How's that New Year's resolution of losing weight coming along? If the sweet treats have crept back into your daily routine, or Dry January has become awash with weekend wine, don't despair - writes Claire Spreadbury.

In 2012, there was a point when everyone seemed to be talking about the 5:2 diet. More of an eating plan than a diet, it simply involves two 'fasting' days a week, when your calorie intake needs to be a maximum of 500 for women or 600 for men, and five blissfully normal definitely-not-on-a-diet days.

Three years on and the New Year bookshelves are still groaning under the weight of new titles; Kate Harrison's 5:2 Good Food Kitchen, for one. And that's because it works.

"From the first day I did it, I realised it was the easiest approach to controlling my weight I'd ever tried," notes Harrison. "I lost 31lbs, gained energy, confidence and a complete loss of guilt about food. And it inspired me to write four books."

Now, I'm not much of a calorie counter. Weight Watchers put paid to that about 15 years ago, when I found myself totting up how many 'points' my enviably slim and non-dieting lunch date was consuming, while staring miserably at my Crispbreads. But working out the tastiest way to consume just 500 calories - and sticking to it by telling myself I can eat whatever I want tomorrow - is something I can just about manage, especially if it's only for two days out of seven.

"On a weekly basis, you're slashing at least 3,000 calories from what you'd normally eat, which is equal to a pound of real weight loss - not water loss," says diet and fitness expert Laura Williams ( "It's a simple question of sums and creating deficits."

I'm only on week two, but am happy to keep it up - and losing 2.5lbs in seven days has certainly spurred me on.

I would recommend avoiding 'virtually calorie-free' (and also completely tasteless) noodles, and discovering low-calorie foods you don't dislike. A massive salad hits all the right notes, Marks & Spencer's mini hot cross buns are a perfect 100-calorie fix and there's an array of low-cal ready meals on the market that are a lot more tasty than you think - and make it easy to keep fasting, even when you're too busy to cook.

Try it - you might like it. And if you do, and you find your scales are suddenly pointing at your goal weight, you can drop down to one fasting day a week to keep it all off.

That's what Harrison did, after dropping from a wobbly size 16 to a slender 10-12 - which she still is - three years ago. Here are her top tips to keep you on track, plus three delicious recipes to inspire your fasting days...


(Serves 1)

Calories: 189 for Florentine; 193 for Benedict; 220 for Royale (add 78 for a second poached egg)

For the sauce:

  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
  • Fresh herb leaves, such as chives, parsley or dill, plus extra to garnish
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of sugar (optional)

For the 'Benefit' layer:

  • 50g fresh or defrosted frozen spinach (or 20g smoked salmon or 20g slice of ham)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice, if using spinach
  • 1 very thin slice of sourdough bread weighing 15g
  • 1 medium egg
  • Splash of vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Make the sauce by heating the creme fraiche and mustard gently in a small saucepan for two minutes. Use scissors to snip the herbs directly into the saucepan, reserving a few leaves for garnish. Season to taste. If it's too sharp for you, add a pinch of sugar or sweetener.

For the 'Benefit' layer, microwave or pan cook the spinach with a little water and a squeeze of lemon juice until wilted. Season with pepper then drain through a sieve. When cool enough to handle, carefully squeeze out as much of the water as possible and set aside.

Toast the sourdough bread lightly under the grill or in a toaster.

For the egg(s), bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil with a splash of vinegar. Break your egg onto a small plate. Create a whirlpool in the water with a fork or whisk and, with your other hand, slip the egg into the middle of the saucepan as gently as possible. Turn off the heat and set a timer for three minutes. After that time, check that the egg white has set before removing from the saucepan using a slotted spoon. Place gently onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess cooking water.

Set the toast on a warm plate, lay the spinach, ham or salmon on top, then add the egg(s) and finally the sauce. Season, and garnish with the reserved herb leaves and serve immediately.


(Serves 1)

Calories: 356

  • 100g pork escalope
  • 1/2 lemongrass stalk, finely chopped
  • 2cm-piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1-cal cooking spray
  • 25g rice noodles
  • 50g mixture of baby corn and sugar snap peas
  • 50g broccoli florets
  • Zest and juice of half a lime
  • 1/2tsp sesame oil
  • 1tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 red chilli, sliced

Put the pork escalope in a dish with the lemongrass, ginger and shallot. Toss the meat to coat. If you have time, place the dish in the fridge to allow the pork to marinate for up to an hour.

Spray a cold, non-stick frying pan with one-calorie cooking spray and place over a medium heat. Add the pork and fry it for three to four minutes on one side. Turn over, adding more spray to the pan, if needed. Continue to cook the pork on the other side, until golden and cooked through in the middle. Set aside to rest.

Bring a small pan of water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook for five minutes, or following the instruction on the pack. Add the baby corn and sugar snap pea mixture, as well as the broccoli florets, then turn off the heat and allow to cook in the hot water for one to two minutes.

Drain the noodles and vegetables, toss well to mix, then return them to the pan. Stir in the lime zest and juice, sesame oil, soy sauce and chilli, then spoon onto a plate. Slice the pork and arrange on top, then drizzle round any of the rested juices.


(Serves 2)

Calories: 241 per serving

  • 1/2tsp coconut oil
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2cm-piece peeled ginger, weighing 5g
  • 1 small green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1/2tsp garam masala
  • 1/4tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp ground cardamom
  • 150ml almond milk
  • 10g cashew nuts
  • 10g flaked almonds, reserving a few for garnish
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 100g fine beans or sugar snap peas
  • 40g dried apricots, snipped
  • For the Pomegranate and Mint Raita:
  • 100g 0% fat yoghurt
  • A few fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 30g pomegranate seeds
  • For the almost-instant pickles:
  • 250g mixed vegetables, including cauliflower, carrot or cucumber, radishes and red onion
  • 5g root ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small fresh green chilli, deseeded, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 100ml water
  • 100ml white wine vinegar
  • 1tsp sugar or equivalent in sweetener (optional)
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp black or white mustard seeds
  • 1/4tsp each whole coriander and cumin seeds
  • Good pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)

Heat coconut oil in a non-stick saucepan over a low heat.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and spices and fry very gently for three minutes. Then add the almond milk and the nuts. Simmer gently for seven minutes.

Blend with a stick blender, pour into a cup and set aside.

Fry the mushrooms in the same pan for three minutes over medium heat. Don't move them around too much, so they brown nicely. Add the beans or peas and the snipped apricots, then return the spiced sauce to the pan. Simmer for six to eight minutes, or until the beans or sugar snaps are tender.

To make the Raita, combine the yoghurt with the chopped mint leaves and top with the pomegranate seeds.

For the pickles, slice or snap the vegetables into bite-size pieces and place in a large microwaveable dish. Add all of the remaining ingredients and cover the bowl with a plate.

Microwave on full power for three to four minutes, depending on how crunchy you like the vegetables. Or, heat everything in a large saucepan over high heat for five minutes. You can skip the heating if you prefer a really crunchy salad pickle to eat on the day.

Serve the korma in one bowl, sprinkled with the reserved nuts, with the raita and pickles in separate dishes on the side.

5:2 Good Food Kitchen by Kate Harrison is published by Orion Books, priced £7.99 (available now)