Category Archives: Diet

Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways

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Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways


I completely love rice pudding. And as rice is free on the slimming world plan then I thought I would experiment with trying to get the lowest syn, tastiest rice pudding possible. This is basically my low fat rice pudding recipe tweaked to make it slimming world friendly, and with the syns calculated.

I have two options- so take your pick. Or try both and see which you like best. Both serve 4 and take around two hours to make (well 5 minutes making and 2 hours in the oven!). And I’ve frozen rice pudding made with milk before, so I imagine the both would freeze well.

Both assume you are using the milk as your healthy extra A, (HEXA), but I’ve also given the syns in case you are not.

Option 1 – with almond milk  – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 14 for the whole dish syns (3.5 per person) if not using milk as HEXA

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns) I prefer this to sweetener as it’s natural and doesn’t have an aftertaste. I don’t like it too sweet, so you may need to add more. You can always add more at the end.

1 litre unsweetened almond milk. I used Alpro as it was on offer for £1 in my local Coop! (This whole litre can be your Healthy Extra A, or you can syn it – 5 syns for the whole litre)

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1syn) or use vanilla extract and save yourself a syn (as that’s free), but I like the paste as it makes things taste amazing and you get the little vanilla bean flecks in your food.

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. For a runny rice pudding reduce the cooking time.

This is yummy, but you can definitely taste the almond. So if that’s not for you, try this…

Option 2 – with skimmed milk – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 29 for the whole dish syns (7.25 per person) if not using milk as HEXA. So definitely one you would want to use your HEXA for. It doesn’t use the whole of your milk allowance (250ml if you have 1/4 of the pudding) so still 100 ml spare for other things.

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns)

1 litre skimmed milk

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1 syn)

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. If you like it runny cook for less time.
And if you want to switch it up – here are some other options:

Semi skimmed milk – same quantity. Would use up all of your HEXA allowance for the day if you had 1/4 of the pudding

Seeetner instead of sweet freedom – would reduce the syns to 3 syns for the dish or less than 1 per person) as its only 1/2 syn per tablespoon

Sugar instead of sweet freedom – would increase the syns to 13 for the whole dish (3.25 per person) as its 3 syns per tbsp.

Vanilla extract instead of paste – saves you one syn on the whole dish

Choc shot to make a chocolate rice pudding – replace the sweet freedom with choc shot – would be the same syn value.

Make it sweeter – each tablespoon of Sweet Freedom is 2 syns.

Low sugar cereals

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Low sugar cereals


Doing a month of no sugar in September really made me think about the hidden sugars in our diet, particularly in everyday things such as cereals and yogurt.

So I thought I would do a little research to find the cereals with the lowest sugars. My daughter loves breakfast, and I want to let her continue to eat her fill, without giving her too much sugar.

I’ve always been fairly strict with cereals, and sugary ones are a pretty rare treat. Typically we would have Cheerios for her, and I eat ‘no added sugar’ muesli such as the Dorset Cereals range.

Having spent a good amount of time staring at the packets in Sainsbury’s and scouring the Internet for information, this is what I have found out…

I’m concentrating solely on the sugar content of the cereals, and I’ve used Sainsbury’s website to get the info. I’ve given the sugars per 100g. The serving size info given on packets is confusing as some will include milk (which has natural sugars), and others won’t. A recommended serving size is usually about 30g, so I’ve included 1/3 of the 100g amount as the second figure – to give you an idea of how much sugar is in a serving size.

It’s useful to note that most adults will eat much more than the 30g serving (as a test pour out your usual bowl and then weigh it – I would put money on the fact it’s 40-50g!). So treat these figures with caution – you are probably eating a lot more!

If you use semi-skimmed milk it has 4.8g of sugars per 100ml. So remember to add that to the figures below.

Government guidelines on daily sugar intake according to nhs.uk is 30g per day for adults and 19g for children age 4-6, 24g for children age 7-10.

A nice visual reminder is that a teaspoon is 4g, and ‘low sugar’ is anything with 5g of sugar per 100g.

Another thing to remember is that the ones with dried fruit (I’ve marked them with an asterisk *) will look quite high because of the sugar in the dried fruit, but may be healthier than ones with less sugar, but where it has a lot of added sugar! Check the labels to see where sugar is on the ingredients list. Any marked with a # below has sugar in the top 3 ingredients.

I’ve given just some of the most popular ones below.  In descending order:

Crunchy Nut Cornflakes (#) – 35g per 100g/11.6g per serving

Cocoa Pops (#) – 35g per 100g/11.6g per serving

Jordan’s Crunchy Oat Granola (#*)- Fruit & Nut – 30.8g per 100g/10g per serving

Alpen Original (*) – 23.1g per 100g/7.7g per serving (this does have added sugar, but they’ve listed the different grains separately so technically sugar is the 4th ingredient!).

Cheerios  (#)- 20.9g per 100g/6.9g per serving

Bran Flakes (#)- 20g per 100g/6.6g per serving

Special K (#) – 17g per 100g/5.6g per serving

Alpen Sugar Free (*) – 16g per 100g/5.3g per serving
Dorset Cereals – Simply Nutty (*) – 14g per 100g/4.6g per serving

Rice Krispies (#)- 10g per 100g/3.3g per serving

Cornflakes (#) – 8g per 100g/2.6g per serving

Weetabix (#) – 4.4g per 100g/1.46g per serving

Shredded Wheat Bitesize – 0.7g per 100g/0.23g per serving (this has no added sugar at all!)

In our house we’ve switched to weetabix and shredded wheat bitesize (whole grain and low sugar) for my daughter (and she hasn’t complained yet!), and I make my own muesli using the Holland And Barret muesli base and some nuts/dried fruit.

If you want something that feels more like a treat for your kids, my friend recommended these cereals from Bear (who do the fruit rolls). They are multigrain or cocoa multigrain and have 15g of sugars per 100g/5g per serving, and are made with coconut blossom nectar (whatever that is!) rather than sugar.

What do you think? Were you surprised? Any plans to change your cereals?

Sugar free September

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For September I thought I would try two 30 day challenges. The first is to give up sugar (eek!) and the second is to do a 30 day abs challenge (more on that in another post).

The sugar thing has been somewhat influenced by all the negative press about sugar that is around at the moment. But mostly it’s because I have a very sweet tooth, and whenever I have had a savoury meal, I always crave something sweet. No doubt linked to our family habit of having pudding after our meals as I was growing up (note to self – make sure I don’t create the same habit in Holly).

The Slimming World healthy eating plan I am doing helps me restrict the amount of sweet things I eat, but I still get cravings. So I thought I would see if giving up sugar completely for a month would make any difference. Now a lot of die hard sugar critics have given up all processed sugars (including fruit, bread, flour, pasta and rice), but frankly I think they are mad, so I’m giving up all obviously sugary things like chocolate, cake, biscuits etc.  This includes my beloved Alpen Light bars that I often eat as a snack, but I don’t have to give up cereal as mine is  Dorset Cereals Simply Nutty muesli and it has no added sugar.

I also don’t eat much processed food (baked beans occasionally!), so don’t have to worry about hidden sugars, and I don’t drink  fruit juice (which is full of sugar) or have sugary drinks, so again, not something I need to worry about. I also don’t eat much bread, and eat brown basmati rice, which has a lower GI than other rice. I also often mix it with quinoa. I’m also transitioning over to brown pasta (I currently have half and half -mostly to trick Holly into eating it), and tend to have Courgetti a lot of the time these days (particularly as I grow yellow courgettes and tend to have a glut!).

I’m now 6 days in, and have been pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t been as painful as I thought it would be. Even Saturday night, watching X-Factor, I managed to refrain. No doubt helped by the fact I was alone, so there was nobody next to me eating chocolate! I do use Paul Mckenna’s I Can Make You Thin app from time to time. He has an NLP style ‘craving buster’ activity that I find actually works. If I fancy a snack, I’ve been having an apple and some cheese or a bag of skinny salted popcorn. Or a fruit salad with 0% Greek yogurt.

Update: I made it through the month, and was totally amazed that it just got easier and easier. I even managed to not have some of the amazing looking cakes at a charity coffee morning.

I broke my ‘fast’ on the last day of the month as I was at a work event with tiny cute cupcakes. I had a couple. And I could be one of those annoying people who says ‘and now I found them too sweet’. But f**k that – they tasted amazing!

And it’s now 3 days after the end of my 3 days and interestingly I’m not craving sugar, and haven’t yet gone back to my ‘a bit of chocolate a day’ habit. My plan is to be sugar free in the week, and indulge a bit at the weekend.

It has made me much more aware of my sugar consumption, and how much my daughter is eating. I’ve now switched her to low sugar cereals (I found shredded wheat bite size and wetabix were the best,and there is now a low sugar version of Cheerios). So far no complaints from her.

If you’re interested in the whole sugar debate then the Jamie Oliver Sugar Rush programme was very enlightening. And Davina McCall has a staged way of giving it up (though I think she is on the more extreme end of what you give up).

Have you ever given up sugar? How did you find it? Any tips?

Low Fat (Low Syn) Frozen Yoghurt 

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Low Fat (Low Syn) Frozen Yoghurt 

I’m always on the look out for low fat/low calorie versions of my favourite foods, and I recently bought an ice cre maker so I can make low fat frozen yoghurt.

For the first one one I thought I would use  Choc Shot, which is my new favourite thing. It’s a chocolate flavoured syrup made with ‘Sweet Freedom’ which is a sweetener made from fruit. It has 14 calories per teaspoon, and I love it drizzled over fruit and yoghurt.

There are three flavours.: chocolate, chocolate and coconut (like a liquid Bounty bar) and spiced orange chocolate (which to me tastes like Green & Blacks Maya Gold).

I decided to use the coconut one for the first outing of my ice cream maker.


I had some Yeo Valley 0% fat plain yoghurt, which I strained overnight through a sieve with a piece of kitchen paper in it. This was to thicken it up, as it’s quite runny. You could use Greek yoghurt instead, and of course it doesn’t have to be low fat or fat free if you don’t want it to be!

I had about 200g of yoghurt, and I added 1tbsp of choc shot. Which I guess is about 40 calories?  In Slimming World terms it’s 2 syns for 1 tbsp, and the yoghurt is ‘free’. So only 2 syns for the whole lot!

A quick mix and it looks like this, and tastes pretty good as it is!  It still has that tartness that comes with plain yoghurt, so you might want to add more choc shot if you want it more chocolatey, or serene of some kind (maybe sweet freedom) to take away the tartness.      

A quick whiz in the ice cream maker. (It’s this Andrew James one – isn’t it pretty?! – I got it from here, and into the freezer to firm up.


I forgot to take a photo before I ate some of it, but here it is.. I put it in the fridge to soften for a couple of hours before eating it to get it to scoopable consistency. And it was delicious! Creamy texture, a bit tart and chocolatey, coconuty yum.

Low(er) calorie rice pudding

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This is a version of Nigella’s rice pudding from ‘How To Eat’, which is one of her first, and in my opinion, definitely her best cookery book. Find it here

I love rice pudding, and I’ve adapted it to make it a larger dish and a little lower calorie. It’s still lovely and creamy, but less sweet and rich than the original. My daughter loves it, my parents less so as it wasn’t sweet enough for them!

I doubled the ingredients except the sugar and butter (I drastically reduce the butter). I omitted the grated nutmeg too, but you don’t need to (she sprinkles it on before putting in the oven) She uses full fat milk, I use semi-skimmed. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work with skimmed. Let me know if you try it!

120g pudding rice
40g brown sugar (any sugar will do)
1 litre semi-skimmed milk
Good teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
A few blobs of butter

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.

Put the rice in a baking dish

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Add the sugar and pour over the milk

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Add the vanilla

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And give it all a good stir.
Dot a bit of butter over the top (it will float).

Pop it in the oven and give a stir after about half an hour. It should be ready after about an hour and a half to two hours. Keep an eye on it as towards the end the milk seems to be absorbed quickly and it can end up a bit thick. In which case just add a little milk as you serve it if you like a more runny consistency.

Eat and enjoy! It also freezes well in portions (if it lasts that long!)

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Low fat flapjack

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Ok, so no flapjack is going to be low fat, but I invented this quite a few years ago, and it’s lower fat and sugar than a traditional flapjack recipe. I’ve gone as low as I can whilst still making something that (on the whole) sticks together.

It’s based on a recipe in Leith’s Cookery Bible, but I’ve fiddled around with it quite significantly. I will give the original ingredients too so you can make that too if you want to compare and contrast.

Its in ounces, which shows that I did it a long time ago, as I typically use grams now.

– 6oz butter (same as original recipe)
– 2oz soft brown sugar (4oz in original recipe)
– 2oz golden syrup (same as original recipe)
– 12oz rolled oats (8oz in original recipe)
Plus whatever you like to add in – I used a handful of whole hazelnuts, a handful of sliced almonds, half a pack of chocolate chips, a handful of mixed seeds, and a handful of freeze dried strawberries and raspberries.

Melt the butter and stir in the sugar and syrup until melted.

Mix in the oats and other ingredients until they are well coated. If you are using chocolate chips, add them at the end when it has cooled a little, otherwise they will melt.

Spread into a baking tin and press down.

Bake at 190 degrees centigrade for about half an hour until nicely brown.

Mark into squares when still hot. It will seem very crumbly at this stage but will firm up when it cools.

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Fat Free Chicken Curry

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It’s the New Year, and it’s most definitely time to lose weight. So it’s back in the Slimming World diet (without actually re-joining the club – I have all the books now!).

I did this last year and lost 1 1/2 stones, so I know it works for me, and one of my favourite things to eat was a fat free curry. By my reckoning it’s ‘syn free’ in Slimming World speak, which basically means on the ‘extra easy’ plan you can eat as much as you like. Yes really!!

So I thought I would share my recipe with you. I make a big pot and freeze portions for days when I can’t be bothered to cook, or sometimes I take it into work for lunch.

There are not really precise amounts or particular ingredients that I use, just what’s in the fridge and cupboard, but do try and get a good mix of veg, as that makes it stretch further.

Fry light cooking spray
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 chicken breasts, skin and any visible fat removed (I use free range), chopped into bite sized chunks
Curry powder (not paste)
1 large carrot, chopped
Green beans, halved
Handful of new potatoes, halved
Handful of mushrooms (I like chestnut mushrooms)
Can of chickpeas, drained
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube
Bunch of coriander, chopped
Bag of fresh spinach

Spray your pan with Fry Light (this is essential -don’t use oil as this is what makes it fat free!) and add the onions. Put a lid on and sweat the onions over a low heat for about 10 minutes. If they start to brown too much add a little water to stop them sticking. You want them to be soft and translucent.

Add the peppers and let them soften, then add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

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Turn up the heat and add the chicken allowing it to brown slightly. Then chuck in the curry powder using the amount recommended on the pack. It doesn’t really matter which curry powder you use. I like Sharwoods, but use whatever you have. Do not use curry paste as this usually has oil added. Mix to coat the contents of the pan then cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the rest of the veg (not the spinach or chickpeas) and stir. If you are using cauliflower or broccoli add it later as it cooks quicker than the other veg and can go mushy if you overcook it.

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Add the canned tomatoes, stock cube and enough water to make a slightly runny sauce (fill one of the cans about half way- that should be enough). Don’t worry if its too runny, you can boil it off later.

Add 2/3rds of the coriander and the can of chickpeas. Stir and put the lid on.

Cook until the chicken and veg are all cooked through. If the sauce is a bit thin take off the lid and cook for a while to allow some of the liquid to boil off.

Add the spinach and remainder of the coriander. Put the lid back on and allow it to wilt, then stir it in.

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It should look like this…

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And I like to serve it with rice and a huge dollop of fat free Greek yoghurt.

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The recipe would work equally well with prawns instead of chicken, just add them at the end of the cooking time.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and syn free recipes.