The 5:2 Diet: What it Is and Nutritionist-Approved Recipes (2024)

The 5:2 diet is pretty much the most revolutionary thing to happen in the weight-loss world since Atkins. We've seen more new diets come and go (gluten-, dairy- and soya-free) than we've had hot dinners, but nothing's caused the kind of ripples that 5:2 has in a long time. We're chalking a large part of that success up to the fact that a) it seems to work, and b) it's totally foolproof.

Unlike other meal plans that make you forage high and low for super-niche ingredients or require hours in the kitchen tirelessly meal-prepping, 5:2 (also known as "the fast diet") is easy to follow and can also be done pretty thriftily if you're on a budget.

Intrigued? This fasting diet follows a very straightforward premise: For five days a week, you eat normally, without too much regard for calorie counting. The other two days you stick to a strict 500 calorie intake (Ed note: If you're a man, you get 600 calories). Of course, 500 calories a day is very restrictive and wouldn't be advisable as an everyday long-term weight loss solution, but the claim is that by sticking to it for two days a week, you put your body into "fast mode." There's lots of research to support the health benefits of intermittent fasting: It seems to lead to less muscle loss than other diets, and it may reduce insulin levels.

Then, of course, there's the obvious—by cutting the "active dieting" down to two days a week, that's a heck of a lot less time you have to spend crunching numbers in the kitchen and in the supermarket. But it means you are still eating around 2000 fewer calories each week. You can plan out your fast day meals in advance and what's more, you choose the fast days that suit you. Planning to have a "fast day" on Tuesday, then realize it's happy hour and two-for-one on tacos? No problem; you can simply switch your fast day to whenever it works for you. The only rule? You can't do two fasting days consecutively.

On your fast days, with only 500 calories to play around with, you're going to want to be strategic. Think about your typical working weekday (no one on team Byrdie fancied a weekend fast, thanks very much). Are you more prone to a 4 p.m. slump, or do you crave calories until lunch then feel your appetite slip away a little more? Based on your appetite, choose when in the day to have a bigger meal, and when to have a more spartan snack.

The flexibility and fuss-free nature of 5:2 make it ideal for busy girls (Jennifer Aniston and Miranda Kerr are reportedly fans, and you know those ladies are on their grind), plus the plan has legions of fans who swear by the speed at which it helped them shift pounds.

We asked Kamilla Schaffner, a leading clinical nutritionist, to share her six favorite fast day recipes. Here are her top tips.

Tuna and Slaw Supper

The 5:2 Diet: What it Is and Nutritionist-Approved Recipes (1)

"Take a small piece (120gr) of very fresh tuna and sear on each side for no longer than one minute. Chop half a large avocado into small cubes, add chopped chives, one teaspoon of olive oil and juice of half a lime. Shred about a quarter of a small purple cabbage and add a small amount of chopped fresh rosemary, one tablespoon of grapeseed oil, a tablespoon of rice vinegar and season to taste. The fresh tomato salsa is optional but adds water and some lycopene content."

Total calories: 280kcal, which leaves you 220 calories for the rest of the day.

Chickpea and Steak Dinner

"This is a protein-packed supper that includes both animal and vegan protein. Chickpeas are not only high in vegan protein, but they are also fiber powerhouses vital for digestive health and regularity. The addition of flowering cauliflower is a bonus, but if you don't have any, just use regular broccoli or cauliflower in unlimited amounts—it's all nutrients, fiber, and water!

"Take a regular-size steak (200gr), and cut in half—you'll only use half of it for this dish. I recommend using either rump or fillet cuts, as these are the leanest and give higher protein content per serving. Fry to your desired taste in a small amount of coconut oil. Season and set aside. In a separate pot, heat a tin of ready-cooked chickpeas, drained of water—you can use the whole tin. Add smoky paprika (goes very well with steak), ground coriander and dried turmeric for an added nutrient boost. Serve with steamed or flash boiled cauliflower florets."

Total calories: 405 kcal, with only 95 calories left, factor in a salad for lunch and drink plenty of water to try to help keep you full.

Mixed Yogurt Breakfast

The 5:2 Diet: What it Is and Nutritionist-Approved Recipes (2)

"This is a delight for those who love tropical flavors. Packed full of delicious fruits and protein, you won'teven know it's your fast day! In a cereal bowl, mix four tablespoons of low-fat organic cow's yogurt with two tablespoons of coconut yogurt. Add finely chopped matchsticks of an apple and cubes of 1/2 a papaya. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of finely chopped almonds. If you like coffee, serve with a coconut milk cappuccino."

Total calories: 505 kcal. This blows the calorie budget, so we suggest splitting this into two portions to have late morning and late afternoon.

Savory Breakfast

"This is perfect for those who love a savory kick first thing in the morning. Packed full of protein and fiber, it's a serious contender to a Full English. Mix acan of tuna in water with a small amount of chopped red onion and a handful of chopped rocket salad leaves. Getone tablespoon of low-fat yogurt, one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a generous helping of Tabasco sauce and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, season to taste and mix very well. Ina pan, melt 1/2 a teaspoon of coconut oil and flash sauté asparagus and some shiitake (or any) mushrooms. Scoop the tuna salad onto two gluten-free or Paleo high-protein crackers (quinoa or buckwheat)."

Total calories: 310 kcal. You'll be left with 190 calories, so try crudités with salsafor lunch and miso soup with zero-calorie noodles for dinner.

Sushi Fat-Burner Supper

The 5:2 Diet: What it Is and Nutritionist-Approved Recipes (3)

"This is for anyone who's too tired to cook and tends to buy theirdinner somewhere else. Look no further than your local Japanese café (this supper is from Wasabi takeaway box!) or supermarket aisle selling sashimi. Fresh raw fish (salmon and tuna here) is one of the best sources of lean protein and the side of seaweed that is always a part of any Japanese takeaway box is a major fat burner, as its high iodine content willrev up your thyroid and metabolism very gently but effectively. And edamame beans are packed full of fiber and plant-based protein. Did I say it is absolutely delicious too?"

Total Calories: 290 kcal. High in protein, this may help keep you fuller for longer, ideal if you tend to reach forsnacks after dinner.

Egg-White Omelette Breakfast

"This is a big meal, but it's packed full of vital protein and fiber to get you through the fasting day. It's one whole egg, 2 egg whites beaten and fried in a small amount of coconut oil into an omelet. At the very end, add a small amount of dried dill to enhance diuretic properties. The teaspoon of fresh tomato salsa is optional. Add 2 tablespoons of low-fat organic dairy yogurt, with 2 tablespoons of fresh pomegranate seeds and 1 teaspoon of paleo gluten-free granola on the side for a touch of sweetness. I've also added another side of half a grapefruit and a coconut milk cappuccino."

Total calories: 351 kcal. This breakfast meal will set you up for the day and leaves you with enough calories should you need something small later.

The 5:2 Diet: What it Is and Nutritionist-Approved Recipes (2024)


What is the 5:2 diet meal plan? ›

The 5:2 diet is based on a principle known as intermittent fasting. This is where you eat normally at certain times and then fast during other times. There are different versions, but the 5:2 diet involves eating a normal, healthy diet for five days every week and 'fasting' on the remaining two days.

What are the 5 2 snacks? ›

The official The Fast Diet website advises that 'fresh, raw ingredients like almonds, carrots, celery sticks, apple slices' make the perfect 5:2 diet snacks, but if you want to shake it up a bit you fit in everything from popcorn to ice cream sundaes.

What diet do nutritionists recommend? ›

Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Includes a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts, and seeds. Is low in added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

Is the 5:2 diet now 800 calories? ›

The New 5:2 approach involves restricting calories to 800 on fasting days, then eating a healthy lower carb, Mediterranean-style diet for the rest of the week. The beauty of intermittent fasting means that as your insulin sensitivity returns, you will feel fuller for longer on smaller portions.

How much weight can you lose in a month on the 5:2 diet? ›

The 5:2 diet plan aims for a weight loss of 1lb a week for women, and for men you could expect to lose slightly more. The NHS recommend a loss of 1-2lbs a week for healthy and safe weight loss, this amount is also more sustainable.

How long does it take to see results from a 5:2 diet? ›

Most people should lose some weight in one to three weeks on the 5:2 diet. Whether it's a good long-term weight-loss plan is ultimately a question of your personality. Some people find fasting a couple of days a week to be totally sustainable, says Katherine Brooking, RD, a New York City-based nutritionist.

Can you eat bread on 5:2 diet? ›

It is recommended that good foods to eat on a 'fasting' day are foods high in protein and fibre which tend to fill you up more - so things like fish, meat and vegetables. Whole-grains are fibre-rich. They include whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice and quinoa.

Can you eat bananas on 5:2 diet? ›

Snacking on fruit and veg is a much healthier option, but diet and weight loss expert doctor Michael Mosley says there is one fruit you should leave out from your daily intake. According to the founder of the 5:2 diet, bananas are actually not as beneficial as you think, reports The Express.

Can you eat fruit on 5:2 diet? ›

When following the diet, make sure that your non-fast days are packed with nutritious options, including fruit, veg, wholegrains and protein such as chicken, fish, turkey and dairy foods. Maintaining your hydration with water and herbal teas is important because dehydration can be a cause of headaches and tiredness.

What is the number 1 healthiest diet? ›

The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional eating habits in parts of Greece, Italy, and Spain, and is rich in foods like olive oil, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, and fatty fish. Experts gave it top marks for being heart-healthy, easy to follow, and rich in nutritious food options.

What's the best breakfast to eat? ›

The healthiest breakfast foods include a protein, healthy fat and source of carbohydrates, according to Smolen. For a healthy breakfast, consider eating foods like oatmeal with nut butter, avocado toast with an egg, chia seed pudding or a greek yogurt parfait with nuts and berries.

What is considered the healthiest diet in the world? ›

Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, and MIND Diets Are the Best Diets of 2024. All three diets are highly recommended by doctors because of their known health benefits. “The Mediterranean eating plan doesn't have a set calorie range or portion guidelines, which is why it can fit almost anyone's needs.

What vegetables can I eat on fast 800? ›

Focus on low calorie, non-starchy vegetables, which The Fast 800 always encourages you to eat freely, without the need to count calories. Examples include, kale, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms and aubergine/eggplant.

Can you eat pasta on fast 800? ›

How does the Fast 800 work? The first stage of the diet works on the premise that when we eat refined, typically 'white' carbohydrates, like white bread, pasta and rice, they are easily broken down in the gut to release sugars which, over time, leads to fat accumulation and possible insulin resistance.

Do you count vegetables on fast 800? ›

Don't worry about counting calories here, just fill your plate with a variety of veggies that will help keep you going. Broccoli, leafy greens, cucumber, leeks, mushrooms (to name a few), are all ideal for meal prepping in advance and keeping to hand ready to bulk out one of your fasting day meals.

What should I eat on a 500-calorie fasting day? ›

A typical 500-calorie fasting day might include oatmeal with fresh blueberries for breakfast, a tangerine for a snack, and a chicken and vegetable stir-fry for dinner. You will drink lots of water and may also have calorie-free beverages such as tea, coffee (no milk or sugar), and club soda.

How much weight can you lose in 2 weeks eating 500 calories a day? ›

Safe and Healthy Weight Loss Goals for Two Weeks
Starting WeightCalorie Reduction per DayHow much weight can you lose in two weeks?
200 pounds500-1000 calories4-8 pounds
150 pounds500-1000 calories2-4 pounds
Sep 23, 2023

What is the best intermittent fasting window to lose belly fat? ›

A 2023 review of research found that the 16/8 method and 16/8 combined with restricting calories were effective strategies for weight control in adults with overweight or obesity. An eating window starting before noon led to greater weight loss than one that began after noon.

What is the best meal for fasting? ›

In other words, eat plenty of the below foods and you won't end up in a hangry rage while fasting.
  1. Water. OK, OK — this isn't technically a food, but it's gosh-danged important for getting through IF. ...
  2. Avocado. ...
  3. Fish and seafood. ...
  4. Cruciferous veggies. ...
  5. Potatoes. ...
  6. Beans and legumes. ...
  7. Probiotics. ...
  8. Berries.

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