It's been a while since a diet craze came along that wasn't slaughtered by the experts and deemed a Very Bad Idea, but ever since the concept of the 5:2 diet (that's the 'five to two' diet, also known as the 2 5 diet or Fast Diet) came along, a quiet buzz has swept calorie counters everywhere.
It all started when Dr Michael Mosley attracted our attention with BBC's Horizon programme Eat, Fast, Live Longer, which saw him adopt a new way of fasting to lose a stone in five weeks. Curious yet?
The diet involves five days 'on' and two days 'off'; that is, five days of eating normally (keep it healthy, mind) and originally two days of cutting calorie intake to around 500 calories each, however, Dr Mosley has since updated the 5:2 calorie guidelines to make fasting guidelines that bit more manageable...
The Updated 5:2 Diet
Five years after its original conception, Dr Mosley revised* the original 5:2 diet to a new variation - the 5:2 Blood Sugar Diet . Based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet , you can stick to the same 5:2 routine but allow for 800 calories on fast days as opposed to the former 500 suggested for women, and 600 for men, as Dr Mosley explains:
"Going up to 800 calories is unlikely to make much of a difference, but it makes it easier to fit into a busy life."
It may take you slightly longer to reach your weight loss goal, so by all means stick to Vicki's 500 calories fast day meal ideas as outlined below if the original 5:2 concept works for you, but if a little extra sustenance is required, here are some guidelines as to the calorie counts of healthy meal additions to take you up to the 800 mark:
A banana: 52 cals
Poached egg: 53 cals
20 almonds: 140 cals (one almond is 7 calories)
Skinless chicken breast: 148 calories
100g serving of tofu: roughly 68 calories
Medium avocado: 143 kcal
One tablespoon full fat Greek yogurt: 59 cals
One small bar of dark chocolate (32g): roughly 180 cals
50g serving of houmous: roughly 160 cal
10 strawberries: 30 cal (one strawberry is 1 calorie)
30g serving of porridge oats: 114 cal
50g portion of brown rice: 166 cal
Clearly additions aren't restricted to the above (just ideas!). You can check the calorie count of meals and snacks using the NHS Calorie Checker to determine whether you're hitting your 800 calorie fast day limit.
As for how to go about doing the 5:2 diet? For the next six weeks health and nutrition expert Vicki Edgson will be bringing you a weekly free diet plan of what to eat and when - with plenty of great tips and food inspiration along the way. In fact, she makes it sound all pretty easy, not to mention tasty…
Normal non-fast days
Choose one option for each of the five full eating days
1. Medium bowl of porridge with 1 tablespoon of blanched almonds, 1 tsp of sunflower seeds made with water, sweetened with 5 drops of vanilla essence and 1 grated apple. Enjoy with one cup of green tea.
2. 200g of Greek style full fat yoghurt with 100g of mixed berries (may be taken from frozen), 2 tsp of pumpkin seeds
3. 2 full egg omelette with large handful of wilted watercress or spinach, 1 piece of pumpernickel toast. 1 cup of white tea.
4. Crumbled feta with half an avocado and lime juice on toasted rye. 1 cup of green tea.
5. 2 slices of honey roast ham with two poached eggs. 1 cup of Rooibosch tea.
1. Medium box of mixed fish sushi with small pot of edamame beans and optional bowl of miso soup
2. Poached salmon with small potato salad and mixed leaf bag salad, served with olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
3. Chicken Caesar salad with added small pack of sugar snap peas, 1 dessert spoon of olive oil (instead of any pre-made dressing)
4. Mixed bean hot pot with added soba noodles (buckwheat)
5. 450g of fresh chicken and vegetable soup (not tinned), with two rye crackers
1. 6oz fillet steak with potato dauphinoise and French beans
2. Grilled sea bass (whole) with roasted root vegetables
3. Tofu and Asian vegetables stir fry with soya, ginger and garlic sauce
4. Lentil and vegetable bake with crumbled feta topping
5. Fish pie with salmon, haddock and prawns
Low-Calorie Fast Days
Choose from one of the options for either breakfast and lunch, or breakfast and dinner
1. 1 banana, 1 tsp of vanilla essence, 100g Greek style natural yoghurt (not low fat) - blend until smooth (add a dash of semi-skimmed milk for desired consistency)
2. 2 poached eggs on a handful of wilted spinach
Lunch or Dinner:
1. Small grilled chicken breast (skin removed) with 100g tabouleh salad
2. 3 medium falafel grilled with 2 dessertspoon tahini dressing with a cucumber and tomato salad
3. 1 large grilled portobello mushroom filled with 2 tbsp of ready prepared Puy lentils, topped with four artichoke hearts (may be tinned), and a drizzle of olive oil.
4. 5 stir-fried king prawns with grated ginger and chilli, served with 20g (dry weight) brown rice noodles
Teas and drinks
Choose from any of the following herbal teas to encourage proper hydration and drink frequently throughout the day:
Green, white, nettle, fennel, rooibosch, vanilla, jasmine, camomile, ginger and lemon, peppermint
Reserve sparkling water for an evening pick-me-up in lieu of alcohol. Try mixing the following ingredients with a bottle of sparkling water overnight for non-alcoholic options:
- Ginger juice extract
- Juice of two limes with 3 drops of vanilla essence
- Lemongrass (1 stick, smashed not sliced)
- Aim to drink 2 litres of fluids per day
Need more recipes for your calorie days? Take a look at this fast day meal plan or see more great 5:2 diet recipes here
All done? Head over here for week two !
*'The diet that helped millions lose weight', by Dr Michael Mosley for Daily Mail