Diet plans that are too restrictive or that don’t fit your lifestyle are difficult to maintain long term (keto, anyone?). That’s where intermittent fasting comes in. More than a diet fad, this eating pattern shows that when you eat can make all the difference in achieving your weight loss goals — and the research supports it. But what you eat still matters. Find out the best foods to break your fast and simple recipe ideas for every meal of the day.
Here’s the basic intermittent fasting premise: When you eat, your body converts food into glucose, releasing it into your bloodstream and using it for energy (and storing any extra in your body for later, as fat). But when you fast (i.e., abstain from eating or drinking caloric beverages) for at least 12 hours, you’re depleting your body of blood glucose, meaning it naturally converts to burning another type of energy: fat. This is called your metabolic switch, and regularly flipping this switch can promote weight loss and other health benefits. (We’ve put it all together in our easy-to-follow Rapid Results Max program, through which you can lose up to 17 pounds in your first four weeks.*)
*Average weight loss in study was 13 lbs. for those who completed the program.
If you’ve made the decision to try intermittent fasting and you’re just starting out, it sounds simple enough. After all, you’re simply watching the clock, right? You may be following the 14:10 plan where you eat for 10 hours during the day and fast for the next 14 (a very manageable intermittent fasting plan for beginners) or the more advanced 16:8 plan of eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16. No matter what intermittent fasting schedule you’re following, it’s important to think about what foods to incorporate in your fasting meals and how they change throughout the day.
Creating an intermittent fasting food list will make following your routine even easier. One way to help ease your body into fat-burning mode quicker is to consume most of your complex carbohydrates in the morning and afternoon and then focus primarily on protein and healthy fats in the evening, says Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board Member Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, CDN. And as with following any healthy eating plan, be sure to focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods, limit processed and refined foods and add in as many non-starchy vegetables as possible.
Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here, Gellman shares expert advice on good fasting foods with ideas for fasting breakfast as well as healthy lunches, snacks and fasting dinner ideas.
During Your Fast
While following an intermittent fasting plan, you’re not eating or drinking any caloric beverages during your fasting hours (black coffee, unsweetened tea and water are OK). If you’re hungry before it’s time to break your fast, however, that’s where our revolutionary new Recharge Bar comes in. The secret ingredient to our Rapid Results Max program, this bar is designed to help keep you in fat-burning mode so you can lose weight faster, feel less hungry and maintain your fast until it’s time to break it. Made with a blend of nuts and a touch of honey, you can eat this delicious bar packed with healthy fats to curb your hunger and keep you satisfied until breakfast.
Photo by @alexandrawille on Instagram
The Best Foods to Break Your Fast
After you’ve had your Recharge Bar, break your fast at your scheduled hour with your first meal of the day. Now is the time to fuel up on healthy carbohydrates and add in some high-quality protein to help manage your appetite for the day. Here are some of Gellman’s top picks for breakfast foods to break your fast.
- Overnight oats: Add some rolled oats to a jar along with chia seeds and unsweetened almond milk. Shake it up and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you can grab your jar and have breakfast ready to go. Feel free to add some fruit on top, like a banana, or a spoonful of peanut butter for extra flavor and healthy fats. (Or, try this recipe.)
- Fruit & yogurt bowl: Protein-packed nonfat plain Greek yogurt topped with fruit and nuts makes an excellent breakfast. “You want to have a well-rounded macronutrient profile, and this has healthy fats, carbs and protein,” Gellman says.
- Savory oatmeal: This whole grain isn’t only for sweet bowls. Switch things up by making oats with unsweetened almond milk and topping with a fried egg and leftover greens or vegetables.
Jenny Craig member? Our nutritionist-approved, chef-crafted meals are the perfect way to break your fast. Start your morning with one of our most popular dishes like our Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, Blueberry Pancakes & Sausage or our Cheesy Egg & Bacon Skillet.
Now that you’ve broken your fast, you can focus on other healthy foods to help support your intermittent fasting routine. Again, think about healthy, complex carbs here, but also add in more lean protein and healthy fats (learn the difference between complex and simple carbs here).
- Roasted sweet potato: If you’re making sweet potatoes for dinner, throw a few extra in the oven or on the grill to have leftovers for lunches. Gellman likes to put sautéed kale and a drizzle of tahini on top. You can also add a protein, such as shredded chicken, tuna, beans or lentils, and a spoonful of nuts or seeds to round out your meal.
- Chili: Gellman makes chili with ground turkey, beans and lots of veggies — think jalapeño, carrots, onion, zucchini and tomatoes. You can use whatever you have on hand to add flavor and nutrition. “Throw them all in there and it’s going to be a mishmash of deliciousness,” says Gellman.
- Power bowls: These are easy to whip up with ingredients you already have in your fridge or pantry. Start with a base of mixed greens or protein-packed quinoa, then toss in any vegetables you like. For protein, add in leftover chicken or a pack of ready-to-eat tuna, then top it off with a healthy fat in the form of avocado, nuts or seeds. A little trick to pull it all together? Make your own dressing ahead of time with a little olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and a squeeze of Dijon mustard. It’s ready to drizzle over your bowl in a flash and will keep in your fridge for 2-3 weeks.
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash
By this time, you’re focusing on healthy fats, lean protein and lots of non-starchy vegetables. Here are some simple ideas for easy dinners to fit your plan before it’s time to begin fasting for the evening.
- Roasted salmon: This is one of the easiest dinners you can make. Spread a piece of salmon with store-bought basil pesto and roast for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve over sautéed kale or a non-starchy vegetable such as broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts.
- Zoodles & meatballs: Use lean ground beef, turkey or chicken to make your favorite meatballs. Mix with your favorite roasted, non-starchy vegetables, then top it all with marinara sauce. Zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash would also make a good base for this dinner.
- Rotisserie chicken: It doesn’t get any faster than picking up a hot rotisserie chicken from the store and calling it dinner. Now that you have your ready-to-go lean protein, fill the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and some legumes or brown rice for a complete meal.
Jenny Craig member? All of your meals and snacks are planned for you, so there’s no guesswork when it comes to breaking your fast. Enjoy one of our delicious entrées like our Chicken Fajita Skillet, Chicken Margherita or Fish & Chips.
Don’t forget about snacks! Enjoying healthy snacks in between your meals can help to keep your hunger under control while intermittent fasting. Opt for choices under 200 calories, such as cheese and a piece of fruit, nut butter with celery sticks or hummus with bell peppers, advises Gellman.
Need help planning your intermittent fasting plan meals? Start Rapid Results Max today! You’ll get a full week of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, new Recharge Bars, flexible delivery options and 1:1 coaching so you can take your weight loss to the Max!
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.