Monday, May 27, 2013


I've been in Rotterdam for almost a month and I have to confess that I have only managed one day of fasting a week since I have been here.  I have been taking a lot more exercise than I normally do, walking a lot... but even so, I fear that the full breakfasts and eating out a lot more than usual will have meant I've put on weight.

I'm waiting until I am home to weigh myself but I can tell from the feel of my clothes I am heavier than when I arrived.  Oops.  Back to 5:2 when I get home. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Guardian recipes for 5:2 diet

The Guardian has an article on the 5:2 diet today, including three odd recipes.  You can find it here but I am also going to add the recipes to the recipe page, in case they change address at some stage in the future. 

The comments stream is a bit odd.  A lot of people seem to feel very hostile to the idea of the 5:2 diet, and I'm not sure why. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013



I've added some more recipes and realise that this page probably needs reordering.  I am going to divide the recipes into calorie bands, as I think that is most useful.  I've often got to the end of the day and thought "What can I have for 130 calories?"

So... I will put headings in to break up the page, and divide up the recipes. 

My current regime on fasting days is not to have breakfast.  I leave eating until I am hungry, and what I eat depends upon what time that is.  If I have lasted until 4 or 5 o'clock I will blow all my calories on one meal.  If it is 2 or 3 then usually I will have a little something - perhaps an apple, or a banana or a boiled egg - and then have a main meal around 5.30-6pm.

When I am alone at home, I will often eat whatever I really fancy.  That could be a slice of toast with a dessertspoon of peanut butter, or an avocado pear with garlic mayonnaise or a pint of prawns, or a tub of rollmops.

If I am eating with my mother, who has also been following the diet, we will have a vegetable soup either at lunch time or late afternoon.

What I tend to cook is about two pints of stock, made with stock cubes (14 cals), with one nest of noodles (158 calories) between the two of us.  Depending upon how many calories I want to use, I will add strips of courgette or carrot (use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips).  I sometimes add onion or pepper, fried with a spray of one-cal or sometimes a teaspoon of oil (again, depending on the calories I have to play with).  I add water while the onions and peppers are cooking, as they tend to stick if you only use a small amount of oil.

I add spinach at the end.

Sometimes I will add soy sauce, five spice powder and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to get an oriental taste.

Sometimes I add garlic, mixed herbs and tomato paste to get an Italian feel.

Sometimes I add coriander, cumin, and turmeric to give it an Indian vibe - I am intolerant of chilli so don't use that but sometimes I add ginger.

My experience is that some days I can cope with one avocado around lunchtime and nothing else.  Sometimes, I can't!  On some days I have made two bowls of soup, one with just vegetables and the other with added noodles.

Eggs are a great standby.  One egg is around 70-80 calories depending on size.  You can boil them, poach them, scramble... or a new favourite for me is one egg (80 cals), one banana (80 cals), small tablespoon of coconut flour (30 cals), small amount of milk (25 cals).  Beat all up and fry in very tiny spray of oil or non stick pan.  I'm considering baking it to see if that would work better - it tends to end up looking like odd scrambled egg otherwise, but tastes great.  I make it (fried in butter) on days when I am not fasting.

The many uses of frozen banana
Bananas aren't low in calories at around 100 for a large banana.  They rate at 88 calories per 100 grams of banana. However, frozen banana is a great additive to a lot of other things, and can add something to smoothies - something more than you get with just fresh banana.  There is some magic there which I can't explain.  You just have to try banana milkshake made with fresh banana and banana milkshake made with frozen banana to understand what I mean.

    •    buy big bunch and peel and cut into thirds to freeze so i have about a 40g/35 cal portion and freeze all together in a big freezer bag

I keep frozen banana in the freezer at all times.  Whenever I see bananas inching their way past the ripe for eating stage in the fruit bowl, I slice them up and freeze them.  If you have room in your freezer, it's best to freeze them as slices on open trays, and then transfer them (quickly! or they defrost) to bags or plastic boxes.  Do not freeze on foil or greaseproof paper or you end up with bits of that embedded in the banana.

Not many people know that frozen banana blended with a little milk makes a soft and delicious ice cream which tastes as though it has cream in it.  You can use water even, and it still tastes creamy, although it requires eating immediately or it melts fast. For banana ice cream, take your quantity of banana, blend with a couple of spoonsful of semi-skimmed milk or water or juice.

Frozen banana also somehow transforms the taste for milkshakes...just add half a pint of skimmed (82 cals PLUS banana cals) or semi skimmed milk (115 PLUS banana cals) for a wonderful drink.

Recipes divided by calorie content

These are some recipes, divided by calorie content per portion, I'll embolden the headings as I get more recipes added.

Up to 50 calories

Up to 100 calories

Up to 150 calories

Half a pint of milk will add too many calories on a "fasting" day, but a couple of spoonfuls of milk won't. Smoothies can be a great way to start the day on a "fasting" day.

Morning Smoothie (116 calories per portion)(mine)

Ingredients to make two portions
80 grams frozen banana (74 cals)
100 grams raspberries 50 cals
200 grams strawberries 58 cals
60 grams blue berries 36 cals
two tablespoons (30mls) of semi-skimmed milk 14
four ice cubes

Prepare fruit before getting banana out of freezer.  Hull strawberries, wash fruit.  Add to blender, pour over two tablespoons of milk, blend until smooth.  I've said 116 calories per portion, but I think you probably lose about 10% to the blender, usually!

With a base of frozen banana, you can vary the rest of the fruit.  You can freeze the rest of the fruit as well, but getting the blender to work can be a problem if you do.

Frozen yoghurt with berries (from the Guardian)

(Serves 1, 120kcal or 100kcal without the honey)
150g frozen berries
100g fat-free Greek yoghurt
1tsp honey (optional)
Blend half the berries with the yoghurt in a food processor until smooth. Add the honey and whizz again, then taste and add a little more lemon if necessary (you can also add more honey, but bear in mind each teaspoon adds 20kcal). Scoop into a bowl or glass and top with the remaining berries.

 Up to 200 calories

 Moroccan Aubergine Stew (165 cals per portion) (mine)

Ingredients for two portions
1 cal oil spray
200g onion (2-3 medium) 60 cals
four garlic  cloves 16 cals
One aubergine (300g) 60 cals
coriander and cumin two tsp of each 20
Quarter of a teaspoon cinnamon
three medium tomatoes 40
Half a cup pickled peppers 35
One courgette 25
Half a teaspoon anchovy paste 5 calories
4 small dates (or 2-3 medjool large) 80

Chopped fresh mint and coriander to dress if liked.

We all vary in the way we like to do things.  You may prefer to chop it all before you start - I tend to chop things as I go. Chop the onion and fry in a couple of sprays of 1 cal oil. Chop the tomatoes and add to onion.

Add the coriander and cumin, cinnamon and half cup of water.  (Keep adding a little water throughout if you notice the mixture getting dry.) Slice the aubergine and chop each slice into four quarters, add to pan.

Slice the courgette and chop each slice in half and add to pan. Keep adding a little water to keep from drying up.

Mince 4 garlic cloves and add, stirring through.

Add half a teaspoon of anchovy paste and stir through.  You can omit this if you don't like it, but it doesn't taste fishy and does add body to the sauce.  Try it before you dismiss it - it adds a certain something to the recipe. Chop up the dates roughly and add to mixture.

As you cook, the aubergine and courgette will soften, and the liquid will become thicker.  The trick is to add water as necessary to keep it from drying, but not so much to make it watery.

Add the chopped pickled peppers in the last few minutes of cooking. Season to taste with a little sea salt and black pepper.

If you like, add chopped mint and coriander to dress the stew before serving.  I don't, but it was in the original recipe before I adapted it.

Around 165 calories. (Will vary according to size of the aubergine etc.) This is really nice to have hot or cold.

Chinese soupy vegetable (around 200 cals per portion)

Ingredients for two portions
1 cal cooking spray
One leek, chopped thinly 54 cals
One pickled pepper, chopped thinly 35 cals
One courgette (zucchini) stripped using a vegetable peeler 45 cals
One carrot stripped using a vegetable peeler 35 cals
100 gr thin asparagus cut into two cm chunks 25 cals
two spring onions, chopped thinly 10 cals
100g chicken chopped small 148 cals
Half a pint of chicken stock (skimmed of fat) (15 calories) OR
Half pint of stock from chicken stock cube (4 calories)
Splash of soy sauce 5 cals
splash of worcestershire sauce 5 cals
teaspoon of five spice powder (or more to taste) 0 cals?
teaspoon of balsamic vinegar 5 cals
One or two cloves of garlic 14 cals

Method to make stock
On my normal eating days I have roast chicken, reserving some of the breast meat (no skin or fat) for this recipe, and then boiling up the bones for stock.  This is as easy as easy - put the bones in a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to simmer with a lid on for a couple of hours.  You need to check from time to time that the stock isn't boiling dry.

At the end of the two hours, drain the stock into a jug through a sieve and discard the bones.  Wait for the stock to separate and the fat will be floating on top.  Remove the fat by skimming it off.  You can reserve half a pint or more for this recipe and you can freeze the rest of the stock in ice cube trays and then transfer to bags once frozen (labelled with date of course). Then add a stock ice cube or more to stir fries etc.

You can reduce the stock down before freezing to reduce space in the freezer, in which case you may need to add water to thin it down a little when you use it.

Otherwise, use a stock cube, but be aware that commercial stock cubes are very much saltier than the home made version.  You will probably not want to add any more salt if using a stock cube, and you may want to dilute it more than they say before use - taste it first.

Method to make soup
This makes a substantial "soup" more like soupy vegetables than vegetable soup. Precook the asparagus for about five minutes in boiling water. Drain ready to add to the mixture.

While that cooks, chop the other vegetables finely. For this recipe I recommend that you do the chopping in advance, because you need to keep stirring the vegetables once you start cooking them.

I use one of those bladed potato peelers to cut long thin slices of courgette and carrot to stir fry (thank you Gok Wan!).  It means they cook more quickly in the soup.

Fry the leek, spring onion and garlic in a couple of sprays of 1 cal cooking spray.  Add a little of the chicken stock to keep the pan from drying up, and stir frequently.  Once the leeks have softened, add a little more stock and the carrot and courgette. Add the five spice powder, sprinkling over the pan evenly to distribute it.  Add more stock or a little water if necessary.

Keep stirring.  Once the courgette starts to look a little transparent, add the other ingredients: the chicken, the pepper, and the asparagus and the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and balsamic vinegar, and the remaining stock. Cook for at least a couple of minutes to warm all the ingredients through thoroughly, stirring, then adjust seasoning to taste.  You may need to add a splash of water if the stock has reduced a lot in cooking. Add water a spoonful at a time, to avoid making watery.

Serve in bowls with a spoon and fork. Around 200 calories, depending on stock used and size of vegetables etc You can add more stock and remove some vegetables to reduce the calories on the recipe.

If you don't enjoy Chinese flavourings, you can omit the five spice powder and soy sauce and add basil or rosemary with mixed herbs instead. I'd substitute ordinary onion for spring onions in this case too, but remember to adjust the calories. If you don't have asparagus, substitute green beans or even spinach.

Sweet spiced porridge (from the Guardian) 

(Serves 1, 202kcal)

40g porridge oats
Grating of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
5g mixed peel
10g currants
Put the oats into a small pan with about twice as much water. Heat gently and stir until they're thick and creamy. Add more water if you prefer them runnier. Season with nutmeg, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Stir in the mixed peel and currants and spoon into a bowl.

Roasted broccoli, garlic and chilli soup (from the Guardian)

(Serves 2, 200kcal each)
600g broccoli (2 medium heads)
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 unwaxed lemon
10g grated parmesan
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the broccoli into florets and chop the stalk into large chunks. Put in a baking dish with the garlic and toss well with the olive oil, chilli and some coarse sea salt. Roast for about 20 minutes until tender and the broccoli florets are beginning to char. Put the chunks of stalk in a food processor, along with the larger florets. Squeeze the garlic from its skin and add to the stock. Whizz until smoothish. Pour into a pan and reheat, diluting slightly if you prefer a thinner soup. Grate in the zest of half a lemon and add a squeeze of juice. Season to taste. Spoon into bowls, and top with the remaining florets, and parmesan. Serve immediately.

Up to 250 calories

Up to 300 calories

Up to 350 calories

Up to 400 calories

Support groups and forums

Intermittent fasting

There is a yahoo group with people on a variety of diets who share experiences and scientific information.  This is what they say about themselves: This group is devoted to intermittent fasting and its effects on physiology and health. We expect that both practitioners of intermittent fasting and scientists with an interest in the physiological effects of intermittent fasting will want to join. The founding members are both practitioners and scientists. We are interested in the idea that intermittent fasting may be a preferable way of obtaining the health benefits associated with caloric restriction (including, but not limited to, weight loss). Although we are interested in many aspects of fasting, including styles, effects and reasons to fast, this group is not about multi-day fasts, colonics, the purging of toxins or the attainment of spiritual goals. This is not the place for those who are interested in longer fasts.

Alternate Day Fasting and up day/down day diet

There's a forum for Alternate Day Fasting here.

Joint fasting support/general support

There's a facebook support group for people on either alternate day fasting or 5/2 fasting here.  There is a resources section on the group where people share recipes and information.  It's a very busy group, but there are a lot of people with experience of all the different ways of fasting/eating, so it is a good place to get answers to questions.


You have to be careful when looking at the research for intermittent fasting.  Most people I have had contact with, who have been following the diet, try very hard to eat healthily.  In fact, you soon learn that if you eat things which are high in calories on a fasting day, you will end up very hungry.  Most people will eat a lot of vegetables on a fasting day, because these fill you up - and properly cooked, can be delicious.

The diet I am following is two non-consecutive days on 500 calories a week.  I am eating normally the rest of the time.  I generally eat no breakfast on fasting days, and either no lunch and all my calories at "dinner" in late afternoon, or a light snack at lunch and the majority of my calories in late afternoon. 

I have been attempting to eat in no more than an eight hour window, and trying not to eat after 6pm in the evening.  But those are my restrictions, based on things I have read, and not an intrinsic part of the diet.

If you look at the research which has been done into intermittent fasting, especially the rodent studies, you need to consider certain things.  Some studies have fed their rats a rubbish diet of high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrate.  Some haven't allowed the rats free access to food on non fasting days.  Some have followed other patterns of eating like alternate day fasting, or have fasted the rats entirely on fasting days.

Some researchers, when talking about intermittent fasting, won't be talking about the 5/2 scheme of dieting, but about the idea that you should restrict your eating hours to eight hours in the day, and fast for 16 hours a day.  This Dr Mercola article is addressing that type of eating.

If you are a layperson, getting access to the research papers may be iniquitously expensive, as many papers are published on gated sites which expect to be paid for access to the full papers. For this reason you may find it easier to buy the books which have been published on the subject, which tend to aggregate the research - but you have to trust the author to interpret it correctly, and to give you all the details.  If you join some of the online support groups for intermittent fasting or alternate day fasting, many of them give access to research papers.

That having been said, I plan to collect the research I have found on this page, and will add more as it becomes available or I stumble over it.

There's quite a lot of research listed on the wikipedia page for intermittent fasting here.  You generally have to look at the references at the bottom of the page to track back to the original research, if links in the article do not take you to it.  Annoyingly they often take you to definitions of the terms used in the article instead of the research they are referring to.

While we're looking at websites, there is one for alternate day fasting here. Surprisingly I found this less effective for weight loss, but it was a good introduction to the 5/2 diet, because it made it seem easy by comparison.  Although you are still able to take the alternate day fasting diet one day at a time and always tell yourself that although you may not be able to eat X today, you can tomorrow.  I found that the attraction of X had often worn off by the following day!

Dr James Johnson pioneered the up day/down day fasting diet, but he includes some extra elements that I haven't adopted.  His diet is an alternate day fasting diet.  He has published a number of books about the subject.  Many people following the 5/2 diet I am on, will talk about "updays" and "downdays" as shorthand for normal eating days and fasting days.

The BBC documentary

Michael Moseley made a BBC Horizon programme called Eat, Fast and Live Longer, which was broadcast in August 2012.  Parts of it are available all over the internet.  There are clips on the page which is linked in the title above, from the BBC.

There's a news item from the BBC here on the documentary and book which accompanies it.

There's a BBC article here about the documentary.

I found the whole documentary here.

There are a huge number of reviews, both positive and negative, on the internet.  If you search for "Eat, Fast and Live Longer" you will find more than you can read in an afternoon.

Introduction the 5:2 diet

I have been using intermittent fasting for health and weight loss since I watch a BBC documentary in August 2012.  Initially I was using alternate day fasting - and lost no weight.  I then switched to the 5/2 pattern of eating, with two fasting days (where I eat no more than 500 calories) and five days where I eat what I want.  After years of gradually putting on weight, I have now lost two stone.

I feel as enthusiastic about this way of dieting as I did at the beginning of my journey.  I love the fact that I only ever have to think about one day of dieting.  I appreciate my food much more.  I have found that it has liberated me from feeling guilty about eating anything at all because I am fat - and from feeling that I have no willpower.  Two days a week I have extreme willpower and stick to a diet of 500 calories only.  And I have done for months.

I had one period when I didn't continue - I was ill with flu after Christmas.  I didn't feel like eating at all for the first week, but I went back to eating normally gradually.  On every other diet I have tried, as soon as I stopped I piled on a lot of the lost weight - sometimes as much as eight or nine pounds in a week.  On the intermittent fasting diet there was no such effect.

My weight loss has been steady, I taste and appreciate my food more, I have stopped feeling guilty about food.  I am losing weight.  I have become a walking advertisement for the diet for weight loss.  But there is more.  The BBC programme showed that this way of eating has benefits in lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol and a whole range of markers.  I think that's why I find it easy to stick to the diet... I believe it is doing me good.  I've learned that I can be hungry, not eat, and be ok.  I wanted a place to put all the information about intermittent fasting.  And here it is.  Welcome!