Diet Expert: How eating high-protein foods can help you conquer the 5:2 diet

 
Dr Sarah Schenker

THE 5:2 diet, which evolved from the concept of intermittent fasting, has has been growing in popularity as an effective method of weight loss and weight management. Earlier, intermittent fast regimens such as the alternate fast day consisted of a “feed day” alternated with a “fast day”. A 24-hour total fast is quite challenging, so the fast days were modified to allow 20 to 25 per cent consumption of energy needs. The alternate days were further modified to fasting on just two days of the week and “normal” eating on the other five. This 5:2 method has proved just as successful as original routines.

A number of scientific studies on intermittent fasting have been conducted, showing positive results for both weight loss and other health outcomes. This includes improved cholesterol levels and a possible reduced risk of diabetes and some cancers.

On a fast day, women are allowed up to 500 calories and men can have 600 calories. There are no rules on which foods should make up these calories, but it is usually best to divide them between breakfast/brunch and supper. This allows a longer period of fasting during the day which benefits the body. Snacking and grazing, even on healthy foods like fruit, are discouraged as the body will not be in the “fasted state”. Fasting causes different hormones to be released and it is this shift in hormonal balance that is better for health. On the other five days you can pretty much eat what you like – within reason.

On fast days, it is best to choose foods that can help you feel fuller for longer. These are foods that help satiation (the more immediate feeling of fullness that stops you eating more at the same meal) and satiety (the longer lasting feeling of fullness that stops you eating again soon after). Foods that improve satiation include high protein, high liquid foods such as high protein yogurts, hummus, scrambled eggs, vegetable soups and stews. Foods that improve satiety include low sugar, high fibre foods such as pulses, beans, vegetables and wholegrains.

Initially the fasting days are challenging as you need to get used to dealing with hunger pangs, but after the first few weeks this will pass. Some people even say they feel quite empowered by fasting while others talk of a sense of freedom or relief brought about by not having the dilemma of choosing what to eat.

There is no doubt sentiments like these contribute to both the popularity of and successful compliance to the 5:2 diet; unlike other diets, there isn’t a feeling of being on a constant dieting treadmill.

The 5:2 diet is suitable for most people, whether you have a large amount of weight to lose or you just want to keep your weight in check. For people with existing conditions such as diabetes (particularly if controlled by insulin), it is best to check with your healthcare professional. For people who routinely socialise with work or entertain clients, the 5:2 diet is a perfect way to offset those days where extra calories have been consumed. It can also be useful for those who travel with work and have limited choice and accessibility to healthy food.

Ideas for breakfast/brunch

  • High protein strained yogurt, such as Danio, with a handful of mixed nuts and fresh berries or with granola and chopped apple
  • Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon served on a bed of wilted spinach
  • Poached egg with grilled mushroom and tomatoes

Ideas for lunch

  • Prawn and pak choi Thai broth
  • Minestrone and kidney bean soup
  • Greek feta cheese salad
  • Hummus with vegetable sticks and wholemeal pitta fingers

Ideas for supper

  • Grilled seabass with ratatouille
  • Chicken, mushroom, broccoli and beansprout stir fry
  • Moroccan spiced salmon with whole bulgar wheat salad
  • Beef and butternut squash stew

The yogurt pot that’s packed with protein

DANIO from Danone is a super thick, super tasty, strained yogurt that is high in protein and low in fat.

Sitting on the bottom is a hand-picked fruit compote, which comes in a variety of flavours to suit different taste-buds.

A natural yogurt is smothered over the top. You can choose from both the zero per cent fat and low fat varieties.

Danio is also high in protein – each pot is packed with at least 12g of the good stuff. Protein is very important, especially on a fasting diet like the 5:2, as it contributes to both the maintenance and growth of muscle mass.

Danio is available in six flavours; strawberry; passion fruit; cherry; peach; blueberry and raspberry.