When most of us hear the word “fasting,” we’re likely to think of politically motivated hunger strikes or endurance stunts like illusionist David Blaine’s infamous 44-day stint, sans food, in a transparent, Plexiglas box. But the occasional fasting these experts are recommending is something different. They point out that humans evolved through multiple short-term periods of caloric restriction, and that our metabolisms operate more efficiently when freed from the burdens of 24/7 digestion and nutrition assimilation.
Done right, intermittent fasting can help you lose a significant amount of weight. But meal prep can be a challenge when fasting days limit your calories to 500 (for women) or 600 (for men). Try these meal pairings for your morning and evening meals. Each contains protein and quality fat to keep you full, plus a small amount of complex carbohydrate to give you some extra energy.
Breakfast > 200 calories
- Egg white omelet, with mushrooms, spinach and bell pepper, plus 1 slice of whole grain toast (can substitute gluten-free toast or brown rice wrap) or 1/2 cup fruit.
- Oatmeal (1 cup), with 1/2 sliced banana and cinnamon.
- Nonfat greek yogurt, with berries & 1 tbsp slivered almonds.
- Medium sweet potato, with 1/4 cup black beans & salsa.
- Smoothie, with unsweetened vanilla or chocolate plant based protein powder, unsweetened almond milk & ice.
Dinner > 300 calories
- Salmon (4 oz.), with 1/2 cup quinoa & spinach.
- Black bean pasta (2 oz.), with spinach, mushroom, bell pepper & zucchini, topped with 1/2 cup marinara sauce.
- Chicken breast (4 oz.), with spaghetti squash (1 cup), broccoli (1/2 cup), cauliflower (1/2 cup) & marinara sauce.
- Large salad with (3-4 oz.), chicken breast, loads of veggies (like bell pepper, cucumber, mushrooms), 1 tbsp, slivered almonds & 1/4 cup grapefruit or orange slices.
- Portobello mushrooms, grilled or burger, on a whole-wheat sandwich thin, with 1/2 cup sweet potato and Swiss chard.
Free Foods > These limitless foods will help you fill up without calories on fast days:
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, salad leaves, watercress).
- Coffee (be careful not to overdo caffeine when you fast)
Tips > Whether you’re interested in fasting for two days a week, on alternate days, for five days a month, or for part of each day :
- Check with a doctor or dietician first.
- Fasting isn’t an option if your have diabetes, are pregnancy or have had an eating disorder.
- Measure all portions carefully. A tracking app can help you meet your calorie goals.
- Dining out and exercising strenuously aren’t options on fast days.
- Listen to your hunger on non-fast days, and eat a nutrient-dense diet.