The 5-2 Challenge. Figuring Out What To Eat On Five Hundred Calories A Day.

Having watched the BBC documentary Eat, Fast and Live Longer I resolved that one day I would give the 5-2  eating plan a go. After all it  didn’t sound too onerous. Five feast days offset by only two fast days a week. My motivation? Pure curiosity.  How well could I really eat with a limit of just 500 calories a day? Any collateral weight loss would of course be very welcome. Particularly given my food centric lifestyle.

Last Friday morning I made a snap decision to embark on my 5-2 journey  that very day.  A virtuous start to  a looming, highly calorific weekend full of socialising, and inevitable eating and drinking. My second fasting day would be decided later. After I had checked my diary to see what was scheduled for the week. Note to self. A little forward planning would not have gone astray. Having no real idea of how much I would be able to eat to stay within my 500 calorie limit, I swapped my daily early morning cappuccino for a pot of my favourite tea. Mariage Frères Marco Polo Rouge. Black no sugar. Then proceeded to spend a large proportion of the morning standing in front of my refrigerator.  iPad in hand, googling the calorie values of its contents. A veritable refresher course on what not to eat.

Five hundred calories is not a lot to play with. It was apparent from the outset I needed to steer clear of carbohydrates. Energy count of two slices of Helga’s soy and linseed bread? Which I hasten to add I keep in my freezer to eat on my more decorous days.  A whopping 224 calories. Almost half my allocation.

Protein is obviously a better choice. Helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. One egg? 75 calories. One hundred grams chicken breast? 116 calories. Interestingly the same calorie value as ham. Lean red meat? At a cursory glance has an even greater energy count than chicken, so today I wasn’t going to go down that track. It seems not all seafood is created equal. Working with 100 gram portion size comparisons  wild Atlantic salmon came in at 142 calories, tuna  103, snapper at 100 and blue eye cod at 82.  Farmed species seem to have an higher calorie value. Who knew?  Something in the water perhaps? Crustaceans scored favourably with 100 g of crab meat yielding 101 calories and tiger prawns 97. Nothing seems to beat tofu, 100 g has a count of only 70 calories.

Moving along it’s wise to severely limit fats and oils on fast days. There’s  a colossal 120 calories in one tablespoon of oil. Of any description.  100 calories in a tablespoon of butter. Yet another note to self. Watch the salad dressings and definitely no toast with butter for breakfast. I swear all that calorie counting took away my appetite for the morning. Even a small tub of non fat yoghurt lurking in the depths of the fridge came in at 166.

Fruit and vegetables fared much, much better. Obviously. One large red tomato 33 calories, one medium carrot 25 calories and  7 stalks of celery 45 calories. Each lettuce and rocket leaf? Just one calorie. Twelve strawberries? 48 calories. 1 green apple 75, a small banana 90 and a cup of raspberries 50 calories.

Of all the food choices soup seems to be the hero of the day. A cup of home-made chicken soup yields 86 calories. But healthy miso soup trumps them all with just 35 calories. For the record each cup of unsweetened black tea accounts for 2 calories.

My very first fasting day focused on staying well hydrated. Drinking copious amounts of tea and sparkling mineral water. I avoided carbohydrates, choosing to eat fruit, vegetables and lean protein. Miso soup with tofu and a crab omelette worked well to fill a surprisingly not too rumbling tummy. Filling and delicious.  I went to bed a little hungry dreaming of a no holds barred breakfast next day. Funnily enough next morning I wasn’t hungry in the least. I felt lighter and re-energised. No desire to binge eat but very happy to eat normally without restriction. A slice of cake, anyone? That said I’m actually looking forward to my second fasting day next week.

Here’s a snapshot of my menu for my first fasting day. Recipes for the home-made miso soup and crab omelette follow at the bottom of the post. Commercial sachets of prepared miso soup are available in most supermarkets. Just add water. But check the label as calories may vary depending on the strength of the soup.

1 small banana
1 cup of tea
4 cups of tea
1 pm
1 green apple
3 pm
Cup of  home-made miso soup with tofu
Crab and tomato omelette with rocket
Total Calories

Click on this link if you would like to access my earlier post Eat, Fast and Live Longer. What’s It All About? Intermittent Fasting and the 5-2 Diet Plan.


Miso Soup

Serves 1 (35 Calories)

Dashi is a basic stock used in Japanese cooking which is made by boiling dried kelp (seaweed) and dried bonito (fish). Instant dashi granules are sold in conveniently-sized jars or packets  from Japanese grocery stores.  You can substitute chicken or vegetable stock for the dashi if you prefer.  Use yellow, white or red miso paste for this soup. Yellow is sweet and creamy, red  stronger and saltier. Add more miso or dashi to your soup to taste.

¼ teaspoon dashi  stock granules (3 calories)
3/4 cups water
2 teaspoons miso paste (12 calories)
25 g silken tofu, sliced (17 calories)
1 teaspoon long green onions sliced diagonally (2 calories)
1 teaspoon dried wakame (seaweed) (1 calorie)

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dashi granules and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the miso paste. Simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes . Stir in tofu and seaweed.  Separate the layers of the green onions, and add them to the soup before serving.


Crab and Tomato Omelette

Serves 1  (280 calories)

½ tablespoon butter (50 calories)
2 eggs (150 calories)
50 g crab meat (50 calories)
½ tomato, peeled, seeded and diced  (17 calories)
1 long green spring onion chopped ( 2 calories)
squeeze lemon juice (1 calorie)
handful rocket leaves (10 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PICK over the crabmeat to remove any bits of shell or cartilage. Squeeze out any excess moisture and set aside.
MELT butter in a small fry pan over medium heat.
WHISK the eggs together in a bowl with a splash of water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour the eggs into the pan and cook until just barely set, moving it around with a flexible spatula, working from the outside edge to the centre to create folds as the egg cooks and firms.
SCATTER crab, tomato and green onion over the omelette.
FOLD the omelette in half. Cook for a minute or two to allow the filling to heat up before gently sliding onto a plate. Serve with rocket and a squeeze of lemon.

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5 Responses to The 5-2 Challenge. Figuring Out What To Eat On Five Hundred Calories A Day.

  1. Pingback: The 5-2 Challenge. Lessons I Have Learned. Stock Up the Pantry. Minimal Cooking. Avoid Cappuccinos. | The Paddington Foodie

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  4. aussieavonladyDiane says:

    You have my sympathy. Every time I decide to do a fast day it happens the same way, then I promise ‘faithfully’ to plan ahead in future. Fish soup today is the closest I’ve come so far.

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