I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my fast days, and I’d be lying if I said I looked forward to them. However, I’ve been 5:2ing for about five weeks now and I have actually managed lose more pounds than weeks. (To be fair, I had (slash still have) the Christmas bulge to shift on top of the year abroad belly…)
And to be perfectly honest with you, I’m not even being very strict with my fast days. When I went to Salzburg for the weekend, I skipped a fast day and didn’t bother making it up, and one fast day evening was spent pigging out on sweets and chocolate while watching a film at a friend’s. But that’s the thing, I refuse to let a diet impose on the rest of my life. If it does, it won't be sustainable.
That’s actually one of the reasons I think the 5:2 is great: I can go out with my friends or head off on weekends away without stressing about what I’m eating (or not eating, as the case may be.)
Getting into a routine is key though. I'm fasting on Thursdays - because I don't have classes until the afternoon - and Sundays, because nothing happens on a Sunday in Germany.
Today is actually a fast day and I’m feeling pretty great. I’m fairly certain I’ve cracked the secret to easy fasting: wait as long as you possibly can before eating. It’s just gone 5pm and I consumed my first food of the day about half an hour ago. Considering on a normal day I'd usually be breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack down by now, it does seem odd.
Sure, when I got up this morning (despite having had a lie-in), the prospect of waiting all those hours without food was not appealing, but it’s surprisingly easy. Once you eat a little something, your inner hunger wakes up and you want to eat more. Trust me.
Despite that, I still like to split my 500 calories into two meals, and having already given you my favourite fast day breakfasts, I’d like to share my favourite dinners with you. I haven’t scientifically worked out the calorie counts of each meal, so sorry about that, but I reckon they should all be around the 250 cal mark. Sure, some of them may seem a bit weird to you, but hey, they're working for me.
Some days, I really like to spend time chopping, frying, peeling, boiling and generally cooking up a treat – it somehow feels like dinner is a bigger deal if you take your time over making it. Other days, I just want something easy, quick and comforting. Whichever you prefer, I think it’s key to add lots of seasoning and flavours to stimulate your tastebuds.
As with my breakfasts, I’ll update this post as and when I discover anything new!
1. Sweet potato, carrot and pea soup
Smooth, full-of-flavour and filling, this soup is easy-to-make, super low-cal and extremely good for you. Sweet potato creates a wonderful creamy texture, minus the need for any cream! Black pepper adds a little kick and balances the sweetness of the potato perfectly, in my opinion, and by not using too many different vegetables you can really taste each one. Makes three bowlfuls (and I'm certainly glad it does as it's SO yummy - lunch for the next two days = sorted.)
Tiny splash rapeseed oil or low-cal cooking spray
½ a medium-sized onion, diced
1 garlic clove, smushed (technical term, that)
750ml vegetable or chicken stock
1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks
2 handfuls frozen peas
Fry the onions and garlic in the teensiest amount of oil or cooking spray over a medium-low heat until browning and softened. Carefully tip in the stock followed by the rest of the veggies. Bring the pan to the boil before turning the heat down, covering the pan and leaving to simmer for 15-20 mins until the veggies are really tender and soft. Blend until smooth – be careful as it tends to splash out of the pan. Season to taste, blend once more, and serve.
2. Sweet potato, carrot and pea smash
(Yeah, weirdly enough I found myself with exactly the same vegetables as for the soup.) I like to leave the skins on my potatoes as just under the skin is where all the goodness is, but you could peel them first if you prefer a smoother mash (as opposed to a smash.) Once again, sweet potatoes have a creamier texture than regular ones, so you don’t need to add any butter or cream. Stirring through peas creates an appetising colour-contrast and the flavours really complement each other. This serves one and you get a really good-sized bowlful of comforting deliciousness. Simple and packed with flavour – just look at that: a mere three ingredients!
1 small sweet potato, chopped into chunks
1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 handful frozen peas
Boil the sweet potato and carrots for around 15-20 minutes until tender and soft, drain and return to the pan. Get mashing, and while you do so, boil your peas. Mash the potato and carrots until you reach your desired consistency, drain the peas, stir them into the mash and season to taste.
3. Baked beans and veggies
To keep calories down, I tend to go for veggies like boiled or steamed broccoli and carrots, but the vegetable world is your oyster really! That said, I'd steer clear of carby veg like parsnips, peas and squash etc. Personally, I think baked beans are under-rated. They may be a student staple, but one portion is one of your five-a-day and they're packed with protein. And YUMMY!
4. Chicken and roast vegetable salad
This is a great one for using up leftovers, so if ya fancy the above for a fast day dinner, it's good to plan ahead. The day before, I tend to double the quantities of veg and chicken with my dinner, then I have enough leftover for my fast day.
To make this tasty salad (not an oxymoron, honest), simply panfry or roast a small chicken breast in as little low-cal cooking spray as possible, and roast some red pepper, courgette and onion in the same way. I even dab off the rest of the oiliness with kitchen roll afterwards to keep the cals down.
The next day, chop up the chicken and veg and serve on a mountain of lettuce and cucumber, sprinkle with basil and seasoning, and - if you're feeling particularly indulgent or have calories to spare - go mad and add a bit of sweetcorn.
5. Turkey and vegetable bolognese
OK, people, sorry for the misleading picture, but it's all I have. I'm unfortunately not talking about said bolognese on top of a big ole bowl of spaghetti, but rather eaten by itself. Yes, spag bol minus the spag. You may think it's odd. I think it's delicious.
To make mine, I fry some garlic and chopped onion, then add the turkey mincemeat (leaner than beef) until browned. I then pour in some stock, chopped tomatoes, seasoning and lots of chopped veggies like peppers, peas, green beans, carrots and courgettes and leave to simmer until all cooked through. Sorry I don't have precise quantities, but you can totally go on instinct. It's delish, honest.
6. Cheeky ready meals
You know what? Sometimes it's just the easiest option to have something pre-prepared at your fingertips for a fast day dinner. Sure, they may not be full of all-natural ingredients, but every once in a while I reckon they're OK, and it can be so handy to know precisely how many calories you're eating.
Here in Germany, ready meals aren't really a thing, but I have found tins and pots like these two above, each clocking in at under 250 cals. And I know for a fact that all you Brits are spoilt for choice when it comes to low-cal ready meals and the like. This isn't exactly a recipe, granted, but it definitely comes under my fave fast day dinners!
I hope that helps inspire you to keep ploughing on with 5:2! As ever, I'd love love love to hear your thoughts, feedback or dinner suggestions, so do let me know. I'm off for a calorie-free pint of Diet Pepsi to tide me over until dinner (because I'm just wild like that.) Happy fasting!