Low Syn Life

Low Syn Lasagne

After my review of the Hairy Dieter's (Not So) Skinny Beef Lasagne I thought I should post my own low syn recipe for this family favourite. I don't think I've ever made two lasagnes the same, but here is the version I made for dinner tonight which everybody ate up; feel free to adapt it to your own preferences.

The syns come only from the cheese. You can keep the syns to a minimum by using strongly flavoured cheese (parmesan and reduced fat mature cheddar). You can also increase or decrease the quantities I've given here to adjust the syn count without affecting the recipe too much, just the 'cheesiness'.

The recipe below will serve 6 people with some side salad or veggies (don't forget that 1/3 of your plate needs to be Superfree on the Extra Easy plan).

Serves 6

2 syns per portion on Extra Easy


500g extra lean minced beef

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tins chopped tomatoes

200g mushrooms, sliced (optional)

2 tablespoons tomato puree

2 fat cloves garlic, crushed

1 beef stock cube

dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon mixed herbs

salt and pepper

Fry Light

Approx 12 dried lasagne sheets - enough to cover your lasagne dish at least twice

For the topping:

200g quark

2 eggs, beaten

30g parmesan, finely grated (6 syns)

45g reduced fat mature cheddar, finely grated (6 syns)


  1. Heat a large saute pan and spray with Fry Light
  2. Add the mince, onion, mushrooms and garlic and stir-fry until the mince is browned
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, beef stock, worcester sauce, herbs, salt and pepper
  4. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C
  6. Make the topping: mix the eggs, quark and parmesan together in a bowl with some salt and pepper
  7. Assemble the lasagne: place alternate layers of the meat sauce and lasagne sheets in an ovenproof dish
  8. Spread the quark topping over the top of the dish and sprinkle with the cheddar
  9. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until the top is golden
Low Syn Life

Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Syrup

I don't normally have a sweet tooth but lately I've found myself craving a sweet treat now and again. I made these for brunch  this morning and they felt and tasted like they should be much higher in syns!

Although they are titled 'pancakes' they don't contain any kind of flour - they are mainly egg-based but they do give you some of the sensation and satisfaction of the waistline-busting version! The secret to keeping this low syn is the sugar-free maple syrup - see below for details.

Approx 2 syns on all plans


1 egg, separated

1-2 teaspoons Splenda

a few drops vanilla extract

25g blueberries (approx 1 syn when cooked)

2 tablespoons Joseph's Sugar Free Maple Syrup (1 syn) (see below)

Fry Light


  1. Whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks
  2. Mix the egg yolk, Splenda, vanilla extract and blueberries together in a separate bowl
  3. Using a metal spoon, gently stir a tablespoon of the whipped egg white into the yolk mixture, then add the rest of the egg white and fold gently, preserving as much of the air as you can
  4. Put a frying pan onto a medium heat and spray with Fry Light
  5. Put spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and flatten slightly - you should get 4 or 5 pancakes from the mixture
  6. Cook gently until the underside is lightly browned and then take great care to turn the pancakes - they are very delicate and so like me you may end up with one or two damaged ones, but they all taste the same!
  7. Continue cooking until the second side is golden and the centres of the pancakes are lightly cooked
  8. Serve with the maple syrup

Josephs Sugar Free Maple SyrupJosephs Sugar Free Maple Syrup

This is the product that made this recipe possible - this sugar free syrup is just 9 calories per tablespoon. It's made by a US company but I found it for sale here in the UK at Low Carb Megastore for £2.85 per bottle.

Surprisingly, it doesn't taste at all artificial and it's made from 100% natural ingredients. I will definitely be keeping some of this in my cupboard!

Low Syn Life

The Hairy Bikers - (Not So?) Skinny Beef Lasagne

I love watching Nigella, Jamie and co on the TV but it's normally just 'food porn' for me - all those olive oil, butter, sugar, bread and cheese-filled recipes don't quite fit with my eating plan! Some can be adapted easily (thanks, Fry Light and fat free fromage frais) but I'm mostly left wondering how they can eat that stuff and still look the way they do.

So I was really excited when I heard about the Hairy Bikers' latest project - 'The Hairy Dieters - How to Love Food and Lose Weight' - finally, a food programme for people like me! I tuned into the first episode with great anticipation, pen and paper at the ready.

I was a little disappointed that, an hour later, they had only cooked three recipes, two of which were 'pre-diet blow-out' dishes! The back stories were interesting but there was far too much of them - where was the food!

Finally, we had a recipe for their version of a slim lasagne where they used strips of blanched leek in place of the pasta. They had a nice idea for a white sauce by infusing milk with onion, nutmeg and bay and then thickening it with just cornflour and they concentrated the 'cheesiness' by using extra mature cheddar and parmesan only on the top. Unfortunately, it seems that the main reason this recipe is so low in calories is down to the portion size - 500g of mince for 6 people! Still, it looked tasty and so I set about synning up the recipe:

  • Leeks, onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, garlic, beef stock, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, oregano, bay, nutmeg, tomatoes, seasoning - all syn free
  • 500g lean minced beef - 10 syns (only extra-lean mince is syn free)
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour - 7 syns
  • 150ml red wine - approx 5 syns
  • 500ml semi-skimmed milk - 12.5 syns
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour - 10.5 syns
  • 50g extra mature cheddar - 10 syns
  • 25g parmesan - 5 syns

Oh dear Si & Dave, that works out at 60 syns for the recipe, or 10 syns per small portion. I'd much rather have it the Slimming World way which allows you to keep the pasta and is much more generous in terms of portion size and appetite satisfaction. (Now that I've said this I guess I'll have to post a recipe - watch this space!)

I commend you both on your weight losses, and anything that helps people to see that losing weight and eating healthy food doesn't mean deprivation is always a good thing, but I don't think I'll be rushing to buy the book, sorry guys!

Low Syn Life

My Favourite Low Syn Microwave Meals

There's no doubt that cooking your own food most of the time is tastier, cheaper, healthier and generally lower in syns that buying ready meals, but there are times when you need something quick but don't have time to cook. Rather than grabbing a high-syn sandwich or takeaway, there are plenty of low syn options that take just a few minutes in the microwave. I've tried many of these, and here are my favourites. I think these meals taste great and are worth trading off a few syns for the time saved. The syn values given are for the Green and Extra Easy plans - they are considerably higher (and probably not worth it) on the Original plan.

Innocent Veg Pots

These are tasty vegetarian meals in plastic microwaveable pots, available in many supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsburys. They are generally around £3.50 per pot, but there are frequently offers such as 2 for 1 or 2 for £6. Although at first glance it looks like they should all be low in syns, beware, some of them are surprisingly high. The Portugese Red Pepper Piri Piri is my favourite out of the whole range, unfortunately it's not the lowest in syns but definitely worth it!

2½ syns per pot

2 syns per pot


5½ syns per pot


Stewed! make a range of home-cooked style meaty and veggie stews. They are available in Sainsbury's and online from Ocado and cost around £3.50 per pot. By far the best value syn-wise is the Chickpea, Sweet Potato & Feta Stew , "chickpeas cooked with hearty veggies, smoked paprika and saffron along with some crumbly feta cheese and sweet potato", which is amazingly good value as it's only 1 syn for a whole pot! For a quick meal I'll have this with some couscous - a whole plate of tasty stew and couscous in around 5 minutes for only 1 syn - what more could you ask for!


Sainsbury's Love Veg

Sainsbury's have recently launched 'Love Veg', a range of vegetarian chilled microwave meals. They are priced at £3 each, or at the moment you can buy 2 for £5. I've tried them all and the two below are the best in terms of taste and syns (the syn values are from the syns calculator as they're not currently listed in Syns Online). I like the large pieces of chunky veg you get in these - you really feel like you've had a 'proper' meal.

Butternut Squash & Moroccan Style Cous Cous

3½ syns per pack

Roasted Red Pepper & Sweet Potato Piri Piri

3½ syns per pack


Low Syn Life

Chick pea cake

I'm posting this recipe following a Twitter request, I'll post a photo next time I make it.

This makes a fairly spongy cake and isn't too bad at satisfying any cake or sweet cravings you might have. It works best with some flavouring added e.g. vanilla, almond, coffee essence, or you could mix in a couple of Options sachets (2 syns each) to make a chocolate cake instead.

Although chick peas are a free food on Green and Extra Easy, they're unfortunately not free when used in this way.

Approx 1.5 syns per slice (makes 8 slices) on all plans


1 tin chick peas, drained (5.5 syns per 100g, so approximately 13 syns)

28g Splenda

3 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon baking powder (1/2 syn)



  1. Heat the oven to 180C
  2. Puree the chick peas in a blender and add the egg yolks, Splenda and baking powder
  3. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then mix with the chick peas
  4. Tip into an ovenproof tin and bake for approximately 20 minutes until cooked and light golden

Note - you can also place the mixture in a microwaveable dish and microwave on high for approximately 5 minutes.

Low Syn Life

Mini Crustless Quiches

These mini quiches are easy to make and are great to keep in the fridge for snacking or to take to work with some salad in a packed lunch. You can make them syn-free although I like to add a little cheese on top.

Makes 12

1/2 syn per quiche on Extra Easy or Original (or make them syn-free by omitting the cheese)


6 eggs

100g quark (or fat free natural cottage cheese)

Fillings of your choice e.g. ham, bacon, mushrooms, red pepper, spring onion, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, caramelised red onions, etc.

28g parmesan or strong cheddar (6 syns or HEA) (optional)

Fry Light

Salt and pepper


  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC and spray a 12-hole muffin tin with Fry Light
  2. Beat the eggs with the quark and salt and pepper
  3. Prepare your fillings by chopping into fairly small pieces (so they cook in the time allowed)
  4. Distribute the fillings between the muffin tin compartments and pour over the egg mixture
  5. If you are using the cheese, sprinkle some on top of each quiche
  6. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the mixture is cooked and light golden brown
Low Syn Life

Shirataki 10-calorie Noodles

These are my latest discovery and a new part of my weight-loss armoury - Shirataki noodles which are just 10 calories for a whole packet! They are made from the root of the konnyaku or elephant yam plant and contain basically water and glucomannan, a water-soluble fibre.

They are very similar to rice noodles but with a slighty more gelatinous texture. They have no flavour of their own so you do need to serve them with a sauce or broth of some kind. I made Singapore Vermicelli with them which was filling and delicious.

They come packaged in water which you need to drain off and rinse, then simply place them in hot water for a minute or two (or add to a hot pan) and they're ready to serve.

The best thing is that these make having noodles on a Red day a viable option as it's only half a syn for the whole packet (a very generous serving for one, or would easily serve two with added meat and veggies).

They are available online in health and low-carb stores - I bought mine from Low Carb Megastore for £1.65 per packet + postage.

Low Syn Life

Spiced Tea Loaf

I'm not one for cakes and sweet treats (give me crisps any time!) but after sampling some Scan Bran cakes in class today I was inspired to do something with the packet of Scan Bran that's been languishing in my cupboard for the last few months. I tend to use my single Healthy Extra B choice at breakfast on either bread or Alpen Light bars, but you get such a paltry amount you always need something to go alongside it - using your B choice for Scan Bran and making it into a cake like this is really good value (even with a couple of extra syns on top)!

The whole cake is 9 syns on all plans, or you can have it as a Healthy Extra B choice plus 4 syns (5 Scan Bran = HEB). Alternatively it would slice nicely into 9 pieces to make 1 syn per portion. A single slice would probably fill you up more than an Alpen Light bar!


5 Scan Bran

a large mugful of strong tea (I use 2 tea bags to make it)

28g dried mixed fruit (4 syns)

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon baking powder (0.25 syns - I don't bother to count it's so small)

5 tablespoons sweetener

2 tablespoons mixed spice


  1. Soak the Scan Bran and dried fruit in the tea until soft and mush it up
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix
  3. Pour into a microwaveable container (I use a silicone loaf tin) and microwave on high for 6-7 minutes
Low Syn Life

Hot and Sour Asian Beef Salad

This is what I make for myself when there is nobody else I have to cook for - the flavours are really amazing. The recipe here will serve two as a light dish, but I tend to eat the whole lot!

Serves 2

0.5 syns per serving on Original and Extra Easy


250g sirloin steak

salad leaves

2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)

2 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar (palm sugar if you want to be authentic, otherwise demerara, golden or just granulated)

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped (use a green one or just half a chilli if you want a milder flavour)

1 tablespoon each mint and coriander, chopped


  1. Cook the steak to your liking (ideally rare)
  2. When cooked, wrap in foil and leave to one side
  3. Cover a plate with salad leaves
  4. Make the dressing: mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chilli and spring onions together
  5. Open the foil and tip any juices into the dressing
  6. Slice the beef thinly and place on top of the salad leaves
  7. Spoon over the dressing and sprinkle over the chopped mint and coriander
Low Syn Life

Red Days Experiment

My last few weeks of weight losses compared to my usual have been a bit disappointing and so I thought it was time to shake things up a bit. So far I've followed the Extra Easy (EE) plan nearly all the time, with the very occasional Green day if I want more cheese so this week I decided to do something I haven't done before and did a whole week of the Original plan (known commonly as Red days).

I knew immediately that something was different as for some reason I have been up in the night every night this week bursting to go to the loo! I take it that was a good thing as the scales show that I've lost 3.5lbs this week!

Some good things that I think helped contribute to this:

  • I think you are forced to have more superfree (most fruit and veg is superfree) on red days - it's too easy on EE to fill up on your meat and carbs and not have enough superfree (think about your plate of spaghetti bolognese - do you really eat 1/3 of your plate in salad to go with it?)
  • I typically used my B choices at breakfast and lunch, so my evening meals were heaped with superfree like salads and roast veggies
  • Switching plans makes you go back to your books to check everything
  • You eat different things to usual - it gets you out of a rut of having the same things every week. I enjoyed trying new things.
  • You also have 2 A and B choices so can easily try different recipes that use cheese, which is always hard on EE if you use your A choice for milk.

I still love Extra Easy and will probably still follow it most of the time as it fits in so well with my day to day life, but any time I feel like I need a weight loss boost I know what I'm going to do!


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