The 5-2 Challenge. Lessons I Have Learned. Stock Up the Pantry. Minimal Cooking. Avoid Cappuccinos.


Time for a 5-2 challenge update. My preferred fast days? Fridays and Mondays. Perfect bookends for my weekend feast days. Giving me a clear three day run from Tuesday to Thursday mid week where I don’t have to think about what I eat. Of course I fully expect that this plan will be interrupted over the Easter break.

I completed Day 2 of Week 1 on Monday and am in the process of completing Day 1 of Week 2 as I type this.  Five hundred calories a day is not a lot to play with and can be blown very easily in a moment of thoughtlessness or weakness. My very best piece of advice? Stock up the pantry and fridge with low calorie food choices. Oh, and if you have a family to feed? Despatch them to the local takeaway for dinner on at least one of  your fast days. They will welcome the treat and it really does alleviate the pressure of falling off the wagon as you prepare their meals.

It seems the world has embraced the 5:2 challenge. I have spoken to people who swear by a freezer stocked with calorie controlled ready meals purchased from the supermarket in readiness of fast days. Others who use meal replacement drinks that fill you up quickly and easily. I’m a bit of a purist and prefer to stay with whole food.  Prepared and assembled at home. There really is no right or wrong way to approach this. It seems so simple at face value. Do not exceed a strict 500 calorie limit. Keep  a vigilant  look out for those  forgotten calories. They seem to be lurking everywhere.

To succeed I had to do a little restocking of my pantry. Having spent more than a little time in Japan, and having come away from each trip a couple of kilos lighter, I visited the Japanese grocery store stocking up on miso paste, dashi stock, wakame, soba noodles, edamame beans and tofu. At the deli I picked up jars of tuna, and tins of cannellini beans and chick peas. A quick visit to the Farmer’s Market yielded farm fresh eggs, an array of seasonal fruit and vegetables, bunches of fresh herbs and organic chicken. I’ve made a personal decision that on fast days no red meat is allowed. Just chicken or fish. To drink? Lots of packets of tea and bottles of sparkling mineral water. And after this week’s experience I’m wary of the errant skim milk cappuccino!

My very first day on the 5-2 challenge, and its accompanying frenzy of constant calorie counting  was covered in my previous post The 5-2 Challenge. Figuring Out What To Eat On Five Hundred Calories A Day. My second day was rather more sedate. Realising just how restrictive 500 calories really were I planned two mini meals.No breakfast. Just lunch and dinner.

Day Two started well with copious cups of tea. Everything was moving along swimmingly until I arranged to meet a girlfriend at a cafe for a quick catch-up. Out of sheer habit I ordered a small cappuccino.  At least it was skim. Seventy calories of my meagre five hundred calorie allowance expunged in a moment of thoughtlessness. My only option. Rearrange my meal plan. Perhaps skip lunch and have just one larger, more satisfying meal at night.

Big mistake. That cappuccino left me craving food. The result? An afternoon preoccupied with food and an unscheduled and unsatisfying graze. Coleslaw,with no dressing.  Miso soup.  Craving dinner I inhaled my Vietnamese rice paper rolls. Plenty of poached chicken and a coleslaw but  only two rice paper rounds allowed.  No dipping sauce.  A modified dressing for the coleslaw to reduce fat.

Somehow, despite my cappuccino hiccup and afternoon graze I managed a calorie count of only 507. There was a lot of juggling involved. Note to self. Deviating from my original plan was exhausting. An unproductive day spent recalculating and measuring calorie values.  Get organised and stick to your plan. Here is a snapshot of my day:

Breakfast 3 Cups of Tea


Mid-Morning Skim Cappuccino


Lunch 1 cup coleslaw, no dressing


Mid Afternoon 1 cup Miso Soup with Tofu


Dinner 2 Sheets Vietnamese Rice Paper150 g Shredded Poached Chicken Breast

1½ cups Coleslaw




Total Calories


A new plan of attack for my next fast. Avoid cappuccinos at all costs. Only drink tea and sparkling mineral water. Prepare meals the night before to avoid picking and grazing as I cook. Measure out meals onto smaller plates.It might trick my mind into thinking I’m full. Thursday night I diligently prepare a Tuna and Cannellini Bean salad.  Ready to be apportioned out into suitable sized meals. It truly is delicious. Taste testing is allowed on a feast day.

My third fast begins with yet more cups of tea. I’m getting used to this. At least I’ll be well hydrated at the end of this. Once again I arrange to meet a friend at a local cafe. Old habits die hard  but this time I order a pot of peppermint tea. For lunch I have a small serve of the  salad. No preparation required. Lots of sparkling water throughout the afternoon. Two more serves of salad for dinner. Not exactly awe-inspiring but it works. The rest of the family fend for themselves. It’s Friday night I need a break. I think I’m finally starting to crack the code of how to make this work. Minimal cooking on fast days. A soup or salad prepared in advance. If all else fails there is always the humble egg. So my third attempt at fasting I’m under my calorie limit and my days are far more productive than the previous two.

Breakfast 3 cups  tea


Lunch 1 serving Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad


Mid Afternoon 2 cups  tea


Dinner 2 servings Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad


Total Calories


After all that effort calculating and recalculating calorie values I’ve included annotated recipes for the Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad and the Coleslaw. After all I know I will be referring to them down the track myself. This feasting and fasting plan is strangely addictive. I feel positively euphoric the morning following a fast. Lighter. Energised. Focused.


Tuna & Cannellini Bean Salad

 Serves 4  577 calories or 144 calories per serve

1 400 g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed weight 240 g (206 calories)
160 g jar solid light tuna in olive oil (330 calories)
1/4 cup chopped red onion (17 calories)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (3 calories)
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon (17 calories)
1 clove garlic, minced (4 calories)
sea salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Drain tuna and flake.  Reserve oil for dressing.
Whisk, oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Add beans, tuna, onion ,lemon zest  and parsley; toss to coat well.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Coleslaw with a Reduced Calorie Vinaigrette Dressing. 

Serve With Poached Chicken and Rice Paper – Vietnamese Style

10 cups – 667 calories / 67 calories per serve

1/4 head small white cabbage, shredded (55 calories)
1/2 head small red cabbage shredded (88 calories)
2 carrots, julienned (50 calories)
2 red capsicums, deseeded and julienned (31 calories)
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and finely sliced (33 calories)
3-4 radishes, trimmed julienned (2 calories)
4 long green shallots, trimmed and finely sliced (8 calories)
3 handfuls  of fresh soft herbs (choose from parsley,coriander, mint, fennel, and chervil) (20 calories)


1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (20 calories)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (360 calories)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

COMBINE vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
ADD cabbage, red capsicum, carrot, fennel, radish and spring onions, and toss.
COVER with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours  to allow the flavours to meld.
TOSS through fresh herbs just before serving.

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7 Responses to The 5-2 Challenge. Lessons I Have Learned. Stock Up the Pantry. Minimal Cooking. Avoid Cappuccinos.

  1. Inspiring. Both of your recipes look delicious; I will have to try them for lunch next week.

  2. Darryl Ferguson says:

    Loved the bean and Tuna Salad. I will use it more often… easy.
    I completely bombed out yesterday on a fast day and got stuck into chocolate and biscuits after dinner, being on my own. I watched the BBC documentary on the 5-2 diet Eat Fast and Live Longer. I will definitely behave today. So inspiring. I would recommend it to all your 5-2 followers.

    • I’ve had those days too. My mindless eating binges – usually out of boredom or frustration. No matter there is always the next day….I have watched the documentary quite a few times. Each time I pick up something new. It’s brilliant.

  3. Catherine says:

    I’m loving your blog! I’ve just started the 5-2 diet and am appreciative of these tasty sounding recipes, and look forward to trying them all! I found some free range barossa valley turkey breast which I recall is 100 cal per 100g – and is so tasty!

    • Thanks Catherine. Turkey is very lean and would be a perfect protein to use on fast days. Barista Valley do the best poultry. II’ve also just recently noticed the new ads for Steggles turkey…..’You can’t have Christmas without turkey, but you can have turkey without Christmas.” It’s great to see that turkey will finally be available in smaller cuts all year round.

  4. Christine says:

    I have begun to follow your 5:2 posts recently and recommended you to others who follow (or try to follow) this wonderful lifestyle. Thank you for your your considered, and clever, recipes. I really don’t know how I would be doing without them.

    • Thanks for your lovely feedback Christine. It is a wonderful lifestyle change and really does help me reconsider my food choices at the start of each week, even if I sometimes do stray and don’t stick faithfully to the program. I love the way it focuses on getting back to basics: seasonal whole foods, prepared simply.

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