The perfect day-on-a-plate for when you’re intermittent fasting
Want to nail the perfect meal plan for intermittent fasting while still feasting on omelettes, avo toast and smoothies? Dietitian Melissa Meier has the answers.
There’s a heck of a lot of buzz around intermittent fasting these days – so if you’re tempted to try it, I don’t blame you. The idea is simple: implement a 16-hour fast every single day if you’re trying the 16:8 protocol, or include two 500-calorie days a week (and eat normally the other five) if you’re up for 5:2.
As a dietitian, I think one of the main perks of intermittent fasting is that it doesn’t actually focus on what you put in your mouth. Instead, it’s only concerned with when you eat. In practicality, however, what you eat still plays a crucial role in your overall health and success, so it shouldn’t be overlooked – and that’s where I come in.
Behold: your perfect day on a plate when you’re intermittent fasting.
16:8 day on a plate
With the 16:8 method, you have an eight hour window to eat every single day, at any time you please. That could be 6am to 2pm if you’re a morning person, 2pm to 9pm if you’re a night owl, or anything in between. Note that you’re not supposed to jam your regular three meals and snacks into the eating window, but instead, eat according to your hunger and the time of day (that is, if you’re eating between 12pm and 8pm, have lunch and dinner, and a few snacks in between if you’re hungry).
With this varietal of intermittent fasting, there are no caloric restrictions, so I’d simply encourage you to focus on ramping up the nutritional quality of your meals. To give you a little healthy eating inspo, here are 10 well-balanced, dietitian-approved meals that offer lots of good nutrition and will keep you feeling full for hours – perfect for the 16:8 method of intermittent fasting.
- Three-egg cherry tomato omelette sprinkled with goats cheese, served with a slice of wholegrain toast and a quarter of an avocado
- Two slices of wholegrain toast each topped with a quarter of an avocado, a few slices of tomato, a slice of cheese and lots of freshly cracked black pepper
- Eight wholegrain crispbreads topped with hummus and tuna in olive oil (drained), served with freshly chopped veg
- Lentil salad made of green lentils, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and lots of herbs with a zingy lemon dressing
- Wholegrain wrap filled with two hard-boiled eggs (mashed with a little mayo) and lots of salad
- Salad made of roasted veggies, quinoa and mixed leaves, topped with a quarter of an avocado and a balsamic vinaigrette
- Burrito bowl made of grilled chicken thighs, brown basmati rice, black beans, charred corn and a tomato, onion and lime salsa
- Grilled salmon served with roasted sweet potatoes and stir-fried veggies
- Pumpkin dhal made of red-split lentils, pumpkin and lots of spices, topped with a dollop of Greek yoghurt
Throw in some fresh fruit, a handful of nuts and seeds, and some plain yoghurt for snacking, and you’re good to go.
5:2 day on a plate
5:2 requires a little more planning for fasting days because your calorie intake is capped at around 500 (and then you eat as you habitually would the remaining five days a week). I’d suggest focusing on volume eating, that is, eating as much as you can for as few calories as possible. One tactic is to skip one meal a day in favour of two more substantial meals, and another is to spread your calories evenly across breakfast, lunch and dinner – you can choose whatever works best for you.
Again, nutrient-density is key, so focusing on whole foods wherever possible should be your top priority. Without further ado, here are 10 low-calorie meals and snacks that you’ll be able to mix and match to suit 5:2 intermittent fasting (note that water and black tea and coffee are calorie-free, so drink up as much as you please).
- Breakfast: egg white omelette made of three egg whites, 10 cherry tomatoes and basil, served with a slice of wholemeal toast = 151 calories
- Breakfast: one poached egg with a small bag of baby spinach, one tomato and one cup of mushrooms = 121 calories
- Lunch: 100g of cooked chicken breast, one small bag of spinach and 20g feta cheese = 222 calories
- Lunch: a tin of tuna in spring water (drained) and one cup of chopped crudités = 149 calories
- Lunch: two poached eggs, one slice of wholemeal bread and a punnet of cooked cherry tomatoes = 279 calories
- Dinner: 100g of cooked prawns, half a cup of rice noodles and one cup of stir-fried Asian greens = 237 calories
- Dinner: half a cup of chickpeas, one cup of roasted pumpkin, two handfuls of mixed salad leaves and 20g goats cheese = 230 calories
- Dinner: one cup of microwave brown rice and two cups of cooked stir-fried veggies = 332 calories
- Snack: one cup of fruit salad with two tablespoons of reduced-fat Greek yoghurt = 126 calories
- Snack: smoothie made of one cup of skim milk, half a cup of berries and half a banana = 184 calories