Discover The Best Foods to Break a Fast
Usually if someone tells you that they’re on a diet, they mean they’re simply eating less, and in most cases, they’re hungry. Simply eating less can be a recipe for dietary disaster, because small, unsatisfying meals spike your insulin and make you hungry within hours. Additionally, with insulin high, you’ll struggle to burn fat efficiently, and if you’re just eating enough to prevent ketosis, you might as well be feasting on junk food.
Fasting changes that approach to food by limiting your eating window and reducing the havoc of constantly fluctuating insulin. Rather than constant blood sugar spikes throughout the day, a person who adheres to fasting methods will typically eat once or twice within a small window. The rest of the time their body is quietly using the fuel they have stored, resulting in better health and weight loss.
There’s definitely more to fasting than this, but you’re here because you’re coming to the glorious end of your fast. You sit atop a mountain of achievement, whether it was 16 hours or you’ve gone several days, and now you’re hungry. But just chowing down on any food is completely inadvisable for a few reasons.
Let’s look at some of the best foods to break a fast and why they’re perfect.
How you eat is as important as what you eat
Obviously as a fasting adherent, you know that how and when you eat can have a profound effect on your health, maybe even more than what you eat. But when breaking a fast, these rules of how and when are actually just as important.
Some people are fine breaking their fast by indulging in unhealthy food – which sort of defeats the purpose – but each to their own. If you’re not careful when you re-feed, however, you can be in for some unexpected surprises.
The biggest concern about how you restart your eating is the gastrocolic effect. When you eat food, your body flushes your colon with water to move your last few meals along, so to speak. If you haven’t been eating for a prolonged period, this can range from uncomfortable to utterly disastrous if you’re not near a bathroom. This is why it’s important to eat the right foods in small amounts and over a prolonged period to ease your body back into the groove of digestion.
What to eat when fasting
During your fast, it’s best to abstain from anything with calories. Some people advocate for small amounts of cream in your coffee and that anything under 50 calories won’t break your fast, but why chance it? You’re putting yourself through an extreme willpower test; what’s the point of doing it in half-measures?
Instead, let’s focus on what to eat when you’ve hit your 16/24/48 or more hour mark, when all food tastes like candy and you’ve never been so happy to see green beans.
One of the best things you can eat is collagen-laden bone broth, especially if you make it yourself. Small amounts of bone broth will taste amazing and the collagen proteins will help get your guts rolling without too much… urgency.
To make your own, simply take soup bones or the leftover carcass of a whole chicken and add them to a slow cooker with about 6 cups of water. For soup bones, it’s best to roast them first. Add about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help draw out the collagen, and then cook on low for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
You can do this on the stove, but it’s so much easier in a slow cooker. When it’s done, rapidly cool it by separating it into small containers and adding ice packs. A good tip is to freeze the bone broth into ice cube trays and then store them in bags for individual doses when you need them.
Almonds are high in protein and fibre, and low in sugars. They’re also far less “snacky” than other nuts because of this macro profile, meaning you will be less likely to devour them by the handful. Small amounts at first while sipping bone broth can give your digestive system something easy to restart it while helping to curve your ravenous hunger.
Fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut
Fermented cabbages are low in carbs, high in prebiotic fibre and probiotic bacteria. These are essentially perfect for your gut microbiome, and when you fast for a longer period, the bad bacteria in your gut that feed on sugar can die off. This can cause some discomfort and bathroom issues, so replacing them with beneficial bacteria is a worthwhile consideration.
Getting some healthy fats into your system after a fast can help dial up ketone production but eating straight coconut oil or ghee can make your stomach cramp. Avocados are great because they are easy to digest, full of healthy fat and fibre, and can replenish potassium and magnesium that you lost during your fast.
Some say the perfect food (next to nuts and seeds), eggs are full of amino acids and protein and are not difficult to digest. Plus you can eat them in a variety of different ways, some of the easiest being a simple scramble. Start with one, wait a bit, and if you don’t experience any intestinal distress, have another. We have a super-simple veggie scramble recipe here.
Avoiding hard to digest foods like corns or beans, but carrots, onions, green beans, celery and other non-starchy, small-cut vegetables are ideal. The goal is again small amounts of solid food with a nourishing broth to slowly get your system used to eating again. The volume of liquid will help fill your stomach and reduce hunger while your body acclimates to the reintroduction of food.
Smoothies are a quick but gentle way of introducing a nutritious meal without taxing your digestive system as the ingredients are ground-down in the blender. You can also add additional supplements into your smoothie recipe like collagen powder or L-Glutamine to further nourish your gut health. Our favourite smoothie recipe for breaking a fast is below and you can find lots more healthy smoothie recipes here.
The Break-A-Fast Smoothie
- 1 x serve of Superfood Protein Blend
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 1 cup of berries
- Handful of spinach
- 1 x tsp cinnamon
- 250ml water
Remember, start slowly
Remember, it’s not so much what to eat when fasting as it is how to eat those foods. Though the above list definitely includes the best foods to break a fast, it’s not an exclusive list, and if you’re not keto, you could add cooked white potatoes or non-gluten grains like barley, which is especially delicious in veggie soups.
The reintroduction of food at a slow pace will help you avoid the worst of the bathroom urgency and stomach cramps, while still satisfying your hunger. Additionally, be sure to plan for enough electrolytes to make up for what you’ve been missing while fasting. This means avocado, salt, salmon, spinach, dark chocolate or dark cocoa powder, walnuts and Brazil nuts for selenium.
Finally, make sure you’re getting enough water. While some people advocate for dry fasts, there doesn’t seem to be a big benefit and the potential risks outweigh what little benefit there might be. Drink at least 8 standard cups of water a day, and consider adding a pinch of salt to keep your energy levels up. Once you’ve done a few longer fasts and implemented these procedures, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier, with more predictable results.