by Rachael Link, RD, MS
Within the past few years, the practice of fasting has soared in popularity. But while limiting your food intake to a specific window of time each day sounds simple enough, what you put on your plate is also incredibly important. Not only can certain foods help support healthy digestion while breaking a fast, but they can also help ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Keep reading for some simple general guidelines on how to break an intermittent fast, along with some suggested foods, beverages and supplements to add to your routine.
Note: You should always check with your healthcare professional prior to fasting or any dietary or lifestyle change.
Intermittent Fasting vs. Regular Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a popular diet pattern that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. There are many different types of intermittent fasting, which can require abstaining from food anywhere from eight hours to an entire day at a time. Most people practice intermittent fasting several days per week in an effort to support a healthy weight and more.
In addition to intermittent fasting for their health, people practice many other forms of fasting as well. In fact, fasting has long been used to make political statements or as a form of protest. For centuries, people have fasted for spiritual reasons as well, and fasting is even considered a key component of many major religions.
Ways to Break a Fast
Filling up on the right foods after a fast can help support healthy digestion when getting back into eating while also creating a “reset.” Although there are no strict rules or guidelines about which foods are permitted during your eating window, it’s best to select nutrient-dense foods and drinks that are also easy to digest.
It’s also important to consider the type and length of your fast, along with your usual diet. If you’re looking for how to break a short water fast, for example, you may want to consider increasing your intake more gradually than if you’re simply intermittent fasting a few hours per day.
Similarly, the foods recommended for how to break a fast on keto may focus mostly on performance fats, whereas other diets may include more easy-to-digest carbohydrates, including fruits, cooked veggies and fermented foods.
In subsequent meals, you can also consider incorporating other nutritious ingredients into your diet, including raw vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Although these foods may be a bit more difficult to digest, they can supply many of the vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that your body needs after fasting.
Although you might feel pretty hungry after finishing your fast, making mindful choices about the foods that you’re eating is absolutely essential. Opt for foods that are easy on the gut, such as cooked veggies or fermented foods. Ideally, you should also pick ingredients that provide a good mix of protein, fiber and performance fats as well.
So what are some of the best foods to break an intermittent fast? Here are a few suggestions:
- Raw fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, berries, grapefruit, kiwi, melons
- Cooked vegetables: cauliflower, potatoes, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus
- Leafy greens: kale, spinach, romaine, watercress, collard greens
- Fermented foods: kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, miso
- Performance fats: coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee
- Proteins: poultry, fish, eggs
Just as important as what you choose to eat after a fast is what you drink. Staying well-hydrated can keep things moving through the digestive tract to promote regularity. It can also help keep hunger and appetite in check.
Here are some suggested drinks to help break a fast:
- Coconut water
- Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Protein mixed with almond milk, coconut milk or water
- Smoothie with leafy greens, fruits and Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein
- Fresh fruit or vegetable juice
- Ancient Nutrition's Organic Supergreens mixed in a fruit smoothie or with almond milk, coconut milk or water
- Green tea
Incorporating a few supplements into your routine can be convenient and beneficial, too. Not only can certain supplements boost your intake of essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals, but some can also support gut health, healthy digestive function and more.
Here are a few supplements that can be a great addition to your routine:
What Not to Do
When it comes to fasting, what you consume during your eating window is incredibly important. Fasting shouldn’t be considered a free pass to load up on junk food, sugary snacks and heavily processed ingredients.
Instead, fill up on nutritious foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains and performance fats, all of which can help support a healthy you. Try meal prepping once or twice per week so that you have plenty of healthy options on hand for when it’s time to break your fast.
Keep in mind that fasting is not one-size-fits-all and it may take a bit of experimenting to find a regular fasting routine. Be sure to listen to your body and adjust your fasting and eating windows as needed.
In addition to incorporating some of the suggested foods to break a fast into your diet, you can also try out some other ingredients to find what works for you. Keep in mind that some people may be able to tolerate certain foods better than others.
For example, breaking a fast with eggs might work well for some, but may not be preferable for others. Drinking caffeinated beverages on an empty stomach, for example, may not be well tolerated in those who may be more sensitive to its effects.
Generally, foods like nuts, seeds, dairy products and raw veggies tend to be a bit harder to digest. Feel free to enjoy these foods in moderation later in the day but stick to easy-to-digest ingredients for your first meal or snack after intermittent fasting
Rachael Link, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian based in New York City. She completed her undergraduate degree in Dietetics at the University of Central Missouri and later received her Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Rachael is passionate about plant-based nutrition and enjoys providing easy-to-understand information to readers looking to support their health.