Who doesn’t love a juicy cheeseburger, or a stack of American-style pancakes oozing with syrup?
But those takeaway foods — tacos, pizza, noodles and so on — have been demonised by the fitness industry, with experts blaming them for the nation’s obesity epidemic.
However, in a revolutionary new book, one of Britain’s most popular and glamorous fitness trainers is turning that idea on its head. Courtney Black — known as the Home Workout Queen for keeping so many fit with her high-intensity workouts during lockdown — says you can treat yourself; that all of the above foods can even be (whisper it) good for you, and depriving yourself of the things you enjoy is the fastest route to fitness failure.
Courtney may be only 5 ft 3 in, but her influence shot up with the launch of her app on March 11, 2020 (timing!), with the mantra ‘What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you’. Her belief is that once you drill into takeaway recipes, you find well-balanced meals — it’s often the way they’re cooked and the quality of the ingredients that makes them unhealthy. So she’s set about proving that by recreating classic takeaways in her kitchen, she can make them better for us, with fewer calories and none of the ultra-processed junk.
Courtney Black (pictured), who is one of Britain’s most popular fitness trainers shared advice for creating favourite dishes at home with fewer calories and none of the ultra-processed junk
Courtney’s ‘fakeaways’, as she calls them, are impressive. Her Five Girls Burger, for example, has 495 calories (28.6 g of carbs) compared to the 968 calories (40 g of carbs) of a regular double cheeseburger, and more protein — 63.5 g compared to 52 g.
Here, Courtney shares her favourite recipes and explains why you can have your (fake) cake and eat it . . .
FIRST, BANISH ALL THOSE UNHELPFUL ‘BAD FOOD’ MYTHS
Not long ago, food was my sworn enemy. As a teen with an ambition to become a professional dancer, I grew up obsessed with dieting and comparing myself to others. Even when I gave up my dance ambitions to work at an accountancy firm in London, my body image was still distorted.
It was only when I started studying nutrition and fitness training that I fully recognised food is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ and that you don’t need to restrict your diet to live a happy life.
The fact is our bodies can’t function without energy. Whether it’s walking to the shops, working out, writing a presentation or breathing, everything takes up energy, which is why it’s so important we eat enough food to power ourselves.
Faddish diets aren’t just bad for your social life, they’re bad for sleep and mood, too. Under or over-eating can affect how we sleep. It’s a vicious circle. If we sleep poorly, our body is low on energy, so we replace it with calories, which is why we overeat more often when we’re tired.
The word ‘hangry’ (irritable as a result of hunger) comes from a place of truth — we can’t focus or perform well when we don’t eat enough. We aren’t allowing ourselves to be the happiest we can be. I suffered with this for years, being rude to and distant from so many people, but it was down to under-eating.
Here are some other myths that it’s high time we dispelled . . .
Courtney (pictured) said eating after a certain time means you are more likely to gain weight is one of the biggest diet myths
MYTH ONE: EATING LATE AT NIGHT WILL PILE ON THE POUNDS
One of the biggest diet myths is that eating after a certain time means you are more likely to gain weight. A 490-calorie meal at 5pm is still the same 490-calorie meal at 8pm, 9pm or even later. What makes you gain weight is if you’ve eaten 2,000 calories and then add another 490 at 9pm, when you’ve burned 2,000 calories already and are unlikely to burn more before bed.
But having a fakeaway late is fine! We need to ditch the idea we can’t eat after a certain time as it feeds into an obsessive anxiety that stops many women from enjoying food.
FAKEAWAY BURGER VS TAKEAWAY BURGER: THE STATS
Fakeaway Five Girls Burger:
Takeaway Double CheeseBurger:
MYTH TWO: ONE UNHEALTHY MEAL RUINS YOUR GOALS
This is a big one for many of my followers — and once you stop telling yourself this, it will change your mindset. Achieving weight goals isn’t about avoiding high-calorie foods for every meal or snack. If we allow ourselves to enjoy a takeaway burger or a brownie, that doesn’t mean we have ‘failed’ that day.
Yes, we might have consumed more calories than we wanted to in one sitting, but it’s just one meal. Instead of saying, ‘I’ve eaten one unhealthy thing, so I may as well consume all the other unhealthy things in the house because I’ve ruined my eating plans for the day,’ take a second to remind yourself one doesn’t follow the other. Balance your healthy choices with your unhealthy ones and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success.
MYTH THREE: FASTING MAKES YOU LOSE WEIGHT QUICKER
Lots of people talk about not eating before 12pm or going on extreme low-calorie diets to ‘fast track’ weight loss.
There’s nothing wrong with fasting, if done responsibly, and there’s nothing wrong with eating at certain times — but neither makes you lose weight faster. It’s about how many calories you’ve consumed versus how many you’ve burned.
And that’s the same whether you have skipped breakfast or not.
MYTH FOUR: CUTTING CALORIES TO THE BONE IS BEST
You don’t need to cut your calorie intake to a crazy low to lose weight. It’s unhealthy and unlikely you will keep up any exercise routine on such a small amount of food. Neither will you lose weight quicker by eating meal replacement bars.
There are no quick fixes and you’re more likely to pile it back on when you go back to normal. Moderation — and enjoyment — are key, not self-sacrifice or punishment.
SPICY DRUNKEN NOODLES
Pictured: Spicy Drunken Noodles
- 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 100g dried egg noodles
- 1 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into wide matchsticks
- 1 red chilli, finely sliced
- 250g chicken breast mini fillets
- 50g beansprouts
- 200g pak choi, root removed and leaves sliced
- 3 spring onions, finely sliced
- ½ bunch fresh coriander leaves, torn
1. For the sauce, place the ketchup, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and 1 tbsp water in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
2. Cook the noodles in a pan of boiling water according to the packet instructions, then drain and set aside.
3. Pour the oil into a large, non-stick frying pan (or wok) over a high heat and add the onion, red pepper, carrot and red chilli. Stir-fry for 3 minutes until softened.
4. Add the chicken and stir-fry for a further 2–3 minutes until the chicken is almost cooked. Add the beansprouts, pak choi and noodles to the pan and stir‑fry for 2 minutes.
5. Pour over the sauce and turn the heat down slightly. This will stop the ingredients frying and allow the sauce to coat everything. Stir well.
6. Serve with the spring onions and fresh coriander leaves sprinkled over the top.
COURTNEY’S FAMOUSLY FLUFFY PROTEIN PANCAKES
Pictured: Courtney’s Famously Fluffy Protein Pancakes served with honey
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1 banana
- 1 free-range egg
- 20g oats
- ½ tbsp baking powder
- Dash of milk (almond or oat)
- Low-calorie cooking spray
- 50g blueberries
- 1 tsp honey
1. Blend all the ingredients (except the cooking spray and serving ingredients) in a food processor. The mixture should be quite thick and not runny.
2. Heat your pan over a medium heat so the pancakes cook slower and don’t burn.
3. Spray your pan with the cooking spray.
4. Add a spoonful or ladleful of mixture to the pan. The mix should make around six pancakes, so pour slowly and keep an eye on how big they need to be.
5. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Serve with the blueberries and honey.
Pictured: Five Girls Burger
FIVE GIRLS BURGER
- 400g extra-lean beef mince
- 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Low -calorie cooking spray
- 2 reduced-fat bacon medallions
- 2 sesame-seed burger buns, sliced
- 2 reduced-fat cheese slices
- Sauce of your choice
- 1 Little Gem lettuce
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
The famous fast-food-joint burger is delicious, but if you want to make a much healthier version at home, here it is.
1. Place the beef mince, garlic powder, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in a mixing bowl, along with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper and mix together with your hands.
2. Divide the mixture into four equal portions and form into balls. Place each ball between two pieces of non-stick baking paper and, using the palm of your hand, press down and squash into thin patties, roughly the size of your burger buns.
3. Preheat the grill to high.
4. Lightly oil a frying pan with low-calorie cooking spray and fry the bacon medallions until crispy. Remove and set aside.
5. Add the burger patties to the frying pan and cook over a high heat. Leave for 2–3 minutes before flipping.
6. In a second frying pan, gently toast the sliced buns until golden.
7. Once your burgers are cooked, place two of the patties on a baking tray (these will be your top patties) and lay a piece of bacon and a slice of cheese on each. Grill for a minute or so until the cheese is melting.
8. Add the sauce of your choice to the base of the buns, top with a plain patty and then the bacon and cheeseburgers, along with some lettuce leaves.
ADAPTED by Alison Roberts from Fit Foods And Fakeaways: 100 Healthy And Delicious Recipes, by Courtney Black (£14.99, Harper Thorsons), out September 16. © Courtney Black 2021. To order a copy for £13.49 (offer valid to September 6, 2021. UK P&P free on orders over £20), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193.