Sticking to healthy eating is much easier if you actually
enjoy what’s on the menu. Lauren Taylor speaks to Tom Kerridge about dieting the delicious way.

Diet food has a bad rep. It conjures up images of chewing on
cardboard-like rice cakes and low-fat packet soups packed with
preservatives, while you dream of a comforting bowl of pasta and battle
cravings for anything that so much as resembles dessert.

Enter Tom Kerridge. He not only runs the UK’s only pub with two Michelin
stars (The Hand And Flowers in Marlow), but he knows a thing or two
about weight loss – having shed a staggering 12 stone himself. Now back
with a second diet book, Lose Weight For Good, and accompanying BBC
programme, he’s determined to demonstrate that calorie-controlled meals
can be delicious – and easy to whip up at home.

And who better to create a weight-loss plan that you actually want to
stick to, than someone who loves really, really loves food?


What’s the new book about?

“I looked at lower-calorie recipes and I found them incredibly
depressing, boring and flavourless,” Wiltshire-born Tom, 44, explains.
“I thought, ‘Well no wonder so many people yo-yo on diets, they’re not
enjoying what they’re eating’.”

He describes his new book as a “celebration of great-tasting food”, with
an emphasis on recipes that use everyday ingredients and come in
portions big enough to fill you up. It’s full of nutritious but hearty
recipes, and some that might surprise you, like spicy lamb burgers, pork
samosa pie, pizza with parma ham and mozzarella, and coffee and
chocolate custard pots.

Pastry, red meat and puddings might not be classic health-book fodder,
but pub grub is what he’s famous for – and it really wouldn’t be a Tom
Kerridge book without a pie.

The accompanying TV show, currently on BBC Two, follows a group of 13
dieters on their mission to achieve steady but lasting weight loss with
Tom’s recipes. “Seeing them actually enjoying what they’re eating has
been the biggest thing for me,” says the chef.

How did Tom lose his weight?

Alongside a typically hectic lifestyle, being in the restaurant business
and constantly around food saw Tom’s weight creep up to 30 stone. “I
worked very hard, I spent a lot of time in other people’s restaurants, a
lot of time labouring in the kitchen. I’d go home late and have cheese
on toast,” he recalls. “It was the same trap everyone else falls into,
but I suppose my lifestyle made it even more extreme.”

Approaching 40 made him evaluate his health. “I thought, ‘I’ve achieved
where I am in life, but where am I going moving forward? OK, maybe I
won’t spend the next 40 years doing what I’m doing…’.”

It was January 2013 when the dad-of-one gave up booze and devised his
own weight-loss plan, later coined ‘The Dopamine Diet’, which was turned
into a bestselling book. It took him to just under 18 stone, mainly by
cutting down on carbohydrates.

“The hardest part was the first six to eight weeks of getting into the
mindset and changing the habitual routines. Like when I’d normally have
cheese on toast or when I’d usually go to the pub – that’s the bit where
you’ve got to be really strong-willed,” he recalls.

He recognised that a low-carb diet isn’t for everybody, however: “When I
told people I lost weight by having no alcohol, no pasta, no bread…
there was a massive look of disappointment on their faces!” So he set
out to create a “broader reaching” diet, in line with the NHS 12 week
weight-loss plan.

“The reason the Dopamine Diet worked for me was that I thoroughly
enjoyed what I was eating – as it’s all about the flavour,” says Tom. “I
thought, ‘Surely I can put that ethos of a celebration of food into
lower-calorie cooking’.”

Who’s the new book best for?

One of the challenges for anyone trying to what their diet at the start
of the year is finding the time to prepare healthy meals, and the
inclination to learn new dishes.

Tom Kerridge making baked falafel with tzatziki from his book Lose Weight For Good. PA Photo/© Cristian Barnett.


“It’s all well and good everybody saying they’re a great cook, but
sometimes you’re a great cook at the weekends when you enjoy doing it,
when you’ve got three or four hours to potter about making things and
enjoying the process of cooking. But you eat every day,” says Tom.

So the recipes in Lose Weight For Good really are meant to fit into busy
lives – the steps are clear and simple, and you don’t need a long list
of ingredients.

“If you come home from work at 7 o’clock in the evening, you want to
rustle something up in under 20 minutes and you want to know how to do
it,” Tom adds. “It’s aimed at being accessible, even for the most
amateur of cooks to have a go at making something taste good.”

Tom Kerridge’s Shakshuka breakfast eggs from Lose Weight For Good. PA Photo/© Cristian Barnett.


Can lower-calorie meals still be comfort food?

While changing your diet does involve some self-control, it doesn’t have
to mean missing out on all ‘treats’, or enjoying food less. For
instance, you can still get your pasty fix with Tom’s chicken and
mushroom filo crunch, your late-night kebab hit with his healthy lamb
doner alternative, or satisfy a KFC craving with the southern-style
chicken with potato salad.

“I think when people are on diets, what they miss the most is desserts
and things they feel like they shouldn’t be able to eat,” he says.
Although the desserts in the book don’t have the same amount of butter
or sugar, and therefore calories, as traditional pudding recipes,
they’re still proper puddings.

Tom Kerridge’s courgette and cardamom cake from his new book Lose Weight For Good. PA Photo/© Cristian Barnett.


“There are some fantastic sugar alternatives, fantastic cream
alternatives, things that are lower in calories that can help you still
produce things that feel a bit more ‘treaty’, that shouldn’t feel like
you’re on a diet, but you are,” he says (yes, this includes

Tom Kerridge’s Turkey ragu with cabbage linguine from Lose Weight For Good. PA Photo/© Cristian Barnett.

It’s all about using some clever tricks. Some of the recipes include
veg-masquerading-as-carb alternatives, like jerk chicken with
cauliflower rice ‘n’ peas, chicken with peas and mushrooms and celeriac
mash, and turkey ragu with white cabbage linguine. “They make you feel
like you’re not missing out on anything,” Tom says. “They hold flavour,
they taste nice, they’re mind tricks.”

But the best way to ensure dieters enjoy their food is to pack in the
flavour – something Tom’s using his 26 years of experience as a chef to
do. “Don’t be scared [of using spice]. Use hot spice gently, have a go
with salt, pepper and paprika and fresh herbs – there’s no such thing as
too many fresh herbs.”

Essentially, he wants to get people cooking, because there’s no better
way to ensure what you’re putting into your body is healthy. But as for
sticking to it? “Nobody else can do that for you,” says Tom. “And it
doesn’t matter what diet you’re on, you have to make that decision
yourself and you have to do it.”

Undated Handout Photo of the book jacket for Lose Weight For Good. Photo/© Cristian Barnett.

Lose Weight For Good: Full-Flavour Cooking For A Low-Calorie Diet by Tom
Kerridge is published by Absolute, priced £22. Available now. The
accompanying six-part series continues on BBC Two on Wednesdays.


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County Lifestyle and Leisure Team
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