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The 5:2 Diet Book by Kate Harrison (2012): Food list

The 5 2 Diet Book by Kate HarrisonThe 5:2 Diet Book (2012) is an intermittent fasting / intermittent calorie restriction (ICR) diet book

  • Fast 2 days a week, feast the other 5 days. Other patterns also allowed.
  • On fast days, eat 25% of your calorie requirements – around 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men.

Below is a description of the food recommendations in the diet.  Patterns of fasting  |  Fast days  |  Feast days.  There’s a lot more in the book.

Get a copy of The 5:2 Diet Book – Amazon UK or Amazon USA – for how to calculate your daily calorie requirement (DCR), suggestions of fast and feast day patterns, tips for your first fast, general tips, menu suggestions, recipe ideas, calorie counts, and other resources.

Also, see The Ultimate 5:2 Diet Recipe book for recipes – Amazon UK or Amazon USA

The reasoning behind The 5:2 Diet Book

The book argues caloric restriction is good for your health, but most people can’t easily follow diets that require you to eat a low-calorie diet all the time. Intermittent calorie restriction is easier to follow in the long run and can have health benefits as well as helping you to lose weight.

The 5:2 Diet plan – what to eat and foods to avoid

These people shouldn’t follow this diet: children and teenagers; pregnant women; people with compromised immunity. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you should talk to your doctor as this diet could help but you need to do it under supervision. Also, anyone with a history of eating disorders should not undertake this diet without speaking with their doctors.

Patterns of fasting  |  Fast days  |  Feast days

Patterns of fasting

  • Fast 2 days a week. Most people choose weekdays (the author of the book fasts on Mondays and Wednesdays) so they can eat without restrictions at weekends
  • Most people choose non-consecutive days for fasting. This makes it more likely they’ll stay on the diet; also some doctors have concerns over fasts for more than 24 hours
  • Feast (eat what you like) the other five days a week
  • If you’re losing too much weight, you can try 6:1 instead (fasting only 1 day a week)
  • If you’re trying to lose a lot of weight you could try alternate day fasting (ADF), which is a one day on, one day off pattern, or 4:3, which is 3 non-consecutive days a week of fasting. If you’re still not losing weight following this pattern, measure how much you’re eating on feast days to ensure you’re not bingeing or overcompensating

Fast days

  • Eat roughly 25% of the calories your body needs on those days – around 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men
  • Eat up to 3 small meals on these days. Evidence suggests that the health benefits may be higher if you restrict to two or one meals, with as little snacking as possible. A favorite method is to eat only lunch or early dinner on Fast Days, so your body gets longer periods of rest before and after that meal
  • You may want to be aware of the length of time between the last meal on a Feast Day and the first on a Fast Day, and then doing the same again when it’s a Feast Day
  • Some 5:2 dieters have a full fast, only drinking water or herbal tea on Fast Days – usually only once a week
  • You’ll learn to recognize your hunger symptoms and separate them from other eating cues such as comfort eating
  • Some people fast from dinner the day before to breakfast the day after the fast day; other do 24-hour fasts from lunch one day to late lunch or early dinner the next day
  • You may have some symptoms when you start fasting – e.g. headaches, sleep disruption, and feeling the cold in the winter. Most people find headaches are reduced or eliminated after the first fast or two – they will generally go away. If headaches continue, you can try varying meal times to cope with any blood sugar issues. Follow the usual advice for sleeplessness – e.g. take a long bath before bed, read rather than watch TV, try a milky drink; eating one or two kiwifruits before going to bed may improve sleep quality by up to 40%. Other symptoms may include irritability, digestive changes, or cramps

Foods to eat on fast days in The 5:2 Diet Book

For USA readers, the book hasn’t been well “translated” from UK English – both UK and USA names for foods are listed below.

  • Eat what you like, as long as it doesn’t exceed your calorie limit
  • Ready meals / prepared meals / convenience foods are okay
  • Focus on vegetables and fruits to get more out of your calories
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Savor your food – eat very slowly, with no other distractions
  • Breakfast
    • Only if you feel you need it
    • High-fiber, low-carbohydrate cereals – e.g. low-sugar muesli/granola, porridge/oatmeal – with skimmed/nonfat milk or water
    • Yogurt – e.g. Greek yogurt – you could have natural low-fat, low-carb yogurt with a few nuts or seeds
    • Wholegrain toast with a small topping such as egg, baked beans, peanut butter, cream cheese, ham, cheese
    • Eggs – e.g. scrambled, poached, omelette
  • Lunches and dinners
    • You can have these for breakfast if you’d like
    • Soups/casseroles/stews
    • Ready meals (options listed in the book)
    • Soups
    • Grains and noodles – e.g. rice, shirataki noodles, tofu shirataki noodles, couscous
    • Salads
    • Meal replacements – e.g. diet shakes, bars, soups
    • Home-made “meat & 2 veg”
  • Vegetables
    • E.g. artichoke hearts, asparagus, aubergines/eggplant, avocado, baby corn, beetroot/beets, bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, chillis/peppers, courgettes/zucchini, cucumber, edamame beans, green beans, lettuce, mangetout/snow peas, mushrooms, onions, pak choi/bok choy, rocket/arugula, spinach, spring onions/scallions/green onions, tomatoes, watercress
    • Peas and sweetcorn/corn (higher in calories)
    • Sweet potatoes – may want to limit to avoid cravings
  • Proteins
    • Poultry, e.g. chicken, turkey
    • Fish, e.g. salmon, tuna
    • Shellfish, e.g. prawns/shrimp
    • Processed meats e.g. ham, smoked salmon, turkey, bacon, sausage
    • Eggs
    • Vegetarian proteins e.g. veggie burgers or sausages
    • Dairy, e.g. light cream cheese, cottage cheese, low fat feta, mozzarella, low-fat ricotta, parmesan
  • Natural snacks – in moderation as they contain a lot of calories
    • Nuts e.g. almonds, pine nuts, walnuts
    • Seeds e.g. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
    • Olives
  • Flavorings
    • Herbs, e.g. basil, chives, coriander/cilantro, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme
    • Spices, e.g. chili, ginger, turmeric
    • Condiments, e.g. chutneys, fish sauce, horseradish, hot chili sauce/hot sauce, marmite, miso, mustard, pickles, salsa, soy sauce, stock/broth, tomato puree/paste, tom yum paste, vinegars (cider, wine, balsamic), wasabi, Worcestershire sauce
  • Fruits
    • Low-sugar fruits such as berries – whole fresh or frozen strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. Some of the recipes have small amounts of apple; bananas, cherries, kiwis, peaches, and tangerines (and ugli fruit) are also mentioned. Note that fruits can give you cravings
  • Complex carbs
    • Complex carbohydrates – e.g. seeded rolls, brown rice, sweet potatoes, pulses/legumes including lentils – will have a less dramatic effect but you won’t get a very big portion within your calorie limit
    • Air-popped popcorn, oatcakes
    • Quinoa
    • Lentils, hummus
    • Some crisps/chips are also listed, in small quantities – e.g. Quavers, Snack a Jacks, Twiglets, Pringles. Limit calories in serving sizes
  • Sweet treats
    • Dark chocolate, in small amounts
    • Low-calorie ice creams and yogurts
    • Low-calorie popsicles – make your own with squash/sugar-free drinks, diluted fruit juice, or low-fat yogurt
    • Sugar-free jelly/jello
    • Mini biscuits/cookies or chocolates/candies if you can stop at just one – e.g. Oreos, Jaffa cakes, digestives, ginger biscuits, malt loaf, Milky Way Mini
    • Dried fruits in small amounts, e.g. dried apricots, dates, sultanas/golden raisins

Try not to eat out on Fast Days. If you have to, choose soups (ideally vegetable-based and non-creamy), and salads (with the dressing on the side). Lean fish or chicken with veggies is not exciting but will give you some control. If all else fails, fast tomorrow instead

Foods to avoid or limit on fast days in The 5:2 Diet Book

  • Any foods that take you over your daily calorie limit
  • Some scientists say that eating a lot of protein may switch on IGF-1, which may be counter-productive
  • These foods are high glycaemic/glycemic and may cause cravings, so you may want to limit or avoid them on Fast Days:
    • Fruit juice can give you cravings
    • Smoothies may also be high-sugar and give you cravings – they may be better if they contain slowly-digested ingredients such as yogurt and oats
    • Refined carbohydrates – e.g. white bread, potatoes, white rice – will make you hungry
    • Alcoholic drinks – they are high in calories and won’t fill you up, and could lower your willpower
    • Cereal bars / energy bars / protein bars often contain a lot of sugar or refined carbohydrates, which can have a lot of calories and make you hungry

Exercise on fast days

The book author finds that she can exercise on fast days without feeling dizzy – she started exercising on fast days about a month after she started fasting – at first she felt light-headed at times and reduced the pace a little; now she can keep up the same exercise intensity on Fast and Feast Days. Don’t eat extra on Fast Days to compensate for the calories burned.

Feast days

Once you start fasting, you may find that you’re more aware of what you’re eating, even on feast days. For example, you might ask yourself “do I really want this?” when picking up something to eat. You’ll become fuller sooner, and you’ll enjoy your favorite foods but perhaps not in the same quantities. This will happen in the long term, not overnight

Foods to eat on feast days in The 5:2 Diet Book

  • Eat what you like
  • Most people don’t need to calorie count on Feast Days – review your total calorie consumption to ensure you’ll have a calorie deficit if you want to lose weight

Foods to avoid or limit on feast days in The 5:2 Diet Book

  • No limitations

Health benefits claimed in The 5:2 Diet Book

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, bloating, cancer, breast cancer, dementia, depression, diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease/cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high IGF-1, high LDL cholesterol, hot flushes, insulin sensitivity, joint inflammation, low energy, osteoarthritis, overweight/obesity, perimenopausal symptoms, premenstural syndrome PMS, respiratory problems, restless leg syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, strokes. The diet also claims to increase longevity.

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, not endorsing it.

Get a copy of The 5:2 Diet Book – Amazon UK or Amazon USA – for how to calculate your daily calorie requirement (DCR), suggestions of fast and feast day patterns, tips for your first fast, general tips, menu suggestions, recipe ideas, calorie counts, and other resources.

Also, see The Ultimate 5:2 Diet Recipe book for recipes – Amazon UK or Amazon USA

See http://the5-2dietbook.com for FAQs, forums, and more. The author recommends http://www.myfitnesspal.com for recording what you’re eating so you can track calories. She also recommends that you get a food scale to be able to accurately measure how many calories you’re consuming.

How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment or question below.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Lynne Kuhn September 25, 2013, 11:01 am

    Saw the Moseley TV show – going to try it, for another reason. The show states that Brain Cells grew more during this diet, and as my mother had Alzheimers, I’m going to try this for my own reasons. Will let you know!!

    • Penny Hammond September 25, 2013, 5:59 pm

      Good luck!

  • J. Barry Fraser December 4, 2013, 3:27 am

    There is no question that almost everyone has a lot of difficulty staying on a daily diet, this might just be the answer for most overweight candidates. I particularly like the idea of fasting a day or two as no one likes the regimentation of most dieting programs! We will have to see, but it sure sounds convincing.

  • sarah August 4, 2014, 9:51 am

    Hi I have started this diet yesterday and on a fast day today, at moment things are going well, I have kept myself busy doing lots of things around the house , I have had 15g bran flakes with yoghurt at lunch time and drinking plenty of water, I have also made for this evening butternut squash and sweet potato soup for this evening, so feel good about things at moment, I love bananas and would have one every day as normal, am I still ok on fast days or not, I am really enjoying reading your book . thank you

    • Penny Hammond August 4, 2014, 8:38 pm

      It sounds like you’re planning to eat a lot of high-carbohydrate foods on your fast days – you might find that these foods make you hungry, and also the portion sizes are really small because they’re energy-dense foods. If you really want to eat your banana every day, remember that a medium banana is about 105 calories; look for low-carbohydrate foods for the rest of the day to make sure you don’t get too hungry.

  • Maz Carter January 22, 2015, 9:39 pm

    I started this way of eating nearly ten weeks ago and have lost 9 kilo’s. It has been so easy. I usually have 45o cals on fast days and don’t count on ordinary days. I do try and eat reasonably sensible but do have treats now and again. I recommend this to anyone that has struggled with diets. All my friends do it and have lost the same. Between half a kilo to one kilo a week. It is best to stay away from too many carbs on fast days as this does affect the weight loss and makes you hungry. More protein on fast days is best.

  • Leigh cleland June 23, 2015, 8:49 pm

    ive done thus diet since January , I havnt even been able to do much exercise for medical reasons. I have fasted on Monday and Wednesday . I started out at just over 70 kilos I am now 62.2 , it’s been easy , I feel so much better , eaten anything vi wanted in my days off and never put any weight on . When I get to my goal I’ll continue doing this but just 1day fast . Love it

    • Penny Hammond June 25, 2015, 8:43 am


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