for the benefit of this blog post but usually I just use a medium Butternut Squash.


Prep time:  15 mins

Cooking time:  20 minutes


half a tsp butter – I use unsalted
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
about an inch of root Ginger
600g Butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into small cubes
1 litre of homemade vegetable stock
black pepper, optional


Gently fry the Onion, Garlic and Ginger for a couple of minutes in the butter then add a few tablespoons of water to steam fry for another 2-3 minutes. 

Add the Butternut Squash and steam fry for a further 5 minutes.

Add the Vegetable Stock, I make my own which increases the nutritional value of the soup too, see my blog post on Stock.

Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the Butternut Squash is soft and tender.

Cool, then blend in a liquidiser. 

Nutritious and delicious.

Quick Nutritional Info

Butternut Squash – Vitamin A, C, E, B-complex – folic acid, vitamins, B1, B2, B3 and B6. Iron, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Ginger – anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, carminative, anti-microbial properties.  Potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium.

Tasty Tuesdays on

Flavour Packed Vegetable Stock

I’ve been making my own vegetable stock forever especially in the colder months and this year being colder for longer I’ve made a small batch this weekend. It’s so simple to do and it’s a great way to use up excess vegetables.  Carrots, celery and onion make up the base of my stock and from there I add different vegetables depending on what’s usually in the fridge, parsnips, leeks and sometimes cabbage, swede and mushrooms have made their way into the pot.

I use parsley, bay and black peppercorns but also have used thyme, garlic and other herbs, there really is no set menu for making your own recipe vegetable stock.  The stock I’m making here is perfect for tiny tastebuds too, mine doesn’t like garlic very much yet so will leave it out of this batch.

Today’s pot of goodness includes:

2 organic carrots, chopped – I don’t peel, just give a good scrub
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 parsnip, peel and cut lengthways
1 small swede, chopped
1 leek including the green part, trim the end off and cut lengthways
3 cabbage leaves, the very outer greener ones
small handful of parsley including stalks
a few black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Put all the vegetables into a pan, I’m using my trusty old (and it is very old but still so good) Le Creuset pan and add 2 litres of water.   Depending on the size of your pan you can add more or less water, more will, of course, produce a more lighter flavoured stock and with less the stock will have a more concentrated infusion.  2 litres fills my pot nicely and produces a delicious, well-flavoured stock.

Simmer for 1-2 hours, I know this seems a bit vague but an hour is fine but if I have the time I do like to give it a bit more simmering time.  Stir occasionally to further blend the flavours.

For extra depth of flavour you can also fry the vegetables gently first in a little oil before adding the water.  For soups though I prefer a simple, fresh and light stock.

Take off the heat and strain through a sieve and leave to cool.  The stock liquid can now be used as the base for soups or to make rissoto, quinoa, etc. 

Once cooled the stock can be frozen, mine is used up pretty quickly as I make a lot of soups which are fabulous for the 5:2 diet which I am still doing every week, it has become a habit now, part of my week and having low-calorie, highly nutritious soups to keep my appetite satiated has been amazingly helpful. 

The cooked vegetables can also be blended down and included in many recipes.  The vegetables will still contain plenty of fibre and a huge shame to waste.  I use them in soups for the tiddler, blended down or added to casseroles.  We also make veggie burgers, mixing the mashed vegetables with breadcrumbs and egg, seasonings and sometimes cheese.  So many uses for extra veg!


5:2, Low GL – Breakfasts

Still on the 5:2/Alternate Day Low GL Diet.  Another lbs down, my BMI is now 23.  I am combining the two for a few weeks until I get to my target, total loss so far is 8lbs since the beginning of the year but the most important part is the health benefits of both diet plans.

I am currently doing 2 x fast days at 500 calories maximum and 1 day at 700 calories using Patrick Holford’s Low GL Plan. I find it much easier if I meal plan, below are a few of my breakfast choices. 

The rest of the week I try to keep to the Low GL plan foods following Patrick’s weightloss plan that I signed up for last week and try to count GL’s instead of calories.  All I can say is it’s working and I can carry on long term as a healthy weight control way of eating. 

All my breakfasts start with a mug of tea and 50ml of skimmed milk – 25 calories.

*Patrick Holfords Get Up and Go is a Low GL Breakfast Shake that has a wide range of vitamins and minerals with a blend of whole foods and is an ideal start to any day.  I have a shake about 3-4 times a week, sometimes for breakfast and sometimes for a light lunch.  On a fast day I make up a 20g serving which is 66 calories, made with 500ml of water, I can sip this slowly throughout the morning.

*A 30g serving is 99 calories and on non-fast days I will add a tablespoon of chia seeds and one of golden or brown flax seeds with 250ml of skimmed milk  for breakfast.

*A simple boiled medium egg on half a slice (22g) of toasted oatmeal bread = 139 calories. A lower calorie option would be to swap the bread for a slice of Ryvita crispbread (35 -44 calories).

*Total 0% yoghurt – 100g = 57 calories with 50g strawberries –14 calories or blueberries 28 calories or both would still only equal 99 calories!

*1 egg Omelette with 50g grated courgette = 99 calories, serve with a pile of watercress for an extra 5 calories.  And yes this is just one egg, the white is whipped up separately for a lovely fluffy filling breakfast omelette.

Alternate Day GL Diet

So my main aim this week was to keep the calories under 700 on alternate days and to follow the GL way of eating on the Patrick Holford GL weightloss programme.  I signed up earlier in the week and have been glued to all the information, videos, etc.  

The strange thing was that on the first day I managed 689 calories and on day 2 I clocked up a meagre 489!  For some reason I did not feel all that hungry so ate accordingly.  As I have another low-cal fast day tomorrow I weighed myself this morning and another 1lb loss a day early, so quite pleased with progress.

The GL way of looking at food is something I knew about but found a little confusing due to the GI ratings of food too, so I’ve put them out of my head and concentrated on the GL version. The low-GL (glycemic load) diet, coupled with alternate day fasting is a good way to keep your blood sugar levels even, which equates to losing weight, gaining energy and not craving carbs.

Keeping to 40 GL a day will help you lose weight, then 60 GL as a maintenance programme once you are happy with your weight level.

The meal plan is very easy to follow with a huge choice of food, all you have to do is get used to keeping breakfast, lunch and dinner at around 10GL which the meal plans give examples against each meal and as an extra you can have 5GL for puddings, snacks and drinks.  The meal plans are full of very easy to prepare, tasty foods.

During my last pregnancy I had Gestational Diabetes, you won’t be surprised to hear that I managed the condition with diet and did not inject insulin (the thought of injecting myself was enough to make me get my diet on track!). They manage you very closely from 28 weeks so it was a long 10 weeks but I got through.  Because of the GD I am now possibly more prone to becoming diabetic in the next few years so want to manage my blood sugar as much as possible without it being a chore – in other words I still want to enjoy my food!


Alternate Day Fasting Diet

I’ve “known” Patrick Holford for years and years, I’ve read all of his books, I’ve been to his excellent talks, he’s signed my books, I’m always pleased to listen to what he has to say in the field of health and nutrition.

I’m also a member of his 100% health club which is an ongoing source of excellent information on all health subjects and up to date news.

I’ve been doing the 5:2 Fast Diet for 2 weeks now and have found the 500 calorie intake hard, I have a busy lifestyle like most of you and the freezing weather has not helped either!  I can keep the calories down but want to try the Alternate Day Diet which has a more realistic calorie intake for me – I still feel odd saying the word diet as I’ve never been on one, to me a diet is eating healthy foods with a couple of indulgent treats a week.

In the February 2013 issue of Woman and Home there is an article about the new Healthy Fasting Diet devised by Patrick Holford, it’s a low-GL plan (the Glycemic Load of a meal is a measure of what the foods do to your blood sugar) you fast on alternate days keeping your calories to 800 or less on fast days.  On the alternate non-fast days eat normally but keep the calories under control, my fitness pal has suggested 1210 calories for me on non-fast days this what I will aim for.

I will be joining Patrick’s 6 week low-GL weightloss programme this week to help me along the way, take a look at Patrick’s website here for details of what is included and involved in the programme.

Today’s breakfast was a 1 egg omelette with 50g of grated courgettes plus 20g of watercress = 104 calories.  It’s soup for lunch and fish for dinner.

5:2 Fast Diet – What I ate this week

I kept it very simple this week with my 5:2 Fast Diet meals, the week was set to be very busy so quick, easy, simple were my buzz words!  I even had to  tell the girls that I wouldn’t be there for our monthly girls night out this week which is probably just as well!

This week I managed to keep my calories down to 479 on day 1 and 493 on day 2.  I found it easier after my initial glass of water and tea upon rising to wait until I was actually hungry in the mornings so around 11am I had a late breakfast of 100g 0% yoghurt & fruit plus a boiled egg or 25g bacon (no fat) with a pile of watercress and rocket leaves and then through to dinner with only green tea, water and another cup of tea with carefully measured skimmed milk.

On day 1 I made baked fish with tons of steamed vegetables for dinner, day 2, 50g grilled chicken with a vegetable stir fry and another plate of steamed vegetables. 

It’s not been easy this week with the freezing weather when all I wanted was stodgy carbs and warming foods.  And food shopping for the family on an empty stomach was really hard!

Next week I am going to to meal plan for my fasting days as well as the rest of the week.  Everything I like to eat is far more calories than I am allowed so a bit of more forward planning is in order!

I do feel that the 5:2 Fasting Diet would be more suitable for me to do in the warmer months and with that said I shall be changing things next week – still fasting though!
Factoring in some exercise into the mix, its not that I’m not active, if you have or have had a 2 year old in your life you will know what I mean, just want to focus more on targetted exercise like a swim every week sans toddler (so I actually get a swim) and blowing the cobwebs off my home gym equipment which will speed up my metabolism and weight loss.  I have another 10lbs to go and 1-2lb a week is my target.

Total weight loss this week:  1lb

5:2 Alternate Day Fast "Diet"

I’ve been very interested to try the 5:2 Fasting “Diet” (also known as the Intermittent or Alternate Day diet) after watching the BBC2 Horizon documentary with Dr Michael Mosley some time ago.  The premise is that you can anything you like for five days a week and still lose weight as long as you also fast for two days a week.  By fasting I mean calorie restriction for those two days.  There are also the health benefits that may go along with it too, reduced risk of some diseases and even positive effects on the brain. 


So with his new book “The Fast Diet” just arrived I’m busy reading it to get some more inspiration of what to eat on my fast days and to give me more structure, I started yesterday with a mini fast where I counted calories loosely keeping them around 900 (the recommendation is 500 for women and 600 for men) to see how I felt and I am delighted to say it went very well.  I carried my day on as usual and did not feel faint or tired.  I did, however, feel the rumble of my tummy a fair bit but then I usually take in more than double the calories!  I drank my usual 1½ litres of water and my tea with skimmed milk which helped to stave off the hunger too.

I’m not a calorie counter but with a view to starting the 5:2 diet I’ve been seeing what the calorific value of my everyday and treat foods are, some of it is quite startling!  I’ve also signed up to myfitnesspal which is a free calorie counter app to track my daily intake and it gives you a countdown of calories, very useful!  After putting in my personal particulars with how much I wanted to lose each week it gave me my personal daily calorie intake of 1210 plus factor in 2 days of the 5:2 Fast Diet of 600-750 calories (I may have to work my way down to 500!) could mean greater weight loss each week.

I read recently that safe weightloss, shedding fat not lean tissue, is around 1% of body weight so if you are 10 stone that equates to 1lb per week ongoing.  To do this you need to reduce calorie intake by 500 calories a day which over 7 days = 3500 calories which is what is needed to lose 1lb in weight!

Monday this week is my official first 5:2 Fast Day, very much looking forward to it, my days are busy so I’m hoping I won’t notice the lack of calories, it’s the evenings when I find the urge to nibble and even though it’s healthy nibbles like almonds, they are still highly calorific!

For the first couple of weeks I will have to formulate menus as I’m not used to the calorie counting.  I’ll post every Tuesday and Friday about what I ate on the fasting days and the health benefits and weight loss that hopefully come along with it. 

Let the fasting commence!