I came across the Cabbage Soup Diet a year ago after some girlfriends of mine decided to go on it to lose some weight for swimsuit season. At first, I thought it sounded awful. I’m not really big on cabbage soup in my everyday life. However, after my friends reported back to me, I had a change of heart. Several pounds lighter and feeling refreshed and detoxed, they still hold up very healthy eating habits as a result of the 7-day diet that they did many, many months ago.
The diet itself is a bit daunting upon reading the rules. Each day has only a limited set of foods that you can eat, and while those change every day, the namesake cabbage soup is allowed every day in as much quantity as desired. As a lover of cooking and having fun with limited ingredients, I couldn’t help but want to make a menu for these seven days so I could enjoy myself while essentially cutting myself off from the usual pleasures of eating whatever I want.
Photo courtesy of sassyradish via Flickr/cc
The Cabbage Soup Recipe
To start this off, I’ll share with you the recipe for the elusive Cabbage Soup. I did make some slight changes to it (very slight so I could keep it as authentic as possible), but for the most part, it is the same as the one from the original diet.
6 large leeks (the original recipe called for green onions but I prefer leeks)
2 green peppers
1 or 2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes
1 container of mushrooms
1 bunch of celery
half head of cabbage
1 package of spice only soup mix
2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (the original recipe called for bouillon cubes)
1 48 oz can of low-sodium V8 juice
Season to taste with pepper, parsley, curry, garlic powder, etc (little to NO salt)
Slice leeks, put in a pot on medium heat and start to sauté with cooking spray. Do this until the onions are white/clear in color (about 4-6 minutes).
Cut green pepper stem end off, then cut pepper in half to take out the seeds and membrane. Cut the green pepper into bite size pieces and add to pot.
Take the outer leafs layers off of the cabbage, cut into bite size pieces, add to pot.
Clean carrots, mushrooms and celery, cut into bite size pieces and toss them in. Add tomatoes now, too.
If you would like a spicy soup, add a small amount of curry or cayenne pepper.
For seasonings, you can use a spice soup packet of your choice (no noodles!).
Use about 12 cups of water (or 8 cups and the 48 oz of Low Sodium V8 juice), cover and put heat on low. Let soup simmer for a long time – about 2 hours or until vegetables are tender. (I also chose to blend the soup instead of keeping it really chunky).
Fruit, Fruit and More Fruit
Fruit, Fruit and More Fruit
Other than the cabbage soup, which can be consumed for all seven days in mass amounts, the Day 1 menu consists of fruit and fruit ONLY. Any and all fruits, except bananas, can be consumed on this day. Beverage choices are unsweetened tea, cranberry juice and water. Throughout the seven days, you should drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day.
This day was hard considering all I was allowed to eat was fruit and cabbage soup, but by the end of the day I was surprisingly full and not having any real cravings for anything. I started the day off with half a grapefruit, then had a giant bowl of grapes for lunch, which was incredibly filling. After work I went home and made myself a berry smoothie (recipe below), then had a big bowl of cabbage soup for dinner. I woke up feeling refreshed and energized, and was able to do a medium-intensity workout at the gym the next morning!
Very Berry Smoothie
¼ cup blueberries
5 strawberries, cut into halves
¼ cup raspberries
¼ cup blackberries
2 cups cranberry juice
Add all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth.
Next time: Day 2--Veggie-tastic
Day 2 of the Cabbage Soup Diet is similar to day 1 in that you can only partake in one food group, and that one food group only. Instead of fruits however, day 2 is strictly vegetables. Any vegetables you want, but only vegetables and cabbage soup. It’s important to drink a lot of water on this day as well. However, with day 2 comes an added bonus; for dinner, a nice baked potato with a little bit of butter is on the menu.
I took full advantage of this day, basically stuffing my face with as many vegetables as I possibly could while also having two bowls of cabbage soup. I had a breakfast of chilled cucumbers and grape tomatoes with a little bit of pepper on top, which may seem out of the ordinary but the cucumbers were very refreshing and the tomatoes were a welcomed sweet bite. Lunch was steamed kale with cayenne pepper and more grape tomatoes to cut through the bitterness of the greens. The baked potato at dinner was a true godsend. I put 1 tsp of butter just to give it some richness and heated up some leftover kale and cabbage soup to put on top of the potato. Eating that starch was a real treat after two days of strictly fruits and vegetables.
Steamed Kale with Cayenne and Tomatoes
2 cups kale, shredded
1 tsp Cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp black pepper
a handful of grape tomatoes
Pour 1 cup of water into a saute pan. Add in the kale and tomatoes, cover and steam for 5-7 minutes until the leaves are tender, the water has evaporated and the tomatoes start to soften. Season generously with pepper and garlic powder, but light on the cayenne. For more spice, feel free to use a heavier hand.
Next time: Day 3--Mixed bag!
Day 3 of Cabbage Soup Diet is a combination of days 1 and 2, minus the luxurious baked potato for dinner. However, by this day I was able to really see the importance of eating as many vegetables as possible throughout the day, to replace as much protein into my diet as I could without eating meat. Breakfast was easy--a berry smoothie followed by a heaping portion of blueberries and blackberries. Lunch was a bowl of soup with cucumbers and tomatoes, and dinner, the piece de resistance, was a delicious vegetable stir fry. For these days you are encouraged to load up on as many fruits and vegetables as you can possibly stand.
By day 3 I am really starting to feel the effects of this diet on my body. I am beginning to actually crave fruits and vegetables, rather than just eat them because I know they’re good for me. I also feel a bit lighter as well--cliche as it is, a few pairs of shorts that were tight around my waist are now fitting perfectly! It is much easier for me to get through the day without feeling starved and because I am loading up on healthy vegetables and fruits, I don’t feel as guilty about eating to my heart’s content. I didn’t really have a need to snack today and if I did, I just had some cabbage soup that was leftover from lunch. It feels like things may get a lot easier from here!
Veggie Stir Fry
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 shallot, minced
½ cup shredded carrots
1 cup cauliflower, separated into small florets, stems discarded
1 zucchini, chopped into small cubes
1 yellow squash, chopped into small cubes
Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb Seasoning (salt free, this stuff is GREAT and highly recommended to use as a salt replacement during this diet)
Heat up the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Sweat the shallot until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the zucchini and squash, letting them start to brown up before you add in the rest of the vegetables. Add in a few splashes of water if anything starts to stick to the pan. Cover for 15 minutes, flipping and stirring occasionally until all the vegetables have all cooked through. Remove from heat, season to taste.
Next time--Hope You Like Bananas
The goal of day 4 is to satisfy your need for sweets during the day. This day consists of eating up to eight bananas and drinking skim milk. You are encouraged to eat 2-3 bowls of cabbage soup this day to make up for not being able to consume any other fruits or veggies. It is also important to stick to the guidelines of SKIM milk only; whole, 2% and even 1% still have fat in them and you want to avoid that. Soy milk is also a good alternative if you do not drink milk or are lactose-intolerant. Alternatively, if milk is not your thing, nonfat plain yogurt can be consumed instead, but be sure that it is zero fat.
In all honesty, this day really stinks. Not being able to even eat vegetables or another kind of fruit really puts a damper on food creativity, however, I was able to have a little bit of fun with what I was allowed to have. This day made me realize how much I am craving vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, foods that I have always liked but have never gone out of my way to reach for. I like bananas so eating them wasn’t the issue, but it took a lot of willpower to not cheat, even just a bit. When I felt hungry today I would drink a lot of water, and I had 2 ½ bowls of soup. I think from here it will only get easier, but day 4 is by far the worst of it.
Bananas Foster Smoothie
3 bananas, cut into pieces
2 cups skim milk
1 Tbsp sugar-free vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Do not add in more vanilla, but for more sweetness, feel free to sprinkle in more cinnamon.
2 bananas, thinly sliced
½ cup lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. On a baking sheet covered in tin foil, spray some non-stick cooking spray to keep the banana slices from sticking. Gently dip each slice into the lemon juice before placing onto the tray, to avoid browning during the baking. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and don’t be shy about it! Bake for at least 2 hours, or until firm and crispy. Let them cool on a rack slightly before eating. Sprinkle with more cinnamon while they are still hot, if desired.
Next Time: Get Meaty!
Day 5 of Cabbage Soup Diet for me was a welcome-back to eating food that I’m used to consuming on a regular basis, i.e., protein. On this day, other than consuming at least one bowl of cabbage soup, you can also have ten to twenty ounces of beef and up to six fresh tomatoes. Because of the high amount of uric acid in tomatoes, you should also drink around 8 glasses of water to flush it all out. You can also substitute broiled or baked chicken (no skin) or fish on this day.
This day was a saving grace. I am not a huge red meat eater but the protein was welcomed happily back into my everyday routine. Because I am an athlete and work out on a regular basis, I was happy to bring that nutrition back to the forefront. Compared to days 1-4 of this week, beef and tomatoes day is a breeze. I almost didn’t even feel like I was on a “diet.” I love tomatoes and snacked on them happily throughout the day.
Steak and Tomato Salad
1 tsp olive oil
1 boneless ribeye steak
1 Beefsteak tomato
Mrs. Dash steak seasoning
In a saute pan, heat up the olive oil. Generously season the steak, and put in the pan when it is hot enough. For medium rare (which is what i prefer) cook 3 ½ minutes on each side. Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing, to let the juices redistribute. Cut up the tomato into cubes, and season generously with pepper. Gently mix together the steak and tomatoes, and top with some chopped fresh basil.
Next Time-Meat and Veggies!
Day 6 of cabbage soup diet is a welcome day, as it is almost back to my normal diet. On this day, you can still consume 10 to 20 ounces of beef, as well as plenty of vegetables. I only had one bowl of cabbage soup as opposed to the usual two or three because I was eating so many vegetables during the day that I was usually full by the time I even wanted any soup. This day is probably the easiest as it lends to the most flexibility in terms of meals for the day.
This day was a breeze. I was eating vegetables whenever I was allowed to this week, so being able to eat as many veggies as I wanted was really great! I am a huge eater of meat with veggies instead of only starches, so dinner was a no-brainer for me. I had a boneless rib-eye steak cooked to medium rare and some roasted veggies.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Asparagus
1 bag frozen or fresh brussels sprouts
1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
1 Tsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
Red chili flakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a sheet pan covered in tin foil, spray some non-stick cooking spray. Spread out the asparagus and brussels sprouts so they are not on top of each other in the pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder and red chili flakes. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 15-18 minutes or until tender but with just a bit of bite to them.
Next time--You Did It!
You Did It!
Day 7 is FINALLY here! On this day you can go crazy with vegetables and the cabbage soup, but also brown rice. Similar to the last two days, this day is definitely one step closer to that finish line, and at this point it will definitely show!
By this day I feel really amazing! I have gone absolutely over the top with my veggie consumption, and with two bowls of soup a day I am really feeling lighter and happier with my food choices. I am down 6 pounds since day 1, I'm feeling a lot more energy and I absolutely am more conscious of the food I'm putting into my body. An entire week without anything processed or fatty has really put my dieting into perspective and I hope it does the same for you, too!
Veggie Rice Pilaf
1 cup brussels sprouts, cut in half
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup broccoli florets, broken into small pieces
1 cup frozen or fresh spinach, stems removed
2 cups brown rice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the brown rice as it says on the package. In a saute pan, gently sweat the onion in 1 tsp of olive oil until they are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the rest of the vegetables, seasoning lightly, until the broccoli is tender and the spinach is wilted. Pour the rice over the vegetables and mix well. Put the saute pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Season again before serving.