The 5:2 Diet: Alternate-Day Fasting for Health

what can you eat on the 5:2 diet? chicken salad 5:2 diet

Is intermittent fasting the way to gracefully lose unwanted pounds? The 5:2 diet meal plan takes the daily calorie counting out of the equation 5 days a week. With this alternate-day fasting method, you only have to plan for two non-consecutive days of intermittent fasting.

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The 5:2 Diet Fasting Lifestyle

The 5:2 diet was made popular by British journalist Michael Mosley. This lifestyle touts the benefits of intermittent fasting, an eating routine that involves only two days a week of intermittent fasting.

The 5:2 diet plan, also known as the Fast Diet, follows two non-consecutive days of restricting your eating to 500 calories for women and 600 for men. The other five days of the week are normal caloric eating. Popular days to restrict your calories on this plan include Mondays and Thursdays, but you can choose any two non-consecutive days that work with your schedule.

Proponents of this plan say it’s more of a lifestyle because there are no requirements over which foods to eat. Instead, the 5:2 diet focuses on when you should eat. However, researchers say that even in a fasting lifestyle, it’s more effective to eat an overall healthy diet.

Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

5:2 diet foods

What does the research say about intermittent fasting? A study from the Univesity of Alabama found that a group of pre-diabetic obese men could drastically lower their insulin levels and blood pressure and improved their insulin sensitivity. The study also found that intermittent fasting also reduced their appetite without starving them.

Furthermore, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that time-controlled fasting can trigger a metabolic change in the body, which increases stress resistance, may promote longevity, and may also decrease chronic diseases such as cancer and obesity. Several other studies showed that alternate-day fasting might reduce seasonal allergies, heart arrhythmias, insulin resistance, asthma, and even menopausal hot flashes.

In short, aside from weight loss, intermittent fasting may lower inflammation in your body. However, weight loss is a huge draw for people trying to work off the pounds to try the 5:2 Diet.

The 5:2 Diet and Weight Loss

You don’t necessarily need to focus on long-term low-fat or low-carb methods to lose weight. The 5:2 diet can be less restrictive than other diets. If you know you have to restrict calories for only two days out of seven, it takes away the guesswork. In fact, in the journal Annual Review of Nutrition, researchers found in animal studies that intermittent fasting led to lower levels of fat tissue and a reduction in cells that store fat.

Furthermore, studies show that intermittent fasting is as effective for weight loss as calorie restriction diets. In short, starving most of the time is unnecessary for weight loss.

Eating on Two Fasting Days

Unlike a complete fast where you do not consume any food, the 5:2 diet plan allows you to eat. However, you only consume limited quantities on fasting days. Participants need to plan their meal around only two non-consecutive days of calorie restriction.

The great thing about this plan is on the non-fasting days. You can eat normally for five days and not think about restricting your calories. However, on the other two days, you reduce your calorie count. Participants can choose any two days of the week so long as there’s at least one non-fasting day between them.

An easy way to count your calories on your two non-consecutive days is using the MyFitnessPal App, which has a free version and counts the calories of what you’ve been eating from your phone. For example, for breakfast, you can combine 10 fresh strawberries are 58 calories with 10 crushed hazelnuts (88 calories). Since it’s only 146 calories, you have an extra 354 calories for the remainder of your 500 calorie fasting day.

For lunch, you could combine miso soup, which only has 32 calories, with a side of 5 pieces of asparagus, which is 20 calories. This will give you another low-calorie but filling meal. Choose foods that won’t load up your calorie count, but allow you to eat.  Followers of this meal plan will find that nutrient-dense whole foods and high fiber are much more forgiving than processed foods.

Load Up on Veggies Without Saying No to Fat

Increasing your whole fiber vegetable count provides a low-cal option with health benefits. The great perk of this lifestyle is that you don’t have to cut the fat. However, measuring your caloric intake is key for your fasting days.

Processed foods are a real killer to the 5:2 plan. For example, 12 cups of spinach and 1/3 of a hot dog bun both contain 100 calories. But the processed hot dog bun is less nutrient-dense, so you’ll still feel hungry after eating it.

If you’re looking for a 10-meal snapshot of what a 5:2 Diet plan would look like, here’s a free sample menu from “Get the Gloss.” These sample meals can be sweet plums and yogurt with a touch of honey for breakfast. You can also choose a tuna salad for lunch and hummus and vegetables for dinner. There is no starving on the 5:2. However, portion control and planning are key on your two alternate fasting days.

Here’s a delicious recipe for spicy lemon shrimp you can enjoy on one of the two fasting days- with only 90 calories and 17 grams of protein.

lemon shrimp

5:2 Diet Spicy Lemon Shrimp

5:2 Diet Low-Calorie Pan Fried Spicy Shrimp that is under 100 calories!
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 136 kcal


  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 lb medium shrimp (21-30 per pound) peeled and deveined
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 packet Cajun seasoning or Old Bay


  • Mix together the Cajun seasoning, lemon juice, a pinch of paprika, and canola oil in a resealable plastic bag.
  • Add the shrimp, coat with the marinade, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the frying pan to medium heat, and lightly oil the pan. Move the shrimp from the marinade, and shake off excess. Discard the remaining marinade.
  • Cook the shrimp on the pan until they are bright pink on the outside and the meat is no longer transparent in the center, about 2 minutes per side.


Calories: 136kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 23gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 183mgSodium: 136mgPotassium: 343mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 137IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 80mgIron: 1mg
Keyword low-carb, shrimp
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Eating normally on non-fast days doesn’t mean binging on junk food and loading up on sweet drinks. If you binge on processed foods, you may not lose any weight and may even gain. On regular days of eating, remember to consume the same amount of food as if you aren’t fasting. A popular author of the “The Obesity Code,” physician and fasting proponent, Dr. Jason Fung, explains that even when you’re not fasting, in order to boost your overall health, you should still focus on more fruits, veggies, fiber, healthy protein, fats while avoiding sugar, refined grains, processed foods and snacking uncontrollably.

Time-Restricted Small Meals Benefits Health

When following the 5:2 diet plan, focus on time-restricted small meals that are nutrient-dense to see the most impact. Your calorie intake only has to be measured on two non-consecutive days of the week. Always check with your health care practitioner before starting a lifestyle change. This is especially important if you are pregnant, diabetic, or on prescription medication. However, if you want to get on the intermittent fasting bandwagon to improve your health, the 5:2 diet is a great way to ease into a fasting lifestyle without starving.

The path to success on this lifestyle diet plan is planning ahead. You don’t need back-to-back fasting days, and in fact, it is not advised on this 5:2 method. However, you do need to think strategically about your meals and download a calorie counting app to be successful. The possible benefits of trying the 5:2 diet are a new way to maintain your weight while working toward better health.

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