How to whittle down your waist & boost your health

Love to eat more healthily but can’t quite find the time? The hectic modern lifestyle needn’t mean suffering on the health stakes. Did you know that cutting out meat could cut your chances of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer – and could even add up to six years to your life expectancy?

Of course, if you replace meat with chocolate éclairs and chip butties you’re unlikely to reap maximum health benefits. The key is choosing healthy meat substitutes, such as tofu and other ‘mock meats’, beans, lentils, whole-grain products (brown rice, whole-grain bread), dark green and deep yellow vegetables, soya milk and nuts.

But going veggie needn’t mean learning enough new recipes to fill an encyclopedia. Many familiar dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese, chilli and stir-fries can easily be made veggie. Most people have about seven or eight dishes that they cook regularly and, surprise surprise, vegetarians are no different.

Check out Viva! Health’s guide to transforming everyday meals into top veggie tucker…

Traditional Breakfast: Veggie Version:
Cereal with milk and fruit served with orange juice Cereal with fortified soya/rice milk and fruit, served with orange juice
Scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, cup of tea Scrambled tofu, wholemeal toast, veggie sausage, cup of tea with soya milk
Pancakes and maple syrup Pancakes (egg and dairy-free) and maple syrup with fresh fruit
Traditional Lunch Veggie Version
Chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayo; yogurt; crisps Smoked tofu or hummus sandwich with lettuce, tomato and vegan mayo; fruity soya yoghurt; piece of fruit
Chicken soup, bread, green salad and vinaigrette Vegetable or minestrone soup, wholemeal bread, green salad with low-fat dressing
Burger and chips Veggieburger in a wholemeal roll, chutney and vegan mayo with extra portion of salad
Sausage Sarnie Veggie Sausage Sarnie on wholemeal bread, tomato/brown sauce and salad
Traditional Dinner Veggie Version
Grilled salmon, boiled new potatoes with butter; asparagus with parmesan cheese Grilled giant field mushrooms drizzled with olive oil, garlic
and shoyu (a type of soya sauce); boiled new potatoes with basil and black pepper; grilled asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil and nutritional yeast flakes (Marigold/Engevita brand available in large supermarkets and health stores)
Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread Veggie Bolognese (substitute frozen veggie mince for meat). Serve with crusty bread and green salad
Quiche Lorraine, chips and salad Red onion tart, baked potato or low-fat potato wedges and salad
Chicken Chow Mein Sticky tofu stir-fry with noodles
Chilli Con Carne Chilli Non Carne (substitute frozen veggie mince for meat), guacamole, rice and salad
Bangers and Mash Bangers and Mash – vegan sausages, mashed potatoes creamed with vegan margarine and soya milk; steamed greens and gravy


If banishing a beer belly appeals then look no further. Researchers at the American Cancer Society studied more than 75,000 people for a decade to find out which behaviours were most associated with an increasing waistline. Even after controlling for other factors, people who ate more than a single serving of meat per day were 50 per cent more likely to put on weight around their middles (the most unhealthy way to carry fat) than those who ate meat just a few times per week.

A Rough Guide to Healthy Portion Sizes:

It’s easy to make sure that you’re getting a balanced diet with Viva! Health’s pin-up and keep guide. Healthy eating is simply a matter of recognizing what constitutes a healthy portion size and knowing how many servings to eat on a daily basis. Place special emphasis on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day and you won’t go far wrong. For further information, send for our guide Nutrition in a Nutshell and our Veggie Vitamins and Other Good Things! Wallchart (price £3.70 for both, including postage and packing). Please make your cheque payable to the VVF and send it, together with your name and address, to: VVF, 8 York Court, Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8QH.

Number of servings Food Healthy portion size To provide
At least 5  Fruit and vegetables   Folate, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Fibre
  Fresh fruit 1 medium piece the size of a tennis ball  
  Dried fruit  1-11⁄2 tablespoons or 1 golf ball  
  Green or root veg  2-3 tablespoons or 1⁄2 tennis ball  
  Salad veg 80g or 1 large cereal bowl  
3 or 4 Cereals and grains   Energy, Fibre, B Vitamins, Calcium, Iron, Protein
  eg Cooked brown rice, cous-cous or other grains 2-3 heaped tablespoons or 
1⁄2 teacup
  Breakfast cereal 25g or 1 regular sized cereal bowl  
  Wholemeal pasta 1 cup (cooked) as side dish or 2 cups as main dish  
  Wholemeal bread 2 slices  
2 or 3 Pulses, nuts or seeds   Protein, Energy, Fibre, Calcium, Other Minerals
  Peas, beans and lentils  1⁄2 cup (cooked)   
  Nuts or seeds 2 tablespoons or a small handful  
Small amounts Vegetable oil, margarine   Essential Fatty Acids*, Energy, Vitamin E (Vegetable oils), Vitamin A & D (Fortified Margarine)
Some Foods fortified with vitamin B12 eg yeast extract or fortified soya milk    

Also try to drink one to two litres (at least eight glasses) of water each day.

*Ditch fish from your diet! Omega 3 fats are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli; some nuts, especially walnuts; seeds, especially linseed (also called flax), hempseed and rapeseed, and oils extracted from these foods. One teaspoon of flax seed oil or a handful of whole seeds and nuts (linseed, hempseed or walnuts) each day should provide you with sufficient omega 3 fats. These fats are easily damaged by light or heat so try and keep these foods refrigerated and use them cold, for example on cold vegetable/rice/pasta salads and so on. Virgin olive oil is the best oil to use when cooking as it is much less prone to damage.