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Eat, drink and be healthy! says Maria Broadbent of CASA in Bury St Edmunds as she takes a new approach to dieting successfully and gives those taking part in Veganuary a few tips and recipes

We are halfway through the first month of 2020 – are your new year plans holding up? Do you need some encouragement and a boost?

As a chef and restaurateur trying to lose weight is always a challenge, but following a health scare in November I formulated a plan. For me, any diet that involves me thinking more about what I can and can’t eat is a disaster – as all I do when I think about food is want to eat! I have lost about a stone and a half so far, including 8lbs over Christmas and new year. My secret?

A scoring plan.

Vegan 'cheese'cake (26908133)
Vegan 'cheese'cake (26908133)

1 = couldn’t eat another thing, unless force fed.

2 = completely replete and would not enjoy further. consumption.

3 = finished eating – could eat more but don’t need to.

4 = what’s for pudding?

5 = is it snack time (I am sad or bored when I think this usually).

6 = it’s mealtime but I am not overly hungry – drink a glass of water then reassess.

7 = actually I am properly hungry, but have already consumed my allowance for the day if I want to lose weight (fruit time?).

8 = I need to have something proper to eat. (Eat whatever I fancy, but if not healthy then in moderation.)

9 = I am so hungry I will eat anything I can lay my hands on (usually after a busy day and a glass of wine).

10 = Too hungry to function.

This is how it works – only eat at a score of 7 or 8. Six is acceptable for social purposes when the situation dictates.

If you ask yourself every time you want to consume something it also allows you to become aware of why you eat. Especially number 5. Once you know your triggers you can then plan to avoid these or formulate coping mechanisms. I can’t eat whilst playing the piano or sewing – so they both work if I am bored or sad.

Next comes how to avoid reaching number 9. This is where I believe that diets are 80 per cent organisation and only 20 per cent willpower. Most of us do know what we can and can’t eat or more precisely what we should and shouldn’t eat in order to lose the inches. It is also worth doing a random calorie check on one of the online apps – as occasionally I am relieved or horrified at the results!

Three Quality Street = 130 calories (ouch)

Large egg = 72 calories (nice)

For those of you on Veganuary or taking a flexitarian approach to your eating – it is much easier to keep your calories under control and, equally, saturated fat consumption. Nuts are calorific but do contain much-needed protein and nutrients – so should be included. Cashews in particular are useful as a source of creaminess in sauces or indeed a cheesecake! Soak them in boiling water for at least 15 minutes and then blend to create a very useful ingredient. See recipe for Vegan ‘Cheese’cake.


For the base:

90g walnuts – roasted

150g dates

For the topping:

135g raw cashews – soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes

1 pinch of nutritional yeast

1 pinch of seasalt

140ml coconut syrup

60g coconut oil – melted

115ml full fat coconut milk (not cream/not evaporated)

1 lime, zest and juice

You will need a blender or Nutribullet plus a silicone muffin tray to hold 12. (food processor optional)

Blitz together the walnuts and dates in a food processor (or chop thoroughly by hand) and put into muffin bases. Press down firmly with back of a teaspoon.

Drain the cashews and discard the water – use nutribullet or blender to blitz everything else.

Pour on top of the base and put in the freezer.

Remove from tray whilst frozen and place in a tub back in freezer. When you want to eat, you can take them out individually and defrost in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Decorate with fruit of your choice.


My favourite breakfast at the moment is carrot cake porridge! It’s easy and yummy.

Porridge oats (gluten free are available if you need them)

Milk (regular or plant based)

Water if not wanting to use all milk

Grated carrot


Pinch mixed spice

Apple juice (optional)

If you want to soak your sultanas overnight in apple juice this makes them juicier. I chuck the whole lot in together and slowly bring to a gentle simmer. It all depends on how grainy or smooth, thick or runny as to how much liquid and how long you cook it for. Follow the packet instructions as a basic guide.

My new favourite indulgent salad is smoked salmon, avocado & mango. Less than 300 calories.

For the tapas version, which is only about 150 calories, I added sugar snaps in lieu of tomato and cucumber.


For 2 people

Simply mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions. Then add:

1 avocado – chopped up

1 mango – diced

200g smoked salmon.

Dress with fresh parsley and freshly squeezed lime


CASA is running an eat all you can vegan tapas for £14.95 Monday to Friday noon-8.30pm until January 29.

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds.

Tel 01284 701313.


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