If, like me, you’ve succumbed to the 5:2 diet fad – actually now becoming less of a fad and more of a lifestyle choice – you’ll have a pretty good idea of how best to hit your daily allowance of 500 calories without feeling like keeling over or lashing out at a loved one. Here are my tastiest 5:2 treats that’ll keep you energised, motivated, and ensure you go to bed feeling satisfied, not starved.
At roughly 15 calories per slice, crispy ham gives you the salty richness you find in bacon. Team with a poached egg, mushrooms, tomatoes and half a tin of Mexican spicy beans, and you have a substitute English breakfast for around 300 calories.
I may have a penchant (read: obsession) for Asian food, but the humble chilli really is the backbone of any flavourful meal. Chilli flakes, jalapeño peppers and Tabasco sauce are negligible in calories but can add an extra flavour dimension to your meal. Eat after exercise and your body works harder to burn calories as spice speeds up your heart rate.
Little known fact: you can poach an egg in a microwave. Boil some water, add vinegar, add an egg, cook at full power for 40 seconds, and bam, the lazy cook’s dream: runny yolk encased in perfect soft white case.
God bless Fry Light: a one-calorie spray that can be used as a replacement for sunflower oil. Spray a few blasts in a wok, add some veg, fish or chicken, and you have a delicious Asian stir fry that doesn’t suffer in the slightest from being less oily.
I love prawns. I love everything about them: their colour, their meaty texture, their taste. Tesco sells king prawns in two 60-calorie portions, so you can easily manage your protein portions and treat yourself to extra calories elsewhere – like in a risotto, linguine or curry.
Ever felt tired when you eat a hot meal for lunch? I have, so chose a long time ago to save the heat for my evening meal and replace instead with a colourful salad, which I have even on non-fast days. Try different leaves for variation – watercress, spinach, rocket, Romaine lettuce – and bulk up with raw peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, a little sweetcorn and a few seeds. Add fresh lemon for easy digestion.
In general, watery soups have fewer calories, but aren’t necessarily as tasty as chunky soups. Try Thai soups like Tom Yum for a deeper flavour, or chicken broths for that classic feel-good taste. You can still get some pretty decent low-calorie pre-made soups from Heinz or Innocent, who also make a filling vegetable hot pot.
Salmon is cheap and easy to prepare. Chuck it in the oven, microwave or steamer, and serve hot or cold with chilli, ginger or coriander to taste. And yes, you might have noticed a bit of an Asian theme here, but Asian food really does smack you around the face with flavour while remaining unbelievably low in calories.
Disappointed by small portions? You can add spinach or spring greens to any meal to bulk it out. Stuffed with tonnes of antioxidants, iron and vitamins C, A, and K, spinach is one of the best things you can put in your body. Add a clove of garlic to taste, and steam until soft.
Bedtime hot chocolate
I don’t think I’d have got through the nights on my fast days without Options mint hot chocolate sachets – 38 calories per mug. Not only do you get that suggestion of sweetness you might’ve been craving, your tummy feels full, meaning you don’t go to bed hungry.