What to know about high protein weight loss diet

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The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is claimed to be the proven long-term solution to long-term weight loss. Here’s what you need to know about the diet, plus a day’s sample meal plan. 

The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet is a 12-week high protein, low GI eating plan that is scientifically formulated to help you lose weight. It’s based on more than 15 years of research by Australia’s national science agency, and aims to provide a long-term sustainable approach to healthy weight loss.

Designed to be suitable for everyone, the online program includes thousands of recipes, menu plans, tracking tools to keep you accountable, practical exercise plans, email reminders and a community forum.

How does the CSIRO diet work?

Unlike other diets that involve calorie counting, the Total Wellbeing Diet is a little different; instead, it uses a food group system to help get optimal nutrition from natural foods, including the right balance of protein and low GI carbohydrates.

Focusing on these food groups helps control kilojoule intake, which is essential for weight loss.

There are seven different foods groups and you’re allowed a set number of “units” from each food group a day. Each food group has specific vitamins and minerals from protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Based on the member’s personal profile, they will be assigned to one of the different menu plan levels, which then allocates them with the right number of food units to ensure they reach their goals while meeting their nutritional requirements.

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Why does it work?

They claim over 500,000 Australians have lost weight following the diet because it offers a sustainable approach to eating that helps you lose weight without depriving yourself from the occasional treat.

Over the 12 weeks, the program provides recipes, nutrition advice and encourages moderate exercise –habits that can be carried on beyond the program. The goal is to teach members how to eat well every day, so it’s not designed to be a short-term diet but a long-term lifestyle change.

A study conducted by the CSIRO proved dieters following the 12 week program lost an average of 5.25kg over the 12 week period. The average reduction in their BMI was 1.85.

Moreover, a survey of members who lost weight through the program reported half of them saw improvements in chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

What can you eat?

There are seven different food groups and you’re allowed a set number of “units” from each food group a day, specially designed to meet your daily allowance.

Each day includes three meals consisting of breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks (including fruit and low GI dairy) and up to one indulgence.

The 7 different food groups:

  • Meat and protein: lean meats and chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes and pulses. It is recommend you eat 200g red meat (beef or lamb) 3 times a week and 2 serves of fish.
  • Bread and cereals: low GI wholegrain and high fibre varieties such as Burgen® breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, quinoa and barley.
  • Vegetables: fresh and frozen including different types and colours. You’re allowed to eat as many vegetables as you like.
  • Fruit: fresh, canned fruit in juice or dried fruits.
  • Dairy: low-fat dairy or soy milk, cheese and yoghurt.
  • Healthy fats and oils: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated spreads and oils; nut pastes, nuts and seeds, avocado.
  • Indulgence Foods: foods that provide little nutrition but can be enjoyed from time-to-time, like chocolate, ice-cream, sausages, chips and muffins.

What 1 “unit’ looks like:

  • Meat and protein: 100g red meat, 100g chicken or fish, 2 eggs, 100g tofu.
  • Bread and cereals: 1 slice of bread (40g), ½ cup cooked rice or pasta, 2/3 cup flaked cereal or ¼ cup muesli, 1 potato (150g).
  • Vegetables: 150g raw vegetables, 1 cup cooked vegetables, 1 cup salad vegetables, 2 small tomatoes.
  • Fruit: 150g fruit, 1 medium piece of fruit (e.g orange, apple), 2 small pieces of fruit (e.g. apricot, kiwi, plum), 30g dried fruit.
  • Dairy: 250ml low-fat milk, 50 reduced fat cheese, 200g low-fat Greek yoghurt. 165g cottage cheese.
  • Healthy fats and oils: 1 teaspoon oil, 2 teaspoons unsaturated margarine, 1 tablespoon mashed avocado, 7g nuts or nut paste.
  • Indulgence foods: 4 small square chocolate, 1 chocolate biscuit, 1 fun sized packet potato chips, 1 scoop ice cream, 100ml of wine, 285ml beer.

What can’t you eat?

No foods are banned on the diet. Food Groups system limits how much you can eat of any one Food Group but there are no outright no-foods.

How is exercise incorporated?

As part of the program, there is an exercise plan dieters should follow to see the best results. It involves three 15-20 minute resistance sessions with moderate to high intensity cardio each week.

A sample day on a plate

Breakfast: Mango and coconut smoothie bowl

Ingredients:

  • The Complete Dairy High Protein Milk, Light, 0.5 cup(s)
  • Chobani Greek Yogurt, Coconut, 2% Fat, 1 cup(s) , or plain if coconut unavailable
  • Rolled oats, raw, 25g
  • Frozen Mango, 1 cup(s)
  • Chia seeds, 3 teaspoon(s)
  • Coconut flakes, 2 teaspoon(s)
  • Fresh mint, 1 stem(s), torn

Method:

1. Combine milk, yoghurt, oats, ¾ of the mango and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds in a blender and process until smooth. Add a handful for ice if consistency is too thin, and process.

2. Serve smoothie in a bowl topped with reserved mango, remaining chia seeds, coconut and mint.

TIP: Add extra mint leaves to the blender for an extra hint of flavour.

If you are unable to find high protein milk, either add 1/4 cup skim milk powder to 1 cup (250ml) of low fat milk. Alternatively, you can use a low fat milk and add or increase the amount of high protein yoghurt used.

Lunch: Grilled chicken spinach and spicy avocado wraps

Ingredients:

  • Cayenne pepper, 1 pinch(es)
  • Pepper, any type, ground, 1 pinch(s)
  • Lemon, 0.25 lemon(s), juiced
  • Avocado, 20g, mashed
  • Freedom Barley + Whole Grain Barley Wraps, 2 wrap(s)
  • Chicken breast, lean, baked, 100g , sliced
  • Baby spinach, 1 handful(s) , shredded
  • Tomato, 0.5 medium, sliced
  • Red onion, 0.25 medium, sliced
  • Carrot, 0.5 medium carrot(s), grated

Method:

In a small bowl, mix the cayenne, black pepper, and lemon juice through the avocado. Spread it over the wrap, then layer your chicken and salad ingredients.

Dinner: Jamaican jerk salmon on greens

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • Dried garlic powder, 1 teaspoon(s), or onion powder
  • Allspice, 0.5 teaspoon(s)
  • Ground cumin, 0.5 teaspoon(s)
  • Ground cinnamon, 0.5 teaspoon(s)
  • Ground nutmeg, 0.5 teaspoon(s)
  • Dried thyme, 0.5 teaspoon(s)
  • Cayenne pepper, 0.25 teaspoon(s)
  • Atlantic salmon, raw, 300 g
  • Olive oil, 1 teaspoon(s)
  • Pumpkin, any type, 1.5 cup(s) diced
  • Broccolini, 1 bunch(s)
  • Green beans, 1 cup(s) chopped
  • Baby spinach, 4 cup(s)
  • Lime, 0.5 lime(s) , juiced and zested
  • Pepper, any type, ground, 1 pinch(s), to taste
  • Mayonnaise, 97% Fat-Free, 3 tablespoon(s)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. To make your jerk seasoning, combine all of the dried herbs and spices in a bowl (garlic/onion powder, allspice, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme and cayenne) and mix well.

3. Brush both salmon fillets with the olive oil, and sprinkle over as much or as little jerk seasoning as you like, reserving some for the pumpkin.

4. In a bowl, combine your pumpkin pieces with more jerk seasoning, and use your hands to ensure the pumpkin is evenly coated. Transfer to a roasting tray and cook for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, heat a heavy-based, oven-safe frying pan or skillet over a medium heat. Cook salmon fillets for 2-3 minutes on each side, then transfer to the oven for five minutes to cook through.

6. Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch broccolini and green beans for two minutes. Turn off the heat and add spinach, and as soon as it’s wilted, strain the green vegetables. Squeeze over the lime juice and season with black pepper if desired. Alternatively, steam broccolini and beans in a microwave-safe container or steamer.

7. Combine the lime zest with the mayonnaise and stir together.

8. To serve, create a bed of greens, top with salmon steak and a dollop of the lime mayonnaise. Serve each plate with pumpkin.

Indulgence: Lemon cheesecake bliss ball

Ingredients:

  • Desiccated coconut, 0.5 cup(s)
  • Almond meal, 0.5 cup(s)
  • Cream cheese, light, 125g
  • Lemon, 0.5 lemon(s), juiced and zested
  • Honey, 2 tablespoon(s)
  • Vanilla essence, 2 teaspoon(s)

Method:

1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients well. Once well combined, use clean damp hands to roll the mix into six evenly sized bliss balls.

2. Lay on a plate or tray, and refrigerate for at least twenty minutes prior to serving. This will help them firm up a little.