Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters: The Sequel – #Morbid Obesity – Delicious foods you can eat on a healthy #weightloss programme by Sally Cronin

This is the updated and fifth edition of Size Matters and I had intended to release in 2021 for the 25th anniversary of my initial weight loss. However, with everything else going on in the world it did not seem appropriate to celebrate when people’s minds were fixed on survival in lockdown. Although this serialisation ontains much of the original material in relation to my own personal story, the programme has evolved over the last 25 years.

Although I studied nutritional therapy back in the mid-1990s, I have continued my studies and developed new programmes for healthy eating that are tailor made for the individual rather than a one size fits all. I still believe that the key elements of this basic weight loss programme I will share with you in this updated version works. Even when I work with clients who have arthritis or diabetes, I still approach their programmes from the three dimensions that I outline in this book.

Last week I shared how you can determine how much weight you should lose to be healthy

You can read the previous post: HERE

Our physical approach, our mental attitude and our emotions are all factors in how we overcome disease and obesity, and should all be addressed when looking for the right programme that will work for each individual.

Delicious foods you can eat on a healthy #weightloss programme

Most eating programmes to lose weight will emphasise all the foods that you cannot eat.

This to me is crazy as in fact they are far outweighed by the number of foods that you can eat. This is why we head into a weight loss programme already feeling deprived.

As a rule of thumb when preparing your menu for the week and a shopping list; select anything that has been taken from the ground, picked from a tree, allowed to roam free and graze naturally and comes from a cold sea environment rather than a fish farm.

Anything that is wrapped in plastic or cardboard should be treated with suspicion as should the really cheap options. Also whilst it is convenient to buy your vegetables ready chopped they will have lost up to 50% of their nutritional value in the first week after being chopped and more as the days go by. Think about what an apple looks like after only a few minutes being exposed to the air. Usually good quality frozen food is chopped and prepared immediately so you can use that as an alternative.

I know what it is like to work on a budget but I do believe that a little of the good stuff goes a long way in flavour, nutritional content and your health. The few pounds that you might save on your weekly shopping is a great deal less significant than the impact on your health by eating industrialised foods.

Tailor making your own eating programme to suit your tastes and requirements.

This chapter shows how to go about designing your own program. It will be more effective if you make the choices for your meals based on the foods you most enjoy. In this way, you are more likely to stick to the program and learn what foods make you feel, and look, healthier and fitter.

Before you even look at the food side of the program, you must sit down and think out your strategy for losing weight. You already have some tools. For instance, you now know how to establish the ideal weight for your height, frame, age and activity level. You should have completed your ‘compelling reasons for losing weight’ sheet and you should also have set yourself realistic goals for the weeks ahead. Having established your targets, you now need to design a food program to achieve that result.

There is no one dietary program that suits everyone. We are all different and our likes and dislikes have been shaped by childhood experiences and habits we have acquired over the years. I could suggest a balanced and nutritious program to follow seven days a week. However, if half the foods on the program are ones you dislike or have never tried, then you will be bored within a few days and fed up with trying to find something to eat. You will be likely to give up.

The purpose of this program is to find a dietary regime that you can live with for life. This is not just a means of getting into that outfit for a wedding or birthday, it is about fitting your diet to your lifestyle and personal preferences so that you can live with it forever.
Before you begin designing your program, you need to establish the tools you need to put the program together. Later in the book you will find some detailed lists from which you can choose.

There are three main food groups: fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins. These are the building blocks for your program. There are also the incidentals, which can be added sparingly, such as alcohol.

I really do not mind what you eat as long as it is not out of a packet. If it is natural, unprocessed and only seasoned with what you choose to add then you are on the right track.

Group one foods – Fruit & Vegetables

This group consists of fruit and vegetables, and I have included as many as I can think of. Mark your preferences a, b and c;

a) For those fruit and vegetables that you eat on a regular basis;
b) For those that you might eat if you are out or if someone cooks for you;
c) For those that you have never tried or that you dislike.

It is important to eat from preferences b) and c) as well as preference a). You need the widest possible variety in your diet. Sticking to one or two favourite vegetables or fruit would mean that you could well be missing out on some important vitamins and minerals. It is also easy to get bored with a diet that is too limited.

Cook the same vegetable in many different ways, so look at the list as an exciting adventure into taste and texture. This is not a recipe book, so get hold of a good one. Vegetarian cookery books tend to have the most interesting ways to cook vegetables, but adjust the fat content where necessary.

The best approach is to eat from your preference a) foods every day and try one from your preference b) and c) once or twice a week. You will find, that as your sweet tooth disappears, many vegetables you once thought were too bitter now taste much nicer. I am sure this is why children do not like vegetables when they come off semi-solids. The sugar in the food they have been eating has conditioned their taste buds so that fresh foods taste bitter. This can flavour our opinion about a particular vegetable into adulthood.

Here is a list of fruits and vegetables to form your preferred list for daily and then a list for once or twice a week. Do not be afraid to try new varieties and this will increase your opportunity to obtain the widest possible range of nutrients. This list is not all inclusive as you will have different fruits and vegetables in your neck of the woods and eating seasonally and locally is always a good thing.

You will find that I have mixed the fruit and vegetables and some herbs into this list and left you to put into the lists. One of the reasons is I think you will be surprised how few varieties of fruit and vegetables you are currently consuming. It is so easy to get into a rut!

Apple, artichoke, asparagus, aubergine (eggplant)avocado, banana, beetroot, blackberry, blueberry, Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage) broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe melon, capers, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, chicory, chives, cilantro, coconut, corn, cucumber, danelion, dill, endive, fennel, figs, garlic, gherkins, ginger, grapes, guava, Kale, leeks, lettuce, lychee, macadamia nuts, mango, melon, mushrooms, nectarines, Papaya, parsley, parsnip, passion fruit, peach, plum, peas, pears, pecans, peppers, pineapple, pomegranate, potato, pumpkin, radish, raspberry, rhubarb, saffron, sea kale, shallot, soybeans, spinach, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tomato, turnip, water chestnuts, watercress, watermelon, Yams.

Group two foods – Carbohydrates

This is the carbohydrate group. Do not fall into the trap of thinking, that because foods in this group are low in fat, they will help you to be slim. Also, whole grains in moderation are a super addition to any healthy eating plan but you need to manage your intake to balance with the amount of your daily activity. Couch potatoes do not need that much energy.

Pasta, for instance, has 350 calories per 100 gm dry weight. It is very easy to eat 200 gm of pasta, which is 700 calories, and this is before you put a sauce on top. You could easily consume your entire 1,500 calorie allowance in one go if you were not careful. In comparison, potatoes have only 86 calories per 100 gm. However, the problem with potatoes is that they taste so much better with fats or sauces! A drizzle of olive oil or a small knob of butter with some herbs is fine.

Breakfast cereals are also in this group. Unfortunately, most of the processed products contain quite high concentrations of sugar. Avoid the frosted variety and be aware that muesli can also contain large amounts of nuts and dried fruit, which are high in calories and fats. A small serving is fine and the nuts have great nutritional value.

I prefer to make my own muesli with nuts but leaving out the dried fruit and adding some fresh berries instead. I also use porridge oats in the winter months and a couple of dried tablespoons go a long way.

Get into the habit of looking at labels. You should buy the cereals that show the lowest concentration of sugar. You can find this on the label in the part marked ‘Carbohydrate content of which sugars …’You will often find that there is more than a teaspoon of sugar – 6gms per serving.. that adds up over the day to overload you with sugar.

Bread usually contains yeast and sugar. You can buy yeast and sugar-free bread in supermarkets and health food shops. Remember to check the label. Use wholegrain bread, granary and avoid anything wrapped in plastic.

There are some starchy vegetables that should be eaten in moderation. Parsnips, a personal favourite of mine, are fairly high in calories but lower than potatoes. I often use them as a substitute for potatoes and serve them mashed with carrot or roasted, using a little bit of butter and seasoning.

Here is a list of the carbohydrates that I recommend.

Wholegrain rice, pasta, oats and store baked or home baked multigrain bread. You can also use corn or wholewheat tortillas and pitta breads etc. Occasionally you can enjoy fresh baked white bread made with strong flour. Avoid anything that is white flour and wrapped in plastic. Beans are carbohydrates but also contain proteins and nutrients such as B vitamins and essential minerals. I suggest using once or twice a week as a substitute for meat based proteins and casseroles with tomato, onions and mushrooms with herbs and spices is a delicious autumn or winter dish. You can also add to homemade soups.

Group three foods – Proteins

This is the protein group. I was a vegetarian for four years, but it didn’t really suit me. I did not give up meat on ethical grounds, but in order to reduce my fat intake to moderate levels. I now eat meat in moderation. I thoroughly enjoy a steak from time to time and feel that my program is easier to live with now that it includes meat. However, I prefer to eat fish three or four times a week, and I am very partial to salmon – 100 different ways!

Protein in animal form usually has a higher fat content. Remember, though, that we need some fats for our central nervous system and that they should be included in our diet in moderation. It is better to grill or oven-bake meat. If you are going to fry food or seal meat before roasting you only need a little oil in the pan. Research is indicating that you can use Extra Virgin Olive Oil as it is not as sensitive to the higher heat as once thought.. But fat is fat is fat. Yes, certain fats are better for you, such as olive oil and coconut oil., but they will all increase your weight if used excessively.

Proteins to choose from.

All lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb including offal such as liver if you enjoy. Once a week will give you a great nutritional boost. Poultry but duck can be fatty so eat once in a while and grill. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, white fish which is high in protein and low on fats. Dairy such as milk, butter and cheese. Better to have a scrape of real butter than pile on commercially produced spreads. A stronger cheese can be used sparingly but will give great flavour. If you wish to use semi-skimmed or skimmed milk that is okay but to be honest I use full fat milk and just less of it. Eggs are very important for our health. Always eat well cooked and having one a day is not a problem. Once of the greatest myths about cholesterol was that eating eggs caused it!

If you are vegetarian then it is important that you include whole grains to obtain your B vitamins but you can also eat fermented soy products. Vegetables also contain protein including peas, sprouted beans, lentils, lima beans, corn, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, mange tout, artichokes, spinach etc.

Last but not least Fats….

We must not cut fats out of our diet – they have an essential role to play in our health and without fats and cholesterol our bodies will be open to infections, poor function in areas such as the brain, heart, reproductive system and our eyesight.

I use the 80/20 rule because of my past weight issues and 20% of my diet comprises healthy fats – sometimes I will have more because I am out for a meal etc but basically my everyday diet comprises mainly seasonal vegetables and fruit, wholegrain rice, fish, chicken, red meat once a week, eggs, olive oil, moderate dairy.

No one person’s diet is the same and you have to find the perfect balance for you and this includes your fat intake – as long as it is not harmful fats………..

Briefly, a quick look at the fats you are likely to encounter in your daily diet.

One fat to avoid all together, is not naturally occurring at all, and that is manufactured Trans Fats. Liquid oil is hydrogenated to extend its shelf life, but in the process Trans fatty acids are formed – found in most industrially produced foods including margarines -snacks such as microwave popcorn, cakes, biscuits, cookies, pies etc.

The other fat which in large quantities is not helpful in maintaining cholesterol levels is saturated fats – if there is too much in your diet it will raise your total Cholesterol as well as the LDL (low density lipoprotein – the kind that can block arteries). Mainly found in animal products but also some seafood. However, provided you are not eating the rich fat around a steak or roast every day, or eating a block of cheese three times a week, or a pound of butter on your spuds, you can enjoy what is very tasty component of your diet in moderation.


The fats classified as healthy fats are Monounsaturated fats – which lower total cholesterol and at the same time lower LDL and increase HDL – this is contained in nuts, such as walnuts and olive oil.

Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL and these are found in salmon, soya, sunflower oils etc and have an important component; Omega-3 fatty acids. These can not only reduce your LDL and support HDL but are also very helpful in reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Even with people who have already suffered a heart attack including Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet reduces their risk of a fatal attack.


I love fish and it is very easy to include oily fish at least twice a week, although I do avoid farmed salmon and opt for frozen wild salmon (usually frozen). Some of the best for Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and Albacore Tuna.

Oils and cooking.

Grilling food or steaming and then adding a drizzle of oil is healthier than frying

Use extra virgin olive oil for cooking (latest research indicates that this can be used at a higher temperature than first identified), and you can combine with some sunflower oil and a small amount of butter for a slightly different flavour. Recently coconut oil has come into focus as an oil to use in the kitchen and I have been using for over two years now and love the flavour it brings to salmon and other fish.

You should not burn any oil, but maintain a temperature that cooks your meat, chicken of fish evenly. I tend to brown the meat in the pan and then transfer to the oven or microwave to finish cooking

For salads, vegetables and on toast drizzle Extra Virgin Olive oil which has not been over processed – do not be tempted to use the light versions on offer as these have been industrialised. Just use the real stuff but a little less. You can now also buy Walnut oil and my favourite which is Avocado oil. Buy organic and whilst more expensive you do find a little goes a long way.

I hope you now see the amazing range of foods that you can enjoy whilst still losing weight. Of course you cannot eat platefuls of even healthy foods it you are not putting the effort in to work it off… more about that later.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2022

 Next time – Putting your eating plan together to nourish your body as it loses weight.

A little bit about me nutritionally. .

About Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.

Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 21 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can buy my books from: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow me :Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58 – Facebook: Sally Cronin – LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

40 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters: The Sequel – #Morbid Obesity – Delicious foods you can eat on a healthy #weightloss programme by Sally Cronin

  1. Yum, I loved your healthy eating food Sal. Even though I’m cooking for one, and often don’t even feel like doing so, I am thrilled to have an air fryer. I can make small portions and dinner is ready in ten minutes. I throw fish or chicken and veggies, lightly basted with olive oil and spices and voila. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters: The Sequel – #Morbid Obesity – Delicious foods you can eat on a healthy #weightloss programme by Sally Cronin | Retired? No one told me!

  3. Reblogged this on Pattys World and commented:
    Hi, please join me over on Sally Cronin​’s blog for some great healthy tips.
    I’d like to be clear, this is not a post proclaiming some fad diet, nor does it support the use of diet pills or any other quick weight-loss scam.
    Instead, this is a post, written by someone who has over 30 years experience as a nutritionist plus her own personal struggles with weight-loss.
    Thanks to what I’ve learned from Sally over the years I’ve been reading her work, to date, I’ve lost from 298 down to 249 pounds.
    No special foods. No special pills or shots. Just good healthy living, exercise and great food information to help me as I shop and ready meals to eat.
    I live on a low income budget but still, I am buying healthy foods.
    So, please, before you dismiss this out of hand, have a read.
    Sorry for the long intro but last week when I shared to another place, I got some very unfriendly feedback.
    Happy reading/eating and blessid be.
    PS. From time to time, Sally contributes to the Writer’s Grapevine Mag​ Health World column.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That is a very good idea, dividing the nutrients we need with view on the kind of food containing them. 😉 Gosh, what a really good idea (and i really never had a thought about this). I will print this out, and after i have translated all the unknown words (Lol) i will pin it near the fridge. 🙂 Thanks, Sally! xx Michael

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  5. We used to get the children in school to do a ‘Speaking and Listening’ activity on foods.
    It was a fact sharing activity where cgroups would become an expert on one area and share their expertise with the new group.
    Loved this activity as it was so much fun to do.
    A simpler version of the information you have given but I certainly found myself remembering the groups.
    We loved ending up producing a healthy eating booklet/fact sheet.

    Liked by 1 person

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