THERE are not many diets that include fry-ups, burgers and hot chips — but then Annette Sym doesn’t see her eating plan as a diet.
“It isn’t a diet, it’s a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “It’s all about normal food: risottos, lasagnes, cheesecake. It’s food we want, with less fat.”
And it has stood the test of time — 20 years after launching her first low-fat cookbook, Sym, 62, has sold four million copies and become Australia’s weight-loss queen.
Not only did the former office worker from the Sunshine Coast shift 35 kilos and keep it off for the next two decades, so did the millions of Australians who followed her plan — and now their offspring are signing up too. “I’m getting a whole new generation,” she says.
It may not be the height of fashion — the low saturated fat plan doesn’t cut out any food groups or use trendy ingredients, but it gets results.
“My diet hasn’t changed much over the years because it works,” she says. “There are no tricks, it’s just common sense. I have seen hundreds of different diets come and go.
“I think paleo is on its way out — it’s one of those diets where you won’t be able to do it the rest of
your life. You need something you can sustain.”
Sym’s journey began in 1991 when she was shocked by a photo of herself in a swimsuit.
Nicknamed “porky” at school, Sym weighed 100 kilos and decided she would finally do something about it.
She devised a healthy eating plan and lost 35 kilos in 20 months, going from a size 24 to a 12.
Inspired to share her experience, she wrote Symply Too Good To Be True, which sold out immediately. Seven books and a healthy-eating empire later, she’s re-released her diets for a new generation.
“People go for crazy diets and cut all these different food groups and then wonder why they can’t stick to it,” she says. “They give up and go back to their old ways. They haven’t taught themselves anything new so it becomes a vicious cycle.
“I want everyone to feel proud of themselves. If you feel like you’ve tried everything, just try me.”
This seven-day weight-loss plan is designed to kickstart your diet. It gives you around 30g of fat and 1250-1300 calories per day. Expect to lose half a kilo a week. It is not suitable for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women. Eat what is listed each day, including snacks, and don’t guess portion sizes. “If the menu allocates 150g of fish, get some scales and weigh it,” Sym says.
You can eat unlimited amounts of salad and vegetables, excluding potato, sweet potato, corn and avocado. Drink two litres of water a day and exercise 30-40 minutes four or five times a week. “Your body will thank you for it,” Sym says.
1 cup Sultana Bran, ½ cup skim milk, 150g fresh fruit.
30g 97% fat-free ham, 1 Kraft 25% reduced fat cheese slice, 1 Helga wrap, 3 tsp 97% fat-free mayonnaise, 1 cup mixed salad, 150g fresh fruit.
Zucchini slice: Make by beating 2 eggs and 3 egg whites together and mix in 2 packed cups grated zucchini, 1 cup grated carrot, ½ cup diced capsicum, ½ cup diced celery, 1 diced onion, ½ cup frozen peas, ½ cup frozen corn kernels, ¾ cup 97% fat-free diced ham, ¾ cup self-raising flour. Add ¾ cup of grated 30% reduced fat Tasty cheese and mix well. Spoon into a dish coated with cooking spray and sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese on top. Bake at 180°C fan-forced for 35-40 minutes. Serves 6, eat 1 serve.
Eat with 2 cups mixed salad, 30g avocado.
½ cup skim milk, 1 Streets Chocolate Paddle Pop, 150g fresh fruit.
2 Weet-Bix, ¾ cup skim milk, 150g fresh fruit.
70g multigrain bread roll, 2 tsp Flora Light margarine, 1 x 70g boiled egg, ½ cup shredded lettuce, 2 tsp 97% fat-free mayonnaise.
Minted lamb kebabs: Dice 750g lean lamb leg steaks and thread onto 12 pre-soaked bamboo skewers. Make the marinade by whisking ½ cup Fountain mint sauce, 3 tbsp salt-reduced soy sauce, 2 tbsp no-added salt tomato paste, 1 tsp crushed ginger (in jar), 1 tsp crushed garlic (in jar), ¼ cup honey, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp dried rosemary. Pour over meat in a shallow container with lid and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning occasionally. Barbecue or grill the skewers, pouring the marinade over the meat during cooking and turning regularly. Serves 6, eat 2 skewers.
Vegelicious: Make by cutting 1 bunch fresh asparagus into 3cm pieces and sauteing for 2 minutes with 1 tsp crushed garlic (in jar) and ½ cup diced onion in a pan coated with cooking spray. Add 4 cups quartered mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, followed by ¼ tsp ground turmeric, ¼ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp ground coriander, ¼ tsp ground paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 punnet cherry tomatoes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Serves 4, eat 1 serve.
Eat with 200g boiled potato.
¾ cup skim milk, 200g fresh pear, 2 Rice Thins with 2 tsp Flora Light margarine and 1 slice 25% reduced fat Kraft cheese, ½ small tomato.
1 round crumpet toasted, 1 tsp Flora Light margarine, 1 tsp honey, 150g fresh fruit.
1 serve zucchini slice (see Day 1), 2 cups mixed salad, 1 x 175g tub Formé yoghurt.
Chicken basil stir fry: Make by cutting 500g skinless chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and frying with 1 tsp crushed ginger (in jar) and 2 tsp crushed garlic (in jar) in a large non-stick frying pan coated with cooking spray. Once cooked, remove chicken and leave to one side. Re-spray pan and saute 1 cup sliced carrot and 2 cups small broccoli florets for 3 minutes. Add ½ cup water to pan with 3 small Kaffir lime leaves, ½ tsp chopped chilli, 1 cup sliced yellow capsicum, 1 sliced onion, 1 cup snow peas and 1½ cups sliced mushrooms, stirring regularly. Add 1 tsp salt-reduced chicken stock powder, 1 tsp fish sauce, 3 tbsp Hoi Sin sauce, 1 cup basil leaves, 1 tsp white sugar and pinch of pepper, combining well. Blend 1 tbsp cornflour with 1½ cups water and pour into pan, stirring well. Add chicken back to pan and mix with vegetables. Before serving remove kaffir leaves. Serves 4, eat 1 serve.
Eat with ½ cup cooked basmati rice, 150g fresh fruit.
½ cup skim milk, 1 Uncle Tobys Apricot Chewy Muesli Bar, 25g almonds.
1 x 175g tub Formé yoghurt, 200g fresh pear.
Beef and bacon burger: Make by combining 500g very lean beef mince with
1 egg white in a large mixing bowl. Remove fat off 90g bacon short cuts then dice. Using your hands mix in the bacon and 1/3 cup finely diced onion, then add ½ cup breadcrumbs, 1 tsp crushed garlic (in jar), ¼ cup chopped parsley, 1 tsp salt-reduced beef stock powder, ¼ cup Smokey BBQ sauce, ¼ teaspoon pepper and mix. Shape into 6 patties, coat tops of burgers with cooking spray then lay sprayed side down in a large non-stick frying pan, cook for 4-5 minutes. Spray tops of patties then turn. Cook a further 4-5 minutes or until browned. Serves 6, eat 1 serve.
Eat with 2 cups mixed salad and 30g avocado, 3 tsp tomato sauce (optional), 150g fresh fruit.
150g raw fish fillet (pan fried with cooking spray), 1 serve potato chips: Make by peeling and cutting 800g potatoes into chips. Microwave on high for 8 minutes in a little water, drain well. Coat surface of baking tray with cooking spray. Place on tray and generously spray chips with cooking spray. Bake in oven at 230°C fan-forced on top rack for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Serves 4, eat 1 serve.
Eat with 2 cups mixed vegetables.
1 cup skim milk, 1 Blueberry Banana Muffin (See Day 7), a Cadbury Flake.
¾ cup Sultana Bran, ½ cup skim milk, ½ cup drained canned peaches in natural juice.
70g multigrain bread roll, 1 tsp Flora Light margarine, 30g sliced turkey breast, 2 tsp cranberry sauce (optional), 1 cup mixed salad, 125g fresh strawberries.
Penne pasta in creamy bacon sauce: Make by cooking 3 cups penne pasta and leaving to one side. Saute ¾ cup diced onion, 1 tsp crushed garlic (in jar) and 100g diced bacon short cuts in a large pan that has been coated with cooking spray, until browned. Place 1 x 375ml can evaporated light milk, ¾ cup skim milk, 1 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese, 1 sachet 98% fat-free Creamy Mushroom Cup a Soup, 1 tbsp cornflour in a small bowl and whisk together. Add to saucepan, stirring continuously until boiled. Fold cooked pasta gently through sauce until heated through. Pepper to taste. Serves 4, eat 1 serve.
Eat with 1 cup mixed salad or vegetables, 1 Streets Chocolate Paddle Pop.
½ cup skim milk, 20g almonds, 125 fresh Kiwi fruit.
Big breakfast: Make by frying 1 egg, 2-3 (50g) bacon short cut slices, 1-2 sliced mushrooms and a tomato sliced in half in a large non-stick frying pan that has been generously coated with cooking spray. Serve with ⅓ cup no-added-salt baked beans, 1 slice toasted 9 grain bread with 1 tsp Flora Light margarine. Serves 1.
60g 97% fat-free ham, 30g 30% reduced fat cheese, 2 cups mixed salad, 150g fresh watermelon.
150g raw pork loin steak (grilled). Symslaw: Make by grilling ¼ cup pine nuts until brown. Mix 1 tsp curry powder into ½ cup 97% fat-free mayonnaise. Fold nuts and mayonnaise mix into a bowl with ¼ cabbage thinly shredded, 1 cup diced red capsicum, 1 finely diced small onion, 1 cup grated carrot, 1 cup sliced celery, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 small apple diced (skin on), ⅓ cup sultanas and a dash of pepper. Serves 12, eat 1 serve. Eat with 200g boiled new potatoes, 1 cup mixed salad.
½ cup skim milk, 1 Uncle Tobys Apricot Chewy Muesli Bar, 150g fresh fruit.
1 Blueberry Banana Muffin: Make by preheating oven 200°C fan-forced. Beat 2 egg whites and ¼ cup white sugar for 1 minute using an electric beater. Stir ½ tsp bicarb soda into ½ cup Heinz baby apple (it will froth) then add to bowl. Combine ½ cup skim milk with 2 tbsp (30g) melted Flora Light margarine, then add to mix stirring with a wooden spoon. Place ½ cup mashed ripe banana into bowl and mix together. Gently fold 2 cups sifted self-raising flour into mixture and carefully fold in 1 cup blueberries. Spoon into muffin tin sprayed with cooking oil, dividing equally into 12 cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until firm to touch in centre. Serves 12, eat 1 serve. Eat with 1 tsp Flora Light margarine, 1 x 175g tub Formé yoghurt.
80g can pink salmon, 2 slices 9 grain bread, 3 tsp 97% fat-free mayonnaise, 1 cup mixed salad, 250g fresh pear.
Chicken pizziola: Make by preheating oven 180°C fan-forced. Flatten 2 x 250g skinless chicken breasts to double their size with meat mallet. Cut each piece in half giving you 4 pieces. Combine ½ cup 97% fat-free diced ham, ½ cup thinly sliced mushrooms, ½ cup thinly sliced capsicum, ½ cup thinly sliced onion, ½ cup diced fresh tomato, 1 tsp crushed garlic (in jar) and ½ tsp dried basil in a bowl. Place the chicken pieces onto a baking tray that has been coated with cooking spray then spread 2 tsp of no-added-salt tomato paste over each breast. Spread pizza topping evenly over each piece. Sprinkle ¼ cup of 30% reduced fat grated Tasty cheese over each piece. Bake 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked and topping is golden brown. Serves 4. Eat 1 serve. Eat with 2 cups mixed salad or vegetables, 1 Streets Chocolate Paddle Pop.
½ cup skim milk, 2 Rice Thins with 2 tsp Flora Light margarine and 1 tsp Vegemite, 150g fresh fruit.
Go to symplytoogood.com.au for more information.