What you eat during your eating windows when you are intermittent fasting will impact your results. In this post, I will talk about the best foods you can eat, give you a meal plan example, explain how you should break you fast, and give you tips to help you suppress hunger.
Intermittent Fasting for Beginners
In case you are not quite familiar with intermittent fasting, let me give you a refresher. Intermittent fasting is all about going through cycles of fasting and eating. The idea is to give your digestive system a break so your body can focus on healing and repair. The reason intermittent fasting is so effective for weight loss is that the healing and repair process includes improving your fasting insulin, which helps regulate your appetite and tell your body to release the extra fat. There are many ways to practice intermittent fasting, so experiment and see what works best for you:
- Daily: Make sure you abstain from food for at least 14 hours each day. You can skip breakfast (if you drink coffee, make sure you drink it black) or have a very early dinner (for example, if you eat breakfast at 7 am, you can eat dinner at 4 pm to get your 14-hour fast). Some people even eat all their calories within one meal for a longer fast.
- Weekly: Instead of fasting every single day, you can pick a method that you practice only weekly. For example, you can eat 500 calories twice a week and that’s called the 5:2 intermittent fasting method. Alternatively, you can fast completely for 24 hours; that’s called the eat-stop-eat method.
Read my post Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss for more information about how you can practice intermittent fasting for weight loss.
What To Eat During Your Eating Windows
What should you eat during your eating windows when you are intermittent fasting? Pretty much the same thing you should eat when you are not intermittent fasting: whole foods that support health. Avoid processed foods, excess sugar, and inflammatory foods. My Paleo 101 page is a good place to start.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
- Avoiding processed foods means avoiding most prepackaged foods They usually contain additives and vegetable oils, which cause inflammation.
- Eats lots and lots of vegetables. The Wahls protocol advises including 3 cups of leafy greens, 3 cups of sulfur-containing vegetables and 3 cups of colorful vegetables and fruits each day. I think it’s a good goal to improve or maintain your health.
- Include lots of healthy fats in your diet. Healthy fats help keep you satisfied and they help regulate your appetite. Sources of healthy fats include coconut oil or MCT oil, olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts and seeds.
Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan Example
For a crescendo intermittent fasting meal plan that you can use to plan a whole week, check out my post Intermittent Fasting for Women. In this post, I am going to share two meal plans: one for a 500 calorie day in case you would like to try the 5:2 method and one for a regular calorie day that you can use anytime (for a 16/8 hour window for example).
What to Eat During Intermittent Fasting 5:2
In my post The 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Method for Women, I give you more examples of what you can eat in a day. For the sake of this post, I will give you 3 more meal ideas that will provide you with close to 500 calories. I like to keep some leeway to drink my coffee with coconut milk and honey, that’s why these meal ideas provide less than 500 calories.
I have seen meal plans that include all 3 meals for 500 calories. If you don’t want to skip a meal, that’s a good option for you. You can check out the 5:2 Diet Meal Plans. Personally, I either have substantial lunch and skip dinner or I have a green superfood shake for breakfast (150 calories), a vegan meal replacement (190 calories for lunch) and kombucha for dinner (50 calories). I also choose paleo vegan meals on my fasting days. This way, I make sure I am eating plenty of vegetables and still staying under 500 calories. Here are some excellent meal ideas:
- GINGER CARROT SOUP (460 calories): I love soups and smoothies for intermittent fasting because they are so quick, satisfying, and filling. Chop to cups of carrots and sautee them with 1 Tbsp of chopped onions in 2 tsp of coconut oil. After that, you can blend them in a blender with 1 cup of homemade stock, 1/2 cup of full-fat canned coconut milk, and a small thumb of fresh ginger.
- MAPLE DIJON SALAD (465 calories): 5 cups spinach, 2 Tbsp chopped red onion, 2 Tbsp chopped red bell pepper, 2 chopped button mushrooms, 1/4 cup chopped raw almonds. Mix and make your dressing: 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tbsp mustard, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp hemp hearts.
- SWEET POTATO SALAD (442 calories): Preheat the oven at 400 F. Chop two medium sweet potatoes and put them on a baking sheet with 2 tsp of coconut oil. Roast them for 30-40 minutes until nice and golden. Put 4 cups of arugula on a plate, layer the roasted sweet potatoes on top, and mix 1 Tbsp of almond butter with 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar to use as a dressing.
What to Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16/8
Here’s a one-day meal plan you can use and adapt to whatever daily intermittent fasting eating style you have chosen. Eat all your meals within the eating timeframe you have chosen.
16/8 ONE-DAY INTERMITTENT FASTING MEAL PLAN (your two meals will provide at least 9 cups of veggies)
- First Meal: Black coffee or tea
- Lunch (681 calories – adjust according to your calorie need, check my Calorie Calculator): CUCUMBER-SALMON SALAD (1 cup chopped cucumber, 1 cup chopped cauliflower, 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp raw honey, 1/2 clove of minced garlic and salt to taste.
- Snack (I love a green superfood smoothie as a snack). Depending on what you put in it, the number of calories from this shake can vary from 150 to around 300.
- Dinner (840 calories): GROUND BEEF AND SWEET POTATO PIE (for two huge servings: 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 large chopped onion, 1 pound ground beef, ½ cup homemade stock, 3 tablespoons coconut aminos or Tamari sauce, 4 cups chopped baby kale, 2 cups spinach, 4 cups halved Brussels sprouts, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, 4 large cubed and steamed sweet potatoes, cubed and steamed, ¼ cup canned full fat coconut milk). Cook all the ingredients except for the sweet potatoes and the coconut milk on the stovetop. Layer them at the bottom of a rectangular lasagna pan. Mash the sweet potatoes with coconut milk and salt. Layer over the meat. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
Best Foods to Break Intermittent Fast
You can break your fast by eating any whole foods you like. That’s one of the advantages of intermittent fasting: it reduces the need for “food rules”. Listen to your body and eat what you like. I like having a green smoothie or a chia seed pudding for breakfast. Try this chia seed pudding recipe, it tastes amazing:
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 4 Tbsp Chia seeds
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 ripe banana
- a pinch of sea salt
Blend all the ingredients in a high-powered blender. Pour in a Mason jar and store in the fridge overnight.
How To Suppress Hunger During Your Fasts
Sometimes, you may feel so hungry that you will think you can’t go on any longer. I want you to know that even if you don’t do anything about it, it will pass. In fact, I have gone from “I am going to give up, this is too hard” to “I don’t even feel hungry” within an hour. Hang in there!
However, there are a few things you can do to alleviate an even suppress the feeling of hunger:
- Drink black coffee and/or tea. Coffee is the best hunger suppressant out there in my opinion.
- Drink herbal tea or green tea: Herbal teas also help reduce hunger.
- Drink water. Often, you may think you are hungry but you are just thirsty. I find that drinking a tall glass of water all at once really helps suppress hunger.
- Go for a walk, do something to distract your mind. Most of the hurdle of fasting is in your head. Once you realize that, you have more power. It doesn’t make it easy at first, but it’s good to know. The sensation of hunger might feel intolerable at first, but you do get used to it. It’s not so bad! Learn to observe it. Think about what you are feeling and where you are feeling it. Observe the feelings. You will realize that these feelings are not as uncomfortable as you thought at first. In our culture, we have grown so used to eating all the time, most of us don’t know how to handle the feeling of hunger. It just takes practice!
Intermittent Fasting for Beginners – What to Eat Video
There is nothing special about what to eat when you practice intermittent fasting. It’s simple: eat a whole food anti-inflammatory diet that nourishes your body. Learn to listen to your body and enjoy the food freedom that comes with intermittent fasting.