A couple of years ago I bravely subjected myself to an experimental period of keto diet, following the same principle that prompted me to try Impossible Burgers, fake cheese and jackfruit. You should never criticise what you haven’t tried is my mantra, and though I usually refer it to fussy eaters, it’s only fair I practice like I preach.
Keto was not enjoyable to say the least and I think science has started to mildly discourage people from taking it to extreme. Little did they (and I) know then: we now have an even more extreme form of eating torture which is OMAD.
OMAD stands for "One Meal A Day," and it refers to a type of intermittent fasting where, instead of tame and cuddly 16/8 pattern (eating within an 8-hour window per every 24), we do it 23/1. Your whole day’s food allocation is consumed within one hour window. Or less, if you’re a fast eater.
The assumed benefits of that masochistic lifestyle are (obviously) weight loss, improved metabolic health as well as ease of meal preparation and planning (which reads: I can’t be a**ed to cook). The potential health benefits of OMAD are primarily related to fasting and calorie restriction in general. These benefits may include reduced blood pressure, improved cell function, muscle gain, reduced insulin resistance, reduced inflammation and improved gut health. Some individuals claim improved mental clarity and focus during fasting periods, which takes us straight back to the religious zealots achieving godly knowledge through fasting.
The recommendation is that you should consume all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in that one meal. Which is why it is usually an offshoot of ketogenic diet which makes it easier to avoid serious calorie deficit, with all the butter and meat you’re supposed to eat.
There are medical warnings widely published of course. Getting all necessary nutrients in a single meal is difficult, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies over time.
Secondly, consuming a large meal in a short time can cause digestive discomfort, bloating, or indigestion for some.
Mood and energy swings can be experienced – dipping when hungry, soaring when full. Or vice versa.
And you’re not going to be much fun on the social scene, unless you schedule all your going out within that one OMAD hour.
So what did I think?
Boringly, time and again balance and moderation in everyday eating turns out to be the best no-diet diet. I did my OMAD several times in 3-4 days a week stints, because I just can’t eat that much for one meal, every day. So I’d end up on 700-900 calorie a day, which is really not enough for extended periods of time. On the third day I’d invariably get a nasty headache, plus I was constantly fantasising about food, like a mad incel. It’s good for self-restraint and discipline – if you stick to it, of course. And it might keep you focused and clear-headed because you don’t suffer post-lunch slumps. But the most off-putting aspect of it for me was the immediate weight regain, with a vengeance, even though I was absolutely not pigging post-OMAD.
But that’s how it was for me. It might be extremely beneficial for you, though I’d still recommend OMADing for short spells rather than as a lifestyle and consulting a medical professional before embarking. So I thought I could put together a bunch of recipes that would provide the most nutrients and make that one meal a day enjoyable – because that is a very important aspect of it too. These are decidedly not keto – see the point about enjoyment if you need to know why.
I’ve found two courses, even slap-dash, to be essential (unless you’re happy to eat a mound of potatoes every day). And there goes the simplicity of preparing meals benefit of OMAD. Still, above all make sure you have some good bread. There’s a reason why restaurants present you with a roll or a bun to start your meal. So do like the French do and keep a bread basket on the table during that precious hour, with some good butter or olive oil. It doesn’t have to be sourdough but will serve you infinitely better if it’s homemade: a simple no-knead, a crusty Italian or a seeded brown dinner roll.
Salad for a starter/side (depending what order you want to consume you allocation in) is essential, to provide vitamins and fibre. Spring (hispi) cabbage salad is sure proof, or green papaya, herby beetroot or even lettuce with bacon and cheese dressing.
And then have a substantial main course: a beef stir fry with noodles, salmon and potato bake, beef chilli with rice or butter beans with ham hock. You’ll need to fill up with calories, nutrients and fibre so a rich meal is on order to your plate.
Have a dessert too, or cheese if you prefer but I’d be careful with wine or beer. A drink with dinner is great as long as it’s just one and doesn’t impact your OMAD determination. Just saying!
Try OMAD if you like and I wish you success. But bear in mind that you might be better off, and suffer less hardship with a lifestyle of balanced and moderate diet. Plus, all super-restrictive endeavours should be consulted with your doctor beforehand.