Thursday, March 7, 2013

The 5:2 Diet: healthy or fad?

What is the 5:2 Diet?

The 5:2 Diet involves 5 days of "feasting" and 2 days of "fasting". On the "feast" days you can eat "normally", as long as you don't go overboard. On the "fast" days, you eat 25% of the calories of a normal diet. On average, that's 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. The calories can be eaten all at once (just one meal) or spread out throughout the day.

What are the pro's?

  • No food groups are eliminated on the "feast" days
  • Increases people's awareness of what they're eating  

What are the con's?

  • Lethargy and lack of concentration on "fast" days
  • Doesn't encourage healthy eating, as you can eat whatever you like on "fast" days
  • There is uncertainty and lack of evidence surrounding 'intermittent fasting' and whether it is healthy
  • People who continue to make poor food choices on the "feast" days still won't lose weight
  • Not sustainable longterm

What can I eat on a "fast" day?

* Sourced from 

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (2 eggs and splash of skim milk) served with 2 grilled tomatoes (170 calories).
Dinner: Baked beans with a baked potato using a small 200g can of baked beans and a 150g baking potato (320 calories).
Total: 490 calories

Breakfast: Fruit salad made with an orange, an apple and a small banana (50g), served topped with 100g of low-fat plain cottage cheese (220 calories). Dinner: Chicken stir-fry made with 120g lean chicken breasts cut into thin strips, a little soy sauce and 200g cooked weight of frozen stir-fry vegetables (280 calories).
Total: 500 calories

Breakfast: Skimmed-milk latte (250ml) with a plain croissant (270 calories).
Dinner: Tuna salad using 110g canned tuna, lots of lettuce and cucumber, a teaspoon of light salad cream and a warm mini-pitta (230 calories).
Total: 500 calories

My thoughts?

The 5:2 diet is not sustainable long-term and doesn't teach you the foundations of a good diet. The "fast" days will leave you feeling hungry and lethargic, and with no energy to exercise.

Eat well-balanced, healthy meals with at least 2 serves fish per week, 2 serves legumes/ lentils per week (1 serve = 1/2 cup), 3 serves of low fat dairy a day, 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day. Allow yourself 1 "cheat" meal a week, perhaps on the weekend, where you eat whatever you like. If you're after something sweet, allow yourself a treat to cure the craving, but be sensible! If you open the packet of tim-tams, eat 1, not the whole packet.

If you eat well-balanced meals, limit your intake of calories from drinks (alcohol, coffee, juices, smoothies, energy drinks) and exercise at least 150 minutes a week; you'll be healthier, happier and have more energy!

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