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What Can You Eat or Drink While Intermittent Fasting? 

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What Can You Eat While Intermittent Fasting
Sarah Jackson Damuth post Reviewer Sarah Jackson Damuth post Reviewer
MS, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified LEAP Therapist

Table of Contents

Unlike many diets, intermittent fasting has no dietary requirements and does not exclude foods or food groups. As a result, you really don’t have to make any big changes to your diet, which makes fasting so appealing for beginners.

However, it doesn’t mean your food choice during the eating window is negligible, as well as doesn’t mean that you can have absolutely nothing during the fasting window.

In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about what you can and should eat or drink during intermittent fasting, including:

  • What breaks a fast, and what doesn’t,
  • What you should consume during the fasting period,
  • Foods to add to your eating window,
  • Best foods to break a fast with.

Intermittent Fasting: The Basics

Before moving on to the food choices, let’s quickly cover the basics of intermittent fasting. 

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a dietary regimen that focuses on when you eat, not necessarily what you eat, literally limiting your eating window throughout the day.

There are many variations of IF, and the most popular are 16:8, meaning you fast for 16 and are allowed to eat for an 8-hour window, 14:10, and 12:12.

Research indicates that IF may bring about considerable weight loss—typically 7-11 pounds over 10 weeks [1].

The basis of IF-induced weight loss can be explained through a concept called ketosis. Ketosis is the phase your body goes through when its carbohydrate reserves are exhausted [2]. When you fast for about 12 hours, your body utilizes all the sugar in your blood as well as stored glucose in the liver [3]. The body then begins to break down fat stores for fuel, producing compounds named ketone bodies, hence the name ‘ketosis’ [2]. This process burns fat, thus promoting weight loss.

While you are allowed to eat ‘anything’ during your eating window, it doesn’t mean you should—especially if you’re expecting to lose weight. You need to be mindful of the number of calories you eat and make sure that you stay in a slight calorie deficit.

What Breaks a Fast During Intermittent Fasting?

Theoretically, any food or drink containing any number of calories will break your fast.

However, the general agreement among IF experts is you can consume less than 50 calories without significantly affecting your fasted state. However, keep in mind that this 50-calorie theory has not been proven by science. 

Certain food groups, such as fats, can be incorporated into your fasting food list (in small amounts, of course), as they will not kick you out of ketosis. However, foods or drinks containing sugar or protein will immediately break your fast and end the ketosis state. 

What You Can Eat or Drink While Intermittent Fasting

Eating is generally not recommended during your fast, but you can have certain drinks while you’re fasting. Here’s a list of drinks you can consume during your fast to keep yourself hydrated. 

Water and Sparkling Water

This is a no-brainer. Water doesn’t contain any calories, so you can drink as much water as you want while you’re fasting. Water will quench your thirst at the same time suppressing your appetite for a time to reach your eating window [4].

Sparkling water is another safe alternative if you don’t like to drink plain water. It can also control hunger due to its carbonation. In addition, you can add flavor to your water with lemon or cucumber slices.

Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolyte drinks, like Propel water, are one of the best drinks to have while fasting. They will keep you well-hydrated while helping to replenish the minerals that are lost from your body. However, make sure that the electrolyte drink you choose does not contain any sugars or amino acids, as they can break your fast.


You can drink black coffee at any time during your fast. Since coffee contains only a minimum number of calories, it won’t necessarily break your fast. You can even add a little bit of creamer to your coffee while fasting, given that you only add a small amount and you only drink 1 or 2 coffees with creamer during your fast.

Although creamer is OK, sugar in your coffee is off-limits during fasting.

However, pay attention to how coffee makes you feel when you drink it on an empty stomach. Also, keep track of your caffeine intake. For some, coffee can cause digestive issues and give them coffee jitters if they drink too much coffee.  

Bulletproof Coffee

Bulletproof coffee is a higher-fat version of coffee that is popular among fasters. You can drink a limited number of bulletproof coffees while you’re fasting, but it’s best to track the number of calories in your bulletproof coffee. This type of coffee is known to keep hunger away, and it won’t knock you out of ketosis.


Tea, when you drink it without sugar, is perfectly acceptable during the fasting window. Like black coffee, tea only contains a very small number of calories, so it won’t affect your fast. You can try drinking flavored teas such as peppermint tea if you prefer them over regular black tea.

Fats and Oils

Fats and oils, including olive oil, coconut oil, MCT, butter, and margarine, are high in calories, so they can easily break your fast if you consume them in high amounts. 

However, some IF experts claim that you can incorporate small amounts of these fats and oils (within the 50-calorie limit) into your fasting window. Because fats won’t immediately raise your blood insulin levels, they will not interrupt ketosis, but you need to be extremely careful as you can easily go overboard with them. 


You can sprinkle a pinch of spices like cinnamon or nutmeg on your coffee or tea without worrying about breaking your fast. They will add warmth and a nice kick to your beverages without adding calories. This will help you enjoy your tea or coffee without sugar, especially if you’re used to having them with flavored creamers or sweeteners.

Hungry during intermittent fasting? Try these ways of managing extreme hunger while fasting.

Best Foods To Break Your Fast With

While there are no dietary requirements for intermittent fasting, some foods might be better for breaking your fast than others. In fact, some IF experts will tell you that how you break your fast can dramatically impact its effectiveness. 

a table with foods that are recommended to break a fast with (like smoothies, eggs, cooked vegetables, etc) and foods you should avoid when starting your eating window during intermittent fasting (like pastry, sugary foods, fried foods, etc), what can you drink or eat while intermittent fasting
Foods to break your fast during IF

Despite urges to go for quick forms of energy, in the form of refined carbohydrates, it is best to choose a balanced and satiating meal. This is because refined or simple carbs can cause a rapid rise and then a steep drop in blood sugar, which can cause you to crash later in the day.

Learn all foods to avoid when breaking a fast.

In addition to this, avoid overeating by pacing meals, chew thoroughly, and stay well hydrated. Eating quickly might lead to bloat symptoms and make you feel hungry even after meals

Instead, break your fast with a meal that contains a mix of proteins, heart-healthy fats, and fiber-rich complex carbs, e.g., an omelet with beans and cooked veggies or overnight oats made with Greek yogurt or plant-based milk with nuts and fruit. This will give you the nutrients and energy you need to get you through the day. 

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time for a nutritious breakfast, you can use a protein shake to break your fast.

Foods To Add To Your Diet During Intermittent Fasting

Even though fasting doesn’t restrict your food choices, you should prioritize whole foods and minimally processed meals to get the most out of IF for your health and weight-loss results.

Make sure to include the following food group in your eating window while fasting:

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood provide both protein and heart-healthy fats, as well as high vitamin D content. If you follow a vegan diet, opt for omega-3 supplements to obtain beneficial essential fatty acids, since human body is unable to produce them on its own. 

Experts agree that seafood is a vital part of a healthy diet and even recommend eating 8 to 12 ounces per week in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans [5]

Whole Grains

Carbohydrates get a bad reputation, but not all carbs are unhealthy. In fact, whole grains contain healthy amounts of fiber, which have been shown to promote feelings of fullness and, therefore, can help prevent overeating [6]. They also contain beneficial B vitamins, so you should still enjoy complex carbs from grains and beans as well as simple carbs from fruits on an IF diet. 

Whole oats, quinoa, spelt, brown rice, and various types of whole-grain bread and pasta are great examples of healthy complex carbs as well. 

Nuts and Avocados

While it is true that avocados have the highest amount of calories of all fruits, this doesn’t mean you should avoid them when trying to lose weight. This is because avocados are rich in unsaturated fats that increase good cholesterol levels and help promote feelings of fullness after meals, which can help prevent overeating and grazing. 

The same can be said about nuts. They may have a higher calorie count than other healthy snacks, but they are also rich in unsaturated fats. It’s not just the amount you eat that matters,  the quality of food you eat can affect weight loss too. 


Beans are a source of fiber and plant protein that will actually give you sustained energy. Eating these will give you a steady stream of energy, even during your fasting periods. In addition to this, one study showed that black beans, among other foods, might stimulate weight loss, even if you are not counting calories. [7]

Also, beans are among the foods associated with longevity. [8] In a study examining cultural dietary patterns, researchers found that only a 20-gram increase in daily legume intake showed an 8% reduction in the risk of death. [9]

Probiotics Food

Probiotics are foods that contain live and active microorganisms, which, when consumed, can provide a host of health benefits.

Interestingly, a recent research review found that the consumption of probiotics may reduce weight and BMI in adults [10] Probiotic-rich foods to include are: yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and apple cider vinegar. 

Fruits and Berries

Fruits are a great addition to any healthy diet, and we should be eating them every day. They offer vitamins and minerals, aid in proper digestion, reduce cell damage, and improve skin. In other words, fruits are nutrient-dense and highly beneficial. You can mix them into yogurt, oatmeal, or eat them on their own.

Dark-Colored Greens And Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and broccoli are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and polyphenols. As previously stated, fiber can help you feel full for a longer time, which can facilitate intermittent fasting periods. 

Moreover, cruciferous vegetables reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and may even play a role in cancer prevention by reducing oxidative stress. [11] [12]

Foods And Drinks To Limit During Eating Window

Just like any diet or usual healthy nutrition, it is best to avoid highly processed foods or foods high in sugar. 

You probably already know the guilty pleasures we are referring to–soda drinks, ice cream, cereal bars, cakes, store-bought sauces, doughnuts, and french fries, to name a few. They have little nutritional value, which means although they may taste good temporarily, they lack satiating nutrients and will likely leave you with a  growling stomach soon after.

Eat them in moderation so as to not hinder your weight loss journey.

Other Interactions: Alcohol, Medication, Supplements, etc.


You can’t drink alcohol within your fasting window as it contains calories. 

You can certainly enjoy an alcoholic drink or two when you’re off fasting, but be mindful of your intake. In excess, alcohol can undo the benefits of intermittent fasting—both weight loss-related and health-related. 

Here’s an in-depth article on intermittent fasting and alcohol


Medication usually does not break your fast unless it contains a considerable amount of sugar or starch as an added ingredient. 

You can certainly take your medication while fasting, but you need to pay attention to meal timing and its effect on the medication. Some medicines are meant to be taken on an empty stomach, while others need food to be effective. 

Talk to your doctor about the timing of your medications if you’re not sure when to take them. 

We also have a guide on how to take medication when you do IF if you’re interested. 


The same rule applies to supplements, although certain nutritional supplements such as amino acid supplements can, in fact, break your fast.

Talk with your registered dietitian or doctor to confirm if your supplements can break your fast. Also, take note if the supplements are best taken with food or on an empty stomach. 

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has been shown to curb appetite and reduce cravings [13], so it can be used as a strategy to control hunger during intermittent fasting. 

However, some gums contain sugar and can introduce calories, thus breaking the fast. Whether or not gum breaks your fast depends on how many of them you chew within one fasting window. 

If you chew gum as a habit, take time to learn more about how chewing gum affects your fast.  

Natural (Non-sugar) and Artificial Sweeteners

Non-nutritive sweeteners—natural or artificial—won’t technically break your fast as they don’t contain a significant number of calories. However, they can indirectly disturb your fast as they might increase your cravings for sweet food [14], so think twice before adding them to your diet.  

Bottom Line

If you are looking to lose weight without overly restricting yourself, intermittent fasting is a great solution. Like any diet, it is important to include nutrient-dense foods into your IF regimen. 

In addition to IF, exercise and good sleep hygiene are essential to healthy living and will also facilitate your weight loss efforts. You can also use a fasting app to manage your fasting routine and track the micronutrients you get with meals.

However, the best way to determine if intermittent fasting is right for you is by consulting a healthcare professional. 

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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