When my mom and I decided to do a cleanse to shake things up a little bit, it was the perfect opportunity to document our experience and put together a DIY 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan. It wasn’t easy, mainly because counting calories is new to me, but having this experience and this meal plan will make things so much easier next time. Since I am a Plant Paradox follower, it was important this meal plan was not only vegan but also lectin-light.
My inspiration came from reading about the longevity benefits of a 5-day fast-mimicking diet from The Longevity Paradox, by Dr. Steven Gundry, but I’m also familiar with Dr. Valter Longo’s work. My sister and her husband have done the ProLon diet a few times, however, that can be costly, so I wanted to put together a DIY 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan that can be done anywhere in the world, using common and affordable ingredients.
Why are we doing a 5-day fast mimicking diet?
Before I start, I wanted to briefly mention the benefits of a 5-day fast-mimicking diet, which as the name suggested, is a 120 hour prolonged nutritious, low calorie fast, mimicking the benefits of a water fast. These benefits are autophagy, detoxing, deep healing, and resetting metabolism. As both Dr. Valter Longo and Dr. Steven Gundry suggest, this fast should be done regularly: every 8 to 12 weeks.
The rules for the 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan
This is possibly one of the most restrictive meal plans I made, and certainly something completely new to my mom. While I was already following a grain-free, sugar-free, lectin-light, and even dairy-free diet for a few years, my mom never eliminated any of those completely from her diet. And on top of that, it was calorie restricted.
This meal plan can be done even without the calorie restriction part and it will still benefit you, but if you want the benefits of fasting along with the benefits of cleaning your diet, you have to keep calories under 900 per day.
NOTE: Don’t forget that we are all different and it’s better to consult a professional before you do any drastic changes in your diet, especially if you are under any medication or treatment.
For easy reference, here are the general rules of this 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan:
Rule 1: It’s calorie-restricted
You only eat 900 or fewer calories a day to mimic the benefits of a whole month of full-time calorie restriction (according to Dr. Steven Gundry). Fyi, Dr. Valter Longo, the one who discovered the benefits of the calorie restriction fast, has a 600 calorie limit in his ProLon meal plan. You can do either, or somewhere in the middle. Some even say that can be done under 1,100 calories.
Rule 2: It’s vegan
No animal protein and dairy are allowed.
Rule 3: It’s lectin-light
No plants with a high content of harmful lectins are allowed. Beans and legumes will be soaked and pressure cooked to eliminate most lectins and will be kept under 8oz (1 cup) a day.
Rule 4: You eat only whole foods
This meal plan is free of heavily processed foods. Obviously, cooking is a form of processing, but here we refer to store-bought, multiple ingredient products.
Rule 5: It’s free of sugar, including fruits
Maybe a small number of wild berries can be included, that’s probably something you will have to decide, depending on your current health state. The original ProLon has some nut bars that include a small amount of honey, so in my interpretation, this plan can include a tiny amount of sugar from fruits or honey if that fits your needs. Dr. Gundry will probably advise against it.
Rule 6: Make it nutritious
I applied the nutritarian approach when I built our menu. It’s a term coined by dr. Joel Fuhrman describing a diet that maximizes micro-nutrients and minimizes macro-nutrients. That means a diverse diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods and not rich in calories. And remember that the point of calorie restriction is not to starve yourself of nutrients, on the contrary.
NOTE: This cleanse can be also considered low histamine. By some lists, beans are not low histamine, but I never had problems with beans in the past and they are included in one of the most reliable anti-histamine programs online, HealingHistamine.com. Additionally, many of the foods I use in this cleanse have anti-histamine properties. Only one meal of all ten includes a small amount of avocado and the snack has some cacao, but you can easily remove/replace both.
About sourcing and cooking methods
In order to keep it nutritious, think of sourcing, as much as possible, local and organic, in season and include both raw and cooked vegetables. It’s not that you have to make it perfect, but do the best you can, with what’s available to you. I would not go out of my way to source ingredients that grow in the tropics, while I’m in Romania and it’s autumn.
Accessibility of this 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan
Maybe because I wanted this experience to inspire my mom, I wanted it to be as simple as possible, and use ingredients that are easy to find in Romanian stores. However, everything will look familiar and accessible wherever in the world you are. And as long as you stick to the rules above, you can use any ingredients available to you.
Beans and legumes, preparation and storage
In the case of beans and legumes, if you include them, remember they have to be soaked and pressure cooked to minimize the content of harmful lectins. In my cleanse I use chickpeas and lentils. While I don’t soak lentils because they’ll go mushy, I wash them well, pressure cook for 15 minutes and discard the water.
As for chickpeas, I soak them overnight, changing water about three times and pressure cook for 23 minutes. I do not add salt to the water when cooking, as some say it interferes with the cooking process.
Black beans are also excellent to use during this cleanse; I do the same as with chickpeas but the pressure cooking time is 25 minutes. You find a guideline on how to pressure cook beans/legumes in The Plant Paradox Family Cookbook by Dr. Steven Gundry.
To make this meal plan really easy, prepare the beans in advance and freeze them. When you stew the beans, you can use them directly from the freezer if they are packed in individual portions. If you want to make something like hummus, take them out in advance, or you can even warm them in the oven before blending.
Stewing the beans is really easy. Start with a little extra virgin olive oil or whatever approved oil you like (avocado can be used too) measuring the oil, depending on how many servings you make. I cooked for two so I used 1 tablespoon for two servings, which means 119 calories for two.
Sauté the onion until fragrant and translucent, add some garlic and the beans and eventually a little water so they don’t stick or dry out. I usually add beans straight from the freezer, so I cook until beans are all thawed and soft. If you use other greens, like kale (see Day 4, Meal 1) add them just for a few minutes in the end. Fresh herbs can be added: parsley and cilantro are perfect for beans.
More about beans here: Reintroducing Beans. Three Easy and Delicious Recipes.
Planning meals is not something that comes naturally to me, I’m more of a spontaneous cook and eater. But I learned a few tricks that help make my life easier.
Spices and salt for the 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan
During the cleanse I wanted to keep it simple so I mainly used Herbs de Provence as a spice mix, plus salt and pepper. Use fresh cilantro and/or parsley and even dill to your heart’s desire, they are super tasty and nutritious and don’t add many calories. Also, feel free to add fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil to your dishes. Prepared pesto is problematic for this 5-day fast mimicking diet meal plan because it requires a lot of oil and will have a lot of calories.
Speaking of salt and pepper; add to your taste. I had to add a little less salt than usual when cooking because my mom doesn’t eat as salty as I do, so I’d rather have to add more than making it too salty. Salt is important in a cleanse especially when you eliminate all processed foods that usually contain a lot of added salt. I used iodized Himalayan pink salt (with no fillers or anti-caking agents) which I know is pretty hard to find in the US. If I were in the US I’d use Redmond Real sea salt, which is naturally rich in minerals and iodine, or iodized sea salt.
Alternatively, you can use some seaweed to add some umami flavors and iodine to your meals.
Counting calories for the 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan
For me, this was the most annoying part of this 5-day fast mimicking diet meal plan. I never count calories and in general, I’m not advising anyone to do so, however, there is no way around it when you have to follow a calorie-restricted meal plan.
One thing I noticed is that we tend to underestimate the number of calories we are eating, so in order to keep it under 900 a day I had to be very strict with my portions and especially with the use of oils.
NOTE: In my everyday life, I follow the plant paradox principles of eating, and for the past years my weight has been stable despite me eating way above the number of calories suggested in the mainstream channels. That’s mainly due to eating a lot of extra virgin olive oil – Dr. Gundry advises 12 tablespoons a day, which means over 1200 calories only from oil. I don’t eat that much, but still quite a lot. So, all this to say, if you do follow the plant paradox eating principles, you will have to be careful with the use of oils as they tend to be the most caloric in this plan.
Another ingredient that is allowed but must be calorie-restricted because it quickly adds up, is beans/legumes. The amount you can have daily is 8oz (1 cup) so if you have two meals a day, you can have half a cup per meal.
I included chickpeas and lentils for almost every meal. I didn’t want this to be a tough experience for my mom who was eliminating so many food groups from her diet at once and for the first time. Plus, as I said, I wanted our food to include a maximum of nutrients, and beans do provide that and properly prepared.
During this cleanse, beans and oils are the highest in calories, so that’s where you have to pay attention when counting calories, especially that when preparing the beans you always need some sort of oil. Here are the calories in beans and fats (they are rough estimates though, keep that in mind):
- 1 cup of boiled lentils – 230 calories
- 1 cup of boiled chickpeas – 267 calories
- 1 cup of boiled black beans – 227 calories
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil – 119 calories
- 1 tablespoon of avocado oil – 124 calories
- 1 tablespoon hemp seed oil – 126 calories
- 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed butter) – 89 calories
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds – 111 calories
- 1 brazil nut (1 kernel) – 33 calories
- 10 olives – 59 calories
- 1 cup coconut milk – 552 calories
As per the vegetables and the greens, they are pretty low in calories. I counted now to have an idea, but next time I’m doing this I will not bother. The only other vegetables I would pay attention to regarding calories are the starchy ones, like the sweet potato.
How to prepare the sweet potato
The sweet potato has to be cooked, cooled and reheated for a better nutritional profile (more resistant starch and slower absorption of sugar). I like to cook my sweet potato in the oven, in the skin, with no oil or water. Just in a tray, at 350F, until they are soft to touch. Time will depend on the size of your potatoes.
Then I let them cool, eventually overnight or for a few hours in the fridge and when I’m ready to eat I reheat them, or eat them cold. On normal days I douse them in extra virgin olive oil, but I’m careful during the cleanse, considering one tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories.
How to prepare the non-starchy vegetables
For the rest of the veggies, I eat them raw, steamed, roasted or boiled/blanched. I make sure I eat vegetables in different forms, both raw, minimally cooked (blanched), or roasted, to maximize the amount and types of nutrients. I love raw cauliflower, but I like to cook broccoli and other leafy greens. I love raw cabbage salad but I also love roasting it and I love boiled Brussels sprouts (al dente).
Here there are the calories for the veggies I use in this 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan:
- 1 head large cauliflower (840g) – 209 calories
- 1 bunch broccoli (608g) – 205 calories
- 1 medium onion – 44 calories
- 1 cup chopped cabbage – 22 calories
- 1 bulb fennel – 73 calories
- 1 raw carrot – 30 calories
- 100g raw beets – 43 calories
- 200g asparagus – 40 calories
- 100g sweet potato – 86 calories
The 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan
There are different ways to split the allowed food/calories throughout the day, but we chose two meals a day: lunch and early dinner. The reason for that is because for both my mom and me this is our usual eating schedule, and this also provides the benefits of intermittent fasting. Our first meal was around lunch (12 pm) and dinner was not later than 6 pm with maybe a few snacks in between and coffee in the morning.
Ingredients for day one of the 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan: extra virgin olive oil, hemp seed oil, red onion, leeks, cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, garlic, ginger, hemp seeds / sweet potato, lentils, broccoli, arugula/salad, olives, herbs de Provence.
Meal 1: Veggie hash with leeks, cauliflower and asparagus (246 calories)
Start by sautéing leeks, onions and ginger, until fragrant and translucent. Remember, the amount of oil used should be a minimum, 1 tablespoon for 2 servings should be enough. Add the garlic, riced or chopped cauliflower and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for a couple more minutes. Add salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence in the process and taste. If you feel like it, you can add some sliced mushrooms to this meal. Serve with hemp seeds and a drizzle of olive oil or hemp seeds oil. Refer to the lists above for the number of calories, but don’t worry too much about counting the calories in the non-starchy vegetables. Keep the oil to a minimum and measure the hemp seeds.
Meal 2: Buddha bowl with lentils, sweet potato and broccoli (317 calories)
To prepare the lentils, measure 1/2 cup of pressure-cooked lentils per serving. Sauté red onion until translucent and fragrant, add the lentils, add fresh garlic, herbs to your taste, and cook until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add some water so they don’t dry out. finish with fresh parsley or cilantro. Boil or steam the broccoli, keep it al dente if you can. To prepare the sweet potato, slice baked and cooled sweet potato and warm it in a pan in a little bit of olive oil, with herbs de Provence, on both sides. Serve with a green salad/arugula and a few olives.
Ingredients for day 2: EVOO, hemp oil, kohlrabi, avocado, carrot, asparagus, olives, figs, arugula, chickpeas, tahini, nigella sativa seeds / red cabbage, leeks, fennel, ginger, cloves, green salad (mache), sweet potato
Meal 1: Raw veggie platter with hummus (456 calories)
To make the hummus, mix in a blender: 1/2 cup chickpeas per serving, 1/2 teaspoon tahini per serving, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil per serving, lemon juice, salt. Optionally you can add cumin and garlic. Sprinkle with some toasted nigella sativa seeds. Steam the asparagus al dente. slice raw kohlrabi, raw carrot, you can use raw radishes if available. Serve with a green salad, olives, 1/4 small avocado and optionally one fresh fig (reminder: figs are flowers, not fruits).
Meal 2: Roasted red cabbage with sweet potato and green salad (350 calories)
To make the cabbage, combine in an oven dish: chopped cabbage, leeks, fennel, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, 2 cloves, salt and pepper. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes. You can add 1/4 cup of cooked chickpeas per person to this dish for some protein. Alternatively, you can serve with sprinkled hemp seeds. Serve with a green salad and half baked sweet potato (a medium one), cooled and reheated.
Ingredients for day three: EVOO, hemp oil, lentils, red onion, garlic, beetroot, horseradish, Brussel sprouts/cauliflower, coconut milk, chickpeas, asparagus, arugula, mache, olives.
Meal 1: Stewed lentils with Brussels sprouts and beetroot salad (350 calories)
To make the lentils, start by sautéing onion until fragrant and translucent, in a tiny bit of olive oil, add the pressure cooked lentils, garlic, salt and pepper, herbs. Cook for about 10 minutes, adding a tiny bit of water in the process. You can finish with fresh cilantro or parsley. Boil the Brussels sprouts for about 6 minutes (cut the big ones if they are not equal in size).
Grate the horseradish and beets and mix them with a little bit of olive oil and apple cider vinegar, salt. Careful with the horseradish, it can be very powerful. If you don’t have fresh, you can use prepared horseradish, many brands you find in stores are clean.
Meal 2: Cauliflower mash with chickpeas, asparagus and green salad (470)
Boil or steam the cauliflower and blend it with 1/8 cup coconut milk, salt and pepper. Sauté the chickpeas with red onion, garlic and herbs de Provence, or other fresh herbs, using 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 2 servings. Steam the asparagus. Serve with a green salad, olives and a drizzle of EVOO and apple cider vinegar.
Ingredients for day four: EVOO, hemp oil, lentils, red onion, garlic, kale, cauliflower, asparagus, olives, arugula / sweet potato, hummus, cabbage, carrots
Meal 1: Buddha bowl with stewed lentils and kale, asparagus, cauliflower and green salad (350 calories)
Prepare the lentils like on day 1 or 3, but add some kale or other leafy greens to the mix. Serve with steamed asparagus, raw cauliflower (cook if you can’t have raw), a green salad, some fresh herbs and a drizzle of hemp or olive oil.
Meal 2: Hummus and sweet potato platter with a cabbage salad (420 calories)
Warm the pre-cooked sweet potato (1/2 small potato per serving). Shred the cabbage, massage with salt, add a tiny bit of oil and apple cider vinegar and pepper. Make hummus like in day 2 and serve with raw carrots and cauliflower, and a green salad. You can remove the sweet potato and add more hummus if you like, but no more than 1/2 cup of hummus.
Ingredients for day five: EVOO, hemp oil, cabbage, ginger, red onion, garlic, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, herbs de Provence, sweet potato/lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula
Meal 1: Roasted cabbage with scalloped sweet potato (350 calories)
Prepare the cabbage as in day 2, but I used white cabbage this time. You can use any type, including napa or savoy cabbage variety. Slice one sweet potato and sauté the slices in EVOO with salt and herbs de Provence (not more than 1/2 sweet medium potato per serving. Serve with a few olives and sprinkle with hemp seeds.
Meal 2: Buddha bowl with lentils, broccoli and crunchy cauliflower (300 calories)
For the last meal of the cleanse I didn’t feel like cooking much, so just used plain pressure cooked lentils, raw cauliflower, steamed broccoli, a few olives on a bed of arugula. Drizzled with olive oil/hemp seeds oil, sprinkled with salt.
Snack for the 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan: mini brownie
Day 4 was the day I felt like baking something, for a change in routine, texture and flavors. I made these mini brownies, 50 calories each.
For the dry ingredients, I used: 31g of flax meal, 21g of hemp seeds, 10g of cacao powder, 20g of plantain flour, 10g of psyllium husk, 60g of tigernut flour, 30g of chopped walnuts, a pinch of salt. Mixed them all in a bowl.
In a blender, I mixed: 60g sweet potato, 20ml coconut milk, 20ml water (add more if necessary).
Mix the dry and wet ingredients until you get a nice, sticky ball of dough. Roll in between two parchment papers about 1/4 inch thickness or a little less and cut in equal parts.
Bake at 140C (285F) for about 25 minutes. You will get about 16 pieces. Each piece will be about 50 calories.
They are not sweet at all, but if you want some sweetness, feel free to add some inulin powder.
Most days we had two Brazil nuts, for their content of selenium. They have 33 calories each.
Sometimes, when we had some more room to play with, we had a few fresh walnuts (we have walnuts trees all around here). I did have a few pistachios one day and a couple of freshly boiled chestnuts.
Drinks and supplements
We had lots and lots of mineral water, as you can imagine, as you will need to stay well hydrated. My mom doesn’t drink tea, but I had a ginger and lemon balm tea every night. And surprise: we didn’t give up coffee. It was the one thing we wanted to keep to not feel too much deprived. My mom had black coffee and I had two cups every day with a little bit of coconut milk. Feel free to replace coffee with tea or remove all caffeine altogether, your choice.
My situation with supplements was quite particular, as I am taking a break these days from most supplements; not because I want to, but because I have a hard time finding the formulas I need here in Romania / Europe.
I think Dr. Gundry recommends taking the supplements as usual, and Dr. Valter Longo’s five-day FMD program also provides supplements. Speak to your doctor if you have questions or doubts.
The biggest challenge for me was calorie counting, which I didn’t like at all. The food in this 5-day fast-mimicking diet meal plan is the type of food that I eat regularly. The biggest difference is that I use much more fat in my everyday eating.
I did lose a little bit of weight (about 1.5kg) but that’s normal when restricting calories so much. However, my mom lost 3.6kg, and I think she lost so much more because for her was a big diet change.
I personally don’t think the 5-day fast mimicking diet is for weight loss, as usually the weight adds up back when back to the normal calorie meals. However, FMD is considered the fastest way to lose body fat, especially belly fat, and protect muscle mass.
Unfortunately, we can’t really accurately measure the other benefits, but we certainly felt more focused and energized. We didn’t feel hungry at all, but at the end of the five days, I felt a need to load on carbs.
My mom had all the signs of ketosis, however, she didn’t experience the keto flu, which I think was pretty cool. She was just very thirsty and had a headache one day. She was astonished (and me too!) that she didn’t feel hungry at all and she had no cravings or sugar withdrawals.
She felt full of energy, worked full time, as usual, and didn’t have any other pains other than the headache. When I asked her what does she think it was that she did so well, she said, jokingly, that she has a strong mind, which I agree with. When she makes up her mind about something, there is nothing standing in her way.
Later note: a few months later, my mom embraces a new style of eating. She is mostly eating a plant paradox diet and practices time-restricted eating and has lost quite some weight.
And back to my experience, I doubt I’ll want to count calories again, I don’t feel it fits my style at all. I’ll find a way to do calorie restriction in the future, like maybe just having one meal a day, where I eat intuitively. Now I have an idea of how much the portions should be and what foods have the most calories.
Don’t forget, we are all different, and is always better to consult with a professional before you make any changes in your diet, especially if you are under any medication.
If you do the cleanse, let us know about your experience in the comments. It’s fascinating how different we all are and how we respond so differently to the same thing.
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