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Doing the 5:2 Fast? Here’s What to Eat on Low-Calorie Days

Doing the 5:2 Fast? Here’s What to Eat on Low-Calorie Days

  • August 03, 2021
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Lettuce wraps are a great option for lunch and dinner on the 5:2 fasting diet.

Image Credit: freeskyline/iStock/GettyImages

The 5:2 intermittent fasting diet isn’t for everyone, but the way of eating — which includes five days of regular eating and two days of fasting — is having a moment. Here’s the draw: By restricting calories down to 500 or 600 on fasting days, followers don’t have to worry about counting calories or macronutrients on the other days.

But the thing is, it’s tough to feel satisfied on only 500 or 600 calories a day. And you want to make sure your meal choices on those low-calorie days are still healthy.

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Here, we’ve rounded up a variety of 5:2 fasting recipes that will keep you on track toward your goals, including meal ideas for just about every dietary need and palate.

As with any new diet or exercise plan, make sure to consult with a physician or registered dietitian before beginning a 5:2 fasting diet.

Low-Calorie Vegan Recipes

​Breakfast:​ Scramble 1/4 block firm tofu with 1/2 cup chopped green peppers. Serve with 1/2 cup raspberries on the side.

​Lunch:​ Mix 1/2 cup canned chickpeas with 1/4 avocado and wrap in two romaine lettuce leaves

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​Dinner:​ Mix together 1/2 cup quinoa (cooked in water), 1/2 cup chopped broccoli and 1/2 cup chopped red peppers

​Total calories:​ 549

Low-Calorie Vegetarian Recipes

​Breakfast​: Three slices non-fat Swiss cheese, 1 cup raspberries

​Lunch​: Four egg whites, scrambled, and served with one slice of whole-wheat toast

​Dinner​: 1/4 block firm tofu baked with herbs and spices, served with 1 1/2 cups steamed broccoli

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​Total calories: ​521

Low-Calorie, Low-Carb Recipes

​Breakfast:​ Scramble three egg whites with one slice non-fat Swiss cheese and 1/2 cup chopped green peppers

​Lunch​: Mix 3 ounces lean grilled chicken breast with 1/4 of a avocado and wrap in two romaine lettuce leaves

​Dinner:​ 3 ounces broiled London broil steak and 1 cup steamed cauliflower

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​Total calories:​ 529

Low-Calorie Recipes for Omnivores

​Breakfast:​ Four egg whites, scrambled, and served with one slice whole-wheat toast

​Lunch:​ 3 ounces canned white tuna (water packed) mixed with 1/4 avocado and wrapped in two romaine lettuce leaves

​Dinner:​ 3 ounces lean grilled chicken breast, 1/2 baked sweet potato

​Total calories: ​527

What to Eat on Fasting Days on a 5:2 Diet

Here is a list of low-calorie foods that pack a lot of nutrients to help you feel satisfied:

  • Clear soups, such as vegetable or miso
  • Nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt
  • Nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Steamed or raw vegetables
  • Fish
  • Lean meats like chicken or turkey breast
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Eggs
  • Popcorn
  • Water
  • Seltzer
  • Black coffee
  • Unsweetened hot or iced tea

Tips for a Successful 500-Calorie Day

When your calories are restricted, the foods you choose really matter.

  • Make sure you have adequate protein and a balanced source of carbohydrates while fasting to maximize your energy. Plus, sufficient protein will help to maintain your muscle during the fast, which will help with your weight-loss efforts (muscle burns more calories than fat).
  • Use herbs and spices — like crushed red pepper, garlic, rosemary, ginger, basil and salt — to increase the flavor and satisfaction of your meals without adding calories.
  • Sauces, fats and oils should be avoided as they can quickly add calories without much nutritional value.
  • When cooking meats, baked or broiled is best to limit any extra calories, and vegetables should be steamed.

How to Handle Normal Eating Days

While there are no restrictions on your normal eating days, it’s still important to make sure your non-fasting days provide balanced nutrition. Meals made from whole-food sources like whole grains, lean meat or fish and fruits and vegetables without added sweeteners will maximize your nutrition throughout the week.

Incorporating physical activity is also super important to maintain muscle mass and endurance during the 5:2 fasting plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, such as walking or biking. Schedule workouts on your normal eating days rather than your fasting days to ensure you have enough energy and the right nutrition for recovery.

Can 5:2 Fasting Help You Lose Weight?

Intermittent fasting can reduce your overall calorie consumption throughout the day by restricting the time you are allowed to eat. An October 2014 study in ​Translational Research​ found that intermittent fasting one to three days a week (following the same model as a 5:2 fasting plan) is equally effective as calorie restriction for weight loss.

Intermittent fasting may also help dieters avoid the metabolic process that causes your body to stop losing weight during a weight-loss attempt, often referred to as a weight-loss plateau. A February 2018 study in the International Journal of Obesity found alternating periods of fasting with periods of energy balance — or normal eating — allowed research participants greater weight and fat loss. So, while more research needs to be conducted, intermittent fasting does show promise for weight-loss hopefuls.

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