8 Fantastic Foods for Intermittent Fasting

Shana Spindler PhD
Shana Spindler PhD
July 22, 2021

Intermittent fasting allows cells in the body to switch from a growth state into repair mode, which improves cellular health and disease resistance. Several types of fasting can trigger this response, including variations on alternate eating days (for example, five days of normal eating followed by two 500-calorie days) and time-restricted eating (for example, daily 4-hour eating windows). Research suggests that performing regular fasts improves markers of cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, and even gut bacteria composition. But during the first few weeks of intermittent fasting, people might feel hungry, tired, and run down while their bodies adapt to the new eating schedule. 

Sarah Robertson, registered dietician and owner of Lifelong Nutrition LLC, has counseled clients who want the benefits of intermittent fasting but struggle to find foods that keep them feeling satiated during their fasting hours.

My clients who come to me for intermittent fasting want to know what they can eat in between fasts to not feel hungry anymore,” Robertson says. “Oftentimes, the goal is not health. It’s what can I eat so I don’t want to kill my partner!?” Robertson addresses both nutrient needs and fasting satisfaction with her clients, by suggesting nutrient dense foods that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. In between fasting, Robertson recommends the following dietary additions to sustain you until your next meal.

Try These 10 Foods for Intermittent Fasting

Avocado

“Avocado is one of the most nutrient dense foods that you can eat,” Robertson says. “And while a lot of people limit their fat intake because it has higher calories, including foods that are rich in unsaturated fats, like avocado, are going to keep you feeling fuller for longer and your blood sugars more stable during the day.”

Avocados are also high in fiber. A single cup of sliced avocado contributes nearly 10 grams of fiber to your meal.

“If you don’t like the taste or texture of avocado, you can use it to make a smoothie creamier, and you don’t really taste it,” Robertson adds.

Eggs

Eggs, which pack in around 5 to 6 grams of protein per egg, are a versatile food for intermittent fasting. You can boil eggs ahead of time to have on hand during your eating window for a quick nutrient boost.

“They’re a good source of vitamin D and choline, which is important for memory and cognition,” Robertson says. “In the past, eggs have gotten a bad rap for their cholesterol content. But there’s evidence that dietary cholesterol isn’t what increases cardiovascular disease—it’s actually saturated fats that do that.”

Pineapple and Papaya

While pineapple and papaya are two foods, they’re listed here for the same reason. “If you’re eating a large amount of food in a short period of time, you’re going to be more prone to bloating and GI discomfort,” Robertson warns. “These two fruits have enzymes that help with digestion. Pineapple has bromelain in it, and papaya has papain.”

Pineapples and papayas work well in salads and smoothies if you prefer not to eat them plain. Robertson recommends buying and eating these fruits fresh, as canning or cooking destroys the enzymes that aid in digestion.

Potatoes

Potatoes are a great addition to your diet during intermittent fasting. But how you prepare the potatoes before eating them is important to consider. Preparation methods can affect how much a potato spikes your blood sugar levels.

“If you cook a potato and then cool it overnight in the refrigerator, it increases the amount of resistant starch that’s in the potato,” Robertson explains. “A resistant starch is a starch that your body doesn’t break down into sugars. That starch travels through your GI tract, and it’s used as a prebiotic that gut bacteria can feed on.” She adds that the resistant starch will keep you feeling full for longer.

Salmon and Other Fatty Fish

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA. “EPA and DHA help regulate blood pressure, decrease triglycerides, and decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke,” Robertson says.

Salmon contains a large amount of protein as well. A small fist-size portion, about 100 grams, of salmon contains 19 grams of protein. Combine salmon with high-fiber foods to help you stay satisfied longer in between eating windows.

“If you eat small, oily fish with edible bones, like sardines and anchovies, that’s also a great source of calcium,” Robertson says.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Popular cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. They are high in fiber, vitamin K, and glucosinolates. “Glucosinolates are a sulfur-containing compound found in cruciferous vegetables,” Robertson explains. “Glucosinolates affect estrogen metabolism, which has provided an interesting direction for breast cancer research.”

“If you have a thyroid condition, make sure you cook your cruciferous vegetables if you’re planning to eat a large amount at once,” Robertson cautions. “They contain goitrogens, which can have a negative impact on thyroid function by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones and decreasing iodine uptake into the thyroid gland.”

Robertson also recommends assuring appropriate iodine intake if you’re eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables. Most people get iodine from iodized salt. If you don’t use iodized salt, seafood and dairy products are an excellent source of iodine.

Lentils

Lentils are a powerhouse combination of nutrients that will help you feel satisfied for longer during your fasting window. “Lentils are a great source of protein, but they also have complex carbohydrates, are rich in fiber, and contain iron,” Robertson says. “Plus, they contain magnesium, which can help promote restful sleep and cortisol regulation.”

Lentils also have resistant starch, which will help sustain your fast. To promote eating foods in combination, consider adding lentils to soups and salads.

Yogurt

Robertson recommends adding Greek yogurt to your intermittent fasting diet for calcium, probiotics, and protein. Add your own fruit to unsweetened or plain yogurt to avoid the added sugar in pre-flavored products.

“Greek-style yogurt or Skyr contains more protein than other yogurts,” Robertson says. “There is nothing wrong with other yogurts though if you enjoy a thinner consistency! In fact, while Greek yogurt has more protein, American-style yogurt is higher in calcium.”

Final Advice on Diet During Intermittent Fasting

“In my experience, I’ve seen people lacking in iron, calcium, and antioxidants during short windows of eating,” Robertson says. “A healthy, well-rounded meal includes healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein. That includes eating a wide variety of foods and not excluding any one food group.” Combining foods is especially important during time-restricted eating, when you might have one or two meals to incorporate all of your nutritional needs.

Robertson also advises that not everyone is a good candidate for intermittent fasting. She doesn’t recommend intermittent fasting for anyone who has struggled with disordered eating in the past, is currently pregnant or breastfeeding, or is also undergoing any treatment for another medical condition. “You should always speak to your healthcare provider before making any drastic changes to your diet,” Robertson says.

If you are considering an intermittent fasting program, remember that every person’s body is unique. Some foods will help you feel full for a long period of time, while other foods will cause you to crave another meal quickly. Try a varied diet to identify what works best for you.

Intermittent fasting allows cells in the body to switch from a growth state into repair mode, which improves cellular health and disease resistance. Several types of fasting can trigger this response, including variations on alternate eating days (for example, five days of normal eating followed by two 500-calorie days) and time-restricted eating (for example, daily 4-hour eating windows). Research suggests that performing regular fasts improves markers of cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, and even gut bacteria composition. But during the first few weeks of intermittent fasting, people might feel hungry, tired, and run down while their bodies adapt to the new eating schedule. 

Sarah Robertson, registered dietician and owner of Lifelong Nutrition LLC, has counseled clients who want the benefits of intermittent fasting but struggle to find foods that keep them feeling satiated during their fasting hours.

My clients who come to me for intermittent fasting want to know what they can eat in between fasts to not feel hungry anymore,” Robertson says. “Oftentimes, the goal is not health. It’s what can I eat so I don’t want to kill my partner!?” Robertson addresses both nutrient needs and fasting satisfaction with her clients, by suggesting nutrient dense foods that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. In between fasting, Robertson recommends the following dietary additions to sustain you until your next meal.

Try These 10 Foods for Intermittent Fasting

Avocado

“Avocado is one of the most nutrient dense foods that you can eat,” Robertson says. “And while a lot of people limit their fat intake because it has higher calories, including foods that are rich in unsaturated fats, like avocado, are going to keep you feeling fuller for longer and your blood sugars more stable during the day.”

Avocados are also high in fiber. A single cup of sliced avocado contributes nearly 10 grams of fiber to your meal.

“If you don’t like the taste or texture of avocado, you can use it to make a smoothie creamier, and you don’t really taste it,” Robertson adds.

Eggs

Eggs, which pack in around 5 to 6 grams of protein per egg, are a versatile food for intermittent fasting. You can boil eggs ahead of time to have on hand during your eating window for a quick nutrient boost.

“They’re a good source of vitamin D and choline, which is important for memory and cognition,” Robertson says. “In the past, eggs have gotten a bad rap for their cholesterol content. But there’s evidence that dietary cholesterol isn’t what increases cardiovascular disease—it’s actually saturated fats that do that.”

Pineapple and Papaya

While pineapple and papaya are two foods, they’re listed here for the same reason. “If you’re eating a large amount of food in a short period of time, you’re going to be more prone to bloating and GI discomfort,” Robertson warns. “These two fruits have enzymes that help with digestion. Pineapple has bromelain in it, and papaya has papain.”

Pineapples and papayas work well in salads and smoothies if you prefer not to eat them plain. Robertson recommends buying and eating these fruits fresh, as canning or cooking destroys the enzymes that aid in digestion.

Potatoes

Potatoes are a great addition to your diet during intermittent fasting. But how you prepare the potatoes before eating them is important to consider. Preparation methods can affect how much a potato spikes your blood sugar levels.

“If you cook a potato and then cool it overnight in the refrigerator, it increases the amount of resistant starch that’s in the potato,” Robertson explains. “A resistant starch is a starch that your body doesn’t break down into sugars. That starch travels through your GI tract, and it’s used as a prebiotic that gut bacteria can feed on.” She adds that the resistant starch will keep you feeling full for longer.

Salmon and Other Fatty Fish

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA. “EPA and DHA help regulate blood pressure, decrease triglycerides, and decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke,” Robertson says.

Salmon contains a large amount of protein as well. A small fist-size portion, about 100 grams, of salmon contains 19 grams of protein. Combine salmon with high-fiber foods to help you stay satisfied longer in between eating windows.

“If you eat small, oily fish with edible bones, like sardines and anchovies, that’s also a great source of calcium,” Robertson says.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Popular cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. They are high in fiber, vitamin K, and glucosinolates. “Glucosinolates are a sulfur-containing compound found in cruciferous vegetables,” Robertson explains. “Glucosinolates affect estrogen metabolism, which has provided an interesting direction for breast cancer research.”

“If you have a thyroid condition, make sure you cook your cruciferous vegetables if you’re planning to eat a large amount at once,” Robertson cautions. “They contain goitrogens, which can have a negative impact on thyroid function by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones and decreasing iodine uptake into the thyroid gland.”

Robertson also recommends assuring appropriate iodine intake if you’re eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables. Most people get iodine from iodized salt. If you don’t use iodized salt, seafood and dairy products are an excellent source of iodine.

Lentils

Lentils are a powerhouse combination of nutrients that will help you feel satisfied for longer during your fasting window. “Lentils are a great source of protein, but they also have complex carbohydrates, are rich in fiber, and contain iron,” Robertson says. “Plus, they contain magnesium, which can help promote restful sleep and cortisol regulation.”

Lentils also have resistant starch, which will help sustain your fast. To promote eating foods in combination, consider adding lentils to soups and salads.

Yogurt

Robertson recommends adding Greek yogurt to your intermittent fasting diet for calcium, probiotics, and protein. Add your own fruit to unsweetened or plain yogurt to avoid the added sugar in pre-flavored products.

“Greek-style yogurt or Skyr contains more protein than other yogurts,” Robertson says. “There is nothing wrong with other yogurts though if you enjoy a thinner consistency! In fact, while Greek yogurt has more protein, American-style yogurt is higher in calcium.”

Final Advice on Diet During Intermittent Fasting

“In my experience, I’ve seen people lacking in iron, calcium, and antioxidants during short windows of eating,” Robertson says. “A healthy, well-rounded meal includes healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein. That includes eating a wide variety of foods and not excluding any one food group.” Combining foods is especially important during time-restricted eating, when you might have one or two meals to incorporate all of your nutritional needs.

Robertson also advises that not everyone is a good candidate for intermittent fasting. She doesn’t recommend intermittent fasting for anyone who has struggled with disordered eating in the past, is currently pregnant or breastfeeding, or is also undergoing any treatment for another medical condition. “You should always speak to your healthcare provider before making any drastic changes to your diet,” Robertson says.

If you are considering an intermittent fasting program, remember that every person’s body is unique. Some foods will help you feel full for a long period of time, while other foods will cause you to crave another meal quickly. Try a varied diet to identify what works best for you.