What is the 5:2 diet?

July 26 2019

When it comes down to it, most diets follow a simple rule of cutting something out of your regular shopping list. Whether it’s carbs, sugar or fat, something usually has to go.

The 5:2 diet follows a different path, as it’s your calorie intake that takes a hit, rather than specific food groups. Your week is split up into 5 days of eating a balanced diet and 2 days of eating 25% of your regular calorie intake - 500 for women and 600 for men.

Also known as the part-time diet, it follows the practice of intermittent fasting which has been around as early as the 1940s. The popularity of the diet is due to its simplicity and the allowance to eat anything you want (within your regular calorie intake) for most of the week. Many people have claimed that the diet’s lack of restrictions makes it easier to cope with low-calorie days.

If the 5:2 diet is something that you’re interested in trying for yourself, we’ve created a list of delicious low-calorie recipes for you to try on your fast days, as well as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Before you get started

It’s important to make sure that you consult your doctor before attempting a new type of diet, as any drastic changes could pose a risk to your health; particularly if you’re pregnant or diabetic. Even if you’ve tried different diets in the past, make sure you double check with a GP to be on the safe side. 

5:2 diet recipes under 300 calories

Cranberry chicken salad

Ingredients

Quantity

Skinless chicken breasts

2

Olive oil

4 tsp

Red onions, thinly sliced

2

Mixed leaves

200g

Cucumber, deseeded and sliced

½ 

Dried cranberries

25g

Cranberry sauce

85g

Juiced lime

1


Method:

  • Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally to make 4 thin breasts, rub with 2 tsp of oil and season
  • Heat a non-stick frying pan and fry the chicken for 3 minutes on each side until cooked through
  • Set the chicken aside on a plate
  • Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the onions for 5 minutes
  • Slice the chicken and layer up with the onions, mixed leaves cucumber and dried cranberries
  • Mix the cranberry sauce, lime juice, 2 tbsp of water and drizzle on top of the salad

 

Thai prawns with pineapple and green beans

Ingredients

Quantity

Vegetable oil

1 tbsp

Lemongrass stalks, finely chopped

2

Ginger, shredded

2-inch piece 

Fresh pineapple chunks

100g

Green beans

100g

Cherry tomatoes

100g

Raw king prawns

200g

Basil leaves

1 small pack

 

Sauce Ingredients

Quantity

Lime juice

4 tbsp

Chicken stock

2 tbsp

Fish sauce

1 tbsp

Soft brown sugar

1 tbsp


Method:

  • Mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside
  • Heat the oil in a large wok and sauté the lemongrass and ginger until golden
  • Add the pineapple, beans and cherry tomatoes and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes until the beans are just cooked
  • Add the prawns and the sauce and cook for another 3-5 minutes and add most of the basil leaves and stir
  • Serve with lime wedges and top with the remaining basil leaves  

 

Sea bass with sizzled ginger, chilli and spring onions

Ingredients

Quantity

Sea bass fillets

6

Sunflower oil

3 tbsp

Ginger, shredded

2-inch piece

Garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3

Fresh red chillies

3

Spring onion

1 bunch

Soy sauce

1 tbsp


Method:

  • Season the sea bass fillets with salt and pepper, then slash the skins 3 times
  • Heat a frying pan and add 1 tbsp of sunflower oil
  • Once hot, fry the fillets, skin-side down, for 5 mins until the skin is crisp and golden
  • Turn over, cook for another 30 seconds - 1 minute and transfer to a plate
  • Heat 2 tbsp of sunflower oil, cut the ginger into thin matchsticks and thinly slice the chillies and garlic
  • Fry for about 2 mins until golden
  • Take off the heat and toss in the shredded spring onion
  • Splash the fish with soy sauce and top with the ingredients in the pan

Vegetarian 5:2 diet recipes under 300 calories

Spiced carrot and lentil soup

Ingredients

Quantity

Cumin seeds

2 tsp

Chilli flakes

1 pinch

Olive oil

2 tbsp

Carrots, washed and coarsely grated

600g

Split red lentils

140g

Hot vegetable stock

1l

Milk

125ml

Plain yoghurt and naan bread

Enough to serve 


Method:

  • Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min
  • Scoop out about half and set aside. Add the olive oil carrots, split red lentils, vegetable stock and milk to the pan and bring to the boil
  • Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have softened
  • Whizz the soup with a stick blender or food processor until smooth
  • Season to taste and finish with a dollop of yoghurt and the set-aside spices 
  • Serve with warmed naan bread

 

Lemony mushroom pilaf

Ingredients

Quantity

Vegetable stock

500ml

Onion, sliced

1

Mixed mushrooms, sliced

300g

Garlic cloves, crushed

2

A mixture of basmati rice and wild rice

200g

Lemon zest and juice

1

Snipped chives

1 small bunch

Light soft cheese with garlic and herbs

6 tbsp


Method:

  • Put 2 tbsp of the stock in a non-stick pan
  • When hot, cook the onion for 5 mins until softened
  • Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for another 2 mins
  • Add the rice, lemon juice and zest and stir well
  • Pour in  the rest of the stock, season and bring to the boil
  • Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 25-30 mins until the rice is tender
  • Stir through half the chives and soft cheese
  • Top with the remaining cheese and chives and serve 

 

Chickpea, tomato and spinach curry

Ingredients

Quantity

Onion, chopped

1

Garlic cloves, chopped

2

Ginger, grated

1-inch piece

Tomatoes

6

Olive oil

½ tbsp

Chilli flakes

1 pinch

Yeast extract (can use Marmite)

1 tsp

Red lentils 

4 tbsp

Coconut cream

6 tbsp

Broccoli

1 head, broken into small florets

Chickpeas

400g

Baby spinach leaves

100g

lemon

½ 

Toasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp

Chopped cashew

1 tbsp

Ground cumin

1 tsp

Ground coriander

2 tsp

Tumeric

1 tsp

 

Method:

  • Put the onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in a blender or food processor and whizz to a puree
  • Heat the oil in a large pan
  • When hot, add the spices and fry for a few seconds before adding the puree and yeast extract
  • Bubble together for 2 mins then add the lentils and coconut cream
  • Cook until the lentils are tender then add the broccoli and cook for 4 mins
  • Stir in the chickpeas and spinach, squeeze in the lemon juice and swirl through the sesame and cashew mix
  • Can be served with brown rice (which will increase your calorie intake)

Vegan 5:2 diet recipes under 300 calories

Jungle curry with tofu

Ingredients

Quantity

Jasmine rice

½ cup per person

Extra firm tofu, cubed

12 oz

Canola oil

2 tbsp

Aubergine, chopped

1

Green beans, chopped

2 cups

Red bell pepper, sliced

1

Green curry paste

2 tbsp

Vegetable broth

1 cup

Soy sauce

3 tbsp

Brown sugar

2 tsp

Lime zest

2 tsp

Fresh basil, chopped

1 cup

Lime wedges

2


Method:

  • Place the rice in a saucepan with twice as much water, cover and heat until the water is gone
  • Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick pan over a medium-high heat
  • Add 1 tbsp of oil and the tofu, cook for 4 minutes or until browned
  • Remove from the pan and set aside
  • Add the rest of the oil, the green beans, aubergine and bell pepper, cooking for 3 minutes
  • Add the curry paste and cook for 30 seconds, stirring well
  • Add the broth, soy sauce, sugar and rind, cooking for 5 minutes
  • Add the tofu back in the pan and cook for a further 1 minute 
  • Plate up the rice and top with the tofu mixture
  • Add the basil on top and serve with lime wedges

 

Tofu Saag

Ingredients

Quantity

Firm tofu, cubed

21 oz

Canola oil

2 tbsp

Baby spinach

10 oz

Baby kale

10 oz

Cumin seeds

1 ¾ tsp

Fennel seeds

1 ½ tsp

Green cardamom pods

8

Whole cloves

6

Dried red chillies

6

Fresh ginger, minced

2 tbsp

Salt

¾ teaspoon 

Ghee

1 ½ tsp

Ground red pepper

¼ tsp 

Water

1 tsp


Method:

  • Heat 1 ½ tsp of oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium-high heat
  • Add the tofu to the pan, cooking 4 minutes or until golden brown
  • Bring two inches of water to the boil in a saucepan and add the spinach and kale. Cover and cook for 4 minutes until wilted
  • Drain and place the spinach mix in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth
  • Combine the rest of the oil, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 8 green cardamom pods, 6 whole cloves and 3 dried red chillies in a large pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the cumin turns golden brown (make sure to stir frequently)
  • Stir in the ginger and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly
  • Remove the cloves and cardamom pods with a slotted spoon and discard
  • Stir in the spinach mixture, add salt and reduce the heat to a medium temperature
  • Place the tofu on top, cover and cook for 5 minutes
  • Combine the ghee with ¾ tsp of cumin seeds, ½ tsp of fennel seeds and 3 chillies in a small pan over a medium high heat for 2 minutes
  • Add the ground red pepper and water, quickly mix and pour into the spinach mixture
  • Stir well and serve

 

Zechuan tofu with cauliflower

Ingredients

Quantity

Extra firm tofu, cubed

12 oz

Corn flour

9 tsp

Canola oil

2 tbsp

Unsalted vegetable stock

1 cup

Soy sauce

3 tbsp

Sherry vinegar

1 tbsp

Hoisin sauce

1 ½ tsp

Cauliflower florets

3 cups

Celery, chopped thin

2 cups

Garlic cloves, thinly sliced

6

Ketchup

1 ½ tbsp

Crushed red pepper

½ tsp

Spring onions, thinly sliced

½ cup


Method:

  • Place 7 tsp of corn flour in a bowl, add the tofu and toss to coat
  • Remove the tofu from the bowl, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium high heat
  • Add the tofu to the pan and cook for 6 minutes or until golden brown
  • Once cooked, remove the tofu with a slotted spoon and add to a plate
  • Combine the last 2 tsp of corn flour and a ¼ cup of stock in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth
  • Stir in the remaining stock, soy sauce, vinegar and hoisin sauce
  • Add cauliflower to the remaining oil in the pan and cook for 3 minutes until lightly browned
  • Add the celery and garlic, cooking for 2 minutes
  • Add the ketchup and pepper for 1 minute,   well to coat
  • Add the stock mix to the pan and bring to the boil
  • Cook for 2 minutes until the liquid has thickened slightly
  • Add the tofu, stir well, top with spring onions and serve

Gluten-free 5:2 diet recipes under 300 calories

Maple glazed grilled salmon

Ingredients

Quantity

Maple syrup

2 tbsp

Dark balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp

Salmon fillets

2

Sea salt and black pepper

To season

Olive oil

1 tbs


Method:

  • Combine the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup in a resealable bag
  • Seal the salmon fillets in the bag and marinate for at least 10 minutes
  • Preheat the grill to medium-high
  • Remove the fillets from the bag and place on the grill skin-side up for 2 minutes
  • Flip the salmon and grill until cooked through
  • Place on a plate and serve with brown rice, quinoa, a side salad or grilled veggies if desired (may increase calorie count)

 

Coconut prawn curry and green beans

Ingredients

Quantity

Raw prawns

2 lbs

Green beans

1 lb

Light coconut milk

14 oz

Shallots, chopped

2

Garlic cloves, diced

3

Curry powder

4 tsp

Paprika

1 tsp

Extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp

Tapioca starch

2 tbsp


Method:

  • Preheat a large pan on a medium-high heat
  • Add the oil and the green beans and cook for 3-4 minutes until the beans start to brown and soften slightly
  • Add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute
  • Turn the heat down to medium, add the coconut milk, curry powder, paprika and tapioca starch
  • Whisk until well mixed, then add the prawns, cover and bring to the boil
  • Once boiling, take off the lid and cook for another 5-8 minutes
  • Once the prawns are cooked through, plate up and serve

 

Spaghetti squash pad thai

Pad thai ingredients

Quantity

Boneless chicken breasts

2

Spaghetti squash

1

Carrots, grated

2

Red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1

Spring onions, thinly sliced

4

Garlic cloves, minced

3

Coriander

¼ cup

Unsalted peanuts, chopped

⅓ cup

Extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp

 

Sauce ingredients

Quantity

Chicken broth

¼ cup

Rice vinegar

¼ cup

Lime juice

2 tbsp

Honey

3 tbsp

Gluten-free soy sauce

¼ cup

Sesame oil

1 tsp

Pepper

¼ tsp


Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C
  • Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides
  • Drizzle the flesh inside with olive oil and place face-down on a baking sheet
  • Bake for 45 mins until a knife can pass through it easily
  • Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes
  • Use a fork to scrape out all the spaghetti squash until only skin is left
  • Set the squash in a colander for 10 mins to drain
  • Put all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk well
  • Put over a medium-low heat to warm (don’t let it boil)
  • Cut the chicken into small pieces and season with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Add 2 tbsp of oil to a large pan over a medium-high heat and add the chicken, cook until golden brown
  • Add the peppers, carrots, spring onions and garlic, cooking for 3-4 minutes
  • Add the drained squash and sauce to the pan and stir well
  • Add the peanuts and coriander and mix well
  • Plate up and serve

Once again, if you feel like giving the 5:2 diet a go, or any other diet for that matter, always make sure you check in with your doctor first before making drastic changes to your meals.

For more helpful information and tips on dieting and nutrition, head over to Inside Track.