Festive season is known for its abundance of alcohol and food. 

January is a time when many people put enormous pressure on themselves to lose weight or be healthier.

The most well-known fad diet is counting calories and restricting them. While this may work for the short term, there are many side effects and it is not easy to keep.

Here, Tamara Willner, a senior nutritionist with NHS-backed healthy eating plan Second Nature, explains why calorie counting just doesn’t work as a long-term weight-loss solution, as she launches the company’s #CancelCalorieCounting campaign. 

You will also find six healthy, balanced diets that you can enjoy at home to help you reach your health and weight goals.

Here, Tamara Willner, a senior nutritionist with Second Nature, explains why calorie counting just doesn't work as a long-term weight-loss solution, as she launches the company's #CancelCalorieCounting campaign. She also shares meals you can eat to lose weight in a healthy, balanced way, like these mouth-watering Weekend Scrambled Eggs (pictured)

Here, Tamara Willner, a senior nutritionist with Second Nature, explains why calorie counting just doesn’t work as a long-term weight-loss solution, as she launches the company’s #CancelCalorieCounting campaign. Here are some delicious recipes you can make to lose weight, including these Weekend Scrambled egg (pictured). 


Calorie-counting results from the belief that weight loss can simply be accomplished by moving less.

According to this thought process, weight loss can be achieved if you reduce how much food and drink, as well as increasing the volume of energy that your body uses.

Although the basic concept can be useful (in the short term), it doesn’t hold true when you consider something so complex and individual as the body’s response to food.

There are many calories that don’t have the same calories. For example, avocado has 100 calories and biscuits has 100. The amount of calories actually absorbed from food is often lower than what we see in the packets.


Many of those who have tried diets before know that they’ve used calorie counting at one time or another. Participating in an established weight-loss program might make us forget that we are doing calorie counting.

Many programs provide lists that are related to moral values (e.g.’red foods are evil) but they are often based only on calories.

According to One Poll’s Second Nature Survey of 1000 people who calorie count now or in the past (conducted by One Poll), 41% believe this language promotes a negative relation with food. 

It would be very easy to see the benefits of calorie-counting over time if we only had to test it once.

Healthy and hearty: A bacon and bolotti bean stew recommended by Tamara (recipe below). She explained that the science of calorie counting does not work in the long term

Tamara recommends this healthy and hearty bacon-bolotti bean stew (recipe here). In the long-term, the science behind counting calories doesn’t work.  


Although calorie counting can work for some people, strict dieting will not be a long-term solution for all.

Rediscovered: 3 reasons not to count calories 

1) This promotes healthy food over low-calorie options

SecondNature.io surveyed 31 percent of those questioned and found that they find it difficult to eat healthy foods when they are high in calories. This means that we’ve moved away from thinking ‘what would nourish my body’ to ‘what’s the lowest-calorie option’. A sugary, processed, low-calorie cereal bar is compared to Ryvita crackers with avocados and cheese. The latter will have more calories, but the last one will provide our bodies with many nutrients.

2) It’s hard to keep up because we feel hungry

According to the survey, one-third would report feeling hungry when they went to sleep. This could happen up to four times per day for some. When we’re scrimping on meals to ‘save up’ calories for things we enjoy, like chocolate, we’re not providing our bodies with enough fuel, so it’s no wonder 46 per cent of us feel hungry while calorie-counting.

3. It may negatively impact our social and mental well-being.

It is important to make lifestyle adjustments that we can implement in our everyday lives. Skipping social events, as 48 per cent admitted to doing while calorie-counting, isn’t sustainable behaviour. It will lead to poor mental health, and eventually we give up. You can make little changes that will not affect your happiness. Second Nature is a way to improve your mental health.

Calorie-counting can lead to a vicious circle. In order to lose weight we reduce our intake of calories. However, we don’t feel satisfied and we end up gaining weight.

It can be difficult to get out of this cycle. In the long-term, it can also have negative effects on your metabolism, leading you to store more fat.

Hunger is one of the reasons why we may struggle to maintain this behavior.

To eat the delicious foods that we love and to keep the calories down, many people reduce the number of meals they consume to balance the calories. For example, 52% eat less chocolate; 45% for alcohol and 40% for cookies.

When we reduce our intake of whole foods high in protein and good fats, it’s more common to feel hungry. Unfortunately, 33% of people who calorie count report feeling hungry at night three to four times per week.

What to eat instead?  

It is not necessary to restrict your diet for January. You can still reach your weight-loss goals long-term.

SecondNature.io is a government-approved anti-obesity partnership. Its focus is eating whole food and meals naturally rich in protein and healthy oils. This keeps us satisfied for longer.

Also, weight loss is not just about diet. We need to pay attention to our sleep and stress levels in order for us make sustainable changes.

Also, it’s important to allow yourself some indulgences and make small adjustments where you can in order to reduce refined carbs.

This will allow you to manage blood sugar more effectively and can reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. It also helps with sweet cravings.        


Peanut butter jam oats


Serves 1

Cooking and prep time 12 minutes


40g of rolled oatmeal 

250ml milk

2 tablespoons of chia seeds/milled flaxseed

60g frozen berries

60ml of water

1 tablespoon peanut butter

The Method

  1. In a saucepan combine the milk, rolled oatmeal, and 1 teaspoon of the chia seeds/milled flaxseed. Bring to boil.
  2. Turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 4-5 minutes, or until desired consistency.
  3. In the meantime, heat up some berry jam in a separate pot. Add the frozen berries, 1 teaspoon of flaxseed or chia seeds and 60ml water. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes, or until it becomes lightly brown.
  4. To achieve the right consistency, transfer the oatmeal to a bowl.
  5. Serve the berry jam with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter over the oats.

Weekend scrambled eggs 

Serves 1

Time taken to prepare and cook: 10 minutes


1 Tbsp Butter

Three medium-sized or larger eggs

1.25 tsp chopped fresh basil (optional)

The Method 

1. Place the eggs in a small saucepan. Add 1 Tbsp butter. Start heating the pan and stirring the eggs using a spatula. 

2. When the egg starts to boil (the yolks stick to the bottom of a saucepan), turn off the heat and continue stirring. After the eggs cool, heat the pan again. This recipe requires that you continue stirring constantly. 

3. You can continue repeating steps 2, until you get the desired consistency of eggs (a little runnier or more firm). 

4. Give the mixture one last stir. Add any herbs, if desired, to the mixture. 



Halloumi Chermoula traybake 


Serves 4.

Time taken to prepare and cook: 40 minutes

  • ​​Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander. Stalks also included.
  • 1 large bunch fresh parsley, stalks and all
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • Cumin ground 1 tablespoon
  • ½ lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 ½ tbsp (40ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 courgettes, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 Red peppers cut in 2cm sections
  • Cut 1 red onion into 2-inch pieces
  • 1x400g can of chickpeas.
  • 1 block Halloumi, Sliced
  • ½ lemon, juiced

The Method 

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C or 180°C fan. 

2. Make the chermoula. Add the parsley, garlic, coriander and cumin to a blender. Blend until smooth. 

3. Combine the zucchini, red peppers, red onion, chickpeas and aubergine into a casserole dish. Mix in the chermoula and then bake the mixture for between 30-40mins or until softened.

4.  Bake the halloumi sliced on top of your vegetables for another 15 minutes, or until it is lightly golden. 

6. Serve the dish with a squeezed lemon

Fennel and roast cauliflower soup


Serves 4.

Cooking and prep time 45 minutes


  • Cut 1 head of cauliflower into small florets
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oils
  • One small bulb of fennel, roughly chopped
  • Lettuce, chopped

  • Minced garlic, 2 cloves
  • 150mL water
  • 800mL chicken stock
  • 300ml single cream
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 150g bacon, diced
  • 60g hazelnuts
  • A small amount of chives, chopped

The Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180 fan°C. Put the cauliflower in 2 Tbsp olive oil and place it on a baking pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast, tossing once, until florets are browned all over and tender, 30–35 minutes.

2. While cauliflower roasts, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

3. Stir fry the shallots, garlic and fennel until tender (5-8 minutes). Mix 150ml water with the shallot, fennel and garlic. Let it simmer for 5 mins.

4. Mix the roasted cauliflower with stock, cream and bay leaves. Season lightly with salt.

5. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.

6. When the soup simmers, heat a little non-stick oil in a small frying pan. Once it is browned, set the bacon aside. The bacon will produce oil so there is no need to use any oil.

7. The hazelnuts can be fried in the same skillet until they are golden brown and then roasted. Let cool in a bowl and chop.

8. The bay leaves should be removed from the soup. Allow the mixture to cool.

9. Purée cauliflower mixture until very smooth. Use an immersion blender. Use an immersion blender or blender to cool the mixture.

10. Top with bacon and hazelnuts


Beef Bourguignon 


Serves 4.

Cooking and prep time 2 hours 30 min

  • Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp 
  • Olive oil extra Virgin
  • 800g beef flank or skirt, diced
  • Slice 3 carrots into small rounds
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves 

  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200g pearl onions
  • 200g baby-chestnut mushrooms, half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 300ml Red Wine (or 300ml Stock)
  • 1 Tbsp Cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped roughly

The Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.

2. Place the oil on a medium-high heat in a saucepan or casserole dish.

3. Brown the beef diced for about 5 minutes, or until it is mostly golden on the outside but still not fully cooked.

4. Set aside the cooked beef.

5. Stir in the celery, carrot and onion and let them cook until softened.

6. Stir in the tomato puree and thyme leaves. Cook another 2 mins.

7. Combine the red wine and stock with pearl onions, bay leaves, and browned meat. Add salt and pepper as needed.

8. Bring to boil. Then, add the lid and bake in the oven. Bake for an hour.

9. Once the oven is removed, add the mushrooms to the pan, along with more stock or wine, as well as seasoning, if desired.

10. Place back into the oven for an additional hour.

11. Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Turn the heat to medium.

12. In a small bowl combine the cornflour, water, and salt. Once the sauce has thickened, add it to the pot.

13. You can garnish it with green or parsley leaves, or even mashed or baked potatoes.

Borlotti bean and bacon stew

Serves 4.

Cooking time and prep: 30 minutes


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Finely diced 1 leek

2 minced garlic cloves

220g Bacon rashers, thinly sliced

Finely sliced 200g button mushrooms

Two small, diced courgettes

2 x 400g Tins Borlotti Beans, Rinsed and Drained

300ml chicken stock

80ml coconut milk, cream

The Method 

1. Place the oil in a saucepan or lidded pan and heat it on medium heat. For 3 minutes fry the leeks, garlic, and onion until they are softened.

2. Cook the bacon for three minutes, or until it is browned. Cook the courgettes, mushrooms and beans for 3 minutes more, or until they are softened.

3. Add the cream, chicken stock and kale to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, and then cover it with a lid. Turn down heat to simmer for five minutes.

4. Add steamed broccoli to bulk up this dish and garnish it with some parsley.