Intermittent fasting is hugely popular right now and for good reason. It has been shown to help reduce weight and target visceral fat (that fat that sits around our organs like the liver), as well as reduce the risk of major chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes by improving insulin resistance and heart disease by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. It may also help protect against some cancers as well as protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The problem is that following a 5:2 method of fasting involves eating just a quarter of your total calories (that’s 500 calories for women and 600 cals for men) on two fasting days per week.
That’s. Not. Much.
Hence why many people give it a go and throw in the towel because it’s just too hard.
The key to a successful fasting day is to plan what you’re going to eat and how much, to have a toolkit of foods available that are nutritious and filling but are low calorie and can be combined to create a few light snacks or a couple of small meals to help you breeze through a fasting day.
These are my top foods to eat on a 5:2 fasting day:
One small egg is a 60 calorie (250kJ) parcel packed with nutrition including protein and fat which helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer. They’re also really versatile and can be boiled, made into a big vegetable omelette or stir fried through some vegetables.
Chicken or turkey mince
The reason I specify mince is that it can go a long way. Stir fry 100g of lean chicken or turkey mince with a few cups of finely diced vegetables, tamari sauce and chilli and serve in a lettuce cup for a filling, nutritious and low calorie meal. *100g = 140 calories (585kJ)
Most wholegrain crackers like the good old Vitaweat are only 25 calories (105kJ) per cracker. They’re full of fibre which makes them filling and are a great vehicle for a range of toppings like cottage cheese.
Contrary to many beliefs, skim milk is simply full fat milk that’s had the fat removed which also then removes a dense source of calories whilst retaining its protein and calcium. A small skim coffee is around 70 calories (293kJ) and often the shining beacon of light on a fasting day.
High protein, no added sugar yoghurt
There are a few brands available now such as Chobani Fit and Danone YoPro. I like these because they’re individually portioned, they’re flavoured and sweet but sweetened with stevia rather than added sugars. They’re also a decent source of protein so they’re nice and filling. One small tub = around 100 calories (418kJ)
Whether it’s cauliflower rice, cauliflower mash or roast cauliflower, there’s no doubt this nutritious but low calorie vegetable is very versatile and a great addition to a fasting day – 1 cup is around 50 calories (209kJ).
When you can eat a whole punnet of these bad boys for just 65 calories (272kJ) these sweet little nutrient bombs make for a great snack or as part of a smoothie or with yoghurt on a fasting day. A punnet if 125g for blueberries and raspberries and 250g for strawberries.
Low fat cottage cheese
It may seem like old school diet food but cottage cheese is a good source of protein and calcium and at just 17 calories (71kJ) per tablespoon it can be enjoyed on a slice of toast, a cracker or as a base to a dip.
These are available in the health food section of most supermarkets, the most popular brand being Slendier. Konjac is a root vegetable but it is basically all fibre and just 10 calories (42kJ) per serve. I love adding it to soups, through stir fries or as a substitute for pasta.
Tinned tuna in springwater
A small 95g tin of tuna is just 75 calories (314kJ) and is not only a great source or protein but essential omega 3 fatty acids. Tuna is also so versatile and can be added to a salad, stirred through konjac noodles or piled onto some crackers or a slice of toast.
Jaime Rose Chambers is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. Her new book ’16:8 Intermittent Fasting’ (Macmillan Australia, $29.99) will be released on January 29.