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Curried cabbage adds a little spice to the original recipe. Photo from nytimes.com.

“I thought perhaps I was starving to death at moments. And it wasn’t because I was necessarily hungry. It was because I was hungry for other things than what I was eating,” said Trisha Haas in her blog series about the Cabbage Soup Diet. “Watching my family eat lunch and dinner yesterday was pure torture.”

It’s almost impossible to go out for dinner and stay on the Cabbage Soup Diet. Yes, you’re allowed to eat vegetables any time you want but this doesn’t include any sauce.

Are you really going to order plain veggies at a restaurant? I don’t think so.

Think you can substitute the cabbage soup for the soup on the restaurant’s menu? Think again. The feature soup at Earls has 20 grams of fat and 1046 mg of salt. That’s nearly the amount of salt you’re supposed to have for the whole day, according to a Statistics Canada health report.

I don’t recommend dining out while on the Cabbage Soup Diet. There are too many tasty temptations at restaurants.

Why soup-diets work

”Studies on food intake and energy density show that people tend to eat about the same weight or volume of food each day. So, including foods with a low energy density, like water-rich vegetables, helps to lower calorie intake without reducing the amount consumed- an important factor that can help you feel satisfied on fewer calories,” according to a document on the Campbell’s Soup website.

 

Image from campbellsoup.ca

How I’m doing

The Cabbage Soup Diet is very easy to follow, but only if you stay at home all day.

I had a hard time finding a container to bring the soup to school. Most containers leak, creating a huge mess.

Every container I found that didn’t leak was too small. This soup is mostly broth, so I have to eat more than usual to cure my hunger.

I’ve already been to Wal-Mart and London Drugs in search of a suitable Thermos so don’t bother looking there. I’m going to check out the Real Canadian Superstore because it has a good selection of kitchen accessories.

I blame inadequate containers for any time I’ve broken my diet!

Different spices

I’ve been trying variations of the original recipe without adding any fat or calories. The soup can get boring but it’s easy to spice it up with different recipes.

An easy way to give already-made soup a kick is to add different spices. I recommend these:

  • Basil

    Photo from spicesnherbs.net

Recipe: curried cabbage soup 

Getting sick of cabbage soup yet? Try this highly recommended recipe for a twist on the classic.

Ingredients:

  • 3 green chilli peppers
  • 1 half large cabbage
3 carrots
2 tbsp garlic powder 
3 tbsp Madras powder
  • 2 tins plum tomatoes
  • 6 medium white onions
  • 250g fresh mushrooms
  • 2 pints of water

Madras powder is a fairly hot curry that's red in colour. Photo from The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook

  • Slice onions, put in a pot and start to saute with cooking spray
  • Cut green pepper into bite size pieces
  • Remove the outer leafs layers of the cabbage, cut into bite size pieces
  • Clean carrots, cut into bite size pieces
  • Slice mushrooms into thick slices
  • Add green pepper, cabbage, carrots and mushrooms to pot.
  • Add the Madras powder and garlic powder now (More if you want more of  kick)
  • Now add the water and the V-8 juice and put on a low heat
  • Let soup cook for a long time until the mixture has reduced – one hour works well
  • Once cooked, add ingredients to blender and blend
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper

Other recipes

If you’re not a curry fan give one of these recipes a try:

Weight Watcher’s Cabbage Sop

Rachel Ray’s Cabbage Soup

Sweet n’ “Saur” Cabbage Soup (but skip the potatoes because of the carbs)

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After trying the Special K Challenge filled with carbs, sugar, sugar and more SUGAR, I have a constant craving for anything healthy.

The Cabbage Soup Diet is filled with vegetables. In fact, I’ve been eating loads of veggies for three days now, and that beats eating strawberry Special K bars any day.

JARED OLSON PHOTO

The Cabbage Soup Diet is a low-fat, high fibre diet that promises you will lost 10 pounds in seven days.

If you have a special occasion coming up or you simply need to lose weight fast, this could be the perfect diet for you.

The soup

There’s no need to worry about going hungry on this diet. You can eat as much soup as you want at any time of the day. Yes, that’s right- you could have 20 bowls of soup if that’s what it takes to make you full!

Recipe

The recipe looks tedious but bare with me- it gets easier after you make the first time.

  • 1 green pepper

    Photo from weirdomatic.com

  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 6 stalks celery
  • 1 large onion – chopped
  • 1-2 cubes of bouillon (if desired)
  • 1 head cabbage. A nice, big green one.
  • 48 oz. of V-8 juice (low sodium)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil (no more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, parsley, curry, garlic powder, etcetera
  1. Cut all of the vegetables into small pieces.
  2. Saute the onion in the olive oil for two minutes then add the celery and peppers and saute for four more minutes.
  3. Then cover with the water and V-8 juice. If you want the bouillon add it now. (I recommend using spices that don’t contain a lot of sodium like bouillon does).
  4. Add the hot sauce and tomatoes.
  5. Bring the whole mixture (which now includes everything but the cabbage) to a boil.
  6. Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking until vegetables are tender (about 30 minutes to an hour depending on how large you cut the celery).
  7. Take the stem out of the cabbage.
  8. Shred the cabbage and then add the cabbage and cook for another 10 minutes. (Adding the cabbage near the end preserves some of its nutritional content and keeps your kitchen from smelling up your whole apartment building).

The diet plan

Photo from howtobuildagreenhouse.com
Day One:
  • Eat only your soup and the fruit for the first day.
  • Drink unsweetened teas, cranberry juice and water.
Day Two:
  • Eat until you are stuffed will all the fresh, raw or cooked vegetables of your choice. Try to eat leafy green vegetables and stay away from dry beans, peas and corn. Eat all the vegetables you want along with your soup.
  • At dinner, reward yourself with a big baked potato with butter. Do not eat fruit today.
Day Three:
  • Eat all the soup, fruit (but not bananas) and vegetables you want.
  • But don’t eat a baked potato.
Day Four:
  • Eat as many as eight bananas and drink as many glasses of skim milk as you would like, along with your soup. Eating bananas will lessen your sugar cravings.
Day Five:
  • 10 to 20 ounces of beef and up to six fresh tomatoes.
    Photo from weirdomatic.com
  • Drink at least six to eight glasses of water to wash the uric acid from your body.
  • Eat your soup at least once this day.
  • You can eat broiled or baked chicken instead of beef (but no skin-on chicken!). If you prefer, you can substitute broiled fish for the beef one of the beef days (but not both).
Day Six:
  • Eat to your heart’s content of beef and vegetables this day. You can even have two or three steaks if you want, with leafy green vegetables.
  • NO BAKED POTATO.
  • Eat your soup at least once.
Day Seven:
  • Eat as much brown rice and veggies as you want.
  • Be sure to eat your soup at least once.
  • Drink unsweetened juice

Avoiding the dreaded side effects

Most people are unaware of the side effects of the Cabbage Soup Diet, according to the website Buzzle.com.

Cabbage is the main culprit for these troubles because it is hard on the digestive system and can lead to gas.

But don’t panic yet. There are many other vegetables that you can substitute for cabbage, according to the website Successful Cabbage Soup Diet.

Cabbage substitutes:

  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • spinach leaves

In fact, these substitutes are more healthy and filling than cabbage is. The darker the vegetable, the more vitamins it has.

Did you know carrots are named after the organic compound beta-carotene? It converts to vitamin A in the body which helps improve vision.

Popeye didn’t just eat spinach because it creates big muscles.

Spinach leaves are low in calories yet very high in vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, A and C, potassium and iron.

They also taste great and are much easier for the stomach to handle.

Be careful- the Cabbage Soup Diet can also lead to dizziness, fatigue and headaches.

This diet is only meant to last a week because it lacks carbs and protein. Although it’s relatively healthy, it’s not nutritionally balanced so don’t stay on it for too long.

I haven’t experienced any of these side effects yet but I’m watching for them. I’m taking a multi-vitamin while on the Cabbage Soup Diet to help me stay healthy.

How I’m doing so far

I’ve been on the Cabbage Soup Diet for three days now and feel energized and content.

It’s comforting to know I can reach for a bowl of soup whenever I get hungry.

I slipped up though. I realized I didn’t have anything to put the soup in before leaving for school.

I brought some fruit but I was forced to eat a cream-based soup from the cafeteria at school. That’s definitely not part of the diet.

The baked potato was the highlight of Day 2. I thought about it all day and picked the biggest one I could find at Save-on. I’m missing it a lot today on Day 3.

Photo from postharvest.ucdavis.edu

I can’t wait to eat the eight bananas tomorrow. I really need a sugar fix. I think the only way to get a sugar high off bananas is to scarf down all eight of them at once really fast. That’s the plan.

Low-sodium V8 nutritional information From caloriecount.com

What the experts say

“The only good thing about the diet is that you’re eating vegetables all the time. The rest of it is certainly unbalanced,” said registered nurse Karen Bracken. “A safe, healthy weight loss is one to two pounds a week. The cabbage diet definitely doesn’t promote this.”

The Cabbage Soup Diet is very low in protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients we need to feel healthy, according to Bracken.

“With any restrictive diet you can get tired easily, leading to being moody and irritable,” she said. “Soup usually has a lot of sodium so be careful not to add any unhealthy spice like vegetable stock or anything else unnatural.”

I’m using low-sodium V-8 for the soup base which has six per cent of the daily recommended intake of salt per eight ounces. Regular V-8 contains 20 per cent of the salt you should have per day.

Next Week

Check back next week to see how I fared on the diet. Did I lose any weight? Or is this just a waste of time? Only time will tell!

American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald

I get quotes from the Special K Challenge every day that are supposed to inspire me to stay on the diet. This is the latest one.

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

It’s by Ella Fitzgerald, an American jazz singer with a recording career lasting 59 years.

She had a vocal range spanning three octaves, but I bet she never tried the Special K diet.

In fact, I know she hasn’t because the Special K Challenge didn’t pop up until a few years ago, and she’s been dead since 1996.

Ella says “just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.” I really wanted to stay on the diet and I hate giving up on anything, but that’s exactly what I did this weekend as soon as I stepped foot in Victoria.

 

Why I broke my diet

PHOTO JASON LEE

You see, I can’t just eat healthy food on this diet for each meal. I actually have to buy Special K products.

I scoured through downtown Victoria going to London Drugs and Shopper’s Drug Mart among other places in search of the sugary food.

London Drug’s definitely doesn’t have as many Special K products as they say they do.

In fact, the Victoria location only has the regular Special K cereal and the strawberry cereal bars (my absolute least favourite flavour).

Since I couldn’t find a variety of Special K products, I indulged in delicious restaurant food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Who can say no to a  veggie burger with a side of fries and salad AND a beer for $12.50 at the local pub?  Obviously not me.

 

A new beginning?

I’ve been looking at other diets like The Lazy Zone Diet or The Cabbage Soup Diet and they seem a lot more manageable and healthy.

So I need your advice. Do you think I should keep going with the Special K  Challenge? Or should I try another diet? Place your vote to below.



A man with more willpower than I

“I’ve been suffering through the [Special K] diet for about a month now,” said criminology student Dave McLean. “But for me it works because I don’t have to think about what I’m going to eat next.

“I don’t have very many options, so I can’t mess up the diet easily,” McLean said. “I don’t have to cook, which is a huge plus because I hate cooking.”

Fellow Special K dieter Dave McLean

Dave is doing the On-the-Go Special K Challenge like I am but has managed to stick to it for a lot longer. Now that’s willpower.

“I always make sure I have tons of Special K products in the house, or I might be tempted to eat something else,” he said.

“I used to eat at restaurants a lot more, but restaurant food is much more fattening than I ever thought.”

I was also surprised about how much fat and calories restaurants salads have, especially salads at Earls.

Who would have thought salads have more calories than pizza? That’s OK, next time I’ll swing for the Naples Margherita pizza.

What the experts say

“Fad diets are those that enjoy short-lived success and popularity and are based on a marketing gimmick,” according to the book Sport Nutrition for Health and Performance.

“Consumers must remember that if the claims associated with the diets were true there would be no need for people to continue dieting and no need for the next fad diet,” the book says.

This is true. If diets actually worked we wouldn’t keep trying them.

But I know there is a perfect diet out there for me, and I won’t stop searching until I find it.

“The problem is that this isn’t very much food volume wise, because there is almost no fiber in any of the Special K products, which make up more than 50 percent of your food for the day.

And because the Special K products are so highly processed, you’ll likely end up feeling hungry most of the day,” says the website Answer Fitness: Practical Fitness Advice for Everyone.

While I wasn’t hungry on the Special K Challenge, I know I wasn’t eating as healthy as I could have been.

MIKE ELLIS PHOTO

In fact, the website says that “you could easily hit this 1500 calorie goal with more nutritionally-dense, better tasting and healthier foods and never have to touch a Special K product.”

I’ve never appreciated fruit and vegetables more than I do now that I’ve tried the Special K Challenge!

Next week

I’ll finish the Special K Challenge or review a new diet- it’s all up to you!


Icing covered granola bars, chocolate flavoured protein bars, strawberry milk shakes?

These are foods I love, but that I usually try to steer clear of.

I thought to myself: If the Special K Challenge really works, I’ll get to lose weight while eating the sugary food I constantly crave. How could this be more perfect? I decided to look into all that nutritional stuff later.

To take part in the Special K Challenge you must to be willing to buy their products- a lot of them. This crash-diet lasts two weeks, so you’ll need to stock up.

You will be replacing two meals a day with Special K food and eating Special K snacks twice a day. A serving of fruit should go along with each meal and there are suggestions about what to cook for a healthy dinner. Of course, you can drink as much water as you’d like all day.

The options

There are four different plans to choose from: the Classic Plan, the Mix it Up Plan, the On-the-Go Plan and the Chocolate Lovers Plan. I chose the On-the-Go Plan because I want food I can scarf down quickly for breakfast and easily pack for school. The less cooking the better.

Every plan is pretty much the same, with the exception of the Chocolate Lovers Plan. I’m a self-declared chocolate fanatic, but this plan takes it too far. Chocolatey Delight Cereal in the morning? No thank you.

The special ingredients

  • Special K Strawberry Protein Shakes (1 box)

    JEAN SHANGA PHOTO

  • Special K French Vanilla Protein Shakes (1 box)
  • Special K Vanilla Crisp Cereal Bars (1 box)
  • Special K Protein Plus Cereal (1 box)
  • Special K Savory Herb Crackers (1 box)
  • Special K Honey Almond Protein Meal Bars (1 box)
  • Special K Chocolate Delight Protein Snack Bars (1 box)
  • Special K Peaches and Berries Cereal Bars (1 box)
  • Special K Blueberry Cereal Bars (1 box)

A quarter of the way through…

I will never eat sugar again. Srike that- I will never eat a Special K cereal bar again. I bought a variety of different kind of bars to snack on twice a day, like the diet recommends.

First I got sick of the chocolate ones, then the vanilla ones, then peach ones and now I’m sick of all of them. I’m a big fan of sugar rushes, but these bars are way too sweet for me, and it’s only day four.

Luckly, I’m allowed to have a serving of fruit with each snack. I’ve never appreciated fruit more. I usually stick to apples, and the occasional banana. Very easy to pack, and quite filling.

(I’ve become a mini-expert on apples, stayed tuned a post about where to buy the best local apples).


I’m eating about 37 grams of sugar each day, more than the recommended 30 grams. I don’t think skipping the occasional cereal bar, which have about six grams of sugar, will create any problems.

But this diet does have its upsides. It’s too early to tell if I’ve lost any weight, but I do feel fine all day.

I look forward to eating the cereal every morning. It’s not too sweet, and it fills me up more than the cereal I usually eat. The protein shakes are delicious. They’re as good as McDonald’s milk shakes, but a whole lot healthier.

The shakes have 10 grams of protein and five grams of fat, but 18 grams of sugar. That’s more than half the sugar I’m supposed to have in a day, but considering one for lunch makes me delightfully full all day, I will continue to drink them.

Is Special K really that harmful?

It’s a bit worrisome to hear that Denmark banned Special K cereal over concerns that added vitamins can be harmful if eaten regularly. The products can cause liver and kidney damage in children and can harm developing fetuses, according to Paolo Drotsby, a spokesman for the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

I can’t find any North American findings remotely similar to these, so I’ll continue eating.

What the experts think

Registered physiotherapist Ryan Hill, who has a degree in kinesiology and health sciences, has compared the Special K Challenge to what’s recommended in Canada’s Food Guide.

“The first glaring issue I came across was that this diet seems to be of the

Physiotherapist Ryan Hill

‘one-diet-fits-all’ type and does not take into account the different nutritional needs of people of various age groups and gender,” Hill said.

While this diet is aimed at women, I have come across several men on Twitter who are taking part. Also, this diet would appeal to women of all ages.

In fact, there are forms of the diet recommended specifically to business travellers and busy moms.

The Special K Challenge is lacking in servings of fruits and vegetables and whole grain products, according to Hill.

On a typical day, I eat four servings of fruits/vegetables, but I should be eating double that based on Canada’s Food Guide.

“The diet does contain a healthy amount of fat, however one-third of one’s daily intake comes from saturated sources which is not recommended by Canada’s Food Guide,” Hill added.

I should be eating more healthy saturated fats that are found in food such as nuts, avocados and olives. Saturated fats can have bad effects on your cholesterol and your heart.

So, the diet isn’t exactly healthy, but it can help you lose weight, at least according to one American study.

Next Week

Check back next week to see how I’m holding up closer to the end of the challenge!