Outdoor eating is one of the highlights of the warmer months, but there’s certainly no need to miss out on a social life just because you’ve committed to losing unwanted pounds in order to get fitter and healthier this summer.
The glorious weather we are expecting this week will whet all our appetites for picnics and lazy barbecues.
Thanks to the flexibility of WeightWatchers’ PersonalPoints Programme, you can enjoy summer celebrations or long lunches with friends without sabotaging your weight-loss goals.
That’s why today, in the final part of our exclusive WW series to help you lose up to half a stone for the start of the holiday season, we’re focusing on tempting recipes for barbecues, picnics and outdoor buffets.
‘Many seasonal delicacies are perfect for alfresco meals — and the fresh vegetables, salads and berries we love to serve at summer picnics or buffets are also ZeroPoint foods or low in PersonalPoints, meaning you can serve yourself a generous portion of Mediterranean vegetables or asparagus, for instance, without tracking,’ says Jess O’Shea, a nutritionist at WeightWatchers.
Better still, you’ll add extra Points to your budget for every handful of non-starchy veggies you eat. You could put these towards an indulgent pudding or a sweet treat at the end of the meal, if you fancy one.
ZeroPoint and low Point veggies are also great to grill — try a combination of mushrooms, pepper, sweetcorn and courgettes, for instance.
But don’t forget to track any sauces or dressings you add on top — or better still, look for ways to make your own using healthier ingredients, such as 0 per cent fromage frais or reduced-fat soured cream.
While many of us associate barbecues with sizzling sausages or chargrilled steaks, why not extend your repertoire to include other foods that are not so high in saturated fats — such as chicken kebabs or fish? Depending on your ZeroPoint food choices, these could also have a PersonalPoints value of 0 — or, if not, a low Point value.
Don’t forget the side dishes either — ‘There’s absolutely no reason this has to be a soggy bit of cucumber!’ says Jess O’Shea.
You’ll find plenty of inspiring and scrumptious suggestions here — from a crunchy red cabbage slaw (1 PersonalPoint) to Persian wild rice salad (1-5 PersonalPoints, depending on your budget and ZeroPoint food choices) or evena spicy tuna dip (4-5 PersonalPoints).
‘If you know you’re going to a big event such as a birthday party, you can plan in advance to set aside weekly and rollover Points to ensure you can enjoy the event in style without worrying about anything,’ says Jess.
And don’t forget that you don’t need to run a 5K (unless that’s your thing!) — any activities you may do, whether it’s a walk, a game of rounders in the park, a cycle ride or even a spot of gardening, can earn you extra Points too.
Mexican bean wraps
Prep 5 mins – Cook 25 mins
- Calorie-controlled cooking spray
- 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes
- 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 400g tin mixed beans in water, drained and rinsed
- 4 WW Wholemeal Wraps
- 2 tbsp reduced-fat soured cream
- 80g iceberg lettuce, torn
- 60g WW Reduced Fat Grated Mature Cheese
Mist a large pan with cooking spray and fry the onion over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes until softened.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chilli flakes and cook for a further minute, then stir in the tomatoes and vinegar and season well.
Cover and cook for 5 minutes until the tomatoes have just started to break down, then stir in the beans and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced and thickened.
Meanwhile, heat the wraps to pack instructions. Spread them with the soured cream, then top with the lettuce, bean chilli and cheese.
Roll up and serve.
YOU CAN STILL ENJOY A TIPPLE AND HERE’S HOW
You don’t have to avoid the drinks table just because you’ve committed to getting fitter and healthier for the holiday season. With a little planning (and some clever recipes) you can still raise a glass or two and stay on track with health goals.
‘At WeightWatchers, we’re not asking you to give up alcohol. But we can help you find ways to enjoy a tipple without sabotaging your goals,’ says WeightWatchers nutritionist Jess O’Shea.
Many alcoholic drinks — particularly wine, beer and cider — can be high in sugar, so tend to also have high PersonalPoints values. A glass or two will also make you less able to resist the temptations of the crisp bowl or bread basket.
This means it’s better to plan what drinks you’re going to have in advance. Clear spirits, such as gin and vodka, tend to be relatively low in Points, especially when coupled with slimline mixers — a vodka and slimline tonic, say, is just 2 PersonalPoints.
‘Here you’ll find the WW app is an invaluable resource,’ says Jess O’Shea. ‘It has values for around 50 generic alcoholic drinks ranging from red, white, rosé or sparkling wines to cider, beer, spirits and flavoured alcoholic drinks — and more values for branded drinks as well.’
If you’re the host, the WW app is full of suggestions for cocktails that are surprisingly low in PersonalPoints. A glamorous-looking glass of Berry Prosecco will set you back 4 Points for instance, as will a Dark ‘n’ Stormy (made with sugar-free ginger beer, lime juice and rum).
With just a bit of effort, you can make sure your non-alcoholic drinks are much more appealing, too — try adding lemon, lime, fresh mint or berries to fizzy or soda water for extra pizzazz.
‘And above all, don’t reproach yourself if you slip up,’ says Jess. ‘Just get back on track the next day and focus on how much fitter and healthier you’ll be after just a few weeks of following your PersonalPoints programme.’
Below are some helpful tips to keep you on track . . .
1. Match every alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one, ideally water or a low-calorie soft drink, to help lower your alcohol intake.
2. Use low-calorie mixers with spirits, or sparkling or soda water. Avoid full-sugar versions that are high in Points. If you prefer wine to spirits, choose a spritzer (with soda) to increase the volume of your drink without adding calories.
3. Check the size of the glass or measure of alcohol so that you can accurately calculate the Points. Always have water on the table. Tap water is free, and if it’s there you’re more likely to drink it.
4. Eating a meal before drinking slows the absorption of alcohol, and also may help you stay on track when there are lots of nibbles circulating.
5. Drinking plenty of water before you go to sleep may help prevent a hangover (and with it the urge for a greasy bacon sandwich in the morning). Keep a glass of water by your bed to sip if you wake up during the night.
Mexican-style crustless quiche
Prep 10 minutes l Cook 30 minutes
- 2 eggs
- 250g quark
- 25g chorizo, finely diced
- 60g light feta, crumbled
- 1 tomato, diced
- 3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp chipotle paste
- Juice of ½ lime
- 50g young leaf spinach, shredded
- Calorie-controlled cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Lightly whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the quark until the mixture is smooth.
Add all of the other ingredients (reserving some of the feta) except the spinach and cooking spray. Season to taste, stir to combine then fold in the spinach.
Mist a 22cm tart tin with cooking spray and pour in the quiche mixture. Top with the reserved feta and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.
Let cool in the tin, then cut into wedges and serve.
Spicy tuna dip
Prep 5 mins
- 145g tin tuna in brine, drained
- 4 tbsp medium-fat soft cheese
- 100g 0% fat natural Greek yoghurt
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper plus extra to serve
- 15g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 small lemon, zest and juice
- 3 bags WW Ready Salted
- Tortilla Chips
Put the tuna, soft cheese, yoghurt, cayenne pepper and most of the parsley into a food processor. Pulse a few times until combined for a coarser texture, or blitz for longer if you prefer a smoother consistency.
Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the lemon zest and juice to taste. Add more cayenne pepper if you would like to make the dip spicier.
Spoon the dip into a bowl, scatter over the remaining parsley and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.
Serve with the tortilla chips.
Roast chicken & vegetables
Prep 10 mins l Cook 1 hr
- Calorie-controlled cooking spray
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 x 200g skinless chicken legs
- 400g baby potatoes, halved
- 320g butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 courgettes, cut into 3cm lengths
- 250g cherry tomatoes
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Mist a large baking dish with cooking spray.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Cook the chicken over high heat for 3-4 minutes or until browned all over.
Arrange the chicken and potatoes in the prepared dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
Add the butternut squash, courgettes, tomatoes and rosemary. Drizzle with remaining oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake for a further 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve.
Red cabbage slaw
Prep 10 mins l Cook 5 mins
- ½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 4 tomatoes, diced
- 1 cucumber, trimmed and diced
- 2 carrots, coarsely grated
- 4 tsp sunflower seeds
FOR THE DRESSING
- 200g 0% fat natural Greek yoghurt
- Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Put the red cabbage in a large bowl, add a large pinch of salt then toss to combine.
Using your hands, vigorously massage the cabbage until it begins to soften and release some liquid, then set the bowl aside for 10 minutes.
Drain the cabbage, squeeze out any excess liquid and pat dry with kitchen paper. Return the cabbage to the bowl, add the tomatoes, cucumber and carrots, then toss to combine.
Meanwhile, toast the sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant, then set aside.
To make the dressing, combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then season to taste.
Drizzle the dressing over the coleslaw mixture and serve with the sunflower seeds scattered over.
Persian wild rice salad
Prep 15 mins l Cook 30 mins
- 150g mixed basmati and wild rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 2 tsp 0% fat natural Greek yoghurt
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
- 5 dates, pitted and thinly sliced lengthways
- 20g toasted, flaked almonds
Cook the rice to pack instructions, then set aside to cool completely.
Heat half the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion, stirring, for 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Reduce the heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until golden.
In a bowl, use a fork to whisk together the yoghurt, lemon juice, vinegar and remaining oil.
Put the cooked rice and onion in a large bowl with the celery, dates, almonds and yoghurt dressing. Season to taste, then toss to combine.
Pineapple & watermelon skewers
Prep 5 mins l Cook 5 mins
- 400g pineapple chunks
- 400g watermelon chunks
- 12 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Thread the fruit onto the skewers.
Cook the skewers on a preheated barbecue for 2 minutes each side until they are lightly charred.
Peanut butter & banana ice-cream sandwiches
Prep 20 mins + freezing
- 480g frozen bananas, chopped
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 60g peanut butter powder
- 24 WW Scottish All Butter Shortbread Thins
- 20g dark chocolate
Put the frozen banana in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and blitz again, then spoon the mixture into a small baking tin.
Smooth the surface, cover and freeze for 2-3 hours until solid.
Mix the peanut butter powder with 80ml cold water, until combined, then spread over one side of each Shortbread Thin.
Remove the banana ice cream from the freezer and use a 5cm cookie cutter to stamp out 12 rounds.
Working quickly, top half of the shortbread thins with the ice-cream rounds, then sandwich with the remaining shortbread, ensuring the peanut spread is inside the sandwich.
Grate the chocolate onto a plate, then roll the side of each sandwich in it.
Return to the freezer until you’re ready to serve them.
Food is not my emotional crutch anymore
Karrie Miszkowska, 36, a human resources manager, lives in Swindon with her husband Greg, 36, a business grants manager, daughter Darcey, 15, and 19-month-old son Reuben. Karrie lost 2st 13lb with WeightWatchers over six months, going from 12st 3lb to 9st 4lb and from a dress size 14-16 to a size 8-10. She is 5ft 7in. She says:
I joined WW in November 2021, originally to keep my best friend company — to be honest I thought it would be like every other diet I’d tried and failed at. But I was so wrong. Thanks to WW I am nearly 3st lighter six months on, more active and feeling more positive about life.
This is because on WW’s PersonalPoints programme I could eat the foods I loved and still lose weight — if I tracked my Points and budgeted for treats.
I’ve also learned to change my secret snacking habit.
Karrie Miszkowska from Swindon, Wiltshire, who has lost 4 stones in weight with WW after joining in November 2021 (Karrie is pictured in 2019 before the weight loss)
When I joined WW, I was in denial about how much I weighed and wouldn’t look at myself in the mirror or let myself be photographed.
My son Reuben was 13 months old but we’d had problems conceiving in the five years before and I sought comfort in food.
I’d think nothing of eating a sharing bag of crisps and dip, plus chocolate every night as I watched TV with Greg.
But I was also eating in secret. I felt this didn’t count if no one could see me do it. If I was alone at home I’d scoff a bag of crisps or chocolate bar — then hide the wrapper. It was like a secret addiction.
And so my weight crept up. I was no longer the size 12 I was in 2011 when I met Greg. I have back problems caused by a prolapsed disc suffered ten years ago. At my heaviest the extra weight made the pain so bad I had to use a wheelchair for weeks on end.
With WW’s PersonalPoints programme I could choose the foods I liked — and used my ZeroPoint choices (veg, protein — lean chicken, turkey and eggs — and whole grains) for my meals to leave enough points for some treats and snacks at night.
Karrie had tried numerous diet plans in the past only to put the weight back on again but this time it worked because she could choose the foods she liked to eat and never feel deprived (Karrie pictured after weight loss)
I also used these foods to prepare normal family meals to enjoy together. A favourite recipe is katsu chicken.
Best of all, I could add Points back by adopting healthy habits — eating non-starchy vegetables, drinking water and being more active.
I began walking around the block, progressing to five-mile cycle trails.
I was soon adding 5-10 points to my budget daily with exercise, drinking water and eating veg, which filled me up.
I was losing weight, too — 2-3lb a week, on average. But the biggest change has been to my mindset. WW workshops made me realise I was using food as a crutch to deal with problems. I needed to be kinder to myself. Now I eat popcorn instead of Doritos and dips, for instance, and I love low-calorie mint choc ice cream — just 3 PersonalPoints a serving. I save the Points I’ve earned for occasions such as birthdays.
I always track what I eat and plan meals carefully.
Now, I rarely use my wheelchair, I’m a WW coach and focus on maintaining my health, which makes me feel more upbeat.
- WEIGHT THEN: 12st 3lb
- NOW: 9st 4lb
- DRESS SIZE THEN: 14-16
- DRESS SIZE NOW: 8-10