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What to eat on intermittent fasting for weight loss

Intermittent fasting makes weight loss easy. Satiating and nutrient-dense foods support intermittent fasting and make it sustainable long-term.
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Summary

Intermittent fasting makes weight loss easier. To be sustainable long-term, you should eat satiating foods and provide sufficient essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Written by
Sarah Neidler, PhD
Freelance Science and Medical Writer

Intermittent fasting is very popular for weight loss–for good reasons, too. Many studies show that intermittent fasting makes it easy to lose weight, and a growing number of anecdotal success stories confirm this (1).


To meet real-world examples of women who lost weight with intermittent fasting, we recommend you to join our intermittent fasting community for women only


Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Woman with measuring tape.

Studies show that you can lose weight with intermittent fasting on any diet. Probands who keep eating what they ate before losing weight by simply shortening the eating window. Even short fasting times are sufficient. In one study, participants fasted daily for 12-14 hours and lost on average 3.27 Kg within 16 weeks (2).

Interestingly, this works even without calorie counting and intentionally restricting calories. Through the short eating window, people automatically eat less.


Does that mean that you can eat whatever you want when you want to lose weight with intermittent fasting?


Yes and no.


Yes, you’ll lose weight with any diet.


No, because:

  • Certain foods make intermittent fasting more difficult to sustain
  • With eating less, only nutrient-dense foods will provide sufficient essential nutrients (protein, vitamins, and minerals)


When you want to lose weight with intermittent fasting, food should fulfill two important criteria:


1. It should be satiating 

Some foods are very satiating and keep you full for longer. Yet others make you hungrier, leading to overeating and the cause for hunger pangs.


As you might have guessed, satiating foods make intermittent fasting much easier and support weight loss. Foods that cause hunger pangs shortly after the meal are, however, counterproductive. 


With a lot of discipline, you may be able to resist for a while and stick to your fasting window. However, the chances are high that as motivation wanes, you’ll soon be back to your old eating habits.


In general, fast food and highly processed foods don’t keep you full for long and cause you to overeat. Natural foods, such as vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds, are much more satiating. You find a list with the most satiating foods further down.


2. It should be nutrient-dense

Steak with carrots and mushrooms.

Intermittent fasting is not a quick weight-loss method, it is more a lifestyle that is meant to be followed long-term. For a diet to be sustainable long-term, it has to provide all the essential nutrients your body needs–most importantly, protein, vitamins, and minerals.


The standard American diet lacks many nutrients. Many people don’t get enough iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins.


You tend to eat less with intermittent fasting. If you keep eating what you ate before, you automatically consume fewer essential nutrients (3). For this reason, it is crucial to eat foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. In the next section, you find a list of the most nutrient-dense foods. 


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Foods for weight loss while intermittent fasting

Here is a list of foods that can support your intermittent fasting weight loss journey. They are all satiating and nutrient-dense.


1. Fish and Seafood

Fresh fish with seafood and mint.

Fish and seafood are a rich source of nutrients: They provide plenty of minerals such as iodine, zinc, selenium, and vitamins such as vitamin A, B vitamins (4). They even contain some vitamin D, which is rarely found in foods. Vitamin D deficiency is very common.


Fish is also a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality protein. The combination of healthy fats and protein is very satiating.


2. Full-fat dairy

Most people who want to lose weight choose low-fat or no-fat dairy options. Yes, full-fat dairy contains many more calories, but that’s a naive fallacy. 


Low-fat dairy is much less fulfilling and satiating than full-fat dairy. That means that it makes fasting more difficult and makes you want to eat more at your next meal (5).


Dairy is also an important source of high-quality protein, especially for vegetarians.


3. Leafy greens

Bowl with spinach.

All vegetables are rich in nutrients, but leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are especially rich in vitamins and minerals.


They are good sources of vitamin A, folic acid, Vitamin K, and minerals such as calcium and magnesium (6).


4. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats. You can add them to salads and soups or eat a handful as dessert. In contrast to the typical sugary dessert, they only mildly raise your blood sugar and keep you full for longer.


Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc (7). 

5. Potatoes and rice

Unless you combine intermittent fasting with a low carb or ketogenic diet, potatoes and rice are a good addition to your intermittent fasting meal plan.


They are both very satiating and much healthier than other starchy foods such as bread and pasta.


Potatoes are a good source of niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, and potassium (8). Brown rice is rich in thiamine (vitamin B1) and zinc (9).

6. Legumes

Different kinds of beans.

Legumes such as lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, and soybeans are an important source of protein, especially for people who don’t eat many animal products.


Legumes are rich in potassium, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins, such as thiamine (vitamin B1), niacin (vitamin B3), and folic acid (10).


7. Berries

Rasperries and blueberries on a plate.

Fruits are a good source of vitamin C and other vitamins (11). However, most fruits also contain quite a lot of sugar.


Berries, however, contain very little sugar and are rich in polyphenols–plant compounds that provide many health benefits. 


8. Eggs

Eggs are a natural superfood. They contain generous amounts of almost all vitamins and minerals (12). Moreover, they are a good source of high-quality protein and healthy fats.


Eggs are also very satiating. When your eating window includes breakfast, eggs are a great option.


9. Healthy fats

Butter slices on a table.

Fat contains many calories, but it is also satiating and keeps you full for longer. Fat is also necessary to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.


However, it’s crucial to consume healthy fats for the expected benefits. Contrary to popular belief, most animal fats are actually good for you. One big advantage is that they are very heat-stable. So, butter, lard, and ghee are great options for cooking. Olive oil and avocado oil are good for salad dressings.


Try to avoid sunflower, corn, and canola oil as they are highly processed and promote inflammation.


Bottom line

You can lose weight with intermittent fasting on any diet. But for intermittent fasting to be sustainable long-term, you should focus on satiating foods that are rich in essential nutrients.


Many people chose to combine intermittent fasting with a ketogenic diet. Similar to intermittent fasting, keto helps to keep insulin levels low, which helps to access fat storage and lose weight. In our keto and intermittent fasting article, you can learn more about how to combine the two. 


References:

1. Gabel K, Hoddy KK, Haggerty N, et al. Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study. Nutr Healthy Aging. Jun 15 2018;4(4):345-353. doi:10.3233/NHA-170036

2. Gill S, Panda S. A Smartphone App Reveals Erratic Diurnal Eating Patterns in Humans that Can Be Modulated for Health Benefits. Cell Metab. Nov 3 2015;22(5):789-98. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2015.09.005

3. M GE, H JK, Brenna JT, S HM. Micronutrient Gaps in Three Commercial Weight-Loss Diet Plans. Nutrients. Jan 20 2018;10(1)doi:10.3390/nu10010108

4. Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritionData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4102/2

5. Kratz M, Baars T, Guyenet S. The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease. Eur J Nutr. Feb 2013;52(1):1-24. doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0418-1

6. New Zealand spinach, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritonData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2495/2

7. Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritionData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3076/2

8. Potato, flesh and skin, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritionData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2549/2

9. Rice, brown, long-grain, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritionData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5706/2

10. Lentils, raw, Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritionData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4337/2

11. Blackberries, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritionData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1848/2

12. Eggs, whole, raw, fresh Nutrition Facts & Calories. NutritionData. 2021. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/111/2


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