DIET trends are often bizarre – but the latest one might be the oddest of all by adding an extra meal every day.
The so-called 4 in 24 regime is the latest craze for shifting stubborn pounds, says a report by Waitrose.
Oliver Dixon Lynsey Hope took on the four meals a day diet after struggling to lose her last bit of baby weight
According to fans, splitting your calorie intake over four meals instead of three makes it easier for the body to burn off the energy. It also avoids blood sugar peaks and dips which can trigger cravings for something sweet.
But does it really work? Here, writer and busy mum-of-two LYNSEY HOPE from West Malling, Kent, tries the diet for a week to find out, using dishes and tips by Sun nutritionist Amanda Ursell.
“I’ve never been much of a dieter and have always thought that if you want to shift a few pounds, it is actually quite simple.
“The less you eat, the less you will weigh.
Oliver Dixon Before Lynsey Hope took on the 4-in-24 regime, she weighed 10st 1lb and had blood sugar of 5.4mmol/L
“I’ve never tried the 5:2, “clean” eating or “Sirtfoods”. I’ve never ditched carbs or cut out sugar.
“I just watch what goes in and if I’m feeling the need for something sweet, I try to stick to one biscuit, instead of three.
“But after having my second baby in March last year, a girl called Olive, I was really struggling to lose the last bit of baby weight.
“I was eating more quick-to-prepare processed foods and regularly snacking on biscuits and chocolate.
Oliver Dixon After Lynsey Hope took on the 4-in-24 regime, she weighed 9st 8lb and had blood sugar of 4.2mmol/L
“After reading the Waitrose report about the 4 in 24 regime, I was intrigued — and found many experts believe it could be a healthier way to eat.
“It is in stark contrast to fasting diets such as the 5:2, which have been popular in recent years and encourages you to eat little and often instead.
“These healthy-eating principles may also help lower risk of heart disease and cancer and boost energy levels.
“With this in mind, I decided to give it a go.
Oliver Dixon Busy mum-of-two Lynsey Hope appreciated the stark contrast of 4 in 24 compared to fasting diets such as the 5:2
“Nutritionist Amanda Ursell designed a seven-day plan for me to follow, saying I should lose around 5lb in a week.
“It’s only around 1,400 calories a day but the plan is low in salt, which should help the body shed excess water.”
Amanda says: “This method of eating should help you achieve a first week weight loss of around 5lb.
“Continue with it and a steady 2lb-a-week loss is achievable for most.”
Oliver Dixon The Sun’s nutritionist Amanda Ursell helped develop writer Lynsey Hope’s eating plan for the week
“Before starting the plan, I was sceptical about how much weight I would lose.
“I was nervous about how long it would take to prepare meals, as I don’t have much time working at home with two kids.
“But it was worth it. Incredibly, when I stepped on the scales at 8pm on Sunday evening after my week on the diet, I had lost half a stone. Eating four times a day stopped me snacking.
“I avoided the late-morning dip when I go for a latte and I didn’t get the afternoon slump when I would switch on the kettle and reach for the biscuits.
Gary Stone -The Sun Lynsey Hope says eating four times a day stopped her from snacking completely
“I had loads of energy and even though I’m still up quite a bit in the night with Olive, I didn’t feel tired.
“I had reduced the calories I was eating overall, but didn’t feel I was limiting myself.
“Rather than picking up a quick, shop-bought sandwich at lunch or sticking some breaded chicken in the oven, I was eating freshly prepared food.
“I tended to structure my meals around breakfast, 11.30am-noon, 3pm and evening.
Oliver Dixon Lynsey Hope says she never felt hungry during the week and cutting out junk food made her feel brighter
“I did stick to the plan rigidly until the final day. There was no alcohol on Amanda’s plan but I have to admit I was feeling good from the week’s experiment so I sneaked a glass of red wine here.
“The main issue is that for most of us, our lifestyles are not geared up to eating four meals a day.
“It’s not very easy if you are at work and only have one lunch break.
“Quite often I’d end up making the kids’ lunch in between and it would feel like most of the day was spent in the kitchen.
Oliver Dixon Lynsey Hope’s one struggle was that working Brits are not designed to have the time to eat four meals a day
“And I was missing my usual evening meal with my husband.
“It’s normally over dinner that we have a natter about our day and catch up with what’s happened at work and what the kids have been up to.
“But he didn’t always want my lighter option of an evening.
“Still, I was certainly thrilled to have finally lost that stubborn half a stone.
Oliver Dixon Lynsey was initially nervous about 4 in 24 as she would have to freshly prepare all meals while caring for two children
“My blood sugar levels were down, I never felt hungry and cutting out the junk food made me feel a million times brighter than usual.
“My skin now looks great, the normal bags under my eyes have disappeared and the skinny jeans feel more comfortable than ever before.”
WHY IT WORKS
JO TRAVERS, of nutrition centre The London Nutritionist, says: “It makes a lot of sense to have four meals a day. It fits in with the way the body uses nutrients and it will keep you feeling energised throughout the day.
“It’s no good having four massive meals, though. You need to make sure what you eat is balanced. Around half your plate should be fruit and vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter carbs.”
This style of eating should help you lower “bad” cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and control your blood sugar levels.
For most people, normal blood sugar levels, which are measured in millimoles per litre, are between 4 and 6mmol/L when fasting and up to 7.8mmol/L two hours after eating.
Amanda Ursell said: “Combining this regularity of eating with the meals being based on ingredients that give a slow release of energy and a good proportion of protein and filling vegetables and fruit, you should avoid blood sugar peaks and troughs.
“This means you feel full, both physically and biochemically. Your metabolism and hormones are working to ensure that you feel balanced and, crucially, in control.”
Seven days of tasty recipe ideas to get you started
Gary Stone -The Sun Tomato bruschetta is an ideal and delicious breakfast, as it only comes in at 302 calories
TOMATO BRUSCHETTA (302cals): Cut 100g of cherry tomatoes in quarters and leave overnight with 1tsp of olive oil, some black pepper and fresh basil leaves.
Serve on a thick slice of toasted wholemeal bread, which has been rubbed with garlic and drizzled with 1tsp of olive oil. Top with a little balsamic vinegar.
LENTIL AND GOATS CHEESE SALAD (349cals): Mix 100g cooked brown lentils with a diced spring onion, half each of a red and yellow pepper, diced, 30g goats cheese, handful of rocket and 1tsp of olive oil and 1tsp balsamic vinegar. Top with 1tsp toasted pine nuts.
BAKED POTATO WITH COTTAGE CHEESE (400cals): Bake a 150g potato in the microwave or oven. Once cooked, split open and remove flesh. Mash with some lemon juice and black pepper.
Return to the skin and top with 150g cottage cheese. Serve with an iceberg lettuce salad.
CHICKEN SANDWICH (300cals): Spread two slices of wholemeal bread with reduced-fat salad cream and fill with plenty of sliced cucumber and 50.
Oliver Dixon Swap meals such as beans on toast for healthier alternatives like warm pitta with baked beans served with cucumbers
EGGS WITH PEPPERS (315cals): Heat 1tsp olive oil in a small non-stick pan and gently cook 80g each of sliced yellow and green peppers and 150g canned tomatoes. Season with black pepper.
Whisk an egg gently and pour into the mix. Cook gently until egg is scrambled and mixed in with peppers. Serve with a slice of wholemeal bread.
BAKED BEANS WITH WARM PITTA (300cals): Toast a pitta and cut into slices. Serve with 200g of reduced-sugar, reduced-salt baked beans. Heat through and serve with slices of cucumber on the side.
PORK WITH VEGETABLE GRATIN (390cals): Cook 200g canned tomatoes and 50g broad beans in a pan with 50g mushrooms, 100g peeled butternut squash, 100g courgettes and a spring onion.
Season with black pepper and a few fresh basil leaves and simmer for five to ten minutes until tender. Meanwhile, grill a 100g piece of lean pork. Top with mix of 1tbsp each of breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Grill again for two minutes and serve with veg.
MALT LOAF (313cals): Have two, 22g slices of malt loaf spread with 10g of ricotta cheese on each. Serve with a skinny cappuccino and small banana.
Oliver Dixon Even during the 4 in 24 regime, you do not have to give up favourites such as chicken pasta
OVERNIGHT OATS (290cals): Mix 40g oats with 150ml skimmed milk and leave overnight in the fridge.
When ready to serve, stir in a grated apple, 45g plain low fat yoghurt and 80g frozen defrosted mixed berries.
SPICY PRAWN AND OMELETTE RICE POT (391cals): Mix together 120g cooked brown basmati rice with an omelette (made from one egg, cooled and sliced), 150g cooked, cooled prawns, 80g beansprouts, carrot batons, and a finely diced hot chilli. Squeeze over some lemon to serve.
CHICKEN PASTA (400cals): Cook 60g dried weight of pasta and drain. Season and grill 100g lean chicken breast. Once cooked through, dice and mix in with some tomatoes.
Heat through, season with salt and black pepper. Mix in with pasta and serve.
TOAST AND CHOC (300 cals): 1 slice of wholemeal toast spread with 7g of peanut butter. Follow with a satsuma and 25g dark chocolate.
Oliver Dixon Swap your unhealthy breaded chicken for healthy alternatives like avocado and lettuce for your wholemeal wraps
POACHED EGG ON TOAST (300cals): Have two poached eggs with a slice of wholemeal toast and a grilled tomato, seasoned with black pepper.
AVOCADO PITTA (300cals): Mix half a peeled and diced avocado with a handful of shredded lettuce and 50g diced cucumber plus a squeeze of lemon juice and black pepper. Serve in a wholemeal pitta.
ROASTED COD (404cals): Roast a 150g cod fillet – topped with 2tsps red pesto sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice – in foil for around 15 minutes at 180oc/gas 5. Serve with 200g boiled new potatoes, steamed broccoli and 80g sweetcorn.
OATCAKES (300cals): Have two oatcakes spread with 1tbs each of ricotta cheese plus two satsumas and an apple.
Oliver Dixon Keep it simple for some meals and make a quick ham sandwich with fruit, it is guaranteed to fill you up
NUTTY FRUIT TOAST (296cals): Serve a slice of wholemeal toast spread with 10g of peanut butter. Have a sliced peach on the side and a skinny latte or glass of milk using 300ml skimmed milk.
HAM SANDWICH (300cals): Make a ham sandwich by spreading two slices of wholemeal bread lightly with reduced fat salad cream.
Lay two slices of ham on one piece of the bread and top with slices of tomato and the remaining slice of bread. Have an orange to follow.
TUNA COUSCOUS (406cals): Make a salad using 100g cooked, cooled couscous with 100g canned, flaked tuna, 25g canned sweet corn, a finely chopped spring onion, and a diced tomato.
Season with lime-juice and black pepper and serve.
RYE BREADS (320cals): Spread 2 rye crispbreads with a Laughing Cow Extra Light cheese on each and top with 40g chopped dried apricots.
Follow with a 170g pot of 0% fat Greek yoghurt mixed with a chopped pear.
Gary Stone -The Sun This easy-to-make lentil and goats cheese salad is not only healthy, but it’s also packed with flavour
FRUIT COMPOTE (301cals): Soak 50g mixed dried fruit (apricots, prunes, apple) in 100ml boiling water with a crushed cardamom pod and 50ml orange juice overnight.
Remove cardamom and serve topped with 50g low fat fromage frais or natural low fat yoghurt and 25g chopped hazelnuts.
MEXICAN BEAN PITTA (300cals): Crush 100g of canned red kidney beans with a fork and add in a little Tabasco sauce and a finely chopped spring onion.
Mix with some sliced iceberg lettuce and use to fill a wholemeal pitta.
VEGETABLE AND PARMESAN WITH PENNE PASTA (393cals): Cook 55g dried weight of penne pasta. Heat through 200g canned or frozen ratatouille. Drain pasta, mix in ratatouille and top with 10g grated Parmesan cheese.
FRUIT AND FIBRE (306cal): Have a 30g bowl fruit and fibre cereal with skimmed milk followed by 25g reduced fat hummus spread on a rye crispbread. Have a pear and kiwi fruit salad to finish.