I believe the coronavirus outbreak has given us all a very big wake-up call. The heartbreak has been unbearable, and the fear of contracting the virus has been felt by every single one of us.
Across the world, lives will never be the same again.
While we’re all only too aware that this terrible virus can hit anyone at any age, we are continually reminded that those most at risk are the elderly and those suffering from asthma, heart disease and diabetes, or who have compromised immune systems.
And statistics emerging from many who have lost their battle with Covid-19 indicate that being overweight or obese significantly increases a patient’s vulnerability.
We all want to stay safe in these challenging times. And the good news is, it’s not too late to make a real difference.
This simple plan will help you lose weight and boost your immune system, no matter your age. However, it has been specifically designed with the older generation in mind.
By taking some simple steps to change our lifestyle – the way we eat, drink and exercise – we can dramatically improve our immune system, lose a few pounds (especially any gained during lockdown) and increase our fitness. With this, we improve our chances of living a longer, fitter and healthier life.
Keeping our weight under control is important at any age, but never more so than now. As well as being a risk factor for coronavirus, being overweight increases our chance of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and much more.
A good place to start is to look at ourselves in the mirror or get on the scales and face the facts. And it’s important we don’t use age as an excuse for carrying a few extra pounds.
The good news is that being overweight or obese is something that can be managed with healthy eating and exercise.
Immunity diet: The rules
- Each day, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner from the list you will find below. There are lots of delicious recipes to try. Meals are interchangeable, so you can select the breakfast you like and eat it every day if you wish. Portions are for one person unless otherwise stated.
- Have ¾pt semi-skimmed milk (dairy or plant-based) each day. And if you wish, a dessert of 100g natural live yoghurt or one probiotic drink, plus one of the following: one apple with skin, ½ banana, 60g blueberries, 12 seedless grapes, two kiwi fruit, 200g melon, two satsumas, 200g raspberries or 150g strawberries.
- Stay hydrated. Drink as much water as you wish. Tea is unlimited, made with milk from the daily allowance, or better still, drink green tea. Keep coffee to a minimum. Low-calorie drinks are unlimited.
- Alcohol is a toxin and the last thing we need is to use up the body’s valuable resources to fight a toxin we don’t need to invite in. So keep alcohol to an absolute minimum.
- Unless told otherwise, use a rapeseed oil spray for frying. This will add flavour to stir-fries, omelettes and other recipes when using a non-stick pan, and will save you unnecessary calories. It will be available at your local supermarket.
- Record progress. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time on the same set of scales, and write it down. Then measure yourself around the narrowest part of your waist every week.
Plan for week one
BREAKFAST: 150g natural yoghurt mixed with 150g strawberries or raspberries.
LUNCH: Two slices wholemeal toast topped with 200g baked beans.
DINNER: Chicken and pepper stir-fry.
Chicken and pepper stir-fry
55g basmati rice; 1 veg stock cube; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1 chicken breast, chopped; 1/2 red onion, chopped; 1/2 red and 1/2 green pepper, chopped; 2 sticks celery, chopped; 4 button mushrooms, halved; a little grated fresh ginger; 1tsp honey; 2tbsp soy sauce; 1tbsp chilli
and garlic sauce; black pepper; coriander, to serve
- Cook rice in boiling water with stock cube according to packet instructions. When cooked, drain and keep hot.
- Meanwhile, place garlic, chicken and black pepper in a large non-stick pan and fry until almost cooked.
- Add onion, peppers, celery and mushrooms, and toss with the chicken. Do not overcook vegetables.
- Add ginger, honey, soy sauce, chilli and garlic sauce, and coriander, then mix well. Serve immediately with extra soy sauce if required.
BREAKFAST: 1 slice wholemeal toast spread with Marmite, with one egg, poached or boiled, plus an orange.
LUNCH: Crunchy salad – chopped pepper, cucumber, celery, mushrooms, grated carrot, sliced red onion, cherry tomatoes and beansprouts, mixed with 1tbsp cooked basmati rice and 1tbsp peas and sweetcorn. Dress with low-fat dressing or soy sauce and serve with 2tbsp baked beans.
DINNER: 200g cod steak, steamed or microwaved, served with 100g new potatoes, in their skins, plus unlimited fresh veg.
BREAKFAST: Four pieces of fresh fruit (excluding bananas).
LUNCH: Spread two slices wholemeal bread with horseradish sauce or low-fat salad dressing and make a sandwich with 30g wafer-thin beef, chicken, ham or tofu, plus unlimited salad.
DINNER: Parsnip cakes with red pepper relish.
Parsnip cakes with red pepper relish
Serves four (can be frozen)
For the cakes: 1kg young parsnips, peeled and chopped; 1 veg stock cube; 4 small leeks; 1 red pepper, chopped; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 2tsp fresh thyme, chopped; 2tbsp fromage frais; 1tbsp fresh chives, chopped; 30g fresh brown breadcrumbs; black pepper
For the relish: 6 red peppers, halved and deseeded; 1 red onion; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 2-3tsp chilli sauce
- Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Cook parsnips in boiling water with veg stock cube. Drain and return to pan. Mash until smooth, adding black pepper.
- Meanwhile, place leek and red pepper in large non-stick pan and fry until soft. Add garlic and thyme.
- Combine parsnip and leek mixtures, add fromage frais and chives.
- When cool, form into eight potato cake shapes and roll in breadcrumbs.
- Place cakes on baking tray and bake near top of the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
- To make the relish, place peppers on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Remove from oven and place in a plastic food bag. Seal bag and allow to cool. Once cool, remove peppers and peel away skins. Chop peppers into small dice.
- Fry onion and garlic for two minutes in non-stick pan, then stir in peppers and chilli sauce. Serve with parsnip cakes and salad.
BREAKFAST: 30g All Bran with milk from allowance, plus a boiled egg.
LUNCH: Salmon wrap – spread a tortilla with 1tsp Thai sweet chilli dipping sauce and fill with 25g smoked or cooked salmon, chopped salad leaves, peppers, cucumber, celery and cherry tomatoes. Wrap up, tucking in edges, and cut in half horizontally.
DINNER: Chicken pasta – place 100g chopped chicken breast (no skin), 1/2 chopped onion, one crushed garlic clove and black pepper into a large non-stick pan and fry until chicken changes colour. Add sliced green pepper, tin chopped tomatoes, 1/2 finely chopped fresh chilli (optional) and dash of Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for five minutes. Serve with 45g pasta
(dry weight) cooked in boiling water
and veg stock cube.
BREAKFAST: 40 porridge oats soaked in 250ml water in a pan overnight. Reheat and serve with milk from allowance and 2tsp runny honey.
LUNCH: 1 tin of tomato soup with one slice of wholemeal toast.
DINNER: Tomato, basil and lemon penne.
Tomato, basil and lemon penne
225g penne (dry weight); 1 veg stock cube; 1/2 red onion, chopped; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1 red pepper, sliced; 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes; pinch chilli flakes; grated zest 1/2 lemon; 6-8 basil leaves, shredded; black pepper; 1/2 lemon, cut into segments.
- Cook pasta in pan of boiling water with stock cube.
- Place onion in non-stick pan and cook until soft. Add garlic and red pepper and cook for two minutes.
- Add tomatoes, chilli and lemon zest, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Season with pepper.
- Drain pasta, spoon over sauce, sprinkle with basil and serve with
BREAKFAST: Two scrambled eggs with unlimited tinned tomatoes and mushrooms fried in a non-stick pan.
LUNCH: Four rye crackers or one slice wholemeal bread spread with 1tsp low-fat soft cheese with garlic and herbs, plus cherry tomatoes, cucumber and salad.
DINNER: Aubergine tagine with couscous.
Aubergine tagine with couscous
1 red onion, diced; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1 aubergine, diced; 2tsp tagine paste; 1/2 tin tomatoes; 75ml orange juice; 1tsp stock powder; 100g couscous; black pepper; fresh mint to garnish
- Place onion and garlic in non-stick pan and cook until soft. Add aubergine and tagine paste, and brown the aubergine.
- Add tomatoes, orange juice, stock powder and pepper. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, adding more stock if required.
- Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to packet instructions.
- Serve tagine with couscous and mint.
BREAKFAST: 1 sliced banana, mixed with 100g live yoghurt and 100g raspberries.
LUNCH: 1 large baked sweet potato topped with homemade coleslaw.
1 large carrot, peeled and grated; 1 red onion, thinly sliced; 1/2 white cabbage, shredded; 2tbsp low-fat mayonnaise or salad cream; squeeze lemon juice; black pepper.
- Put carrot, onion and cabbage in a bowl, and mix well with mayonnaise or salad cream.
- Season with black pepper, lemon and serve.
DINNER: Chilli prawn stir-fry – place 1/2 chopped red onion and one crushed clove garlic in non-stick pan and fry until soft. Add 50g asparagus and 100g raw, peeled prawns, then cook for three minutes until prawns change colour. Add small amount of chilli stir-fry sauce and stir to coat prawns and asparagus. Serve with unlimited salad.
How food can keep you well
The most effective way to boost immunity is to eat foods that help maximise the health of white blood cells – those that fight infections. This means eating a diet that includes plenty of protein, some good-quality carbohydrate, a small amount of unsaturated fats, and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
This immune-boosting plan is full of these valuable nutrients:
PROTEIN: This is a vital component of white blood cells, so you need to eat a diet rich in meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yoghurt and milk. If you follow a plant-based diet, you need quinoa, soy, beans, wholegrains and seeds. For heart health, eat two portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon and mackerel.
CARBOHYDRATES: Needed for energy but should be enjoyed in moderation. Stick to wholegrain varieties of bread, pasta and basmati rice. New potatoes with skins on (higher in fibre) and sweet potatoes are good too.
UNSATURATED FATS: These are found in a variety of oils including olive, rapeseed, sunflower and safflower oil. They help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D, which we get from sunshine, and vitamin A, an important antioxidant. You don’t need a lot to contribute to a healthy immune system.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS: We all need these for general health. One important immunity-fighting nutrient is zinc, a mineral that is an important component in enzymes found in white blood cells. Zinc is found in red meat, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, wholemeal bread and milk. Vitamin C helps fight infection and we can boost our immune system by eating fruit and vegetables every day. When following any weight-reducing diet, even one as healthy as this one, it makes sense to protect ourselves by taking a multivitamin supplement.
ANTIOXIDANTS: These are compounds in food that protect cells, neutralising damaging free radicals that are thought to play a role in causing heart disease and cancer. Brightly coloured fruit and veg are high in antioxidants, but they are also found in ginger, garlic and onions.
FIBRE: Eating foods with a high fibre content keeps us fuller for longer, which supports weight-loss. It also helps our gut and digestion work efficiently, which enhances health.
*Always consult your GP before starting this or any other weight-loss plan
Extracted by Mernie Gilmore from The 28 Day Immunity Plan: A vital plan for the over 65s to boost resilience and live longer by Rosemary Conley CBE with Mary Morris MSc. (Michael Joseph, £9.98). Copyright © Rosemary Conley, 2020. To buy visit penguinrandomhouse.co.uk