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.
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
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
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
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
- Lean meats like chicken or turkey breast
Zero-Calorie Drinks for Fasting Days
- 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.
- Translational Research: "Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR study"
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC): "Chapter 4. Active Adults"