The recent popularity of Intermittent Fasting (IF) has the diet world intrigued. A simple-to-follow diet that doesn’t need a lot of rule-following, yet is well- lauded for its positive effects on weight loss, hormone regulation and combating systemic inflammation, IF has taken the world by storm. It comes with a ton of health benefits without impacting metabolism or muscle mass, and doesn’t lead to eating disorders. It’s no wonder then that intermittent fasting has garnered so much attention from fitness gurus and medical practitioners alike!
But that being said, can you really eat anything and everything when on intermittent fasting? Or are some foods better than others? We’ve created a nifty Intermittent Fasting Food List Guide that will make this program super easy for you to follow!
While the idea of fasting can seem daunting to those who have gotten used to eating 6-7 meals a day, IF is actually quite simple. It involves restricting eating hours to a set number, fasting for rest of the day. As a result, you tend to eat lesser food, hence eliminating the stress of meal planning and prepping (and let’s be honest, that does take a lot of time!).
There are many ways to practice IF. The most popular way is the 16:8 method wherein you can eat during a 8-hour window and fast the remaining 16 hours in a day. Simply skip breakfast, and enjoy 2 meals with snacks between 12:00 noon to 8:00 pm or 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm, whatever suits your schedule. Other ways are alternate day fasting or time restricted feeding, and you can read about the various methods and benefits of intermittent fasting in detail here.
Important thing to understand is that IF is not that much different from a regular diet. You can eat all the healthy food groups you enjoy including in your diet, as long as you consume most of your calories within a set number of hours, instead of feeding yourself mindlessly all through your waking hours. The best part – Intermittent Fasting is scientifically proven to be an effective way to lose excess body fat, correct hormonal imbalances, increase insulin sensitivity, improve cardiovascular health, boost mental clarity and regularise sleep pattern as well.
Now that you are well aware of what IF is and why you should do it, we come to the next big question. What should you eat on intermittent fasting?
Yes, it’s true that while there are no dietary restrictions when on IF and you can happily eat what you want and how much ever you want, you still need to keep a few things in mind. If you truly want your IF diet to be successful, sustaining on junk food and processed foods is really not the best way to go.
Think about it – by restricting the number of hours you can eat, you are naturally restricting the amount of food you can eat in a day. Hence, you really should be going for foods that give you the most nutrient-dense bang for your buck. So you see – feasting on burgers and fries or deep fried samosas during your feeding window is not the most successful way to get the body of your dreams or achieve improved health! Also, it’s a good idea to eliminate all trans-fats (think packaged snacks and chips) and sugars (sodas and fruit juices) from your diet.
Instead, focus on whole, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, lean proteins and healthy carbs. Not only will this healthy diet improve your overall health, the balanced nutrition you get from a wholesome diet also ensures you don’t end up consistently hungry while fasting or run into risk of nutritional deficiencies.
With a restricted eating window, you want to ensure you get all the necessary nutrition with every meal. With that in mind, we have rounded up 15 must-add foods to your IF diet.
Rich in healthy proteins, Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, fish is a must-add to your IF diet. Eating fish regularly also boost brain function, which can be especially helpful when you’re new to fasting and limiting your calorie intake is interfering with your cognition.
Meat is a great source of protein. Proteins help keep you full for longer, which comes handy during fasting. Choose chicken, turkey and lean cuts of red meat. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausages and salami. Another great source of protein to add to your diet is eggs.
Rich in fibre, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are great additions to your IF diet. These fibre-rich veggies add bulk to your meals, keeping you feeling full for hours while also regulating bowel movements when you’re new to fasting
Starchy vegetables are easily digested by the body, making them the perfect fuel for your body post a fast. These healthy carbs are best mixed up with a meat source for balanced nutrition. Bonus – these prebiotic foods boost healthy gut bacteria. To make them healthy, boil, cool and keep potatoes and sweet potatoes overnight in refrigerator. Have them the next day. The starch now becomes resistant starch which slows down sugar absorption in the body.
Keeping gut bacteria healthy is crucial when you are new to IF, or else you can suffer from annoying side effects like constipation or bloating. To keep this at bay, add probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented foods into your diet.
Whether you are vegetarian or not, adding beans and legumes to your IF diet is a good idea. These are high in plant-proteins, fibre and healthy carbs – all good things for you! Choose from lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans and peas. Soak legumes and beans overnight to avoid bloating and intestinal distress.
A great source of healthy fats, protein and fibre, nuts are your friends. The polyunsaturated fats in nuts make them a perfect snack to keep hunger at bay and improve satiety. Choose from walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, hazelnut, peanuts and pistachio. Steer clear of packaged roasted or salted nuts. Like most nuts, seeds like flax-seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and sunflower seeds are also good sources of fat, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Processed and refined grains like white flour have a higher glycaemic index. This means they are readily transformed into simple sugars and are devoid of fibre. Instead, opt for whole, unprocessed grains that are a good source of carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Choose from steel-cut oats, whole-wheat breads, brown rice, black rice, barley, or millets like pearl millet, (bajra), sorghum (jowar) and finger millet (ragi).
When you fast for long hours every day, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Boost hydration by eating a variety of water-rich veggies like celery, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, cabbage and spinach.
While many of us cook quinoa like a grain, it’s actually a seed. Quinoa is high in protein, calcium, magnesium, manganese and a bunch of other vitamins, along with dietary fibre. This makes quinoa the perfect alternative to wheat or rice for those who are on a grain-free diet.
Healthy fats are a must-add to any IF diet, especially if you prefer to eat low-carb meals for improved hormone balance. Healthy fats improve satiety as they take longer to digest. Coconut and all its derivative products offer healthy saturated fats along with MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) that boost metabolism and help with weight loss. Cook with cold-pressed organic coconut oil, replace white flour with coconut flour for baking, or enjoy a glass of chilled coconut water on a hot summer day.
Although most of the calories in avocado comes from fats, there’s every reason to add it to your IF diet! These healthy fats are great for heart-health, vision, osteoporosis prevention and improved digestion.
Rich in antioxidants, berries are a great addition to your smoothies and salads. They help add lots of flavour without much added calories. They also boost immune function while combating cellular damage from free radicals.
From papayas to oranges, and watermelon to kiwis, include a wide array of colourful fruits in your IF diet. Fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals to prevent nutritional deficiencies. They are high in fibre so they improve digestion too.
A multi-vitamin a day keeps the doctor away! Sometimes being in a caloric deficit can lead to deficiencies, especially when your diet is devoid of sufficient fruits and vegetables. A multivitamin comes to rescue when life gets hectic to fill in the gaps.
If you are new to intermittent fasting and are finding it hard to give up breakfast, don’t despair! While you are not allowed to eat calorie-dense foods during the fasting window, a warm beverage or a glass of water can tide you over until it’s time to eat.
Here are 4 drinks that can help keep the hunger at bay:
It’s crucial to stay hydrated, especially when you are fasting. Dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger, and may cause light-headedness, fatigue and headaches. Increase your water intake during the fasting window. Water also helps that rumbling stomach calm! Crave more flavour than just plain water? Add a dash of lime or a couple of chilled cucumber slices to your glass of water.
A warm cup of Joe is just what you need when you skip breakfast! Ditch the sugar and creamers, and enjoy a strong cup of black coffee to kick-start your day.
Not much of a coffee drinker? Fret not! Instead try herbal unsweetened tea. Opt a refreshing delicate white tea, or add a dash of cinnamon to flavour black tea. Or easy – go with green tea that further boost metabolism.
Even though you are fasting, you can have a cup of bone broth. Highly nutritious, bone broth contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals that can reduce hunger pangs. The added salt to bone broth also keeps you from becoming dehydrated.
But of course you can! Intermittent fasting does not stop you from snacking. Depending on the duration of your eating window, you may be eating 1-2 big meals per day. And it’s absolutely alright to eat smaller snacks in-between these meals to ensure balanced nutrition.
Here are 10 wonderful snack ideas that work great on intermittent fasting.
These are just a few ideas. Remember, the idea is to eat healthy and make every meal count! So get creative and add a variety of wholesome foods to your intermittent fasting diet.