| June 13, 2013

Trying to lose a few pounds but hate the idea of dieting every day? The 5:2 Diet may be for you.

The premise seems easy enough: Consume 500 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, eat healthily on the other five (and you can have a glass of wine here and there), do 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, and watch the weight fall off.

It worked for Jacqueline Whitehart, who lost 14 pounds on the program and wrote the "5:2 Fast Diet: Recipe Book," which compiles her best 500-calorie recipes to enjoy on the so-called "fast" days.

READ: The Virgin Diet: Lose 7 Pounds in 7 Days?

Sound too good to be true? We spoke with Whitehart to learn more. 

What separates this diet from all the other options out there?

The 5:2 Diet is unique in that you only diet two days a week. This makes it incredibly flexible — you can fit the diet in around you, not the other way round. The majority of people who try the diet find that willpower and motivation is a lot easier to achieve over a single day.

Why is fasting on two days better than just eating less all the time?

Three big reasons: first, you are shocking your body into losing fat, not muscle — every pound you lose is fat; Second, it's easier to stick to so you are more likely to succeed than with calorie-counting every day; and third, the health benefits — you are cutting your risk of major age-related diseases.

How can you make sure you don’t totally binge on the “off” days?

I think it's a question of attitude. You certainly deserve a treat or two on your “off” days, but keep it in moderation. If you stick to three healthy meals a day and cut out unhealthy snacks, you'll stay right on track.

500 calories seems like very little on the “fast” days. Is this safe/healthy?

Thousands of people are now losing weight on the 5:2 diet without any ill-effects. No significant dangers have been found with the diet. The human body is not particularly designed for a regular daily calorie intake; this is a more modern invention. Back in the days of hunter-gatherers, good meals were infrequent and they only ate by feast and famine. Our bodies are still built to cope well with this, and the 5:2 diet is just trying to adapt the body back to this state.

Can you really drink wine on this diet?

Yes. On the five days when you are not fasting, you can have a glass of wine or two, or cake, or chocolate — whatever tickles your fancy. Nothing is denied on your normal days, just don't go overboard.

It seems like this diet aims to slim you down quickly. What happens when you just want to maintain your current weight after dropping the pounds you wanted to lose?

One of the easiest ways to maintain your current weight is to fast just one day a week. This is “maintenance” mode and you shouldn't lose any more weight with only one fasting day per week. If you continue to lose weight, you could always stop altogether for a month or so and then do occasional fast days.

How successful have you been while adhering to this diet?

I found the diet surprisingly easy to stick to and followed it carefully for four months, losing 14 pounds in the process. After this, I cut back to one fast day a week, and have been following this ever since. I have maintained my weight-loss and look and feel the best I have in years!

Is the 5:2 Diet for everyone?

The 5:2 Diet is for anyone with a bit of weight to lose or anyone who wants to lower their risk of heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, under 18, suffering from diabetes or you're hypoglycemic, then you should NOT attempt the diet. If in doubt, please talk to your doctor. If you are healthy and willing, then get set for the 5:2 Diet revolution — you WILL lose weight and feel healthier than ever before.

Check out some of Whitehart's recipes below:

Harper Collins
Slim spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, spinach and balsamic, 91 Calories

Slim spaghetti is a carbohydrate-free spaghetti that you buy from health food shops. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be helpful when you want a proper plate of food for less than 100 calories. Don’t be put off by the weird smell when you first get it out of the packet; rinse the spaghetti thoroughly in warm water and the smell will disappear.

Serves 1. Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 10 minutes.


  • 100g (3½oz) slim spaghetti (8 cals)
  • ½ tsp olive oil (14 cals)
  • ½ garlic clove, peeled and crushed (2 cals)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters (23 cals)
  • 50g (1¾oz) baby leaf spinach (12 cals)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar (12 cals)
  • 1 fresh basil leaf, torn
  • 5g (1/8oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated, to serve (21 cals)


  • Cook the slim spaghetti according to the packet instructions.
  • Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan over a medium heat, add the garlic and fry for 1 minute until just cooked.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes, stir well and cook for 4 minutes.
  • Add the spinach to the pan, stir, cover with a lid, and cook for 1 minute further.
  • Uncover, stir in the slim spaghetti and season well with pepper.
  • Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook through, 1 minute more.
  • Add the torn basil and serve with a little Parmesan sprinkled over the top.
Harper Collins
Garlic and Parmesan Popcorn, 130 calories

This is a quick and easy snack. Be sure to move the pan while the corn is popping to prevent it from burning.

Serves 1. Preparation time: 1 minute. Cook time: 4 minutes.


  • ½ tsp sunflower oil (14 cals)
  • ½ garlic clove, peeled and crushed (2 cals)
  • 20g (¾oz) uncooked popping corn (72 cals)
  • 10g (1/3oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated (42 cals)
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper


  • Heat the oil and garlic in a small lidded saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the popping corn, cover with the lid and cook over a high heat for 1 minute.
  • When the corn begins to pop, move the pan back and forth over the heat until the popping subsides.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully remove the lid; some corn may still pop.
  • Add the Parmesan, salt and cayenne, toss to coat, then transfer to a bowl to serve.
Harper Collins
Low-fat chocolate pudding, 255 calories

This dessert is ideal for when you're in need of a chocolate pick-me-up on your fast day.

Serves 4. Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus 4 hours chilling.


  • 2 cups whole milk (297 cals)
  • 1 tbsp butter (112 cals)
  • ½ cup caster (superfine) sugar (394 cals)
  • 2 level tbsps cocoa powder (unsweetened cocoa) (62 cals)
  • 2 level tbsps cornflour (cornstarch) (142 cals)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (12 cals)


  • Heat the milk and butter together in a medium-sized saucepan over a gentle heat until the butter has melted. Set aside 4 teaspoons of the sugar and stir the rest into the pan until dissolved.
  • Meanwhile, place the cocoa, cornflour (cornstarch) and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and stir well to make a smooth paste.
  • Pour the paste gradually into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk while you increase the heat to high and cook until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Spoon the mixture into 4 ramekins or small glasses and sprinkle a teaspoon of the reserved sugar over each one (this prevents a skin from forming).
  • Leave to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours until set.