5:2 author Kate Harrison – whose new book, The 5:2 Good Food Kitchen is based on eating fabulously seven days a week – shares how her fasting way of life has renewed her passion for cooking, eating out and trying new ingredients, from kimchi to cauliflower pizza…
OK, I admit it. I am a very big foodie.
I own more cookbooks than anyone I know… my pull-out kitchen larder is groaning under the weight of weird and wonderful ingredients (from black rice to lemon myrtle)… and I stalk Tripadvisor for new restaurants.
But I’m a much smaller foodie now than I was before I started doing 5:2 in 2012, when I was over 2 stone/12 kilograms overweight. The problem was partly my appetite – I’d lost any sense of how much food I needed to be satisfied. But it was also about being a diet failure: I was sick of diets that put blamed and banned entire food groups for weight gain, telling me to base my meals around fibre, fat or foul-smelling soup.
Where is the real food?
Each time I started hopefully but ending despairingly, giving in to the lure of buttered toast or disgust at a low-cal TV dinner with as much flavour as a DVD box.
Intermittent fasting – the technical name for 5:2-style diets – is different. Now I cut down to 500 calories once or twice a week, but eat normally on five days. Those Fast Days – where I’m eating less without going hungry – helped me rediscover the right portion sizes for me, and stopped me snacking constantly.
But the biggest reason why I’ve lost 31lbs/14 kg and more importantly kept the weight off, is that nothing has been banned: so my cravings for supposedly ‘sinful’ foods have disappeared, and I still cook and eat out. I’ve just become more mindful and imaginative in my cooking on the Fast Days.
Recipes for good food and the good life
It’s the theme of my new book, The 5:2 Good Food Kitchen. I believe we can use the same recipes and principles, whether we’re preparing nurturing, lower-calorie dishes (as 5:2 people do on a Fast Day, so they don’t exceed 500-600 calories in the day) or choosing more indulgent recipes for entertaining or celebrating. We simply need to adapt our ingredients and cooking techniques a little, without losing any of the taste.
Every recipe in the book is suitable for a Fast Day but also has exciting variations for non-fasting days, or to feed people who aren’t fasting: the FAB of Fast Day cooking…:
Flavour: Like most foodies, I love to try new flavours, which satisfy the tastebuds and are often naturally lower-calorie. From kimchi (Korean fermented pickle) to smokily addictive kale crisps and revisited retro dishes like prawn cocktail, foodie trends work brilliantly on Fast Days with the tiniest of tweaks.
Adaptation: If you love higher calorie dishes like brandy pate with toast, spicy chilli con carne, and Eggs Benedict with ham or spinach, then make smart swaps of just one ingredient. I replaced the rich hollandaise of the Benedict with a piquant mustard crème fraiche to top the eggs; the chilli has chicken in place of higher fat beef, with a luxurious avocado topping; and my portobello mushroom and tarragon pate is so tasty, you don’t need meat.
Balance: many takeaway dishes, like korma curry sauces, pizza or spaghetti, are heavy and calorific, so re-balance them so healthier ingredients take more of a starring role. My korma uses fewer nuts, with almond milk in place of cream. Serve a carbonara sauce with julienned courgettes to make almost-instant ‘courgetti’; And grated mozzarella combined with cauliflower – yes, really – makes a fabulously savoury, gluten-free pizza base.
Cooking more thoughtfully also it makes you rethink how your food is produced. I’m much more aware of what goes into processed foods – and how much better I feel when I eat fresh, seasonal produce.
It’s not all or nothing – 5:2 is too flexible for that. I still eat the odd ready-meal, but these days, at mealtimes I’m mostly in my ‘good food’ kitchen, enjoying my new, guilt-free foodie existence…
For more from Kate, look at her recipes at
and swap tips in the group www.facebook.com/groups/the52diet/
Or download her new free podcasts: www.The5-2dietbook.com/podcast1