'Warts & All' 5:2 Diet Guide - Part 4


Eat the "right calories


Today we’re going to look at the foods that we eat. Our modern diets are piled high with junk food. I don’t just mean the crisps and the cakes. I actually mean the ‘healthy’ ready meals, the low fat yogurts and those tricky sweeteners.

“What do I need to cut out?”


Ready Meals are pre-cooked or prepared in a factory and are loaded with ingredients we don’t use at home. There’s preservatives, flavour enhancers and added salt and sugar… far more than you would naturally put in if cooking for yourself.


Low fat yogurts are the bane of my life. If you look at a natural ‘full fat’ yogurt, there’s just one ingredient – yogurt. But a ‘low fat’ yogurt has at least 10 ingredients and is guaranteed to include two nasties – thickeners and sugar. Thickeners can be classed as ‘natural’ as they are from a natural source but they are not treated as natural by the body.  They also leave a funny taste, a ‘gloss’ in your mouth. You might be so used to thickeners in your diet that you don’t notice it any longer, but remove it for a few days and you’ll taste your food more. And sugar is added in a direct proportion to the fat being removed. The fat is ‘real’ filling calories, whereas the sugar is ‘empty’ calories that pass through your body quickly and leave you hungry.


I try to avoid sweeteners in everything I cook or eat. Your taste buds become used to excess sweetness, you want more and more ‘sweet’ in everything you eat. But when you cut back on sweeteners and sugar, the natural sugar in fruit shines through. If you eat an apple now and don’t find it sweet, then you’re probably eating too much sugar or sweeteners. The second problem with sweeteners is the effect they have on your gut. A sweetener is an ‘alien invader’ in your gut and your body tries to get rid of it as soon as possible – hence why excessive consumption can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Do you really want to subject your body to that? The ‘least bad’ of the sweeteners in the natural sweetener stevia. It has its flaws – namely an aftertaste – but is not considered alien by your stomach. I do use it occasionally in small quantities.

“How do I eat the #homemade way?”



If you feel that I’m cutting all the fun out of eating, you couldn’t be more wrong. Food will taste better than ever before when you go ‘back to basics’ and eat in a #homemade way. You might think that it’s time-consuming or expensive to eat in this way. But it doesn’t have to be. I’m not going back to cooking like our grandmother’s did. I’m not saying this is bad by the way, just that I don’t have time for it, and I suspect neither do you…

You need to apply the principles every day, not just your 800 DAYS but your NO LIMIT days as well.

This is a lifestyle change. If you follow my 3 simple changes you will not only lose weight but you will gain energy, sleep better and improve your skin.


Change #1: Buy foods with 3 ingredients or less
Natural fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy all have one ingredient so are by definition #nojunk foods. But this also allows for canned goods, pulses, frozen etc

Change #2: Cut back on beige carbs
Beige carbs, like bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits are the emptiest of carbs. They are digested quickly, giving you a ‘sugar rush’ and leaving you with cravings very soon after.

Change #3: Say ‘No’ to snacks
If you are eating healthily at meal-times but still seem to put on weight then you could be getting too many calories from snacks. Snacks are part of a modern lifestyle and are hard to avoid, but WE DON’T NEED THEM AND THEY’RE MAKING US FAT. Remember that every time you’re tempted by the biscuit tin.If you’re really struggling and feel properly hungry between meals (not just a craving) then fruit should always be your snack of choice. They contain natural sugars which will hit the snack spot but without inducing cravings or encouraging over-eating.


Fruit Snacks

  • small banana – 76 cals
  • orange – 52 cals
  • satsuma – 18 cals
  • 10 red grapes – 30 cals
  • 10 strawberries – 27 cals
  • apple – 47 cals
  • kiwi – 42 cals
  • ½ grapefruit – 42 cals

My top tips for easy #homemade eating


#1 Frozen veg

Frozen vegetables are a fantastic time saver. Frozen vegetables have been pre-chopped and are so easy to use. Because they have been frozen, they don’t need to add anything to preserve the vegetables, they are as good for you as fresh. It’s my ultimate real food timesaver.

Frozen onions are a total godsend. Onions are used in so many dishes. They are so quick and cheap and there is no wastage.

In my freezer there are also – frozen peppers, spinach, butternut squash, sweetcorn, peas and edamame.

#2 Jars of chopped garlic and ginger

Garlic and ginger add huge amounts of flavour with very little calories. But if your heart has ever sunk when a recipe says ‘peel and crush 3 cloves of garlic’ then garlic paste is an amazing invention. To peel and crush garlic, you need a knife, a chopping board, a garlic press… you know that you’re going to get garlicky fingers and a garlic press is impossible to clean properly. Garlic paste adds the same flavour in seconds without any faff. It’s a win-win.

Not all pastes and purees are equal. Some contain more oils and preservatives. Look for kind that need to be kept refrigerated after opening, as these will contain less preservatives. I like KTC garlic and ginger pastes. They are really basic and natural.


#3 Steamed rice

Rice, particularly brown basmati rice is one of the good guys when it comes to carbs. But brown rice takes over 30 minutes to cook and needs watching. It’s particularly faffy for making a smaller portion. I have learnt to love pre-steamed rice. There’s nothing artificial and no wastage. Better still they cook in 2 minutes in the microwave. My favourite brand is Tilda, which you can get in any supermarket.


[Note: If you want to eat #homemade on your 5:2 day, but feel you don't have the time or the skills then there's another option. How about I make it at my home so you don't have to? #homemadebymenotyou ]


Your first #homemadehealthy recipe


I’m going to introduce you to a really simple recipe, that uses some of these tips and tricks to make a really satisfying easy dinner from scratch. You serve it with a dollop of yogurt (20 cals) and a simple flatbread. You can make your own, but for simplicity I like Sainsbury’s folded flatbread (97 cals) and you just pop it in the toaster on the lowest setting a minute or two before serving.


This dish with the yogurt and the flatbread has 401 calories so is perfect for a diet day dinner. What’s more you make 4 servings (in just half an hour) and then freeze it in individual portions for quick #homemadehealthy dinners.

Everyday Dahl Recipe

Everyday Dahl

284 cals

For 4 – Ready in 30 minutes

250g (9oz) red lentils

600ml (21.2oz) water

1 tbsp olive oil

4 black peppercorns

2 cloves

1 onion (or 1 cup frozen), peeled and chopped

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

1 heaped tsp garlic paste

0.5 tsp ground coriander

0.5 tsp turmeric

0.5 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

1 x 400g (14oz) can chopped (crushed) tomatoes


Place the red lentils and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer on a medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, until the lentils have split. If there is a danger of the lentils sticking to the bottom of the pan during cooking, add a bit more water. Remove from the heat and drain.


Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep lidded frying pan. Toss in the peppercorns and cloves and heat for a minute (or until you can smell them). Add the onions, stir through, and place the lid on the pan. Cook on the lowest heat for 10 minutes.


Remove the lid from the pan and stir in the garlic, ginger, spices and salt. Stir-fry for 2 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes with the lid off.


Stir the cooked lentils into the tomato mixture. Cook gently for a further 10 minutes. Add a little extra water while cooking if necessary. Serve in a bowl with a spoonful of natural yogurt and a flatbread on the side.


A big question that keeps coming up….


“Help! I love my tea and coffee. I can’t give them up.”


I know the feeling! I do NOT advise you to give them up, even on your 800 days. Why? Because caffeine withdrawal is likely to give you headaches and make your diet days miserable and harder. Just make sure you count the calories in each cup – and if you like milk in your tea, consider shifting to skimmed milk which has 35 calories per 100ml as opposed to semi-skimmed, which has 49 calories per 100ml.


And another one, “I’m really struggling with exercise on 800 days”


If you exercise hard on your diet days, you may feel light-headed or find the hunger pangs difficult to bear. Take a break and make sure the only exercise you do is a very gentle. Gentle exercise is relaxing and makes you feel great.

The simplest of all is a half-an-hour walk. But a gentle swim or a yoga class would be perfect too.


In the next lesson we’re going to look at exercise in more detail and how best to fit it into your weekly programme.


We’re also going to be looking at the last ‘key’ to the 5:2 diet: how to escape the yo-yo diet and stop binge eating for good.

Check back very soon for the final part in the series of The 5:2 Diet ‘Warts and all’ Guide