Nutrition: 5:2 diet meal ideas

As promised, I’m back to share with you some of the meals that I enjoyed (and yes, I did genuinely enjoy them) whilst on the 5:2 diet for the month of February.

Most of them followed the same format; a starchy carbohydrate making up the biggest proportion of the calorie content, a low-carbohydrate protein, green vegetables, and a nut or seed-based fat source. This breakdown, as I discussed in my top tips, ensured I got the longest supply of energy along with some satiation from the protein and fats, plenty of fibre to keep me full, and a range of vitamins and minerals to keep me sharp and healthy. It also made for a colourful and vibrant plate, and a variety of textures, for maximum sensorial enjoyment!

Here are some of the highlights:

5:2 diet meal

Sweet potato, tofu, and kale sauté with tahini dressing

  • 1tsp Carotino oil (40kcal)
  • 155g sweet potato (133kcal)
  • 100g tofu (76kcal)
  • 50g kale (17kcal)
  • 1tbsp/13g tahini (87kcal) + 1tsp apple cider vinegar (2kcal) + 1tsp tamari (7kcal) + water
  • Total: 364kcal
  1.  Heat the oil in a small pan over a high heat, then add the diced sweet potato, toss to coat, and turn the heat down to medium.
  2. When the sweet potato begins to brown (about 7-8mins), turn the heat up to high and add the diced tofu. Sauté, turning regularly, until the tofu begins to brown (about 3-4mins), then turn heat down to low.
  3. Cover the sweet potato and tofu with the kale, sprinkle with salt, and leave for about 5mins or until the kale begins to wilt. Stir to combine and leave for another 5mins or until sweet potato is tender. Remove from heat.
  4. For the dressing, combine all ingredients except water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork. Add water by the teaspoon whilst whisking, until desired consistency.

This was the first meal I ate during the experiment, and by far the one I enjoyed the most. I served my food very hot, drank a 250ml glass of water before eating, and sat down to savour my meal piece by piece.

5:2 diet meal

Comforting quinoa and tofu bowl

  • 20g quinoa (74kcal)
  • 0.5tsp Carotino oil (20kcal)
  • 100g tofu (76kcal)
  • 40g green pepper (8kcal)
  • 60g frozen garden peas (39kcal)
  • 75g tinned tomato (17kcal)
  • 5g nutritional yeast (19kcal)
  • Total: 253kcal
  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the chopped green pepper and sauté until softened, about 4-5mins.
  3. Add the diced tofu, turn the heat to high and sauté for another 3-4 minutes or just until tofu begins to brown. Turn the heat to low.
  4. Add the peas and tinned tomato to the pan, and stir in the quinoa until all ingredients are combined. Add salt to taste and leave to simmer for about 7-8 minutes. Stir in nutritional yeast and serve.

I call this bowl “comforting” because the soft quinoa was reminiscent of a hearty risotto, and the tomatoes added richness while the nutritional yeast brought creamy texture and nutty flavours. Plus, it was so much food and it was hot!

5:2 diet meal

Sweet potato, tofu, and broccoli sauté with tahini dressing

  • 0.5tsp olive oil (20kcal)
  • 167g sweet potato (143kcal)
  • 77g broccoli (26kcal)
  • 99g tofu (75kcal)
  • 1tbsp/13g tahini (87kcal) + 1tsp apple cider vinegar (2kcal) + 1tsp tamari (7kcal) + water
  • Total: 360kcal

This is pretty much the exact same as that first recipe (sweet potato, tofu, and kale) except that it may require slightly longer to cook the broccoli through. This is one to turn to if you want even more crunch to your plate, or if you don’t enjoy the texture of leafy greens.

5:2 diet meal

Chickpea pancake with vegetables and tahini dressing

  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan) (89kcal), 1/4tsp baking powder, pinch turmeric, pinch salt (1kcal), 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2tsp Carotino oil (20kcal)
  • 95g white cup mushrooms (12kcal)
  • 100g kale (33kcal)
  • 100g chopped tomatoes (21kcal)
  • Total: 156kcal
  1. Whisk together the chickpea flour, salt, turmeric, and baking powder in a small bowl. Whisk in the water, add more if needed to reach a watery consistency slightly thinner than crepe batter. Whisk for a few more seconds until air bubbles appear.
  2. Heat about 1/4 tsp of oil in a non-stick pan on a high heat. Pour the pancake batter in, distribute evenly, and turn the heat to medium. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the top has dried out and the sides are starting to unstick. Flip and cook for another 7-8 minutes until the edges are crispy and the bottom has browned.
  3. While the pancake is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a small pan on a high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until browned and softened. Turn the heat to medium, add the kale and a sprinkle of salt. Leave for about 2 minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, and leave to cook on a low heat for another 3-4 minutes.
  4. Serve the pancake topped with the vegetable mixture and drizzled with tahini dressing, as pictured.
  • 1tbsp/13g tahini (87kcal)
  • 1tsp apple cider vinegar (2kcal)
  • 1tsp tamari (7kcal)
  • water to desired consistency
  • Total: 96kcal

This is such a wonderful, filling, and healthy meal for just over 252kcal. Even if you’re not on 5:2, this would be a wonderful snack – ready in under 20 minutes, full of different textures and tastes, and so visually appealing. Can you believe you can eat all of that for fewer calories than your average chocolate bar?

5:2 diet meal

Banana-chia pudding with pumpkin seeds

  • 10g chia seeds (49kcal)
  • 2tbsp unsweetened soy milk (9kcal) + 2tbsp water
  • 1 small ripe banana (92g – 82kcal)
  • 5g pumpkin seeds (27kcal)
  • … and a sprinkle of cinnamon (cinnamon does actually contain calories, more than other spices in fact, but my scales wouldn’t register the weight so I don’t think we need to worry about this one!)
  • Total: 167kcal
  1. Combine chia seeds and soy (or other) milk with water and put aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Break up the banana and blend it in a food processor until smooth, or mash with a fork.
  3. Stir the chia seed mixture to break up any clumps, then mix with the banana mixture, either in the food processor or with a fork.
  4. Serve topped with cinnamon and pumpkin seeds

You could easily add a spoonful of cocoa powder for a chocolate pudding, but I found this just as satisfying. Another super easy, healthy, and fulfilling wholefood snack that doesn’t have to be saved just for intermittent fasters!

The bottom line is, experiment with your food and have fun with it. Find out what works for you; if something doesn’t quite work out, it’s a case of one step back for two steps forward. Although I’m not a fan of the 5:2 diet, I discovered some great little meals and snacks in the course of my experiment, which if I still worked a 9-5 job would be ideal for quick and easy lunchbox meals.

I am so impressed at how much food I can get into under 400kcal, and how satisfying it can be if you get the right balance of ingredients. It was a good reminder that if we tune in to our cravings, eat purposefully, and take the time to create our food from real ingredients, there’s really no reason to go overboard on the calorie count. With that in mind, I am now back to not thinking about what I eat all the time, but with so much more trust in myself and in my body. Thank you for joining me in this journey!

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