From black coffee and whole grains to ice cream and pizza, you have likely heard that anything goes while intermittent fasting. But, Can You Eat Whatever You Want On Intermittent Fasting? Let’s dive in.
In fact, this is a big reason why many people are interested in trying intermittent fasting because they feel a sense of freedom in their food choices. Since intermittent fasting is a time-restricted eating pattern, there are no set rules as to what foods you can eat and what foods are off-limits.
Depending on what your health or weight loss goals are, some may still find success with the “eat whatever you want” approach to intermittent fasting. But, is this really the best long term strategy for overall health? The answer may not be as straightforward as you might think.
In this article, we’ll answer the big question, “Can you eat whatever you want on intermittent fasting?” as well as some additional questions about what foods you can eat while intermittent fasting. Later, we will discuss some tips to create a well balanced meal plan with foods that you’ll actually want to eat!
Intermittent Fasting 101
Before we dive into the question of “can you eat whatever you want on intermittent fasting?”, let’s review some basic definitions that are helpful to remember if you want to try or are practicing intermittent fasting.
It’s helpful to think of intermittent fasting in two phases. There is a period of time (hours of the day or days of the week) during which you are fasting, called your fasting window.
There are no calories consumed during this phase, however zero-calorie beverages such as water, black coffee, and unsweetened teas are allowed. The other phase is called your eating window, which is where all of your calories are consumed. These periods of eating are shorter than the typical times that most people consume their calories.
As mentioned before, there aren’t any strict guidelines as to which foods you can and cannot eat during your eating window. The general consensus among experts, however, is to maintain a healthy diet rich in whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
There are different types of intermittent fasting to try if you are following an intermittent fasting diet. Part of its popularity stems from the fact that intermittent fasting is flexible and adaptable to nearly every schedule or lifestyle.
Some types are based on a fasting window during a certain part of the day or night, and the rest of the day is your eating window. Other types, like alternate day fasting, include a fasting period of a whole day and the next day you would consume your normal calorie intake. The more popular types of intermittent fasting include 16/8, alternate day fasting, and 14/10.
Most people think of trying intermittent fasting for weight loss, but there are many other health benefits of intermittent fasting. These benefits range from:
- Improved blood sugar levels
- Decreased risk for heart disease
- Improved blood pressure
- Reduced inflammation associated with chronic disease.
While most of the benefits of intermittent fasting come from the fasted state that occurs during your fasting window, eating a healthy diet consisting of plenty of nutrient-dense foods enhances the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Healthy eating (even outside of intermittent fasting) comes with its own benefits such as increased energy levels, better sleep quality, and faster weight loss results. Additionally, eating a balanced diet can help with cravings and help to keep you full during your entire fasting period.
If you are new to intermittent fasting and want to learn more, check out our Intermittent Fasting 101 guide.
Weight Loss and Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a type of eating pattern that induces a calorie deficit in most people. This is why intermittent fasting has become a popular weight loss strategy. In a time-restricting eating pattern like intermittent fasting, the idea is that by limiting the hours of the day during which food can be eaten, you will consume fewer calories. When you consistently consume less calories than you burn throughout the week, this leads to a reduction in body weight.
So, this brings us to our main question, “Can you eat whatever you want on intermittent fasting?” While the technical answer is yes, you can, it’s a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no answer.
The reason for this is a variety of factors.
First, as we stated before, there are no specific rules when it comes to what you can eat while intermittent fasting. Second, if you are intermittent fasting simply for weight loss results, then it is still possible to lose weight and eat whatever you want as long as you are maintaining a calorie deficit.
But, for overall health and to reap more of the health benefits of intermittent fasting, it’s best to choose healthy foods with a variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. When your diet primarily consists of junk food, you may find yourself with more cravings and fatigue.
Often, it’s difficult to make it through a fasting period if you have had highly processed or sugary foods due to the sharp spike and subsequent low dip in blood sugar levels. You will still need to be mindful of your calorie intake even if you are choosing a healthy diet in order to lose weight.
Does this mean that certain foods are completely off limits? Not at all. It’s perfectly fine to indulge in your favorite high-calorie treats every once in a while, but make sure you are eating a balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods. This will be better for your health in the long term.
The reason why many traditional weight loss diets don’t work is that they feel too restrictive by limiting what you can and cannot eat. The most successful eating plans are the ones that can make healthy eating a priority without feeling deprived. Keep reading below for the best strategies on what to eat while intermittent fasting.
Below are common questions around the topic of what to eat while intermittent fasting.
Can I eat pizza while intermittent fasting?
Perhaps one of the most popular comfort foods, many people wonder if you can eat pizza while intermittent fasting. The good news is, yes you can in moderation.
Pizza is often considered to be a type of junk food, but there are ways to make pizza more nutrient dense.
Adding toppings such as mushrooms, green peppers, olives, and spinach as well as some protein (like pepperoni or ham) can provide a more balanced meal. Even adding a side salad to your pizza night can increase the nutritional value of the meal as well.
What foods to break intermittent fast with?
Avoid high carbohydrate-containing foods (which may leave you feeling bloated) and focus on a small meal consisting of plenty of lean protein and more nutrient-dense foods when breaking a fast.
This may include foods like eggs, yogurt, spinach or kale, and fruits. For more on the right way to break a fast and exactly which foods to eat, check out this guide.
Can I eat junk food on intermittent fasting?
Junk food can include a wide range of foods, but it usually refers to high-calorie, high sugar/fat, or highly processed foods.
As general practice, these types of foods shouldn’t add up to more than 5-10% of total calories.
Of course there will be times when you want to indulge in junk food which is fine as long as it doesn’t become a part of your normal eating pattern. To avoid weight gain, it’s best to limit junk food to every once in a while.
Can I eat carbs while intermittent fasting?
Yes, you can! Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient to include in a healthy diet, as it is the body’s preferred source of energy. But, not all carbs are created equal.
Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, cakes, cookies, and pastas should be limited. Aim for carbs that contain more fiber such as fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables are a great carbohydrate option because they also contain fiber and nutrients.
Many choose to eat a low-carb diet while on their intermittent fasting plan, but it is not a requirement for intermittent fasting. Certain health conditions may also benefit from a low-carb diet. Always consult a medical professional or registered dietitian before starting a new eating plan.
Tips for a Healthy Diet
Whether intermittent fasting or not, almost everyone can benefit from a healthy diet full of variety and nutrient dense foods while limiting high calorie, processed foods. The best way to achieve balanced meals is to remember the following formula:
Protein + Healthy Fats + Carbohydrate = Balanced Meal
I recommend starting each meal with lean protein. Eggs, chicken, lean beef, fish and beans can all be excellent sources of protein. Healthy fats include olive oil, avocados, nuts, and coconut oil. As mentioned above, quality carbohydrates with plenty of fiber should be included such as quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and fruits/ vegetables.
An example of a balanced meal could be a piece of grilled chicken, roasted squash, carrots, and broccoli in olive oil, and a side of herbed quinoa. Focus on adding foods to your diet instead of avoiding or restricting.
Include many different types of foods to ensure all of your nutrient needs are being met. You will likely feel less hungry during your fasting period and limit some of those junk food cravings.
Conclusion – Can You Eat Whatever You Want On Intermittent Fasting?
In summary, we determined that while technically you can eat whatever you want on intermittent fasting, it’s best to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. You can still lose weight no matter what you eat as long as you are maintaining a calorie deficit, however you may reap more of the benefits of intermittent fasting if you focus on including more nutrient dense foods in your intermittent fasting plan.
Just as you plan your intermittent fasting schedule, it can be helpful to plan out your meals as well. Using the balanced meals formula, (protein+healthy fat + carbohydrate), you can ensure you are getting all of your essential nutrients. It’s fine to indulge in your favorite junk foods every once in a while, as long as your normal, everyday habits include plenty of whole, unprocessed foods!