Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

The Panic Holiday Diet

You get out of the shower, look in the mirror and panic. It's six weeks till your holiday and as if by magic love handles have grown on your hips, there's a little roll of fat that's going to hang over your bikini pants and yes, your bum will look big in anything! You're sure none of it was there yesterday but what are you going to do? Don't worry, the Express Panic Holiday Diet is here to rescue you from a summer of kaftans, pareos and baggy t-shirts.

Two things guaranteed to frighten the life out of any would-be slimmer are nuts and muesli, but in this diet they are your saviours. Peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, walnuts, cashews and real Swiss muesli made with cream will all help you lose half a stone in a week but still get all the nutrients you need to be fit and healthy. In fact, after this week's eating your energy levels will be super-charged and you'll be ready for anything, whether it's water ski-ing, windsurfing or two weeks of serious clubbing.


1. You must eat everything that's on the list for every day.
2. You can switch whole days around or the meals on any individual day but do not pick and mix meals from different days.
3. You must drink at least 1 1/2 - 2 litres of water every day.
4. Whatever exercise you normally do you must add a brisk 20 minute walk every day that ends up with you slightly out of breath and sweating.
5. If you're a vegetarian you can use any vegetable protein alternative in meat and fish recipes.

The muesli is vital for success as it provides slow release energy which keeps your blood sugar at the right level for hours so you avoid the sweet food cravings that come when you're hungry. It also gives you protein, vitamin C and loads of B vitamins to feed your nervous system. When it comes to nuts and seeds everyone thinks they're fattening because they're fatty. The truth is they are a super-rich source of the heart-protective monounsaturated fatty acids and they contain very little of the artery clogging saturated fats, but lots of strength-giving protein and vitamin E which protects your heart and is essential for a healthy skin.

If your secret sin is eating spoonfuls of peanut butter when no-one's looking, you'll be in seventh heaven with this diet. You'll also be extremely healthy as there is now masses of serious scientific evidence that peanuts are good for you. A teaspoon of peanut butter a day will protect you against getting adult onset diabetes. Most nuts, but especially peanuts, have what is called a low glycaemic index (GI) which means they are broken down into sugars very slowly unlike the refined carbohydrates. Professor Susan Roberts, Head of Nutrition at Tufts University in America, says "White bread, cakes and crackers may increase your hunger. That's because the flood of insulin after high-GI foods lowers your blood sugar more than if you hadn't eaten which triggers hunger signals so you eat again."

Jennette Higgs is one of the UKs leading dieticians and nutritionists and an advisor to the American Peanut Council. She told me about a study of 26,000 Seventh Day Adventists in America who generally live on plant-based diets. After six years the results showed that those eating nuts at least five times a week were only half as likely to have heart attacks than those who rarely ate nuts. Jennette also explained that the British slimmers' idea of a low fat diet is not nearly as effective or as healthy as the Mediterranean concept of low saturated fat but sensible amounts of monounsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds. This type of eating is much easier because it's more pleasant and much better for you because it encourages the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D and E, and helps protect against heart disease, diabetes and other degenerative diseases.

During the diet you may also drink weak Indian, China or herb teas without milk and with a slice of unwaxed lemon if you like. If you drink more than four cups of coffee daily you'll have a headache after the first 24 hours without caffeine. This will stop by day three and is helped by drinking the water. Avoid painkillers unless you're desperate.


Every day you must have a large bowl of this special muesli as one meal - you can choose which. If you just add milk to muesli it's like eating sawdust. This is how it's prepared at the famous Bircher-Benner Clinic in Zurich where it was invented.

Put four heaped tablespoons of good sugar-free muesli, like Jordans, in a bowl, add orange or apple juice and stir to a mush. Add a small carton of low fat bio yoghurt and a teaspoon of runny honey. Stir again, cover and put in the fridge before you go to bed. Before eating add a tablespoon of single cream, stir thoroughly, then add any fresh seasonal fruits - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, mango, or whatever else you've got. You'll never eat muesli any other way.


Breakfast: A large bowl of muesli (see recipe below)

Lunch: Wholemeal pitta filled with hummus and mixed salad, and a large ripe peach

Mid-afternoon: 50 gm pack of peanuts

Evening: Stir-fry of mixed vegetables, chicken breast, served with rice noodles, with a salad of grated raw carrot and chunks of fresh melon sprinkled with a few chopped fresh mint leaves

During evening: small bunch of grapes


Breakfast: 2 slices wholemeal toast, 1 spread with 2 teaspoons peanut butter, the other with a banana

Mid-morning: a mixture of dried ready-to-eat prunes and apricots

Lunch: a large bowl of muesli

Evening: Fillets of plaice pan fried in a little olive oil and a small knob of butter with any green vegetable, boiled potatoes, tomato and onion salad; kiwi and mango smoothie - put chopped peeled mango and kiwi into a blender, add 2 tablespoons of thick Greek yoghurt and half a pint of soya milk, whiz till smooth.


Breakfast: A large bowl of muesli

Lunch: Ham or cheese and raisin sandwich. Spread a thick slice of raisin bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter, add a slice of lean ham or cheese, top with another slice of raisin bread. Small punnet of strawberries.

Mid-afternoon: Any fresh fruit with a carton of low fat bio yoghurt.

Evening: Pasta with tuna fish and spring onions - while pasta is cooking (according to directions) put 4 chopped spring onions in a pan with a little olive oil and sweat gently till soft, drain a can of tuna, flake into pan and continue cooking till warmed through. When pasta is ready and drained serve in individual bowls adding tuna and onions mixture. A large mixed salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkled with sunflower seeds. Any bio plain or fruit yoghurt


Breakfast: 2 poached eggs, a poached tomato (cooked in the same water), 2 slices wholemeal bread thinly spread with butter

Mid-morning: Small pack of mixed nuts and raisins

Lunch: A large bowl of muesli

Evening: Chicken with thyme and lemon (see recipe), any green vegetable and herb rice (buy a packet); a peach and a ripe pear


Breakfast: Half a grapefruit, Peanut butter and banana smoothie - 200 ml semi-skimmed milk, 1 banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter - put all in a blender and whiz till smooth

Mid-morning: Glass of orange juice and an apple

Lunch: Large bowl of muesli

Evening: Pitta bread pizza (see recipe below), a large bowl of cut up raw vegetables - carrots, radishes, red pepper, celery, cauliflower, with a tsatsiki dip; a selection of dried ready-to-eat apricots, dates and walnuts.


Breakfast: A large bowl of muesli

Lunch: Large bowl of vegetable soup, an open sandwich of a thick slice wholemeal bread, 2 thin slices Edam cheese and 1 sliced tomato.

Mid-afternoon: small bag of peanuts

Evening: Grilled tuna steak with new potatoes, mushrooms and green beans, a green salad with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice dressing; small punnet strawberries.


Breakfast: Half a grapefruit, 2 boiled eggs, 1 thick slice wholemeal toast thinly spread with butter

Mid-morning: small packet of mixed nuts and raisins

Lunch: A large bowl of muesli

Evening: Chicken kebab - grilled skewers of alternate cubed chicken breast, red and green peppers, red onion and button mushrooms with satay sauce (see recipe) and boiled rice and green salad


Chicken with thyme and lemon - per portion

1 tbsp wholemeal flour
1 tsp dried thyme
2 chicken thighs
50 ml milk
1 tbsp rape seed oil
juice of half a lemon

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/ gas 5. Mix flour and thyme in a large bowl. Dip chicken in milk then roll in flour. Heat the oil in a pan, fry chicken till brown all over, put chicken on wire rack in a roasting tin, squeeze over the lemon juice. Cook in oven for 15 minutes.

Pitta bread pizza - per person

1 wholemeal pitta
1 sliced tomato
A sprinkle of fresh or dried oregano
1 tbsp grated cheese
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre heat the grill and toast pitta on one side for 1 minute. Turn over, arrange a layer of tomatoes, sprinkle with oregano, add the cheese, drizzle on the oil, return to the grill till bubbling - approx 2 minutes.

Satay sauce

1 tsp olive oil
1 chopped onion
Chilli powder to taste
1 tsp tomato puree
4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
200 ml semi-skimmed milk

Saute the onions till soft in the oil. Mix tomato puree, chilli powder and 2 tbsp water then add to onions. Add the peanut butter and milk and stir till it thickens. Add the hot sauce to the kebabs. Refrigerate any that's left over to use as a dip.


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