Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Dec 27, 2007 10:50 AM

Cookbooks & recipes for those on Weight Watchers Core Plan?

My apologies if this has been asked before, but with the New Year and all of the resolutions that accompany nearly upon us, any recommendations out there for pursuing deliciousness and avoiding boredom while following weight watchers CORE plan? The essence of the core plan, for those who aren't familiar with it, is that you can eat as much of the following foods as you wish (as long as you don't stuff yourself), while following some basic "good health guidelines", (which require you have a certain minimum daily intake of water, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and 2 tsp of "healthy oils" --olive, canola, flaxseed oil. Also, a multi-vitamin)

Here's the list of "allowed" foods:
~lean meats, fish, poultry
~nonfat dairy products, eggs
~whole grains (not whole grain products, just the whole grains themselves)
~sweet potatoes, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice
~beans and legumes, tofu
~more or less all fresh, frozen, or canned fruits or vegetables as long as they aren't in syrup(but not juices or dried fruits/veggies)
~coffee, tea
~most condiments (I've interpreted "most" as "all") and all herbs and spices, of course

"Limited" foods are:
~"healthy fats" 2 tsp required per day
~potatoes OR brown rice OR whole wheat pasta limited to one meal per day

Also, you get 35 extra "points" per week (more if you exercise) to spend on "non-core" foods at your discretion, if you want an occasional pat of butter, or a glass of wine or bump up your dairy from "non-fat" to "low-fat", etc.

Any ideas for cookbooks or recipes out there? The more specific, the better.

EDIT: Oh, and I just ordered Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking as I had the impression she includes lots of recipes for cooking with whole grains. I seem to really struggle with the grains part of this core plan--my knowledge seems to be pretty limited when it comes to quinoa and bulgar and such...

Artificial sweeters and the like are also permitted, but, I personally try to avoid those and other processed-food type products. I'd rather use my discretionary points to add a little "real" sugar or honey, etc., than go processed if at all possible.

Thanks in advance.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This sounds a bit like the South Beach Diet, you could try those books, which aren't too bad.

    I highly recommend any of the Mayo Clinic Cookbooks, which have some fantastic recipes that include many (or most) of the ingredients you've listed. Also, you could try some vegetarian cookbooks as well - there are so many good ones these days, but anything by Deborah Madison will be a good start.

    10 Replies
    1. re: jazzy77

      Oh, I have a couple of those Mayo Clinic cookbooks and, you're right, those would probably have lots of great "core friendly" recipes. I'll have to dust those off.

      Any specific recommendations for South Beach Diet cookbooks? (I always thought you could eat fatty meats, like bacon, on SB. Am I confusing it with Atkins? Maybe I should have a look at those cookbooks.)

      I'll put VCFE on my "to buy" list. Really, I've been meaning to get it for awhile now but it's never in my bookstore. May have to order it, I guess.

      Thank you!


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        I actually have tried both Atkins and South Beach, and the South Beach diet is the closest to WW. When I tried the SB, I used their cookbook to get started (it's the metallic blue book). To be honest, I'm not sure that I'd buy the book myself (someone gave it to me after a week of extolling the virtue of the SB diet), but the recipes were good (and some of the ricotta desserts were suprisingly good...for being on a rather restrictive diet plan).

        One book I highly recommend is Diana Shaw's The Essential Vegetarian. I bought this book to help me lose weight while I was still learning to cook in college and it's been one of my favorites ever since.

        I also use Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday a lot. It's much easier when you've got a good Latin grocer to get your ingredients from, but his recipes use a lot of lean protein and are extremely flavorful.

        One more recommendation- Cooking Thin With Chef Kathleen: 200 Easy Recipes for Healthy Weight Loss. She used to have a FN show that was really good, but (of course) it was cancelled a few years back. I have a friend that only keeps three cookbooks in her kitchen at any time, and has sucessfully done the Weight Watchers diet with this book lovingly by her side. In fact, the last time I visited her, she still had the book and told me (again) how much she loved it. I've tried the recipes from the FN show, and some of them are still staples in my house.

        1. re: jazzy77

          Thank you, again, for your wonderful recommendations. I have a bias, I guess (right or wrong), against "Diet" cookbooks. I mean, yeah, I'm trying to lose weight, but really I'd like to think I'm really just trying to eat and be more healthy. As part of this process, I really want to expand my repertoire of flavorful, healthy meals that I can draw upon later, once I've taken the weight off, so that I'm building skills for the long run, so the Shaw, Bayless and Chef Kathleen books seem very appealing to me.

          Any thoughts about Cooking Light magazine's recipes? I've been contemplating their 2008 Best Recipes Cookbook.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Yeah, I know what you mean, I don't like the idea of "dieting" either - I prefer to just get myself into the mode where I'm eating healthy without feeling deprived - which is why I tend to lean more towards the vegetarian cookbooks over the " diet plan" cookbooks. They are more geared towards a lifestlye of healthy eating, rather than a short-term goal, plus they tend to use foods that have been minimally processed and use very little in the way of preservatives, which my husband and I prefer.

            I have mixed reactions about Cooking Light sometimes.... I don't think their recipes are exceedlingly calorie-conscious, and I don't like to eat all the low-fat, no-fat dairy and cheese product that they include in their recipes. I have had some really good recipes from them too....

            Besides, isn't a year of Cooking Light less expensive than the entire recipe volume? If so, it might be better to have a little "diet reminder" delivered to your mailbox every month, rather than have a cookbook sitting on your shelf...and you get free access to their website all year, which has a lot (most?) of their past recipes on it.

            This has been such a nice little topic, since starting grad school, I've not been able to eat as healthy as before, and it is going to be our New Year's Resolution to eat healthier and lose some of this creeping poundage my husband and I have put on. Thinking about all these great cookbooks is making me more excited about our forthcoming change in eating habits!

            1. re: jazzy77

              cooking light is actually not expensive at all and they were offering a holiday special of a give a gift, get a subscription for free so if you can think of anyone else who'd like it, there's something in it for you for less than $20.
              eating well (magazine) too.
              not perfect but usually a few good recipes each month and i'd agree - it's nice to get the reminder/motivation/inspiration periodically in the mail!

              oh and it's atkins on which you eat lots of meat. gross. south beach is actually pretty healthy. good luck.

            2. re: The Dairy Queen

              It's funny that you ask this, my weight watchers ultimate flex and core cookbook is open right now as i contemplate making corn chowder over the weeknd. I actually highly recommend this book. I haven't been doing ww for almost a year, but i still like to cook from this book and have cooked plenty of stuff for other people from it as well. (as a word of encouragement if you 're doing ww, I lost 20 pounds last year and have kept it off for a year!) some stuff I've modified in the recipe: I dont' use sweeteners, I share your attitude towards sugar, and I use dairy with some fat now that I've reached goal.

              1. re: polyhymnia

                Congrats on achieving your goal. I'll have to look for that cookbook!

                Here's another "core" recipe--for meatloaf:

                OATMEAL MEATLOAF

                1 lb lean hamburger
                1 egg
                1/4 cup catsup
                1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
                2 tbsp finely chopped onion
                2/3 cup oatmeal
                1/2 cup stock or water
                Salt and pepper
                Poultry seasoning

                Combine egg, catsup, Worcestershire sauce, onion, S&P, and poultry seasoning. Add stock or water. Mix in hamburger and oatmeal. Bake in a well-greased loaf pan 1 hour at 350 degrees.

                (this also reminds me that next time I try those turkey meatballs, I might add some oatmeal...)


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I made turkey meatballs along the lines of the ones above the other night, and they were great! Much more flavorful than I find ground turkey to usually be: I added tomato paste, chopped onion and garlic, and chopped arugula (spinach would also be good here, I had arugula on hand), salt and pepper, and (listening to one of the other comments in this thread) a handful of pine nuts, but those could easily be eliminated to make it all core. I made the meatballs small, and baked them in the oven until a little browned, and then stirred them into a quick tomato sauce. I scooped it all over browned polenta rounds (thanks for the tips!) and it was a really satisfying dinner, I might make up a big batch of the meatballs this weekend to keep in the freezer for quick meals.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Oohh...sounds great. I'll have to try your modifications. I ended up not making meatloaf last night (the ground beef we had was not lean enough, so we made chili instead so we could drain off the fat first), but I remembered to mention that I was going to put some shredded carrots in my meatloaf. I wonder if that would go well in the turkey meatballs, too...


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I bet they would, but I think that you might need to cook the carrots lightly first, because the meatballs didn't cook for very long (I made them little, so they cooked for only about 10 minutes in the oven and then a few more in the sauce), so I would think that the carrots wouldn't cook enough to lose their crunch. I think cooking them in simmering water for a few minutes first before adding them to the mixture might work.

      2. I've always liked Mollie Katzen. You might find "Vegetable Heaven" and "Sunlight Cafe" (fantastic healthy breakfast & beyond recipes).
        Also, "A New Way to Cook" by Sally Schneider is excellent.

        2 Replies
        1. re: poptart

          I love love love Mollie Katzen's books!

          1. re: poptart

            Moosewood Low Fat cookbook is the best ww cookbook I have....even better than the ww cookbooks. They give you the calories fat AND fibre so figuring out the points is a breeze. I love all of Mollies books but now use the LF one the most. The recepies make so much sense and don't use any chemy products as a lot of the ww books do.

          2. it's tough being a food-lover and dieter at the same time, but somehow i've managed to lose about 20 lbs without feeling like i'm missing out on too of the things that has been a god-send are house brand tofu shirataki noodles...i usually use the fettucine style and do a stir fry w/ chicken, broccoli, onions, garlic, soy sauce and sugar. the noodles are ridiculously low in calories - 40 calories per bag, comprised mostly of protein and fiber. also really like trader joe's olive oil spray...i'm also not a big fan of processed foods, but i have liked the recipes i've found on which are filled w/ processed foods, but they taste great and really help you feel like you're eating normal food...also, i believe she does the points exchange on every recipe.

            anyway, good luck on your weight loss, it's a difficult but rewarding journey. :o)

            2 Replies
            1. re: soypower

              Great suggestions, soypower, jazzy, poptart and AMFM--I will explore all of those recommendations.


              1. re: soypower

                This is so funny, I was just logging onto the Chowhound boards to ask about the House Tofu Shirataki noodles! What is the texture/taste like?

              2. OMG, this was just what I needed! I now work from home and get a lot less exercise. However, I still love to eat. After losing 25 pounds on Weight Watchers almost a decade ago, I have gained the weight back finally and am now about to launch myself on a diet. The new CORE plan sounds like what I"m already trying to do.

                Salads are my key now. Today it was baby spinach and romaine with a little parm and asiago, a sprinkling of dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and whole-grain croutons, topped with a really great low-fat balsamic vinaigrette. The dried cranberries are awesome - they really add a nice little kick to things.

                And apples. I'm eating apples. Drinking unsweetened iced tea with lots of lemon. Those cold-brew tea bags work great.

                I will definitely check out the suggested cookbooks.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Heatherb

                  Oh yay! someone else doing core.

                  Salads are a great choice. I like watermelon and arugula together with a little bit of of oil and vinegar.

                  Great time of year for apples--if you don't have an apple wedger, they're about $7 and can really help make an apple feel like a "snack" very quickly, say if you want to dip it in some lemon yogurt or something.

                  As far as cookbooks and other resources, based on the recommendations in this thread and elsewhere and consulting my own library, here's what I've got so far:

                  ~Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking (should arrive from Amazon day after tomorrow)--I'm hoping this will be heavy on "whole grains recipes" Here's her website

                  ~Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen--not so many "core" recipes, but good recipes for days you feel like you need a change of pace and don't mind using some of your points.

                  ~Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2002 (it was on sale at the half price book store) What I liked about it is that has these "cooking clinic" for how to make "light" recipes in various cuisines, Chinese, French, Italian, Mexican etc. that appealed to me. It also has this recipe for green tea chicken I really want to try. They seem to have opened up their recipe archive for everyone--not just subscribers, as in the past. Not all of their recipes are "core," but they are otherwise pretty "light" and it's pretty easy to figure out how to make most of them core.

                  ~Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone--by Deborah Madison

                  ~The Flexitarian table by Peter Berley--his "summer" recipes look phenomenal

                  ~Great Cooking every day--Weight Watchers+the CIA. This is an older book--more "points" focused, but real recipes, if you know what I mean. By that I mean they just seem like healthy recipes, not "diet" recipes, and they try to encourage/teach you some real cooking techniques.

                  ~Mediterranean Light by Martha Rose Shulman--another old, old one from my collection that I love that I've forgotten about.

                  ~The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook-another one I already had that I'd forgotten about.

                  ~The Mayo Clinic Williams Sonoma cookbook--another older one with real recipes.

                  ~Self Dishes--a special supplement Self puts out every June with only recipes. I bought this last summer and never used it. Going to try again. I assume most of the recipes are on Epicurious.

                  ~Cooking Light Slow Cooker recipes--it's still winter here in MN, so I crave those warm, crock pot type meals. Another cookbook in my collection I've never used.

                  ~And a number of very "vegetable" focused ones I bought when I was trying to cope with my CSA this past summer, including "Greens Glorious Greens," "Vegetable Love", "Farmer John's Cookbook--the real dirt on Vegetables" and "Serving up the harvest." I also have the SF Ferry Plaza cookbook, but, alas, most of those yummy recipes aren't that diet friendly.

                  I'll try to update this thread with my impressions of these cookbooks as I use them more.

                  Here are a couple of products I've found invaluable on core: Fage 0% yogurt; ready made polenta (you know, those little shrink-wrapped "logs"); Uncle Ben's Ready Whole Grain Rice (sounds gross, but it's only 90 seconds in the microwave for those days you're desperate); frozen peeled and deveined shrimp; hard boiled eggs; those "healthy valley" soup cups--black bean & split pea; 100% buckwheat soba noodles. Clementines are fantastic this time of year. Light popcorn (yeah, I know, but, again, some days you're desperate for a snack). Another way to satisfy the crunchy/salty craving: Takaokaya's "Teriyaki Nori Seasoned Seaweed"--I buy it in snack packs at my Asian grocery or a "jar" of 80 on Amazon. Another couple of things for your freezer--veggies for stir fry, edamame, and blueberries.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Wow! Thanks, that's a great list of cookbooks, esp. the Cooking Light Slow Cooker one. I am going to start looking for that one right away.
                    I've already got the Healthy Valley soups covered:-) And popcorn, oh yeah. I pop it in a brown paper bag in the microwave and spray it down with some olive oil-based faux butter, which is ok. I will look for the polenta and the buckwheat soba noodles - totally hadn't thought of those. If you're into yogurt, maybe check out Lifeways Kefir yogurt drink if you have it in your area. 174 calories a cup, but it has 3 grams of fiber - very filling. Comes in raspberry, peach and strawberry. Maybe I could dip the apples in that...

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Thanks for some great ideas...I also depend on the Fage yogurt and the nori seaweed...the seaweed seems to be really satisfying to me, and cut my cravings (which are usually for salty things, rather than sweets). The soba noodles are an excellent suggestion.
                      Your impressions on your cookbooks will be appreciated!!
                      2 cookbooks I got recently to help with keeping my weight down/lifestyle change:
                      1. A Spoonful of Ginger by Simonds
                      2. Healthy Slow cooker by Finlayson

                      So far I have made a Harira soup (Morrocan lentil and chickpea) from the Healthy Slow Cooker, which was fantastic.

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        What do you do with the polenta, TDQ?

                        1. re: JasmineG

                          It's a quick starch, especially when you've already used your whole wheat pasta/brown rice/potato allotment for the day.

                          My favorite way to use it is to slice it about 1/2 inch thick and fry it in the cast iron skillet or griddle (no oil, just with non-stick spray). You can heat it in the microwave, but I prefer the little crust it gets on the griddle. For breakfast, I would serve the fried slices with or under eggs.

                          You could serve it with beans instead of rice.

                          I might put pasta sauce over the sauteed slices instead of over pasta for lunch or dinner. I've read in cooking light that you can layer thin layers of polenta in a lasagne instead of noodles--I plan to try that one of these days.

                          According to the package you can make soft polenta by heating it in the microwave and adding a small amount of milk or stock and blend until it has a creamy, mashed-potato like texture. I've never tried it that way.

                          If you google on "polenta rounds" you'll get a zillion hits for many more-creative-than-mine ideas.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Oh, and I also saw this recipe on Heidi Swanson's site for baked polenta fries. Another one I mean to try soon... She has you make your "slab of polenta" from scratch (and I'm sure it's better from scratch), but I'll bet you could make a decent go of it with the premade polenta if you were crunched for time.

                            It's incredibly versatile, you can bake it, grill it, fry it... You can go Italian, Mexican or just vegetarian with it... You can serve it with anything that plays well with corn. Some people cut it with cookie cutters to make it pretty (you're pretty limited if you use the premade stuff...]. Still, it might be fun if you've got the right size cookie cutters.

                            Other ideas from Heidi's blog (I haven't gotten around to trying these):
                            ~Cut into cubes and pan-fry them in a little bit of oil until you've got a crunchy crouton - good for salads and soups.

                            ~Cut into rounds, layer in a casserole with pasta sauce and cheese, bake. [Not so core, so use cheese sparingly. Add some vegetables while you're at it


                            ~Cut into diamonds, bake or grill, and use as a crostini base.

                            ~polenta crackers. Polenta with fresh herbs, spread thin on a cookie sheet, and baked until crispy. [I forgot to mention--the premade polenta tubes you can buy at the grocery some in "flavors", plain, with herbs, with mushrooms, etc.]

                            ~ as a crust for pizza

                            ~fry or saute to get a bit of color, serve hot with syrup [watch that syrup]

                            ~as an appetizer -slice, fry or saute to brown the edges and served with a mushroom sauce over top.

                            ~slice, layer with a thin slice of spicy cheese [watch that cheese] in between and on top with half a grape tomato on top, bake again to melt the cheese and wilt the tomato

                            ~cut into cubes, fry, and serve in a greens, beets, and egg hash

                            ~slice, fry in a bit of olive oil until crispy. put slices on baking sheet, drizzle with lemon juice, and layer goat cheese [watch that cheese!], bell peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. Bake until the cheese is melted

                            You get the idea... :).


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              These are all great ideas, thanks! I love polenta, but on weeknights sometimes it's hard to make a pot of it, and I once bought one of those polenta tubes and never really knew what to do with it.

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I like to pan fry it using a bit of cooking spray, and dump a heated can of TJ's cuban black beans over it. It's a meal in 5 minutes.

                                also like to eat it where I would normally eat a corn tortilla...topped with taco style chicken, some guac and a few shreds of cheese.

                      2. Veganomicon! It's incredible, and has lots of tips on cutting out the extra fat in recipes too.