The best foods to eat during intermittent fasting are nutrient-dense and provide sustained energy, such as lean proteins, healthy fats, fiber-rich vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. These foods help maintain satiety, support metabolic health, and enhance the cellular and hormonal benefits of the fasting period.
Knowing what to eat during intermittent fasting for optimal fat loss varies based on your fasting protocol. In general, your IF diet should feature foods like meats, fish, seafood, cruciferous veggies, avocados, eggs, and beans. During your intermittent fasting eating window, stick to calorie-free beverages like water, tea, and coffee, and avoid any food with calories. On the other hand, if you’re wondering what you shouldn’t eat or drink during intermittent fasting, the list includes processed foods, sugary drinks, and fast foods. The following foods are the best to eat during intermittent fasting.
- Cruciferous veggies
- Whole grains
Meats, as defined in the 2018 review by A.M. Salter, are a vital source of high-quality dietary protein and essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, crucial for preventing malnutrition and supporting cognitive development.
However, their benefits are best harnessed when meats are consumed in moderation during your eating window to avoid the risks associated with excessive meat consumption, like increased chronic disease risk and negative environmental impact. Ideally, meats should be incorporated into a balanced diet with a mindful approach to quantity—considering, for example, a portion size of around 3-4 ounces (85-113 grams) to optimize nutrient intake and maintain overall health.
Fish is a nutritious food, rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and various vitamins and minerals, making it beneficial for heart, brain, and eye health. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended to consume at least two servings of fish a week, with each serving typically ranging from 3 to 4 ounces.
The optimal time to eat fish is during your eating window in intermittent fasting, where it can contribute to your nutrient intake without disrupting the fasting process. You cannot eat fish while in the fasting phase of intermittent fasting because it contains calories and would break the fast.
Seafood, as defined in the 2022 review by Jiali Chen and colleagues from Jinan University, is a nutritious source of protein and contains beneficial bioactive constituents like omega-3 fatty acids, which offer anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects.
While you’re in the fasting phase, remember, that no seafood or solid food is allowed. But when you’re not fasting, aim to eat seafood at least twice a week to reap these health benefits. When you do eat seafood, aim for it to be a part of a balanced meal to ensure you get the full spectrum of nutrients needed for optimal health.
4. Cruciferous veggies
Cruciferous vegetables, studied by Ni Li and colleagues from West China Hospital, Sichuan University, are packed with nutrients like fiber and isothiocyanates, with evidence pointing to their association with a reduced risk of various health outcomes. They’re beneficial for health, providing a 10% decrease in all-cause mortality risk per 100 grams/day increment. Enjoy these veggies during your eating window for their nutritional benefits without interfering with your fasting state.
Avocado is a nutrient-dense food rich in monounsaturated fats and fiber, as highlighted by Nikki A. Ford and Ann G. Liu’s research from the Avocado Nutrition Center and published on May 29, 2020, in Frontiers in Nutrition. Enjoy avocados during your eating window for their health benefits, such as improved heart health and better nutrient absorption, and aim for a serving size of about 50 grams to get 10% of your daily values for nutrients like folate and vitamin K.
Eggs, as described by Michael J. Puglisi and Maria Luz Fernandez from the University of Connecticut, are rich in highly digestible protein and essential amino acids with a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score that’s the highest attainable.
They’re beneficial for muscle health, can help reduce appetite, and may lead to lower caloric intake at subsequent meals. Eggs are best consumed during your eating window in intermittent fasting, providing protective health benefits, including potential anti-hypertensive and anti-cancer effects, as highlighted in their review published on July 15, 2022.
Beans are a nutritious food, rich in micronutrients like potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc, and are a significant source of protein and lysine, an essential amino acid. They also have a low glycemic index and provide fiber and resistant starch, which can help in managing blood sugar levels. According to Virginia Messina’s 2014 study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, beans can lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
You should consume beans during your eating window for their health benefits, and the ideal intake is suggested to be around 1/2 cup to 2 cups per day, depending on individual dietary requirements and the specific type of intermittent fasting plan being followed.
Pickles, often consumed in Iranian diets as found in a study led by Mohammad Hossein Rouhani from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, are associated with an average consumption of 15.1 grams per day. They are good due to their low-calorie content and can be eaten during non-fasting hours, but the study also linked high pickle consumption to increased BMI and blood pressure, suggesting moderation is key.
Potatoes, scientifically known as Solanum tuberosum L., are a starchy food crop rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium, with a protein biological value of 90-100, as researched by Mary Ellen Camire and colleagues from the University of Maine. They are good for energy provision and have antioxidant properties, especially in pigmented varieties. You can include potatoes in your meals during your eating window in an intermittent fasting regimen, as they offer substantial nutritional benefits and can help in maintaining satiety until your next fast begins. You can’t eat potatoes during the fasting window.
Nuts are nutrient-dense foods, studied by Emilio Ros from the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, packed with unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and bioactive compounds that offer various health benefits. Epidemiological studies, such as those cited in the 2010 Nutrients review titled “Health benefits of nut consumption,” have linked nut consumption to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes, and nuts have also been shown to positively influence cholesterol levels and weight management.
Ideally, you should consume nuts during your eating window in intermittent fasting, where they can help prolong satiety, control weight, and provide essential nutrients without the risk of weight gain when eaten in moderation. On the other hand, eating nuts while in the fasting state is not recommended if you’re adhering to strict intermittent fasting.
Berries are a superfood, rich in vitamins, minerals, and phenolic compounds, known for their health-promoting effects on the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems, as highlighted by Beyza Vahapoglu and colleagues from Istanbul Technical University in their review published on December 24, 2021.
These bioactive compounds in berries can help with gastrointestinal health and have been studied for their roles in metabolic disorders and cancer prevention. Enjoy berries during your eating window for their nutritional benefits; they’re low in calories yet high in fiber, making them a smart choice for maintaining energy and satiety in intermittent fasting diets.
Bananas, studied by Vasso Apostolopoulos and colleagues, offer therapeutic benefits when consumed green, due to their high content of resistant starch and dietary fiber, which can aid in digestion and glycemic control.
According to a 2017 study from the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, published in 2017, bananas can be a healthy addition to your diet during the eating window of your fasting regimen, providing not only energy but also helping with issues like ulcers and blood pressure. It’s best to consume bananas during your eating window to leverage their health benefits without disrupting the fasting state.
13. Whole grains
Whole grains are defined as the entire seed of a plant and include all three components—the bran, germ, and endosperm—intact. They’re good for you because, as Julie Miller Jones from St. Catherine University points out, they’re linked to reduced risks of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and obesity, and they’re recommended to make up half of your grain consumption according to the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
You should consume whole grains during your eating window, incorporating them as part of balanced meals to reap their health benefits. Numerically, this means aiming for at least 48 grams of whole grains per day as part of a healthy diet.
What to eat during intermittent fasting to keep energy levels high?
To keep energy levels high during intermittent fasting, focus on consuming a variety of fruits like apples and oranges, which provide natural sugars for a quick energy boost, along with oatmeal or yogurt which offer complex carbs and protein for sustained energy release during your eating window.
Before a workout during your eating window in intermittent fasting, opt for a small meal combining complex carbohydrates like brown rice or sweet potatoes with a moderate amount of protein like tofu or a protein shake to fuel your exercise without feeling too full or sluggish.
What to eat during intermittent fasting that’s easy to digest?
During intermittent fasting, easily digestible foods like rice cakes, papayas, and cooked vegetables such as zucchini and spinach can be gentle on the stomach while providing necessary energy during your eating window. To support gut health during intermittent fasting, incorporate foods rich in probiotics and fiber like yogurt, kefir, and sourdough bread, as well as a variety of fruits like apples and kiwis which can help maintain a healthy microbiome and aid digestion.
For optimal hydration during intermittent fasting, drink plenty of water, and include hydrating foods like cucumbers, watermelon, and peaches in your eating window, which can help replenish fluids and provide essential vitamins and minerals.
Can I eat watermelon while fasting?
No, you can’t eat watermelon while fasting; it contains natural sugars that will raise blood glucose levels and disrupt the metabolic state of fasting.
Can I eat fruits during the intermittent fasting window?
No, you can’t eat fruits during the intermittent fasting window; even though they’re healthy, their natural sugars and calories will end the fasting state.
Can I eat celery while fasting?
No, you can’t eat celery while fasting; despite being low in calories, consuming it would still break the fast by initiating digestive processes and metabolic activity.
Can I eat pizza while intermittent fasting?
No, you can’t eat pizza while intermittent fasting; it’s a high-calorie food that will break your fast and can lead to a spike in insulin.