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Starting the 5:2 Diet – recipes, menu plans and more for the 5:2 Fasting Diet:
I’ve been following the 5:2 diet for over a year now and I’ve lost 14kg in total. I’ve hit my target weight, although I am now trying to lose just a little more (and also recover from some seasonal indulgences). For me the 5:2 diet has been a relatively simple way to lose weight, I’d like to share some of the things that have worked for me – ways to manage the 5:2 diet that I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along. And some basics to get anyone new to the 5:2 diet started.
- The 5:2 diet is based on intermittent fasting. While you don’t need a total fast, you do need to restrict your calories to around a quarter of your normal daily requirement (TDEE). For a woman that is around 500 calories and for a man 600. When you are starting the 5:2 diet that sounds horrific – but actually it can be quite manageable.
- On the 5:2 diet tyu don’t have to fast on the same days each week and you don’t have to do your fasts back to back.
- Increasing the number of fast days doesn’t always help to lose weight faster. Possibly because those trying alternate day fasting have a tougher challenge.
- A common question from people starting the 5:2 diet seems to be ‘If I work-out, can I eat more?’. On this diet you can’t ‘add back’ calories you burn through exercise – the idea is to give your body a rest for a day, so burning off 600 calories then eating 1,100 simply isn’t following the plan. You may of course lose weight that way, but you won’t be following the 5:2 diet plan.
- Medical research is still in its early stages for the 5:2 diet. There are many claimed health benefits for the 5:2 diet (and other forms of intermittent fasting) including a reduced chance of alzheimers, improved blood sugars and reversal of pre-diabetes. While there is evidence for all of these, many of the tests are still incomplete.
- Most people DO lose weight on the 5:2 diet, although generally quite slowly. While you might have an initial loss of 3-4lbs, in general people are reporting their weight loss at 1lb a week. If you are starting out on the 5:2 diet don’t be disappointed if weight loss is slow, particularly if you’ve been following some other kind of diet.
- Calculating your TDEE and sticking to that on non-fast days can help with weight loss if you find it is not working for you. My personal belief is that the 5:2 diet works like any other diet in that you won’t lose weight if you consume more food than your body needs. With the 5:2 diet, you are forced into eating smaller portions and in many cases into eating healthier food. For me, that has made me less likely to gorge on non-fast days.
- I’ve personally never been badly hungry on the 5:2 diet. But, I believe it is a diet programme that you need to adapt to suit yourself. I don’t worry if one week I can’t fast on two days – I just accept I probably won’t lose weight. And on the rare occasions where my planned fast day has gone astray I’ve just accepted the situation and picked a different day to fast!
- Other than water there are no unlimited foods on the 5:2 diet. On a fast day you need to count the calories in coffee with milk, a cup of Bovril or whatever you chose to drink and include them in your calorie allowance. If you want to drink alcohol you can – if you count the calories! I personally prefer not to waste my precious calories on something that generally makes me feel hungrier.
5:2 Diet Menu Plans:
Within your 500 or 600 calorie allowance you can eat as often as you like. There are no rules about eating breakfast or stopping eating at a certain point. But, common sense dictates that you need to balance your meals and eat food that will help to stop you feeling hungry. My personal routine is to skip breakfast and eat a light lunch followed by supper at around 7pm and if I have enough spare calories a snack just before bed-time. If I was a breakfast person I’d *probably* have an egg or perhaps some zero fat Greek yoghurt with a few nuts. And then make sure that my lunch was around 100 calories.
Here are two of my typical 5:2 fast day meal plans. I’m not a trained cook or a nutritionist, but I try to cook my own food and eat a balanced menu each diet fast day.
Breakfast: Herbal Tea or Green Tea
Mid morning: Herbal Tea or Green Tea
Mid-day: Coffee or Tea with milk or, if I’m hungry a mug of miso soup (20 calories)
Lunch (around 1.30): Home Made Carrot and Cumin Soup with Coconut Milk (71 calories)
Afternoon: 2-3 cups herbal/fruit tea. One cup of coffee with milk (20 calories
Evening meal: Asian Chicken Wraps (279 calories)
Snack before bedtime: Options hot chocolate or a Peter’s Yard cracker with lightest Philadelphia cheese (50 calories)
Total Calories: 440
Breakfast: Herbal Tea or Green Tea
Mid morning: Herbal Tea or Green Tea
Mid-day: Coffee or Tea with skimmed milk or, if I’m hungry a mug of miso soup (20 calories)
Lunch: Mushroom Stroganoff with black lentils (193 calories)
Afternoon: 2-3 cups of herbal/fruit tea. One cup of coffee with skimmed milk (20 calories)
Evening meal: Lemon Cod (267 calories)
Total Calories: 500
My aim is to include a little protein in both the meals and to avoid foods that will create sugar spikes and make me feel hungry quickly (that includes all high GI foods – bread, mashed potatoes, some fruits and white rice and pasta). I try to keep hydrated by drinking herbal or fruit teas but that is because I don’t particularly like drinking plain water. I really don’t worry if I go over the 500 calorie count a little – I’d rather have a 90% fast day twice a week than keep giving up!
Staples of the 5:2 diet
There are a few basic recipes and ingredients that help many people keep their calorie count very low without feeling hungry. These are the ones I use.
- Cauliflower Rice – a very simple way to enjoy rice with your low calorie curry or chilli
- 3 Ingredient banana pancakes – for when you have a real sugar craving
- Zero Noodles – love them or hate them, they have 5 calories per 100g and really do fill you up. Made from a Japanese yam, they are available online, from many Asian supermarkets and from Holland and Barratt. There are variations too, so you can buy slim rice and pasta – but I’ve personally only tried the rice and I didn’t like it!
- 10 calorie jelly – A great thing to keep in your fridge, these look and taste like normal jelly but have just 10 calories a pot. Available in most supermarkets
- Very low fat Philadalphia cream cheese. A good ingredient to spread on a rice cracker or Peter’s Yard cracker to make a quick lunch if you don’t fancy soup. Top with tomato, a little tinned tuna, cooked chicken breast or even a tiny bit of honey and some nuts.
- Miso soup – I find this takes the edge of any hunger pangs for just 20 calories. I know other 5:2 diet followers use a Bovril cube dissolved in water.
How about you? What are your tips for making the 5:2 diet work? Or if you are just starting, are there any questions you need answering.
- You can find all my 5:2 diet recipes on London-Unattached, or for a quick, visual reference on my 5:2 diet pinterest board.
- Although I cook some vegetarian food, I am not vegetarian. Jac at Tinned Tomatoes has a great vegetarian 5:2 diet recipe board
- For yet more fabulous recipes check out Karen’s pinterest board
- I recommend joining a facebook group like Kate Harrison’s 5:2 Diet Support Group. There are now over 15,000 member and if you have any questions someone should be able to help. Kate herself is often around and has three excellent books on the diet if you need more help! Another group to consider is The 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Group – very active and supportive for new 5:2 dieters
- There are two excellent 5:2 diet forums. The first is run by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, authors of the original 5:2 diet book – you can find it here. The second is an independent 5:2 diet resource with lots of active members and an ongoing study looking at the results from the 5:2 diet.
If there’s anything you think I’ve left out or a good resource I haven’t mentioned, please let me know! You can add in a link using the linky below