Friday, 11 January 2013

What to drink on the 5:2 diet

Given that you’ve only got 500 calories to play with it seems a bit of a waste squandering a quarter of them on a glass of wine - or any alcoholic drink. But the diet is all about choice so if that’s your special treat you might want to know exactly how much your favourite tipple will set you back.

The good news is that a 125ml glass of champagne only tots up 95 calories but if you’ve a taste for full-bodied South American reds or shiraz at, say, 14.5% and you drink a ‘normal’ 175ml glass of it, that’s 140 calories gone*. A double whisky is 122 calories. Add a non-diet mixer and that’s 178 calories. Makes you realise where all those excess pounds come from, eh?

I don’t bother with alcohol at all when I’m fasting but a food writer friend who saves up her calories to enjoy in the evening likes a gin and diet tonic. A single measure of a 37.5% gin like Gordon’s with a low cal tonic comes to just 54 calories - almost exactly the same as the square of dark chocolate I treat myself to if I have calories to spare. Horses for courses.

Another option is a small dry fino sherry - if you can stick to 50ml (a small glass makes that seem more) it’s only 49 calories a glass.

It’s when it comes to non-alcoholic options that it gets tricky. Most fruit juices and soft drinks are in fact quite high in calories. 200ml of Copella apple juice for example adds up to 92 calories. However tomato juice is roughly half that at 44 calories per 200ml. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco or a pinch of celery salt and a slice of lemon and you’ve got yourself a non alcoholic cocktail (a Virgin Mary) that doesn’t make you stand out in a crowd.

I’m not mad about diet mixers except for the Fever-tree range which, although they’re higher in calories than, say, Schweppes, don’t have that slightly metallic taste you get from most low cal mixers. They do a Naturally Light Tonic Water (20.5 cals per 100ml) and a Naturally Light Ginger Beer (24.8 calories per 100ml). With ice, 150ml gives you a decent drink

Tea has been my lifeline during the 5:2 diet and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been exploring different loose leaf teas at no calorie gain at all - provided you don’t take milk or sugar. I don't take sugar, except occasionally in mint tea and have pretty well weaned myself off milk over the last six weeks. Herbal infusions are also calorie free. I particularly like a fennel infusion with a slice of lemon.

Milk is even more of a factor when it comes to coffee. If you take it black, which I invariably do on a fast day, a small black coffee is just 2 calories though a black Americano which I often drink when I’m out I was rather surprised to find was 15 according to And a double espresso is 10.

An instant coffee with skimmed milk (bleugh) will set you back 6 but a large latte can mount up to 180-190, over a third of your daily allowance. So no visits to Starbucks on a fast day - or on any other day so far as I’m concerned.

PS the Bristol-based producer of an interesting Japanese-style soft drink called Koji picked up on this post and offered to drop a couple of bottles round. There are two flavours, Lemon and Ginger, which would do duty for white wine and Mandarin and Cranberry which looks much like a rosé. I find the latter too sweet and too obviously orangey though I can imagine it going with spicy food like a curry. However the slightly herby lemon and ginger is really rather delicious - so much so that I demolished the rest of the (330ml) bottle. 

The best thing about them though is that they're only 49 calories a bottle which would make a 165ml  glassful just 25 calories. Perfect for those who like a drink at the end of the working day.

At the moment you can mainly find them in Bristol shops, cafés and restaurants (Chandos Deli apparently stocks them) but they've just delivered to a number of London wholesalers so you should be able to find them there. And they're also planning to sell them online. Check out their website for updates on stockists

*The unit calculator on is particularly helpful for working out the calorie count of different glasses of wine depending on their alcoholic strength.

Image © Bratwustle -

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