News, Culture & Society

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Looking after your microbiome — the collection of microbes that live in your gut — will not only make you feel better, but help you shed weight before the party season kicks off

We love our guts and their tiny, alien inhabitants and we are utterly convinced by all the new science of their importance, especially when it comes to how we look and feel.

But we want you to be just as convinced, so today, we’re going to tell you some of the science behind the Clever Guts Diet Recipe Book and explain why looking after your microbiome — the collection of microbes that live in your gut — will not only make you feel better, but help you shed weight before the party season kicks off.

We know that most people find it easier to stick to something if they understand why they’re doing it — Clare is a GP and, in her experience, patients are much more likely to follow her recommendations if they really understand why she’s making them. So we’re hoping that once you understand what is really going on down there, you will find it easier to stick to our suggestions.

One of the great things about the Clever Guts diet is that the weight loss is a side-effect of making your gut healthier. Focus on keeping your microbiome happy, rather than on the scales, and you’ll banish bloating and shift pounds more easily than ever.

That’s because, as you’ll see, having the wrong sort of microbiome can actually make you fatter. When it comes to gut health, a varied mix of microbes is crucial — here’s why: the microbes in your gut have several functions, one of which is deciding how much energy your body extracts from food.

There is mounting evidence they can shape hunger signals, help decide which foods we crave and determine how much our blood sugar levels spike after a meal. So once you’ve whipped your microbes into shape, hopefully the rest of you will fall into shape, too.

The fact is, our digestive systems are not 100 per cent efficient. Some of the calories we take in will also be excreted. And, although much of the energy in the food we eat is extracted by our gut, we also depend on our gut bacteria to do some digesting for us.

Mice with sterile, bacteria-free guts are much skinnier than normal mice, despite eating the same number of calories. With no bacteria to pull the calories from their food, a lot of what they eat passes right through their bodies.

Some bacteria that live in our guts, including a tribe called Firmicutes, are better than others at extracting energy from our food. So, if Michael has more Firmicutes in his gut than Clare (which he does), he will probably be absorbing more calories after eating exactly the same meal.

The more calories your body holds on to and the less you excrete, the more likely you are to become fat. That’s one reason why obesity is far more complicated than just saying: ‘It’s because you’re eating more calories than you burn off.’

There is also mounting evidence that your gut bacteria may have a hand in decisions such as: ‘Shall I have a doughnut rather than a stick of celery?’ through something called the enteric system — or your ‘second brain’.

The brain cells that line your gut communicate with the brain in your head via the vagus nerve. This is like a busy broadband network, with lots of messages going in both directions; the enteric system talks to your brain and your brain talks back.

But, like miniature hackers, the microbes that live in your gut can tap in to this system and talk directly to your brain via the vagus nerve. They also produce a range of hormones and neurotransmitters that reach your brain via the bloodstream, to control mood and cravings.

One of the great things about the Clever Guts diet is that the weight loss is a side-effect of making your gut healthier

One of the great things about the Clever Guts diet is that the weight loss is a side-effect of making your gut healthier

Why would your microbes want to manipulate you like this? Well, they don’t all have the same dietary needs — some thrive on sugars, others need fat, and in a bid for self-preservation they each try to get more of what they need. So the more junk food you eat, the more you feed the sort of microbes that like junk food, and the more they want.

Although there are some good bacteria and some bad, the main message from research is that the key to good health is having as wide a range of species in your gut as possible. People who do tend to be slimmer and healthier. Having a limited ecosystem means you are more likely to be overweight and sickly.

Why should this be? The argument goes that in a diverse microbiome all those different, tiny creatures will clamour to be heard and, like a gang of children all shouting at once, they cancel out each other’s demands and are actually easier to ignore.

If the sugar-lovers are just as loud as the fat-lovers, neither gets heard clearly. Problems start when one group — say, the ones who thrive on junk food — starts to dominate.

As a gang, these bad guys will be much more influential and, by producing chemical signals, generate cravings for junk food you will find hard to resist.

So how do you make sure your microbiome is a diverse environment that will help you lose weight? For a start, by not feeding the cravings.

If you starve the sugar-lovers, eventually they will die off and you’ll lose the desire to eat the stuff that wasn’t doing you any favours in the first place.

But it’s not just about avoiding the bad stuff — it’s also about nurturing the good guys.

You’ve probably heard the words prebiotic and probiotic bandied around, but there’s more to them than just yoghurt and supplements. Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates, usually fibre, which are not digested in the small intestine but continue down the gut as an important source of nutrients for the microbiome, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Two important types of fermentable fibre are inulin and oligofructose. You’ll find these in asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, string beans, wheat bran, celery and tough stems of cabbage or kale. Think of them as the fertiliser that helps the grass grow on a lawn. (Caution: These foods can trigger bloating and gas in people with irritable bowel syndrome.)

Probiotics, however, are like the seeds you scatter on the lawn to keep it lush and free of weeds. They are ‘friendly’ live bacteria found naturally in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and yoghurt, which work in a variety of ways along the digestive tract, boosting healthy microbes and driving down numbers of harmful ones.


Kefir is a type of tart fermented yoghurt that has become popular. Find it in major supermarkets or make your own at home (find out how online). 

Fortunately, it’s getting easier to lay your hands on fermented foods. Live yoghurt and sauerkraut have been around for a while but, thanks to becoming more fashionable, there are now many different types more widely available.

Kimchi, a sort of spicy, Korean version of sauerkraut, has become a trendy restaurant ingredient, while the cultured milk drink kefir can be found on the shelves of many of the bigger supermarkets.

But you don’t have to buy it — more and more of us are making our own fermented foods. Home fermentation jars and kefir kits are sold online, so you can brew your own good bacteria. They are generally easy to use, mainly involving adding sachets of live culture to milk and leaving it for a day.

But before you worry this all seems too complicated, let us reassure you it really isn’t. Many of Clare’s patients — often middle-aged men who didn’t cook much before — have told her they really like cooking this sort of thing. The recipes are straightforward and include foods people thought would be banned — full-fat yoghurt, eggs, nuts and more. And it’s all really delicious. People don’t even notice that it’s good for them.

Clare recently stewed pears in red wine, but I swapped half the wine for kombucha, a fermented tea drink — and none of the family noticed.

To show you exactly what we mean, today we are sharing gut-friendly recipes that will please even the fussiest of eaters. Some are variations on popular favourites, such as fishcakes and bolognese, and others — like the chocolate and walnut bites and exotic carrot cake — taste so indulgent you won’t believe there is no added sugar.

(Although here’s a top tip: these sorts of tasty treats are best enjoyed after lunch, not only because they are digested more slowly after a meal, reducing the sugar spike, but also because you are more likely to be moving around then and therefore burning the calories.)

Read on — and enjoy!

Scrumptious – and great for your gut

Oaty Pecan Pancakes

These indulgent wholemeal pancakes are a bit like drop-scones, but have extra substance and flavour thanks to the oats and pecans. Delicious eaten straight from the pan or popped in the toaster.

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Makes 10-12 (130 calories per pancake)

120g rolled oats (or gluten-free oats)

120g buckwheat flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 pinch salt

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp maple syrup

270ml almond milk (or another milk of your choice)

40g pecan nuts, chopped

1 tbsp coconut oil

Mix together the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, then pour in vanilla essence, maple syrup and milk. In the bowl of dry ingredients, make a well in the centre, then pour in the wet ingredients, gradually stirring, followed by the nuts. The mixture should be thick, but still pourable. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Next, melt half the coconut oil in a frying pan, then drop in blobs of the rested mixture — about 1-2 tbsp per pancake — and cook on one side for 2-3 minutes until they’re golden brown and holes appear on the surface. Make sure to leave space around each pancake as it cooks. Flip them over carefully with a spatula and cook them for 1-2 minutes on the other side. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, then tuck in. They taste great served with 1 tbsp Greek-style yoghurt (add 75 calories), 1 tsp honey (20 calories) and some berries or half a sliced banana (50 calories).

Slow-roast lamb shoulder

The meat portions here are generous as this is not a particularly high-protein diet. Evidence suggests that while we need a minimum daily amount of protein (around 45-60g) because we are unable to store it, eating significantly more is not necessarily better, unless you are doing a great deal of exercise.

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 8 (430 calories)

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3 anchovies from a tin or jar, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice 1 large lemon

2 sprigs rosemary, plus the leaves from another sprig, chopped

1¼ kg shoulder of lamb

2 red onions, peeled and halved

1 glass red wine

Make a marinade with the garlic, anchovies, olive oil, lemon juice and chopped rosemary leaves. Slash surface of the meat and put in a non-metallic dish. Rub in the marinade and leave the lamb in the fridge to absorb the flavours and soften for 2-3 hours or overnight. Take the lamb out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Heat the oven to 140c/120c fan/gas 1. Place the onions in the base of a roasting tin with the marinated meat on top. Dollop any remaining marinade over the meat and tuck the rosemary sprigs underneath. Pour the wine into the tray, along with 100ml water. Cover with a foil tent, then roast for 4 hours, basting occasionally. Remove foil for last 20-30 minutes and top up with water if the juices dry out. Serve with a selection of vegetables (add 20 calories for green veg and 100 calories if carrots, cauliflower etc). There should be plenty of juices left in the pan for gravy.

Coconut porridge with pecans and pear

A creamy, nutty porridge laced with sweet juicy pears.

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 2 (370 calories)

50g rolled oats (or gluten-free oats)

200ml coconut milk

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Pinch salt

20g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

½ pear, cored and diced

Place the oats, coconut milk, spices, salt and pecans in a small pan and bring it to a simmer. Cook gently for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour it into a bowl, scatter the chunks of diced pear on top and dig in. If you want to add a teaspoonful of honey, it won’t do any harm, but it’s just as good without…

Blood orange salad with toasted coriander

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 2 (280 calories)

1 blood orange

Small bunch watercress

½ red onion, finely sliced

1 tsp coriander seeds

 tbsp olive oil

Juice ½ lemon

First, break the blood orange into segments and place these in a salad bowl with the washed watercress and finely sliced red onion. Next, in a frying pan gently toast then lightly crush the coriander seeds. Add these to the olive oil and lemon juice and whisk together well to make a dressing. Drizzle this all over the salad and toss well before serving.

Turkey and mushroom bolognese

Two great base ingredients here: turkey, which is a nice alternative to beef, cooks more quickly and makes a really tasty bolognese, and mushrooms, which are incredibly low in carbohydrates and full of gut-friendly prebiotics, with a texture that is almost like meat. We love them.

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 4 (510 calories)

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion, diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

400g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced

300g turkey mince

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

2 medium carrots, grated

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

600g spiralised butternut squash or courgetti to serve

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion for 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the turkey mince and cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, carrots, bay leaves and herbs. Season with salt and pepper, and leave the mixture to simmer for 18-20 minutes. Meanwhile, steam the spiralised butternut squash or courgetti. Divide between 4 plates and top with the bolognese to serve.

Lemon and coriander hummus with seaweed

Tahini (a paste made of ground sesame seeds) combined with chickpeas provides the ideal balance of amino acids for protein absorption, while seaweed adds omega-3.

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 6 (140 calories)

400g can chickpeas

1 large garlic clove

1 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp Greek yoghurt

Zest and juice 1 lemon

3 tbsp olive oil

1 nori seaweed sheet

Large handful coriander

Blitz all the ingredients apart from the coriander in a food processor, then add the coriander and pulse briefly. Leave to rest for 30 minutes, then drizzle with olive oil and garnish with extra slices of chopped seaweed.

Sweet potato, kale and cod fishcakes 

These Moroccan-flavoured fishcakes can be made with other fish, too, such as salmon or trout. The sweet potatoes help bind them and are easy on the gut. They are delicious served with crunchy green salad or for breakfast, topped with a poached egg.

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 4 (340 calories)

700g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

30g kale, shredded

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tsp harissa paste

1 egg, beaten

260g cod fillets

3 tbsp buckwheat flour

2 tbsp olive oil

Steam the sweet potatoes for 6 minutes, then add the kale and steam for another 6-8 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Transfer the veg to a bowl and lightly mash them with a fork. Add the spring onions, harissa and egg and season well. Meanwhile, place the cod in a pan and cover it with water. Bring it to a simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the flesh flakes away from the skin easily. Add the flaked fish to the veg, stirring well with a fork to mix all the ingredients together. With wet hands, divide the mixture into 8 fishcakes. Dust with a little flour and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. When you’re ready to cook, heat the oil in a pan and fry the fishcakes for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden.

Puds that won’t make you podgy

Deliciously rich, exotic carrot cake

A deliciously moist vegetable andnut-based cake. It doesn’t melt instantly in your mouth and spike your sugars, but gives you more to chew on, leaving enough fibre to reach your microbiome. The cardamom adds a wonderful, exotic aroma.

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 12 (350 calories per portion)

320g carrots, grated

80g dates, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp honey)

3 large eggs

150g coconut oil

Zest 1 orange

Seeds from 8 cardamom pods

160g wholemeal buckwheat flour (or gluten-free flour)

120g desiccated coconut, reserving

1 tbsp to scatter on top

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

120g chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3½ and grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper. Next, mix the carrots, dates, eggs, coconut oil and orange zest, then stir in all the rest of the ingredients except the walnuts. Blitz the mixture with a hand blender or in a food processor, then stir in the nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake it in the centre of the oven for 60-75 minutes. About 5 minutes before the cake comes out the oven, scatter 1 tbsp desiccated coconut on top. You’ll know it’s cooked when a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. If the top is browning before the centre is done, cover it with foil.

Chocolate and walnut bites

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Makes 16 (280 calories each)

200g walnuts

100g pecan nuts

5g sultanas or raisins

225g pitted dates

55g cocoa powder

65g coconut oil, melted

90g rolled oats (or a gluten-free variety)

20g desiccated coconut

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp cacao nibs

Grease and line a 20cm loose-bottomed square cake tin with baking paper. Next, in a bowl, cover the walnuts, pecans and sultanas with boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Then drain and blitz them in a food processor. Add the dates and blend again, then tip in the cocoa powder, coconut oil, oats, desiccated coconut and ground cinnamon and process again until everything is well combined. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, spreading it out evenly with the back of a spoon, then lightly press the cacao nibs into the surface. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before cutting it into 16 bars.

Dark chocolate mousse with cashew cream

A decadent dessert to be savoured. Thanks to Dara Sutin for the delicious cardamom cashew cream to dollop on top. 

Ultimate party dress diet that will help you lose weight

Serves 6 (270 calories per mousse, plus 210 calories for the cream)

160ml can coconut cream

40g cocoa powder

8 soft pitted dates, chopped (or 2-3 tbsp maple syrup or honey)

2 ripe avocados, flesh scooped out

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

150g raspberries (or nuts, if you prefer) to serve

For the cashew cream:

200g cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours

1 tsp vanilla essence

Pinch salt

1 tbsp maple syrup

Seeds from 2 cardamom pods 

Heat the coconut cream, cocoa powder and dates and stir as the mixture simmers for 1-2 minutes, then set it aside to cool for 5 minutes. Next, pour the mixture into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the raspberries, and blitz to form a smooth paste. Divide the mixture between 6 pots and cool in the fridge. To make the cream, drain the cashews and place them with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times, then gradually add 100-150ml cold water as you blend until you reach a creamy consistency. Pour on top of each mousse and serve with the raspberries.

Adapted by Claire Coleman from The Clever Guts Diet Recipe Book by Dr Clare Bailey (Short Books, £14.99). To order a copy for £11.99, visit or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15. Offer valid until November 18, 2017.