Monday, January 19, 2009

Core Dinners

A couple of people have asked me what the heck I eat for dinner on the Core plan. Remember, the Weight Watchers Core plan allows you to eat mostly unlimited amounts of pretty limited foods: whole grains (think brown rice & Shredded Wheat), fresh or frozen (un-added-to) fruits and vegetables, lean protein (lean cuts of beef and pork, chicken, turkey, seafood), and fat-free unsweetened dairy (plain yogurt & skim milk.) Those are the basics. Anything you eat in addition to Core foods must be counted in WW Points and you get 35 points a week (which doesn't go far if you want to have goodies!) WW has just come out with a new program, Momentum, which sounds like a combination of Flex Points and Core, but I don't care - since I wasn't going to the meetings anyway I'm just sticking to what I know.

So the above can make you stop and wonder what to make for dinner night after night, especially if you tend, like me, to use cheese in a lot of dishes, and carbs like bread and pasta to round out the meal. In fact, bread and pasta is my kids' dream meal, so there has been a lot of crying at the table and going to bed hungry since I started serving Core dinners. Sometimes I feel sorry for them and make a separate pot of mac n' cheese.

I've got a couple of go-to dinners we eat frequently, but I love to try new recipes at least a few times a week. So I usually browse the Cooking Light recipe database for dishes that are mostly Core, or my Weight Watchers cookbooks. Even my regular cookbooks have hidden gems - a lot of dishes are Core or mostly Core without even trying. While preparing to write this post I also found several online forums where people shared Core recipes. For example:

Weight Watchin' Wiki
Health Discovery Core Recipes
Links to Core Recipes
Beth's Core Recipe Box

Lots to choose from! Usually dinner here consists of a main and two sides. My most basic formula is:

Meat + Vegetable + Fruit

I'll get to actual recipes in a future post, but here are the things I make regularly, that don't require a recipe.

  • Roasted whole chicken with rosemary stems and smashed garlic cloves under the skin; lots of salt & pepper or grill seasoning all over; lemon and/or onion in cavity
  • Roasted or broiled fish fillets like salmon, talapia, trout, etc. drizzled with olive oil and some yummy seasoning blend and lemons to squeeze
  • Grilled (or grill panned) sirloin steak
  • Ham steaks (yummy with fresh pineapple, raw or grilled)
  • Veggie burgers with no bun or just half bun (count the bun Points)
  • Hamburgers (93% lean ground beef or ground turkey, egg, worcestershire, seasonings; count Points for breadcrumbs and/or Parmesan cheese) with no bun or just half bun
  • Pork roast or chops rubbed all over with garlic and rosemary


  • Steamed fresh or frozen vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, corn, peas, carrots, etc.
  • Roasted vegetables (cut into same-sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, any seasonings, maybe a little balsalmic vinegar; roast at about 400 until tender, varies by veggie) - yukon gold or baby potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, peppers, onion, fennel, or any combination
  • Baked potatoes (Core rule: you can have brown rice OR potato OR whole wheat pasta one time a day so plan ahead)
  • Green raw salad - lettuce, cucumber, peppers, carrots, etc. with no or fat-free dressing (I like salad seasonings from Penzey's)
  • Spinach salad - spinach, hard-boiled egg, red onion, crumbled bacon (count Points)
  • Other salads (recipes to come): Roasted red pepper & arugula salad, Grilled potato salad (so good!), Edamame salad, Warm black bean and corn salad


  • Any fresh fruit or combination to make fruit salad: apple slices, clementines/oranges, berries, bananas, peaches, pineapple, grapes, kiwi, etc. (you can also add 1/2 pouch of sugar-free pudding powder, like lemon or vanilla flavor to a fruit salad; it mixes with the fruit juices and makes a thick sauce for a slightly fancier salad)
  • Sugar-free Jello, with or without added fruit (there's usually less crying on Jello nights)
  • Unsweetened applesauce (good with pork roast/chops)
Other sides, depending on the dinner and the day (must follow the rule of only one per day):
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat noodles/pasta
  • Whole wheat couscous

Sample Week of Dinners:

Whole wheat spaghetti, jarred or homemade marinara with extra veggies added (mushrooms, peppers, onions), frozen corn, roasted broccoli

Grilled steak, roasted potatoes, green salad

Roasted chicken, roasted pepper & arugula salad (recipe in future post - I promise!), SF Jello salad (SF raspberry Jello with fresh or frozen blueberries & sliced bananas added when partially set)

Chicken & vegetable stir-fry (using leftover chicken from yesterday), brown rice, orange slices

Broiled salmon, whole wheat couscous with shredded zucchini & carrots, sliced strawberries "sugared" with Splenda

Chili (Bush's Chili Magic chili starter plus canned diced tomatoes, cooked lean ground beef or turkey, and lots of chopped bell peppers and onions), baked potatoes, fat-free sour cream, cucumber/tomato/red onion salad

Fried ham steaks, fresh pineapple, brown rice with chives/salt/pepper

A few other ideas:
  • Taco salad - Grill or pan cook chicken breasts marinated in southwest seasoning; serve with lettuce, tomatoes, corn, black beans, red onion, olives, scallions, salsa, fat-free sour cream
  • Chili verde (one of my very favorites) over brown rice
  • Vegetable frittata - Saute zucchini, onions, broccoli or whatever you like until tender. I like to use leftover roasted potatoes (olive oil, grill seasoning), chopped small, and leftover ham or chicken if I've got it. Whisk 3 or 4 eggs with some seasonings and pour over vegetables. Cook on medium heat, covered, until set, or bake at 350 degrees until set (about 5 to 15 minutes.)

So yeah, there's no lasagna, cheesey garlic bread, or cornbread with honey butter, but it's do-able. That's what I keep telling myself week after week. But I get easily bored, so I use at least some of my 35 weekly Points for an ingredient here or there that isn't Core. I've got a couple great recipes, and I'm always trying more, so stay tuned.


cherry said...

So helpful Kari...posting this alone is a lot of work already...thanks for taking the time to do this...i will send your blog link to my friend who wants to start staying fit and healthy.

-Sydney- said...

How do beans/lentils figure into points? I have a lot of great recipes I learned while living over in the UAE (If you like Indian and Middle Eastern food).

Disco Mom said...

Dried beans/lentils are totally Core and so are canned as long as nothing extra is added (like no refried beans or pork & beans or anything.) But I have a couple of favorite Core recipes made with black or white beans and/or lentils. -Syd- please share your recipes!!! I love beans and love Indian food for sure. I had a little Lebanese and Middle Eastern in Brooklyn, too - yum.

Brooklyn said...

I'm anxous to see recipes and try them! Thanks!

Nells-Bells said...

i'm so glad you posted this because i too have been wondering what the core plan is all about. this is great! i have been trying to lose weight and this will definitely help. something that doesn't help? your king of cookies recipe. sheesh! made those today with the kids. i told myself i wouldn't eat any. i guess i don't have to tell you how long that lasted. ;)

kat said...

man, i'm just impressed that you make real dinner every night. i keep planning on actually planning out dinner. ;) but what would a week without pancakes for dinner be like?

-Sydney- said...

Recipes on the way to your inbox. Let me know how you like them and feel free to share with anyone interested. I also have a ton more (though a lot of it is improv) once you get through those so just let me know.

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