Intermittent fasting has become an increasingly popular way to lose weight, improve health, and simplify eating. It involves alternating between periods of fasting and eating. During the fasting periods, you restrict your calorie intake, while trying to eat normally during the eating periods.
One of the biggest concerns with intermittent fasting is knowing what you can and cannot consume during the fasts. Some foods and drinks can break your fast, while others may be okay to have.
This article provides a detailed overview of the foods you can enjoy without breaking your intermittent fasting periods.
What Breaks a Fast?
During intermittent fasting, the goal is to restrict calories to achieve the benefits of fasting. So technically, any calories you consume during your fast will break it.
However, 50 or fewer calories are generally considered okay.
Beverages like coffee, tea, and diet soda are usually permitted in small amounts during fasting periods. However, sugar, cream, and milk all add calories and will technically break your fast.
Calorie-free sweeteners like stevia or erythritol may be permitted, but some report increased hunger from artificial sweeteners, making fasting more challenging.
Chewing gum, mints, lozenges, cough drops, and other flavored products often contain hidden sugars and calories that can break your fast.
Foods That Won’t Break a Fast
Here are some foods you can enjoy during intermittent fasting periods without worrying about breaking your fast:
Drinking water during your fast is not only allowed but recommended. Staying hydrated can make fasting easier and may enhance some of the benefits.
Black Coffee and Tea
Plain black coffee and tea — without any milk, cream, or added sugars — are generally fine to drink during fasts.
Coffee can curb hunger and stimulate ketone production, which may enhance the benefits of fasting. However, some people report increased hunger when they drink coffee.
Most types of tea and infusions, including green tea, black tea, chamomile tea, etc., contain minimal or no calories and can be enjoyed during fasting periods.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A tablespoon (15 ml) of apple cider vinegar diluted in water is generally permitted during fasts and may even enhance some of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
However, avoid drinking undiluted vinegar, as the acidity can harm your teeth and digestive tract.
Bone broth made from bones simmered in water for 10–24 hours contains minimal calories and nutrients that may be beneficial during fasting periods.
Homemade bone broth is a healthy option. However, some commercial broths may contain added sugars and other questionable ingredients.
A squeeze of lemon or lime juice added to your water or bone broth can help flavor these beverages during your fast.
Lemon water provides vitamin C, antioxidants, and small amounts of nutrients that likely won’t impact your fast.
Most herbal teas contain no calories and provide various health-promoting compounds like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory plant compounds.
Popular varieties like chamomile, peppermint, hibiscus, and rooibos make excellent alternatives to sugary beverages or flavored waters that can disrupt your fast.
Diet soda, seltzer water, and flavored carbonated waters are calorie-free and fine for fast days.
Some flavors may stimulate appetite or cravings, so opt for fizzy water if you find yourself overdoing the diet sodas.
Bouillon cubes contain minimal calories and protein that may be beneficial during fasting periods. Look for low-sodium varieties without added sugars.
Simply dissolve the cube in hot water for a tasty, nutritious broth you can enjoy without worrying about breaking your fast.
Foods to Avoid While Fasting
Here are some examples of foods, beverages, and supplements you should avoid or minimize during intermittent fasting periods:
|Foods/Drinks to Avoid||Better Options|
|Fruit juices||Water, herbal tea, or black coffee|
|Milk||Water, nut milk, or coconut milk|
|Protein shakes||Whole food protein sources like eggs, meat, fish during eating windows|
|Alcohol||Water, herbal tea|
|Gum, mints, cough drops||Herbal tea, black coffee, water|
|Dried fruit||Whole fruits during eating periods|
As a general rule, if it has calories, it will likely break your fast. Stick to the approved fasting foods and beverages to ensure you remain in the fasted state.
Sample Fasting Meal Plans
Here are some simple meal plans containing foods you can enjoy during intermittent fasting periods:
16/8 Fasting Plan
16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours eating window
- Black coffee
- Apple cider vinegar drink
- Bone broth
- 8-12 oz (230-350 grams) protein like chicken, fish, eggs, or beef
- Non-starchy veggies like leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, etc.
- Starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, squash, peas, etc.
- Fruits like berries, apple, orange, mango, etc.
- Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc.
24-Hour Fast Plan
One 24-hour fasting period 2–3 times per week
- Herbal teas
- Black coffee
- Focus on whole, single-ingredient foods
- Plenty vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins, fruit, nuts, seeds
- Dairy, legumes, whole grains in moderation if tolerated
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Following are some of the evidence-based benefits you can obtain from intermittent fasting when paired with a healthy diet and lifestyle:
- Weight and fat loss: Fasting triggers fat burning while helping preserve muscle mass. It may help you lose up to 8% of your body weight over 3–24 weeks (1).
- Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance. These risk factors for heart disease often improve with intermittent fasting (2).
- Blood sugar control: Fasting leads to lower blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity. This may benefit those with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome (3).
- Cancer prevention: Animal research suggests that intermittent fasting may help prevent certain cancers like breast, prostate, brain, and leukemia (4).
- Brain health: Intermittent fasting may boost a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This could delay brain aging and improve memory (5).
- Anti-aging: Fasting triggers autophagy, a cellular recycling process. This removes damaged cells and may slow aging and extend lifespan (6).
That said, human research is still in its infancy. Further studies are needed to confirm these potential health benefits.
Tips for Getting Started
Here are some tips to get started with intermittent fasting:
- Start gradually by choosing shorter fasting periods. Try the 12:12 or 14:10 methods.
- Drink plenty of water, tea, coffee, or other approved beverages to stay hydrated.
- Pay attention to hunger cues. Eat regular meals until satisfied during your eating periods.
- Choose healthy, whole foods and limit processed items during eating windows.
- Manage stress, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly for best adaptation.
- Consider supplements like electrolytes, ACV, or MCT oil to reduce side effects.
- Track your progress. Monitor weight, waist size, and biomarkers like blood sugar if possible.
Be patient when starting intermittent fasting. Hunger tends to decrease after two weeks for most people as your body adapts. But listen to your body and stop if you feel unwell.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to promote weight loss, improve metabolic health, and provide anti-aging effects in human and animal studies.
Drinking water, unsweetened coffee and tea, bone broth, and other beverages with minimal calories can help you remain in the fasted state during intermittent fasting periods.
Consuming calorie-containing foods or beverages will technically break your fast. Avoid milk, juices, protein shakes, dried fruit, and other foods with calories while fasting.
Pair intermittent fasting with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle for optimal health. It’s a simple, sustainable eating pattern that can help you lose weight and reduce disease risk factors.