• The recipe for these low-carb portobello mushrooms (suitable for vegetarians) feature in the new cookbook, the Fast 800 Easy. (Photography © Smith & Gilmour)Source: Photography © Smith & Gilmour
Dr Michael Mosley's famous Fast 800 diet is all about dropping the kilos, quickly. Here's how to adapt the diet to maximise its nutritional content and suit your vegetarian tastes.
Yasmin Noone

15 Feb 2021 - 8:15 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2021 - 12:04 PM

The Fast 800 diet – an intermittent fasting trend fronted by UK health journalist and renowned medic Dr Michael Mosley – requires little introduction having been dubbed Australia's favourite diet.

The eating plan, created by Dr Mosley with wife and GP Dr Clare Bailey, promises safe and rapid weight loss and improvements in overall health when a dieter sticks to eating 800 calories per fasting day.

But there’s just one small issue with fasting – even though there are a few simple rules to follow for the purpose of weight loss, not everyone in our diverse world shares the same food philosophies. An increasing proportion of Australia’s population maintains a vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle. This may be for religious and cultural reasons or due to environmental or health concerns.

Whatever the motivation, the question remains: how do you adapt the fasting recipes in the program to your eating style if you don’t eat meat?

Get your hands on this loaded omelette recipe here.


Fasting 101 for vegetarians

Dr Bailey tells SBS that the main nutritional difference between meat-based and vegetarian or vegan fasting recipes is protein.

“Protein is a big driver of appetite so if you are not getting enough quality protein in your diet, you will feel hungry, until you get enough for the day,” Dr Bailey says.  

“You can store fat and sugars. But you don’t store protein. So you need at least 50 to 60 grams or more of protein every day. You need this amount of protein in your diet while fasting to maintain muscle mass and to help promote immunity. It’s vital for all your cells.”

So how do non-meat eaters increase their protein intake while fasting?

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Enter the new companion cookbook to The Fast 800 called The Fast 800 Easy, authored by Dr Bailey and food writer Justine Pattinson, which features 130 800-calorie recipes and includes options to adapt meat dishes for vegetarians. All of the dishes in the new book focus on the Mediterranean style of eating, which emphasises plant-based proteins.

“We have planned the recipes in this book quite carefully to make sure that the protein needs of [non-meat eaters] are met,” she says. “We have included a lot of vegetarian recipes as well as ‘swap ideas’, so people know how to swap a meat-based recipe for a vegetarian one and still get enough protein.”

Protein boosting recipe tips

Here are some of Dr Bailey’s protein-boosting tips for vegetarians and vegans:

1. Add protein-charged ingredients to your meal

Dr Bailey recommends adding tofu, lentils, mushrooms, Quorn (a meat substitute) or edamame beans to a recipe to maximise its protein potential.

“Edamame beans are a great example of how you can boost the protein content of a recipe because 80 grams of edamame beans can add as much as nine grams of protein to a meal.”

2. Have a protein shake

“We would generally say eat ‘food first’,” Dr Bailey explains. “But if you are struggling to maintain an adequate protein level, you can use up to half your calories for meal replacement shakes. It’s just a matter of practicality.”

3. Add extra nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a rich source of plant protein. Accredited Practising Dietitian and program manager at Nuts for Life, Belinda Neville, tells SBS that nuts and seeds generally have the highest amount compared to other common sources of plant protein, per 100 grams.

“Simply adding a handful of nuts (a 30g serve) to your meal or snacking on nuts will provide up to six grams of protein,” says Neville.

“Almonds and pistachios have the most protein of all tree nuts, providing 20 grams of plant protein per 100 grams. Not far behind are cashews (17 grams) and hazelnuts (15 grams).”

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4. If you’re a vegetarian, add dairy or egg to your meal

“Adding haloumi cheese to a meal is a really quick way to increase your protein intake,” Dr Bailey advises. “The same goes for eggs. One egg gives you about seven grams of protein and only 78 calories, depending on the size of the egg.”

5. If you’re following a vegan diet, increase your calorie intake

“We suggest that if somebody is not eating dairy products or eggs, they will need to increase their calorie intake to over 1,000 calories on a fast day to ensure they are getting enough protein.”

Most other rules are applicable to everyone

What about other nutritional concerns, like maintaining an adequate iron level when fasting? Dr Bailey advises that all dieters should take a multivitamin on fasting days to ensure they are getting enough important nutrients, including iron. 

As for the rest of The Fast 800 Easy diet, it's pretty much the same for everyone no matter your meat-eating preferences. There are three stages: rapid weight loss where the dieter has 800 calories a day for up to 12 weeks; the new 5:2 requiring 800 calories twice a week; and then a maintenance stage which eliminates calorie counting but keeps portion control.

According to Dr Mosley, data on people who have completed the online Fast 800 program shows that dieters typically lose a lot of weight to start off with. They then continue to lose weight more steadily as they switch over to stage two and three.

“So far, the data shows that, at the end of the 12-week programme, people have lost an average of 9.5kg,” writes Dr Michael Mosley in the new book.

“…I do believe that the Fast 800 approach represents a new and highly effective way to help people lose weight and keep it off, fast and safely.”

The Fast 800 Easy, by Dr Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison, is published by Simon & Schuster Australia. 

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