January: Menus for wintry days

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January: Menus for wintry days

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  • January: Menus for wintry days

    When you’re scraping frost from the car windscreen and watching gritters out on the roads, the idea of a salad isn’t going to set the heart racing, even on a fast day. While our mantra of ‘mostly plants and proteins’ means that salads are one of the pillars of eating on the Fast Diet, these chilly days demand something more warming. Here’s a week of menus, two breakfasts and two suppers, which should do the trick. Again, the calorie content is approximate based on experience rather than measurement – so weigh your ingredients to hit the magic numbers.


    Breakfast: Kippers, followed by half a grapefruit

    There is great power in a humble kipper – full of good fats and packed with protein. Little wonder they are an increasingly popular breakfast staple: last year, sales were up by 80 per cent at Sainsbury’s, while Tesco sold 150,000 in the first three months of last year. There’s about 125 calories in a kipper fillet, so it makes an ideal, satiating fast-day breakfast. Michael is a big fan.

    To cook with no smell, place in a dish, add a slice of lemon, cover with Cling Film and microwave for two and a half minutes. You could serve with wilted spinach and a poached egg if this is your ‘main’ fast day meal. Or have half a pink grapefruit as a sweetener afterwards (around 50 calories).

    Supper: Beetroot and Bramley Soup

    The idea for this brilliantly warming soup came from my friend Alex Renton who made it for me one chilly autumn lunch-time at his home in Edinburgh. I loved it so much that I made it for the brilliant cook Allegra McEvedy, who asked to use it in her Guardian column. Here’s her version in its entirety. This makes plenty – probably about six fast-day servings. Maybe miss out the butter, or swap for a low-fat alternative such as Flora Cooking Spray (not the same flavour, sorry, but we are skimming calories here). Similarly, make your stock from a veggie bouillon cube, and have low-fat rather than full-fat Greek yoghurt. The star anise is vital!

    ‘Takes 30 mins once beets are roasted (which takes around an hour and a quarter). Leftovers last for 3-4 days in the fridge.

    550g/5 medium raw beetroots – whoppers take a lot longer to cook
    2 medium onions, roughly chopped
    2 tbsp butter
    2 bramleys, peeled and quartered
    1 litre stock, light chicken or veg
    2 star anise
    1 tsp caraway or cumin seeds
    Few splodges Greek yogurt
    Some chives
    Salt & pepper

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C /400F/ gas mark 6.
    2. Put the beetroot on baking tray with 1cm-deep water. Cook for 1-1½hrs until a knife meets with little resistance, then take them out and run under cold water for a couple of minutes until cool enough to peel.
    3. Put a wide, thick-bottomed pan on the heat and melt the butter in it, along with the spice seeds.
    4. Over a medium heat, sweat the onions – taking care not to let them colour – with the spices, keeping a lid on.
    5. Slice the core out of the apple quarters and chuck them in with the onions.
    6. Cut the peeled beets into roughly inch-sized pieces (it’s going to get blitzed) and toss into the pot.
    7. Pour on the stock, whack the heat up, drop the star anise in and put the lid back on. Season.
    8. Once boiled, turn down heat and simmer for 15 mins. Pick out the star anise and chuck away, then blitz the soup with a blender until pureed. Serve with chopped chives and Greek yoghurt and a spoon.’


    Breakfast: Chive Scrambled Eggs with a hint of Nutmeg

    An easy one, this. Everyone knows how to scramble an egg, and how they like it done. The idea here is simply to lend extra flavours and dimensions to a classic – on other days, you might want to add a scant grating of parmesan (a little goes a long way), some shards of smoked salmon, a handful of fresh coriander. I like a little tomato and chili relish on the side… Forego the toast. You can have that tomorrow.

    Supper: O’Kelly Fish

    I first wrote about this quick recipe in my book 101 Things to Do Before you Diet – and it remains a firm fast-day favourite in our house. I think it owes something to Jamie Oliver (all in one pan, super easy, super tasty), but over the years it has altered with each outing. Here’s my most recent take.

    I’ve always called O’Kelly Fish, by the way, because I first had it in the kitchen of our friends the O’Kellys, who live in the South Downs surrounded by children and chickens. The dish is wholesome and hearty, great for gangs of people, but with no carbs. This should make enough for a family of four.

    1. Blanch a packet of green beans and a pack of thin asparagus for a minute of so in boiling water. Broccoli works too. Drain and place in an oven-proof pan.
    2. Lay four or five vines of cherry tomatoes on top, add a little olive oil, salt, fresh-ground pepper and plenty of lemon juice. Plenty. Maybe two lemons. Chuck in the husks. If your calorie count allows, throw in some black olives.
    3. Place a fillet of seasoned salmon per person on top of the veggies. Add any herbs you fancy – coriander is nice; chili flakes are a good idea.
    4. Oven roast at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or until fish is just cooked.

    The tomatoes and lemon will have made a wonderful juice, to spoon over the fish once served.

    Thanks for the recipes, Mimi. I love kippers but always thought they were high in calories so very happy to see they are not! The other recipes look good enough for a non-fast day, too.

    We’d already taken to the idea of “meat free” Mondays in our house and now that it coincides with our first fast day of the week, can’t seem to get enough of low calorie fish based dishes so I’ll definitely be trying this one. A similar recipe I’ve made a few times involves lining the pan with overlapping slices of griddled aubergine (using no oil but still getting the char-lines) with slices of the larger vine tomatoes and dotting with a little crushed garlic, a sprinkling of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. I love salmon but tend to use some kind of white fish as you typically get a slightly larger portion for the same calories. Plenty of lemon, red chilli, fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil before cooking and a sprinkling of chopped spring onion to serve and add colour.

    I don’t have any problem with the fast days. (Have been doing a combination of green veg soup for dinner and crussh zero noodle Tom yum for lunch) but I’m worried that I’m taking the ‘feast’ days too literally … How many calories should I be consuming on the 5 days (approx) ? Lots of other people have said that on the non fast days they find that their appetite is reduced, but mine just doesn’t seem to be reduced at all ? I did 2 weeks before Xmas and am on week 3 post Xmas. (lost and then put on 7 lbs over Xmas and new year)

    On your feed/feast days you should be eating a ‘normal’ amount of calories. I take this to mean about the amount you would have been eating on an average day before you started 5:2, unless you were already calorie restricting, in which case you may need to increase it to prevent starvation mode. Good luck with the new lifestyle – how great to have already shifted the Christmas weight! For the first time in my life (that I can recall) I didn’t put on any weight this Christmas, despite over indulging completely. Fasting actually brought me down by quarter of a pound by the end of Christmas. Now that’s a Christmas miracle!! 😀

    Thank you. I will have a look. Ps. Xmas weight not off yet (managed to put on what I’d lost before Xmas) but hopefully not too far off ….

    Ps. Congratulations on your Xmas miracle !

    My mum & sister have been following this for a couple of months and my sister has lost 2 stone! I had only heard of it through them. Just read about it in the MoS and have ordered the book (and a copy for mum). Looking at these recipes it looks great! I have about 4 stone to lose, have lost 2 stone already but it has been a year and a half of yo yo loss, so am planning to get stuck into this. Thanks guys!

    One of the simplest breakfasts for winter months is porridge with a desertsponful of golden syrup (although we do have it in summer too). I generally follow that with a slice of Vollkornbrot (German rye bread). And then Ainslie Harriet’s Hot and Sour cuppa soup or similar and loads of fruit for lunch and supper. Sounds a bit basic, but my wife is a vegetarian cookery writer and professional cake maker, so we tend to eat well at other times. Some of the non-dietary benefits are the savings in time and money that accumulate!

    A nice warming vegetarian supper is a stir fry with tofu cut into 1cm cubes and marinated in shoyu. Just prepare lots of vegetables – strips of red pepper, a chopped up onion, garlic, chopped ginger, a chilli pepper, maybe beansprouts, julien carrots, chopped mushrooms – whatever you’ve got. Heat up a pan with the smallest amount of olive oil you can get away with (that’s where all the calories are), as hot as you can. Add the firmer veg first (onions, carrots, pepper), then the mushrooms and the tofu right at the end. You want to cook everything as quickly as possible, so get it all prepared before you start and add a splash of boiling water to the pan if things start to stick. I normally don’t bother with noodles, but on an empty stomach this is a taste sensation!

    Didn’t realise you also wrote 101 things to do before you diet!
    I loved that book – very informative but fun at the same time! Just bought the Fast Diet book and have nearly done a month on the diet now!

    Today is my first on the Fast Diet. I had been on the Alternate Day Diet prior to this and lost around one stone in weight. I am diabetic Type II and was on the highest levels of medication and heading towards insulin therapy. I have now considerably reduced my medication and stabilised my blood sugar. I am still overweight with a BMI of 25.6 but much fitter. Having bought and read the Fast Diet I decided to follow it including a fast period from 12 midnight until 2pm. I accomplished this easily today although I had to hold off my medication until I broke my fast. I doubt if Michael and Mimi would recommend the diet for someone with my health profile, but it is working well so far.

    This is my first day on the fast diet.Just trying to keep going till tea time. Its easier than i thought tho.
    There are some encouraging stories to keep me going, so keep them coming in.

    Well done ‘roseb’. I’ve been on the diet since August
    and fast on a Tuesday and Thursday. I have dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays about 6pm and don’t eat until the following evening. So far I have lost 46lb and dropped 2 trouser sizes and 2 shirt collar sizes. I use the myfitnesPal app to keep a check on my calories and find this invaluable. I generally feel good and more confident. Good luck, it really is a great diet.

    Started this week so have had 2 fast days. Am amazed how positive and full of energy I feel but having great trouble sleeping. Don’t know why. Any ideas?

    Hi Piglet, yes we also do not sleep too well on the fast days although this is getting slightly better. The other thing we noticed was that we are often cold on fast days but again, this is getting better so I guess you just have to stick with it, it’s worth it in the end, in no time you will be feeling on top of the world and shrinking.

    I have started the fast diet this week, and already seen a change on the scales. Sadly I have not slept well either on my fast days. Feast day today, so I’m hoping for a good sleep tonight.

    Some members at the http://www.52fastdiet.co.uk forums have reported not sleeping well on fast days initially, but this has changed with time. Personally I sleep better than I have in years, since starting 5:2!

    Hi, I am 80 now, only a bit overweight but need to reduce my waistline! Wow, started 8 days ago and have had 3 fast days which went well. Missed the wine with dinner! Am going to buy bodyfat scales. Have bought your book and am excited.

    I have spent today reading the book and will start with my first fast day tomorrow – my other half is sceptical (but has to put up with me constantly being on some sort of diet or other!)and I am prepared to give anything a go. Not sure about cholesterol but BP is high and this is one thing I would like to get sorted out. I am 43 in 11 weeks and would like to lose 10kgs before then if I can. Does that seem reasonable? – I have around 25 kg to lose in total.

    Great bmmorag – great, but 10 kg in 11 weeks is A LOT. Aim for a pound a week – that is reasonable and doable and safely within guidelines for weight loss. Also, better to set your target at a realistic place so that you are not disappointed, but rather full of confidence because you’ve achieved your goal. Get your other half on it too! My husband is a convert…

    hoptimist – it really is never too late! You can have a glass of wine tomorrow… good luck and let us know how you get on.

    Re trouble sleeping – some Fast Dieters have reported this – I will ask Michael if he knows any medical reason for it. He does say that a small glass of milk before bedtime can help with sleep. Personally, I think it may be that you are changing your body’s usual habits, so it takes time to adjust. Not a scientific view, just an anecdotal one. Try the milk – or some say even a boiled egg (though I never fancy a boiled egg at night… much better for breakfast!)

    bycress16. Wow! well done!

    Body fat scales helped me, Hoptimist. I thought I was only a bit too heavy being a stone and a bit over ideal weight, just to discover my fat level was 35% and waist:height ratio 50%. Now both reducing nicely having lost 10 lbs since August, without worrying too much about the occasional gluttonous time. It is reducing the fat %age that keeps me going.

    Thanks. I slept better last night having done some exercise and some more today so I’m sure tonight will be ok. Weirdly I have not felt tired ,normally if I had not slept so well I would feel pretty awful the next day but I seem to wake up full of beans! I actually only need to loose half a stone but once that is achieved I shall just do one day a week to maintain weight and obvious long term health benefits. I am mainly doing this to prove to my husband that 5:2 works so that he will take it on board as he needs to shift a bit more weight than me. Hope it works!

    I’ve been doing the diet 1 a week since the telly program, now I’ve got the book I thought I’d try 2 a week, but I’ve got a nasty head cold, should I fast?

    Hi I’m into my second week of fasting ,lost 3lbs up until now …not finding the daytime on my fast day a problem as at work but stuck for ideas to stop my tummy rumbling on an evening .. I can’t excercise as I have MS which restricts my mobility any tips out there please

    I had my first fast day yesterday, and managed to survive!! As someone who has always eaten carefully and goes to the gym regularly, I have weighed the same give or take a few pounds for the last ten years but ideally would love to be one stone lighter. Although I eat healthily I am constantly grazing throughout the day so fasting yesterday was a bit of a challenge. I intend to stick to my normal healthy eating for the non fast days and see how I get on.

    This is my second week of fasting but I haven’t lost anything yet. Very upsetting for someone super obese but I’m hoping it’s early days …

    I knew this fasting idea would work for me when I realised I had read your book from cover to cover….
    I have a shelf full of diet books,I lost interest in reading them before I was half way through!
    This is my first week but already know I will be successful.

    I started on Monday so on my second fast day, seems to be going well though need to drink more i think as getting slight headache in the evening. I’ve been tracking my calories the rest of the week & not eating more than about 1500 per day. Will this effect my weight loss if not eating enough between fast days? Any advice would be good.

    I have completed 3 weeks and lost 9 pounds already. Trouble with “my fitness pal” is that it wants me to stick to 1200 calories every day so isn’t really helpful for eating “normally” on my non-fast days and it also gives me a warning about not eating enough calories on fast days. A 5:2 app would be brilliant. Anyone out there with the necessary expertise???

    This is my first week and feel really optimisic about this working for me. I’ve never really dieted before but have notice the pounds creeping on over the last few months. Today was my second fast day. I had my last meal last night at 7 and went 24 hours until my next and felt fine..just sipped away at water all day. I am on medication for underactive thyroid. Will it take longer for me to lose weight because of this

    My first week and the scales show a loss of 5 lbs . Great result so far . Fast days were really good but do have problem sleeping just don’t seem tired. Hope I can keep this up as I have been a constant yo yo dieter. I have about 4 stone to lose ,so will keep you informed .

    I’m a newbie but my Dad who borrowed the book before I’d even picked it up is 2 1/2 weeks in & lost 11 lbs. I as many have done many diets & found the Cambridge to be the most successful & see the resemblence with fasting, admittedly the Fast Diet is a much easier, calmer method. I want more than anything to maintain my losses & I can see this is a more practical option. Since regaining 2 stone (orig lost 7) I have my astham back & on oodles of meds. My poor old ticker is working OT with the effort & Winter months are dire. (age 47) I’m on my 4th day & can’t quite get my head around the normality of it but hey, I’m so focused on leading a new life!
    I’ll thank you in advance & keeping a diary of how I feel & improvements in my health.

    I have just completed my second week, have lost 7lbs and I am delighted. Feeling more alert and sleeping better which is amazing. I have a feeling I will stay on this long term because it is not difficult. Actually it is more about thinking what you want to eat on non-fast days because you change your attitude about food.

    On Myfitnesspal you can change the amount of daily calories by going to goals and outting in manually how many calories you want that day.

    Hi have just done 2 weeks of fasting 2 days. Find it harder as it goes on. Am desperately hungry by supper time! Not tired, just a bit fractious, which I try to keep under wraps. Haven’t lost any significant weight yet which is disappointing. Hoping next week will see some better results. I have a stone to loose, but 1/2 that would be welcome. Suppose if you have less to lose it takes longer? What does anyone else think? Amazed that I can actually sleep on diet days.

    3 weeks – 6 days fasting – and no weight loss yet. I am about 2 stones overweight. I’m hoping the pounds will just go gradually so I’m ignoring the bathroom scales & will keep going and judge by the weigh & measure I have done at the gym at the beginning of each month. I find it easiest to eat nothing all day & have a 500 kcal meal in the evening. I’m feeling very well, but get ‘foggy brain’ on fast days.

    just started the fast diet. finding it ok, the second fast day better than the first. finding i’m having to go to the loo alot! (drinking lots!!!). the only thing is this “eating normally”. iam what you call obease and like my food and the feeling of being full. i wounder if it will have the same affect with a person who has “issues” with food?

    Anyone else noticed Page 142 200G kidney beans (200 cals) in calorie counter at back 100g are 311 cals. How can they both be correct?

    Need a quick alternative to porridge- it has never filled me up for more than a few hours but I tried it again today with the blueberries as mentioned in the back of the book- that was just before 8am- by 1030am I was starving and by 1130am I just couldn’t take it anymore despite drinking so my fast day was ruined 🙁

    Anyone else having any problems being constipated the day after a fast? This is something I do suffer with quite a lot but is much worse after a fast day.

    why have i put on 3lbs since starting 3 weeks ago.I stick to my 500 cals or less twice a week!.Hopefuuly the scales will start moving the other way soon.

    Hi. I am type two diabetic and suffer from diverticulosis. Is this diet suitable for me? I also have high BP and am at maximum medication for both BP and type two. Advice?

    Hi: Just registered on the site so this is first post. Anyone got any info on whether the 2 meals a day on fast days has the same results as consuming 500cals in one go as a supper? Started ADF after the programme last summer and found it easy but do like my porridge for breakfast!

    I started today, it was a shock to the system, I’ve even stopped milk in my tea. I wanted to know if headaches in the early stages is common? I’ve had two today already. It can’t be dehydration as I’m drinking more than usual.

    I’ve done it for exactly 4 weeks now and only lost 0.5lb – found it easy but disappointingly don’t think it’s for me!

    My wife and I have been following the diet since last August. I’ve lost about 10 and half pounds. My wife was already a slim Goddess so she has hardly lost any weight. I think if you are already at your optimal weight then you may not lose very much. If you are like myself, constantly snacking and a chocoholic then it should work for you. Of course, losing weight is not the main purpose of the diet. Is it?

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