The 5:2 Fast Diet: Meal Planning Strategies for Fasting Days
Congratulations, you've decided to give the 5:2 diet a go. This article will tell you about the different ways you can approach a low-calorie day, depending on your usual eating patterns, how you respond to reduced calorie intake, and how much, if at all, you're able to adjust your day around the 5:2.
You may have already tried out the 5:2 and found it a struggle: if so there may be some tips here.
On the other hand, some people find they can in fact manage two complete fast days per week where they eat no calories at all, and I've met several people who do this. I wouldn't recommend it as a starting point unless you're used to fasting already. However, you may find that once you have established a routine with the 5:2, you won't need to go to your full nominal calorie allowance on fast days. Remember that the "500 for women; 600 for men" is only a guideline in the same way that 2000/2500 is a guideline for a "normal" daily calorie intake. I'm male, but of slight build, so I aim for 500 on a fast day, and have so far gone as low as 390 without undue difficulty!
Preparation, preparation, preparation
The key to a successful low-calorie day is preparation. If you wake up in the morning and find that you have nothing in the cupboard that will give you a good-sized portion to eat without using up your entire calorie allowance, then it's going to be a struggle. No matter how you assign the calories during the day – and I'll come to back to that shortly – you're going to want to go for foods that have a low calorie content per gram. In practice this means fruits, vegetables, and lean meat or fish. Oily foods including butter and so on, and foods high in carbohydrates like rice, pasta, and bread, need to be avoided completely or reserved for a treat.
So, make sure that you've stocked up on low calorie items to see you through the day: bananas and pineapple for breakfast; low-calorie homemade soup for lunch; and tuna and salad for dinner. To make your calories go further, look for foods with calorie contents of 1 calorie per gram or less. Bananas have 0.9, pineapple only 0.5. Tuna is about 1.1, and lettuce 0.2. Cut a huge slice of cucumber to go in the salad, and it'll only come out at only 0.12 calories per gram. Make up a simple tomato soup from a tin of chopped tomatoes, basil, pepper and Tabasco for 0.2 calories per gram, and enjoy a filling large bowl.
Use an inexpensive food scale to weigh your foods on fast days. Volume measurements aren't as accurate for fruits and veggies.
Sipping low calorie chicken or veggie broth (5 calories per cup) during the day can help you feel fuller. Look for low sodium products to prevent bloating.
What's your 5:2 Diet strategy for fast days?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, oh my!
If you need the equivalent of three square meals a day, then what I've just described could work for you: splitting the calories roughly equally between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Snacks during the day are pretty much out, but remember that you can drink as much water, tea and coffee as you like, and you'll probably find that you need more liquids on a fast day. Remember, you need to count any mil you use. If you do need something to pick at during the day, a box of cherry tomatoes is a good idea. A 250 g box is under 50 calories for the lot, and can keep you going if you need a munch.
If there's a time of day where you feel you have to have a good meal in order to keep you going, then plan that in. You'll have to make a sacrifice somewhere else, so decide what works for you. I find I can go light at breakfast if I have a good lunch, or I can pretty much skip dinner if I've eaten reasonably well earlier in the day.
A very important tip is to mix up the types of foods that are giving you your calories. For breakfast, mixing in a small amount of cereal with your fruit will give slow-release sugars to see you through the morning. Cereals tend to be high calories (up to 4 per gram) so go easy, and use skim milk if you must have some. You can even get away with a small amount of lean, grilled bacon if you plan for it.
At lunch, go for calorie-efficient protein foods like tuna and chicken white meat (1.1 and 1.7 cals per gram). Match with a salad, leave the oil out of the dressing and stick to vinegar, and if it's going to be your main meal add a small amount of rice, potatoes or couscous if you need the carbs.
Dinner is then the easy one, where you use up the remaining calories for the day. But don't forget the point of the diet is to restrict your intake, so eat what you need to and don't feel you have to go all the way to the limit if you can manage without.
More 5:2 Diet Tips
- How to Survive the 5:2 Fast Diet
Fasting for 2 days a week on the 5:2 Diet sounds frightening, but armed with a handful of survival tips, it's (almost) a breeze.
© 2013 Jay Dickens