- There are certain things you can eat and drink while intermittent fasting, but you should be mindful of the portion size and calorie content.
- After 12 hours of fasting, your body will switch from burning glucose to fat for fuel — this is known as fasting ketosis.1
- It’s important to make healthy choices once you break your fast to reap the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
New year, new eating routine? If you’re an intermittent fasting beginner, you might be wondering what you can eat or drink while intermittent fasting. Good news: You’ve got options! We spoke with Briana Rodriquez, Jenny Craig’s Registered Dietitian, to find out what you can eat and drink during your fast — without breaking it — and reap all the amazing health benefits.
Always consult your physician before beginning a new weight loss program.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the mindful practice of abstaining from food and caloric beverages for a specific time each day. The eating pattern breaks the day into two parts: a nourishment phase (this is when you eat) and a rejuvenation phase (this is when you don't eat).
While there are different intermittent fasting schedules, one of the easiest types to follow and maintain is a 14:10 eating pattern: Eating for 10 hours and taking a break for 14 hours (most of this time is spent sleeping).
For example, if you had your first meal at 9 a.m., you would have your last meal by 7 p.m. Then you’d repeat the same schedule the next day.
What are the health benefits of fasting?
While research is ongoing, there’s a laundry list of pretty amazing health benefits associated with being in a fasting state. Why? When you refrain from the consumption of food and caloric beverages, you’re giving your body time to focus on processes other than digestion.
Early research on animals suggests that during a fast, cells regenerate and “clean house” — a process known as autophagy.2 Autophagy is essentially your body’s natural way of detoxing — getting rid of damaged cells, bacteria and viruses by breaking them down and regenerating new healthier cells.2
Another exciting thing that happens when you fast for at least 12 hours: You can start to burn fat!1 It’s known as the metabolic switch. Once your body has used all of its glucose stores (from the food and drinks you consume throughout the day), it switches to using fat for fuel.1
“This is a natural process,” Rodriquez says, “It’s also known as fasting ketosis.”
When practiced regularly, intermittent fasting has been linked to the following health benefits:3
- Weight loss
- Reducing body fat
- Improving blood sugar control
- Improving heart health
- Decreasing inflammation
- Reducing the risk of certain diseases
What can I have while fasting?
To reap all the incredible health benefits of intermittent fasting, you’ll need to abstain from food and caloric beverages for a period of time. But can you have anything?
Rodriguez says, “There are certain things you can enjoy without compromising the natural fat-burning process. It’s also important to stay hydrated, so drinking enough fluids is beneficial.”
Pro tip: If you're a Jenny Craig member, your weight loss plan includes the revolutionary Recharge Bar so you can break your hunger without breaking your fast. Beyond consuming the bar, we recommend sticking to water, black coffee or unsweetened tea during your fast and avoiding added sweeteners of all kinds.
What to drink when fasting
Non-caloric beverages are best to maintain your metabolic fast and stay hydrated. Rodriquez notes, “Avoid adding sweeteners to your beverages and steer clear of sweetened drinks if you want to maintain your fast.”
Drink up! Sipping enough water is a good idea to stay hydrated during your fasting window. “If you want a little flavor, you can add a squeeze of lemon or a few cucumber slices to your water,” suggests Rodriquez.
Unsweetened sparkling water
If plain water isn’t cutting it, opt for some bubbly! Sparkling water that doesn’t have any sweeteners or additives is ideal.
Unsweetened tea (iced or hot)
Whether you like black, green, herbal or a different variety, there are endless teas to choose from. Tea also contains beneficial antioxidants, so sip to your health!4 Avoid buying premade teas at the store — these are usually packed with sugar. Check the nutrition label when in doubt. Your best bet is to steep a teabag in hot water.
Coffee is another drink that’s great for your health and won’t break your fast — as long as it’s black. “To enhance the flavor of black coffee, try experimenting with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom,” Rodriquez says.
Pro tip: If you can’t stand black coffee, there is a solution — add up to 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream (keep it below 50 calories). You’ll stay in fasting ketosis because of the small quantity and the cream’s high-fat profile.
Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash
Another very low-calorie drink you can consume without breaking fasting ketosis is bone broth — just keep an eye on the portion size. Bone broth is a great option to sip while fasting and contains protein, vitamins and minerals. Find a broth with minimal ingredients and try to stick to under 50 calories.
What to eat when fasting
Fasting and food don’t seem to go together — but surprisingly there are a couple of things you can enjoy and remain in fasting ketosis.
“The key is to watch your portion sizes, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Higher fat, quality foods are best. Since your body is already burning fat for fuel at this point, eating a small amount of high-quality fats will not likely disrupt this process,” Rodriquez advises.
On the other hand, eating carbs or sugar will raise your insulin levels and blood sugar, ending fasting ketosis.
Jenny Craig’s Recharge Bar
One of the best fasting snacks, Jenny Craig’s revolutionary Recharge Bar is designed to keep you in fat-burning mode without breaking your fast. It’s made with high-quality, great-tasting ingredients like macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans and a touch of honey. The specially formulated bar is designed to help you feel less hungry and maintain your fast while following the Rapid Results Max program.
Small serving of healthy fat
Choosing a small amount of high-fat, quality food (such as nuts) is a good choice to keep your hunger at bay and let your body continue to burn fat for fuel. Remember, just keep the portion under 50 calories. For example, 12 pistachios or 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.
Will gum, artificial sweeteners or supplements break my fast?
While sugar-free gum, diet soda, artificial sweeteners and supplements have little to no calories, Rodriquez advises to abstain from them during intermittent fasting. “You might find that artificial sweeteners stimulate your appetite, making it harder to stick to your goals. Once your fasting window has ended, they’re fine to enjoy in small amounts, but during your fast, sugar of all kinds should really be avoided even if they are calorie-free.”
What should you eat to break your fast?
Once you’ve hit your intermittent fasting goal (say, 14 hours), it’s time to break your fast. Since you don't want to eat a ton of food on an empty stomach, you'll want to make sure you choose easy to digest foods that won't upset your stomach. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should also be mindful of your food choices.
“Focusing on choosing nutritious, whole foods after your fast will provide you with the most health benefits,” says Rodriquez. “But you can — and should — enjoy as many non-starchy vegetables as you’d like!”
Depending on when you end your fast, you might be in the mood for breakfast or lunch — so choose what foods sound best to you. Here are a few examples of healthy meal ideas:
Sauté a mix of your favorite vegetables over medium heat with a little olive oil spray: bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms are just a few of our favorites. Then scramble two eggs in a bowl and add them to your veggies. Season with garlic, pepper and any of your other favorite seasonings. Add ¼ of avocado as a garnish for a serving of healthy fat that will keep you feeling satisfied.
Are you a Jenny Craig member? Try our delicious Frittata Egg White Sandwich.
Loaded baked sweet potato
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Grab a medium-sized sweet potato and using a fork, poke holes all over the sweet potato. Place the potato on a baking sheet covered with tinfoil. Bake 45-50 minutes until the sweet potato is tender. Cut the potato open and top with nonfat plain Greek yogurt, sliced tomatoes and diced scallions. Enjoy!
Vegetable and chicken stir fry
Chop up your favorite vegetables like carrots, green and red bell peppers and sauté in a pan. Add some fresh or frozen peas. In a separate pan, sauté a lean chicken breast over medium heat. Serve the chicken over the bed of vegetables.
Are you a Jenny Craig member? Try our Cauliflower Fried Rice with Chicken & Vegetables.
To ensure you don’t break your metabolic fast and stay in fat-burning mode, it is best to avoid caloric drinks and foods, however, you can have certain drinks and even a small amount of food while fasting. Water, tea and coffee are your best options for drinks while a small amount of healthy fat — or Jenny Craig’s Recharge Bar — are your best choices if you’re hungry. Once you break your fast, choose healthy foods that will nourish your body and keep you on track to achieve your weight loss goals.
To learn more about Jenny Craig’s revolutionary Recharge Bar and our most effective weight loss program – Rapid Results Max – click here.
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.
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