Good Health

Countdown-to-Summer Diet (and Low-Fat Recipes from Rancho La Puerta Spa!)

By Sandra Gordon

Swimsuit season is right around the corner. To get ready, this mega-healthy, fabulous-tasting eating plan will help you lose one to two pounds a week. This 1500-calorie low-fat diet, created by the world-renowned Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico, features lots of delicious peak-season fresh fruits and vegetables and enough Mexican flair to keep your taste buds happy. Best of all, it’s so healthy that you can repeat it for as many weeks as necessary to get down to your goal weight. Just don’t forget that diet is only one part of the equation. So make sure to hit the gym or get outside for a walk, run or bike ride at least three days a week while you’re on the diet. 

Bon appetite! 

Countdown-to-Summer Diet Ground Rules

• The calorie counts are roughly the same for each breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so if you don’t like one of the meals and want to replace it with one from another day–or would like to repeat a meal two days in a row—that’s fine. Switching one breakfast, lunch or dinner for another won’t affect how much weight you lose.

• You’ll be eating plenty of food at meals, plus one afternoon snack. But if you get hungry at other times of the day, feel free to have a piece of fruit.

• Drink as much water, seltzer or herbal tea as you like, but limit your intake of coffee, tea or diet cola to two to three servings a day.

• Vegetarians can simply omit the meat from the recipes that call for it and substitute half cups of black, pinto, cannelloni or garbanzo beans instead.

• For variety during the second week of the diet, swap any fruit in the plan for one from this list: blueberries, raspberries, papaya, mango, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, apple, orange, grapefruit or banana. Also, vary the bread. Try English muffins, pita pockets, tortillas or 100 percent whole-grain rolls.

Rancho La Puerta Spa | Tecate, Mexico

The Delicious 7-Day Spa Diet

Day 1


1 slice whole wheat bread

1 small wedge of honeydew melon

1/2 (one half) cup nonfat yogurt


Spicy tuna pita (Fill 1/2 (one half) whole-wheat pita pocket with lettuce, tomato, bean sprouts, 2 oz tuna in water, red onion and celery, 1 T fat-free mayonnaise and a dash of Tabasco sauce)

8 oz skim milk 


1 oz string cheese

1 apple

4 wheat crackers


Chicken Enchiladas (see recipe)

1 c tossed green salad with 1 T vinaigrette

1 cinnamon-baked banana (Sprinkle 1 peeled banana with 1/4 (one fourth) t ground cinnamon with 1/4 (one fourth) c orange juice; bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes)

Day 2


3/4 (three fourths) c bran cereal

1/2 (one half) c blueberries

8 oz skim milk


Turkey Sandwich (2 oz turkey, 1 oz Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and 1 T mustard and/or fat-free mayonnaise on whole-wheat bread)

1 nectarine


3/4 (three fourths) cup raisins

2 T sunflower seeds

1 c nonfat yogurt

1 medium peach


4 oz grilled or broiled sea bass, flounder or sole

Tomato & feta salad (1 c lettuce, sliced tomato, 1/2 (one half) oz feta cheese, chopped shallots and 1 t capers)

1/2 (one half) cup brown rice

1/2 (one half) cup steamed green beans sauteed with 1 T sliced almonds

1/2 (one half) c cherries

Day 3


1 low-fat bran muffin

8 oz skim milk

Cantaloupe slices


Niçoise salad (Top lettuce with 2 oz tuna in water, tomato slices, sliced olives; serve with oil and balsamic vinegar dressing)

2 breadsticks

Red Zinger tea


1 orange

1/4 (one fourth) cup dry-roasted almonds


Pasta with Mushrooms (see recipe)

1 c lettuce tossed salad with ¼ (one fourth) medium sliced avocado, 1/2 (one half) sliced tomato and 2 T vinaigrette dressing

1/2 (one half) cup frozen yogurt

Day 4


Orange Corn Muffin (see recipe)

1 T peanut butter

8 oz skim milk


Veggie wrap (Fill 1 whole-wheat enchilada wrapper with 3 oz low-fat Monterey Jack cheese mixed with lettuce and tomato and 1 T vinaigrette dressing)

8 oz V8 juice


1 c nonfat fruit yogurt

1 medium peach


4 oz poached salmon or halibut 

1 c tossed salad with 1 T grated Parmesan cheese 

6 steamed asparagus spears 

3 small red potatoes 

Mango slices

Day 5


6 oz grapefruit juice

1 low-fat bran muffin

1/2 (one half) cup strawberries

1 cup nonfat yogurt


1 cup vegetable soup

Spinach salad with chicken or turkey (Toss 1 c fresh spinach, tomato and red onion with 3 oz grilled or deli chicken or turkey breast slices and 1 T raspberry vinaigrette) 

1 sourdough roll


Jicama, celery and carrot sticks with 2 T low-fat Ranch dip

Lemon tea


Penne with grilled veggies (Toss 1/2 (one half) cup cooked penne with grilled eggplant, red bell peppers and mushrooms and 1 t sauteed garlic, chopped basil and 1 T olive oil and 1 T Parmesan cheese)

1 Whole-wheat roll

1/2 (one half) cup strawberry sorbet

Day 6


8 oz skim milk

3/4 (three fourths) cup oatmeal

1/2 (one half) cup fresh fruit


Tomato slices and 2 oz low-fat mozzarella on baguette with 1 T olive oil

8 oz skim milk


1/2 (one half) cup fresh fruit

1/2 (one half) cup nonfat yogurt


4 oz grilled chicken breast

1 cup sauteed vegetables 

1 whole-wheat roll

Mini Blueberry Cheesecake (see recipe)

Day 7


6 oz orange juice

1 whole egg plus 2 whites, scrambled

1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 T jam


Black bean salad (Mix 1/2 (one half) c cooked black beans, diced tomato, diced red bell peppers, red onion and scallions with one-half c diced papaya, 1 T olive oil and 4 T vinegar; serve over greens) 

1 flour tortilla


1 Orange Corn Muffin (see recipe) 

1 T peanut butter


Shrimp scampi (sauté 6 oz cleaned shrimp with chopped onion, garlic and ¾ (three fourths) cup white wine)

1/2 (one half) cup steamed rice

1/2 (one half) cup steamed broccoli

1 pear


Orange Corn Muffins

2 oranges, zested then peeled (reserve zest)

1/4 (one fourth) cup honey

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 (one half) cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 (one half) cup brown sugar

4        egg whites

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 (one half) cup mashed banana

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut oranges into six slices each and remove all seeds. Place a teaspoon of honey into each muffin cup; top with an orange slice and set aside. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine sugar, egg whites, buttermilk, bananas and 2 tablespoons zest; mix well. Fold mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon batter into cups about three-fourths full.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Makes 12 servings. Nutrition information per serving:  170 calories, 38 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat, 5 g protein.

Chicken Enchiladas 

1/2 (one half) onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced

2 chicken breast, skinned and cubed

6 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/4 (one fourth) tsp chili flakes

1/2 (one half) cup feta cheese

6 corn tortillas, warmed

Ready-made tomato salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sauté onion and pepper with the chicken for three minutes in a medium-size pan that has been lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook five minutes more, or until chicken is cooked through.  

Remove pan from the stove and fold in oregano and chili flakes. If necessary, drain excess liquid in a strainer; mixture should be moist but not too wet, or tortillas will be soggy. Fold in the feta cheese. Over low heat, warm a dry frying pan and heat each tortilla separately. Transfer tortillas to a plastic bag to keep warm. Remove them one by one and coat both sides with salsa. Place 2 tablespoons of the chicken-vegetable mixture on tortilla and roll up carefully. Place enchiladas seam side down in an ovenproof dish lightly sprayed with nonfat cooking spray and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until filling is hot and bubbling. Makes 6 servings. Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories, 18 carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 14 g protein. 

Pasta with Mushrooms 

1 pound fettucine

1/2 (one half) red onion, sliced

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 (one fourth) pound porcini or button mushrooms, washed and dried

1 cup low-sodium canned vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 (one half) cup sun-dried tomatoes

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Freshly ground nutmeg

Cook pasta in a large pot of according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a medium pan, sauté the onion in the oil until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for2 minutes. Add stock and cook 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, basil and nutmeg and cook 1 minute, stirring. When pasta is done, drain well and return to pot. Toss sauce with pasta and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings. Nutrition information:  366 calories, 75 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 14 g protein.

Mini Blueberry Cheesecake

Crumb crust:

1 whole graham cracker, crushed 

2 tablespoons unsweetened apple juice


2 tablespoons unsweetened apple juice

1/4 (one fourth) tsp unflavored gelatin

1/4 (one fourth) cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 tablespoons nonfat ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/2 (one half) tsp fresh lime juice

1/4 (one fourth) cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray an individual ramekin with nonstick cooking spray. To make the crust: Put graham-cracker crumbs in a small bowl; add apple juice and stir with a fork until the crumbs are moist but not sticky. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and sides of ramekin. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Set on a wire rack to cool completely. To make filling: In a small saucepan, bring apple juice to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle gelatin over juice and stir until gelatin dissolves. In a food processor or blender, combine yogurt, ricotta, brown sugar, lime juice and gelatin mixture and process until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and fold in three-fourths of the blueberries. Pour into crust and smooth with a spatula. Top with remaining blueberries. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Makes 1 serving.  Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories, 51 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat, 9 g protein. 


Chef Bill Wavrin, author of The Rancho La Puerta Cookbook, and the mastermind behind this diet plan, shares a few of his secrets. 

Get fresh. Wavrin picks vegetables from his garden every day. “As soon as a vegetable is picked, it starts losing its flavor and nutritional value, so freshness matters,” he says. If you’ve

got a brown thumb, visit your local farmers’ market or find a grocery store that sells great produce. 

Spice it up. Experiment with no-fat flavor enhancers, such as chili peppers, garlic, fresh cilantro and other herbs, curry, vinegars or a spritz of lime or lemon.  

Try tofu and its cousin, tempeh.  They’re healthy, tasty, lower-fat substitutes for meat.

Spare the oil.  When sauteing, use just enough olive or canola oil to barely coat the bottom of the pan.

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