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 5-day fasting-mimicking diet meal plan, ‘Do-It-Yourself’ style. It wasn’t easy, mainly because counting calories is new to me, but having this experience and this meal plan will make things much easier next time. Since I am a Plant Paradox follower, this meal plan needed to be plant-based and lectin-light.
My inspiration came from reading about the longevity benefits of a 5-day fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) from The Longevity Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry. Still, I’m also familiar with Dr. Valter Longo’s work.
My sister and her husband have done the ProLon fasting-mimicking diet a few times. Yet, that can be costly. So I wanted to put together a 5-day fasting-mimicking diet meal plan ‘Do-It-Yourself’ style, a FMD DIY that can be done anywhere globally, with familiar and affordable ingredients.
What is a 5-day fasting-mimicking diet?
Before I start, I wanted to briefly mention the potential benefits of a 5-day fasting-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:
- deep healing
- resetting metabolism
As both Dr. Valter Longo and Dr. Steven Gundry suggest, we should do this fasting regularly: every 8 to 12 weeks.
The rules for the 5-day fasting mimicking diet meal plan
This is possibly one of the most restrictive meal plans I made and certainly something entirely new for my mom. While already following a grain-free, sugar-free, lectin-light, and dairy-free diet for a few years, my mom never eliminated any of those food groups entirely from her diet. And on top of that, it was calorie-restricted.
We can do this meal plan even without the calorie restriction part. It will still benefit us. 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 your doctor before you make 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 fasting-mimicking diet meal plan ‘Do-It-Yourself’:
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, 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 we can still reap the benefits if under 1,100 calories. Eight hundred calories sound like a good number, achievable without getting hungry.
Rule 2: It’s vegan
No animal protein or dairy is allowed. This is a plant-based meal plan.
Rule 3: It’s lectin-light
No plants with a high content of harmful lectins are allowed. We will soak beans and legumes and pressure-cook them to eliminate most lectins, and eat a maximum of one cup a day (8oz).
Rule 4: You eat only whole foods
This meal plan is free of heavily processed foods and is Whole30 compatible.
Rule 5: It’s free of sugar, including fruits
We can include a small number of berries, but that’s probably something you will have to decide, depending on your current health state. The original ProLon meal plan 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. Steven 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 about 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 also be 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
To keep it nutritious, think of sourcing, as much as possible, locally 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.
If you need a printable shopping list and an overview of the plant paradox food list, please see my article The Plant Paradox Shopping List (Printable, Lectin-Free Diet).
Accessibility of this 5-day fasting 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 and markets. 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.
If you ever wanted to do the original 5-day fasting-mimicking diet, but you couldn’t afford it, or it wasn’t accessible in your area, and you wondered how to mimic the Prolon diet, this is a starting point. After getting familiar with the rules, you can personalize this diet plan to fit your lifestyle.
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 reduce 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, change the water about three times, and pressure cook for 23-25 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.
Prepare the beans in advance
To make this DIY fasting-mimicking diet meal plan easy, prepare the beans in advance and freeze them. When you stew the beans, you can use them directly from the freezer if 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 easy. Start with a bit of extra virgin olive oil or whatever approved oil you like (you can use avocado too), measuring the oil, depending on how many servings you make. I cooked for two, so I used one tablespoon for two servings, which means 119 calories.
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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 the 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.
Freeze beans in Souper Cubes
My favorite ways of freezing food are with Souper Cubes. You can buy the Souper Cubes here.
‘Take out a frozen cube, warm it up in the microwave, on the stove, or bake in the oven. Warm your food up the way that works best for you!‘
Spices and salt for the 5-day fasting 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 make 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 fasting 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.
Beans and oils are highest in calories
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 are 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 since when preparing the beans you always need some sort of oil. My choice for oils would be extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, sesame oil, or maybe perilla oil if you have access to it. 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 of coconut oil – 117 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 the 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. I douse them in extra virgin olive oil on regular days, 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. To maximize the amount and types of nutrients, I make sure I eat vegetables in different forms, both raw, minimally cooked (blanched), or roasted. I love raw cauliflower, but I cook broccoli and other leafy greens. Though I love raw cabbage salad, 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 fasting 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, which is our regular schedule anyway.
Our first meal was around noon, and dinner was not later than 6 pm. Sometimes we had snacks in between and coffee in the morning.
Ingredients for day one of the 5-day fasting-mimicking diet meal plan: extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 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. You can add some sliced mushrooms to this meal if you feel like it. 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 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.
Fasting-Mimicking Diet, Soup Recipes
While I put together this diet plan, I didn’t feel like a soup and my mom was not a fan either, but I realize now for some of us soups can be a great addition to this plan. Plant-based soups are low in calories, nutritious, easy to make, and can replace any of the meals above.
I make plant-based soups often, and usually, these are the steps I follow:
- I sauté a base of aromatics made of finely chopped: onions, leeks, carrots, parsnips, celery, celery root and fennel bulb. Cook in a small quantity of extra virgin olive oil until soft and fragrant, but don’t brown them. Eventually add a few tablespoons of water.
- If you are doing well with red pepper, peel and desseed one red bell pepper, finely chop or slice and add to the base. I love the taste red peppers give to a soup.
- Add a fresh thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and one or two bay leaves.
- Add some already cooked beans such as black beans, white beans or chicpeas and top with hot water, to obtain the desired consistency.
- Bring to a boil and let everything simmer for about 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes add some chopped greens, whatever you have (spinach, green salad, kale, etc).
- Simmer for another five minutes.
- Add fresh herbs like dill, parlsey or cilantro.
- Taste and finish seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary.
Here are a few more soup recipes for the fasting-mimicking diet:
- Creamy Nettle and Cauliflower Soup (You can replace nettles with spinach or kale)
- Cream of Celeriac, Parsnip and Cauliflower
- Low Histamine Cabbage Soup (Skip the chicken)
- Easy, Warming Soup with Cauliflower and Mustard Greens
- Italian Style Mustard Green and Sweet Potato Soup (Skip the prosciutto)
- Healing Vegetable Soup with Kale and Broccoli Sprouts
If you don’t feel like making a soup, but still want something warming and soothing next to the above meals, I recommend GundryMD Lectin-Free Vegetable Broth. One 8oz cup has 30 calories.
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Snack for the 5-day fasting-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 thick or slightly 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 but feel free to add some inulin powder if you want some sweetness.
Kale crackers can be a great snack if you feel like crunching on something.
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 for the 5-day fasting mimicking diet meal plan
As you can imagine, optimal hydration is essential every day, but even more, during a cleanse like the FMD. Make sure to drink at least 2 liters of filtered or mineral water every day.
Optimal Electrolyte from SeekingHealth
Adding electrolytes to water is also very important, so the water goes to the cells, where it needs to go. Adding electrolytes to water may support healthy hydration and fluid balance, mitochondrial health, and healthy energy levels, among others. You can buy Optimal Electrolyte from SeekingHealth here.
H2 Restore from Gundry MD
You could also add hydrogen water to your diet. While more research is needed, small studies show that hydrogen water may reduce oxidative stress, boost performance and improve blood markers in those with metabolic syndrome. You can buy H2 Restore from Gundry MD here and save up to $120.00.
We kept coffee in our cleanse, but this can also be an occasion to take a break from caffeine if you want to. Matcha or green tea is ok, but herbal teas are a great option if you’re going to give up caffeine for five days entirely. I love tulsi tea, lemon balm tea, and ginger tea made with fresh ginger.
Regarding supplements, you can continue with the usual ones you take, or ask your doctor for recommendations.
Conclusions on doing the 5-day fasting mimicking diet meal plan
The biggest challenge for me was calorie counting, which I didn’t like at all. The food in this 5-day fasting-mimicking diet meal plan is the type I eat regularly. The most significant difference is that I use much more fat in my everyday eating.
Lost a bit of weight
I did lose 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, this was a significant diet change.
I don’t think the 5-day fasting-mimicking diet is for weight loss, as usually, the weight adds back to the regular calorie intake. However, the FMD diet is considered the fastest way to lose body fat, especially belly fat, and protect lean body mass.
Felt more focused and energized
Unfortunately, we can’t accurately measure the other benefits, but we certainly felt more focused and energized. We didn’t feel hungry at all, but I felt a need to load on carbs at the end of the five days.
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.
My mom felt full of energy and worked full time, as usual. She didn’t have any other pains other than the headache. When I asked her what she thinks it went so well, she said, jokingly, that she has a strong mind. I have to agree. When she makes up her mind about something, nothing stands in her way.
Let us know about your experience with the 5-day fasting-mimicking diet meal plan ‘Do It Yourself’
Don’t forget that we are all different. It 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 respond differently to the same thing.
And if you like this fast-mimicking diet meal plan, you should also check out:
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