Sunday, 31 March 2013

Do you really need a 5:2 cookbook?

Given the success of the 5:2 diet it was inevitable that there would be a rash of cookbooks cashing in on it but having looked through a few I’m wondering how useful they really are.

I mean how much do you actually want to cook on fast days? Not much in my case - the less time I spend faffing around in the kitchen the better. If I do cook I want it to be tasty, of course, but above all quick and simple. Ideally not involving more than 5 or 6 ingredients.

Yesterday's fast day supper for example was a piece of grilled tuna and a salsa/chopped salady sort of thing made from cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions and some marinated olives which contributed enough oiliness to do without olive oil. Squeeze of lemon, handful of rocket - 10 minutes work max.

The idea that you want recipes for 4 or more seems just plain daft. Most books emphasise that kids shouldn’t be on the 5:2 diet so you wouldn’t be cooking for them.

For your friends? Why not have them round on a feast day when you can cook and eat what you like?

You’d only need recipes for more than 1 or 2 in the hypothetical situation that you have 4 or more adults in the house, ALL on the 5:2 diet. Which is obviously not impossible but highly unlikely. And recipes that cater for more don't take account of the fact that those of us who are overweight are unlikely to stick to our allotted portion. The temptation to overeat is just too great.

Two of the books I’ve read have recipes that are not written by cooks but by nutritionists. While I’m sure that makes them healthy and accurately calorie-counted it doesn't necessarily make them inspiring - or even easy to follow.

I tried a mushroom and artichoke bake from The 5:2 Cookbook at 168 calories a head - one of the few recipes in the book for 2. The quantities were confusing: 500g canned artichoke hearts, drained - was that the  weight of the artichokes or the weight of the can? If it was the artichokes you’d need two cans - a lot for two people. I made do with one and adjusted the amount of mushrooms - an over-generous 300g - downwards too.

It wasn’t very frugal either - fresh basil and oregano - surely you didn’t need both?  Lemon juice and white wine - would you open a bottle just to take out 1 tablespoon? A tablespoon of brown breadcrumbs. Dried or fresh - and why brown?

I adapted it slightly but was still underwhelmed with the result. My husband chomped manfully through it but I definitely won’t be making it again. (The artichokes on the other hand are rather useful. I can imagine combining them with hard boiled eggs and tinned tuna for a simple low cal salad.)

If you’re short of inspiration there are more appetising suggestions on some of the women’s magazine sites, the Channel 4 website, on established cookery sites like the 200-400 calorie meals on the BBC Good Food website and in some of the other new diet-conscious books like Gizzi Erskine’s new Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts which I’ll be reviewing shortly.

But in general I think it’s more about having a simple repertoire of dishes made from ingredients you know are low in calories rather than trying to push the boat out and experiment on your fast days. After all we’re only talking about two days a week.

What do you do about recipes? Do you have one of the 5:2 diet books and if so what do you think of it? Do you spend much time cooking on a fast day?


Claudine in France said...

I don't see any point in buying recipe books specifically for this way of life (I refuse to call it a diet!), when I manage perfectly well by simply tweaking my everyday recipes.
I simply downsize the portion size and/or replace the carbs with more veg and salads.

Having said that, I grab any FREE book I find on Amazon! ;)

Fiona Beckett said...

Aha - that's different!

And you're right - it's a way of eating, not a diet!

Foodycat said...

Those artichoke hearts are VERY useful! I saw Celia Brooks' recipe for them and they are now a 5:2 staple.

Fiona Beckett said...

Yes I spotted those too @foodycat. Have yet to roast them but such a simple, delicious idea.

Fiona Maclean said...

I tend to agree with Claudine - that it's a way of life and the information people need is how to adapt their NORMAL food.

For me that's 1 cal spray, more low calorie veg, and a better understanding of high GI foods and why on a fast day they can leave you hungry.

But some people lack confidence. The books do at least give you 'meals' - and personally I've found of the low calorie website recipes are rather high in calories because they are aimed at someone eating a 1,200 calorie a day diet. Nothing more frustrating than finding that lovely curry you spotted is actually 500 calories - even though it's low cal/low fat.

I haven't bought any of them - I'd rather adapt my own favourites. But I know people who DO find them useful simply for meal planning purposes.

Fiona Beckett said...

I take your point, Fiona, but still feel some of the recipes are quite off-puttingly ambitious and time-consuming. Reckon fast days are a good opportunity to get on with things other than cooking

The Beach Hut Cook said...

I agree! I find the recipes in the 5:2 books dull and make me feel like I'm on a "diet" rather than choosing to eat differently for two days a week.

I quite like my fasting day foods (I do plan what to eat) but I make sure than I'm super busy on those days too!

Fiona Beckett said...

@beachhutcook absolutely! You want to be distracted rather than spending too much time in the kitchen. Have taken to hearty walks!

Fishwife said...

Hi Fiona, am starting 5:2 today with significant amount ofn weight to try to lose. Jack Monroe pointed me your way for tips so I'm looking forward to reading your posts. Thanks for sharing x

Fiona Beckett said...

@fishwife - can really recommend it. The first few fast days may be tricky (you'll probably feel hungry and maybe irritable) but once you get into a rhythm it's a breeze. Just remind yourself when you have to skip something you can always eat it the next day!