Posts tagged ‘nutrition’

August 19, 2013

The Fast Diet

by lrmetcalfe

The Fast Diet or The 5:2 Diet, is the latest fad sweeping the diet world.

A few of my family members and friends, have started to undertake this diet, after speaking to them, I was concerned about the basis for this regime. I thought I would do some research and write an article on my findings.

 

The Fast Diet- The Premise

Fasting has been a part of many cultures for hundreds of years, and it’s health benefits have been studied by many research programmes.

Early findings show that benefits of intermittent fasting (the style of fasting promoted in the 5:2 diet) include reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance and immune disorders. However research is in the early stages, many of these studies have been done on animals or on small, human sample groups.

The author of The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley, designed the 5:2 diet, after filming a BBC documentary called ‘Eat, Fast, Live Longer’. Following his research into fasting for this programme, he decided to restrict his calorie intake to 600 calories for two days a week and eat ‘normally’ for 5 days a week. He lost 19lb and his body-fat percentage decreased. His blood chemistry was analysed before and after the diet and many risk markers for disease such as cholesterol and fasting glucose levels improved.

He wrote a book detailing his experiences and advocating this diet, in which two days a week men consume 600 calories and women 500 calories, eating normally for the rest of the week.

 

What I like about the fast diet-

The sections on insulin and balancing blood sugar were of great interest to me. The diet places emphasis on controlling insulin levels, eating low GI/GL  foods on fast days which keep your blood sugar balanced. There is a lot of research to suggest that by controlling blood sugar levels we can lose weight, increase our energy levels and reduce the risk of contracting diseases such as diabetes.

The meal plans for the fast days do look delicious, and I think it is important if you are following this diet, to try and follow these plans as they ensure you are receiving the maximum amount of nutrients for the small amount of calories consumed.

 

My concerns- What about the 5 days you are not fasting?

‘The Fast Diet’ book goes into great lengths to tell you what to eat on your fast days, and gives a lot of healthy choices; my biggest concern is how little is mentioned about what to eat on the five days a week you are not fasting.

When I first heard about this diet, it was from someone who was excited to do the diet, as he could eat all his favourite junk foods five days a week and then only had to diet twice a week. The book says ‘eat what you like 5 days a week’, and provides no further guidance-so what if I like to eat a diet high in saturated fat, processed foods and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre, 5 days a week?

Does eating a small amount of healthy food twice a week, compensate for 5 days of eating unhealthily? The book assumes that we all know how to eat healthily for the 5 days a week, but a nation that struggles with obesity and a UK diet industry worth 2 billion pounds, may suggest otherwise.

 

What dieters say… A woman’s point of view:

Why did the Fast Diet appeal to you?
I can eat normally for 5 days I only have to count calories/ cook special meals twice a week. This is convenient as sometimes on diets I end up cooking three meals for me, husband and 3 year old child.

Did you experience any side effects when completing the fast diet?

On fast days I was hungry and lacked energy but otherwise no.

What do you think the pros and cons of the diet are?

Pros – health benefits are major and only dieting for 2 days
Cons -hard to have a ‘normal’ day on a fast day as you’re quite tired

How long have you done the diet for, do you think it is sustainable, could you do it long-term?
I did it for two weeks but lost and then gained weight, as I was eating too much on non-fast days.  I will go back on the diet when I have lost weight to maintain, as it’s much easier than doing a diet every day. I stopped as I needed to lose weight more quickly as am planning to have a baby but will definatly do it again for the health benefits. I think it is sustainable and I could do it long term.

How much weight have you lost doing this diet?

I lost 4lb and put 2lb back on so lost 2lb over 2 weeks.

Did you experience any health benefits other than weight loss when doing this diet?
No, not that I am aware of.

 

What dieters say… A man’s point of view:

Why did the Fast Diet appeal to you?

I saw the Horizon programme on BBC 2. I have believed for some time that fasting could be beneficial to health, the programme listed the benefits and backed them up with scientific research, this prompted me to start the diet.

Did you experience any side-effects when completing the fast diet?

No

What do you think the pros and cons of the diet are?

Pros- I find the diet works for me

Cons- The con, which is true of all diets- they are difficult to follow

How long have you done the diet for, do you think it is sustainable, could you do it long-term?

Three weeks, I believe the diet is sustainable, if you have the will-power to continue with it.

How much weight have you lost doing this diet?

6lb

Did you experience any health benefits other than weight loss when doing this diet?
No other noticeable health benefits.

 

What the NHS says…

The UK National Health Service posted an article about the diet on its website, citing limited evidence for weight loss in humans, and a lack of good evidence for increasing lifespan, improving cognitive decline, and prolonging life in humans in real life (as opposed to animal and laboratory results). The conclusion was: “compared to other types of weight loss programmes the evidence base of the safety and effectiveness of the 5:2 diet is limited. If you are considering it then you should first talk to your GP to see if it is suitable for you”.

 

My conclusion…

Research continues on fasting, and until there is more solid evidence on the best way to fast as part of a healthy diet, I would think carefully and consult your doctor on whether the 5:2 diet is suitable for you.

At the end of the day, the basis of ‘the Fast Diet’ is good old-fashioned calorie restriction. We all know if we want to lose weight we need to eat less, eat healthier foods and exercise more. I believe one of the main reasons the fast diet is so appealing is because it allows us to eat the foods we love but know are bad for us.

However, if you eat healthily and increase your activity levels, there is no reason why you cannot treat yourself occasionally.

I believe that the minute we place ourselves on a ‘diet’ we are setting ourselves up to fail, a ‘diet’ suggests a short-term change.  We should place more emphasis on eating and cooking healthier foods and living a more active lifestyle for the rest of our lives.

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April 1, 2013

Quick & Healthy

by lrmetcalfe

greek

In my last post I mentioned the importance of eating healthy, balanced meals, and quick and easy recipes will make this much easier.

The key to a healthy meal is getting the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fruit or vegetables.

Imagine a plate divided into quarters. At meal times, 1 quarter of your plate should be protein, 1 quarter starchy carbohydrates and 2 quarters non-starchy carbohydrates (fruit and vegetables).

These combinations will give you a healthy balanced meal that will keep your blood sugar balanced and your energy levels high.

So now the question is, what do you fill the quarters of your plate with? Keep it as varied as possible, this will keep your meals interesting and will ensure you receive all the nutrients you require.

PROTEIN- Meat, fish, quorn, soya, tofu, shellfish, eggs, beans, lentils, quinoa, cheese

CARBOHYDRATES (starchy carbohydrates)- Pasta, rice, couscous, broad beans, sweetcorn, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin

VEGETABLES & FRUITS (non-starchy carbohydrates)- Obviously there are many varieties to choose from, but here are some ideas on how to serve them:- Stir fried oriental vegetables, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, salads, steamed vegetables, fruit salad, fruit compote, fruit and/or vegetable smoothies.

I thought I would also share some of my favourite quick and easiest healthy meals, try them for yourself:

 

Jacket potato with Greek salad

Serves 2

2 x Medium potato

100g feta cheese

½ red onion

1 tbsp black olives

2 tomatoes

10cm chunk cucumber

Black pepper

½ tsp dried oregano

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.
  2. Wash the potatoes and prick with a fork, put in microwave at full power for 10 minutes or until softened. (Alternatively you can cook your potatoes in the oven, obviously this will take longer!)
  3. Put in the oven to crisp us the skins for 10 minutes.
  4. While the potato is in the oven, prepare the salad.
  5. Chop the feta, onion, tomatoes and cucumber into cubes and put into a bowl. Cut the olives into halves and add, along with the oregano and pepper, to taste. Mix well.
  6. When the potato is ready cut in half and serve topped with the Greek salad and a green side salad.

 

Lamb and roasted vegetable pittas with mint and yoghurt dip

Serves 2

300g diced lean lamb

½ sweet potato

Red pepper

Green Pepper

Red onion

1 tbsp olive oil

150ml natural yogurt

2 tbsps mint jelly

2 wholemeal pitta breads

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.
  2. Chop the vegetables into chunks, put on a baking tray and drizzle with the oil. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
  3. Mix the mint jelly and the yoghurt together in a bowl and cut the top side of the pitta to create a pouch.
  4. For the last ten minutes of the vegetable cooking time, fry off the lamb in a griddle pan. Drain off any fat once cooked.
  5. When the lamb and the vegetables are ready, stuff into the pittas and drizzle with the yoghurt and mint dip. Serve with a green salad.

For a vegetarian option omit the lamb and add aubergine to the rest of the vegetables.

 

Honey Soy Salmon with noodles

Serves 2

2 Salmon fillets

2tsps wholegrain mustard

2tbsps soy sauce

100g soba noodles

Mangetout

Baby corn

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.
  2. In a bowl mix the mustard and soy sauce together.
  3. Put the salmon in an oven dish and spoon over the mustard mixture. Cover the dish with tin foil and put in the oven for 25 mins.
  4. Add the noodles to a pan of boiling water, if you have a steamer you can cook the noodles in the bottom of the noodles in the water and add the vegetables to one of the steamer pans above the water. Boil for 6 minutes or until the vegetables and noodles are cooked. (If you don’t have a steamer stir fry the vegetables in a pan.)
  5. Put the noodles and vegetables on a plate and serve the salmon on top, drizzling over any of the sauce left in the oven dish.

 

Mozarella Pesto Pasta with rocket salad

Serves 2

110g wholemeal spaghetti

2 tbsps pesto (there are many varieties available in supermarkets, my favourite is tomato and red pepper)

2 tbsps green olives, chopped

1 large ball of mozzarella, chopped into cubes.

Bag of rocket leaves

1 tsbp olive oil

2 tbsps lemon juice

Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water.
  2. Whilst the pasta is cooking mix the olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl, grate the parmesan cheese.
  3. Add the rocket to the salad dressing and mix well.  Put onto plates and sprinkle with as much parmesan as you would like.
  4. When the pasta is cooked, drain the water and return to the sauce pan. Stir the pesto through the pasta and heat gently add the olives and mozzarella,  stir until the cheese has melted and the pasta is warm.
  5. Serve with the salad.

Enjoy….