Best Food to Break the Intermittent Fasting Window

October 1, 2021


Intermittent fasting is one of the best dietary routines to make lasting positive changes for your health. It’s also an excellent tool for losing weight when combined with food tracking and counting calories.

However, you may be wondering what the best food is for breaking the fast. It’s a fair question, and it may have drastic effects on the results you get from intermittent fasting and your diet overall.

What Breaks a Fast?

Before discussing what foods are best to break a prolonged fasting period, we must understand what counts as breaking a fast. After all, there are only a few foods that are so low in calories that they have minimal-to-no effects on your insulin levels.

You might know that insulin is the primary hormone we are looking to keep in check during fasting. Here are some of the things you can have that don’t count as breaking your fast:

  • Water (obviously)
  • Coffee (unsweetened coffee is preferred, but no-calorie sweeteners are also an option)
  • Tea (same as coffee)
  • Bone broth (small amounts of low-protein broth)

A note about bone broth: the high-quality stuff will have ample amounts of protein and will break a fast. Real bone broth extracts collagen proteins from the bones, and it does count as calories and slightly breaks your fast.

There are cheaper versions of broth out there that are basically salty water and might be a better choice. Sipping is suitable, but chugging bone broth isn’t.

All other foods and drinks pretty much break your fast. Even healthy fruits and vegetables full of vitamins and minerals will do it.

The Right and Wrong Way to Break a Fast

If you don’t see the results you’d expect from following a strict intermittent fasting schedule, you might be breaking your fast with the wrong type of foods. Some foods build on the momentum that fasting provides, while others wreak havoc on the progress and try to undo it. First, let’s look at the wrong way to break a fast:

  • Junk foods, loaded with carbohydrates and trans fats
  • A meal that lacks protein and is abundant in carbs
  • Overly processed foods

Foods high in fat and carbohydrates are a terrible pairing with breaking your fast. When fasting, your insulin levels are low, and your glucagon levels are high. These two compounds work in an alternating fashion. When glucagon is high, the body looks for alternative fuel sources to keep chugging along, including glycogen and stored fatty acids.

That is why intermittent fasting can speed up weight loss effectively. The increased insulin sensitivity with prolonged periods of raised glucagon levels encourages the body to burn fatty acids for fuel.

When you break your fast with high carbohydrate food, insulin levels drive up quickly. Insulin is the storage hormone that will store glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids in your body. When fat is present alongside this high carbohydrate food, those fatty acids are easily pushed into existing fat cells due to available insulin and lack of glucagon. The best food to break intermittent fasting will be:

  • Based on whole foods and fresh produce
  • High in either carbohydrates or fat (not both)
  • Rich in protein to support muscle protein synthesis and favorable body composition

It goes without saying: don’t stuff yourself when breaking your fast, either. Keep the first meal light and plan larger meals later into your eating window.

What Kinds of Food Are Great for Breakfast?

It’s time to break that fast! Drink a glass of water to subdue your potentially ravenous appetite at the end of your fasting period, and then try some of these foods:

  • Yogurt – If you opt for plain, they don’t have to be reduced fat. If you opt for flavored (containing sugar), opt for fat-free. February 6 was National Frozen Yogurt Day, so you can celebrate it by grabbing yourself a low-fat frozen cup!
  • Eggs – Eggs are a versatile food that can brighten any morning. Enjoy the light and fluffy scrambled eggs, boil them, or bake them. 
  • Granola – Add a handful of berries or nuts to enhance the flavor of your crunchy morning treat.
  • Salads with lean protein – A salad of fresh greens and other vegetables, paired great with chicken, salted salmon, or white fish. Since this meal is low in carbohydrates, feel free to opt for a dressing with more fat (perhaps olive oil and vinegar).
  • Smoothies – These tend to be higher in carbs, so keep fat sources out of the smoothie. Put some yogurt or kefir in as well. Fresh or frozen fruit is excellent, and you can also sneak some frozen spinach or other greens in to bump up the micronutrient content.
  • Toast – Whole grain bread pairs beautifully with peanut butter or salted salmon for a dangerously delicious breakfast meal.
  • Low carbohydrate vegetables – These are great to start a meal to fill up your stomach a bit, increase your fiber intake, and regulate any potential insulin spike.
  • Soups – Use a high-quality bone broth, lean meat, and fill with vegetables to create a hardy soup to break a fasting period.

There are plenty of other options to break your fast properly as well. Just stick to what was laid out in this article, and you are good to go!

Bonus: Quick Breakfast Smoothie

You will need:

  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 cup of frozen mango

Blend all the ingredients, and your smoothie is ready in less than 5 minutes! Nutritional value: 211kcal, 46.4g of carbs, 4.3g of protein, 3.6g of fats.

Key Takeaways

  1. Drinking water, coffee, tea, or sips of bone broth throughout your fasting period won’t break your fast.
  2. There is a right way and a wrong way to break your fast. The best food to break intermittent fasting will be high in protein, either carbohydrate or fat-based (not both), and built around whole foods that are minimally processed. This creates the best transition from raised glucagon to raised insulin.
  3. Don’t stuff yourself. Opt for a light meal and use the latter portion of your eating window for larger meals.
  4. Some of the best foods to start your day are yogurt, kefir, lean meats, and non-starchy vegetables.
  5. Don’t limit yourself to the same foods to break your fast every day. Experiment by sticking to these principles, and you’ll have success!


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