What Should I Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16 Hours?

What Should I Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16 Hours?

What Should I Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16 Hours?

Hey there, my friend! So, you’re curious about what to eat during your 16-hour intermittent fasting window? As a nutritionist and intermittent fasting coach, I’m excited to dive into this topic with you and share some practical tips for nourishing your body while maximizing the health benefits of IF.

First off, let’s give ourselves a quick refresher on what 16/8 intermittent fasting actually entails. With this popular IF protocol, you fast for 16 hours a day and eat all of your meals within an 8-hour eating window. For example, you might fast from 8pm to 12pm the next day, and then eat your meals between 12pm and 8pm.

During your fasting period, you’ll want to stick to water, black coffee, unsweetened tea, and other calorie-free beverages. But what about during your eating window? Is it a free-for-all, or are there certain foods and nutrients you should prioritize to support your weight loss and overall health goals?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll explore the key components of a nutritious intermittent fasting meal plan, bust some common myths about IF and food choices, and share some sample meals and snacks to keep you feeling satisfied and energized throughout your day. So grab a snack (if you’re in your eating window, of course!) and let’s get started.

The Importance of Nutrient Density

One of the biggest misconceptions about intermittent fasting is that it gives you a free pass to eat whatever you want during your eating window. While it’s true that eating patterns during IF can be more flexible and forgiving than other diet plans, the quality of your food choices still matters a great deal.

Think of it this way: when you’re limiting your eating window to just 8 hours a day, every bite counts that much more when it comes to nourishing your body and supporting your health goals. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize nutrient-dense, whole foods over processed snacks and empty calories.

So, what exactly do I mean by “nutrient-dense” foods? These are foods that pack a lot of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds into a relatively small caloric package. Some examples include:

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Lean proteins like poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes
  • Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats
  • Healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut

By filling your plate with these nutritious ingredients, you’ll be giving your body the building blocks it needs to thrive, while also supporting healthy digestion, balanced blood sugar levels, healthy weight, and optimal cognitive function. Plus, these foods tend to be more satiating than processed alternatives, which can help you feel fuller and more satisfied during your fasting periods.

Macronutrient Balance

In addition to focusing on nutrient density, it’s also important to pay attention to your macronutrient balance when deciding what to eat during your intermittent fasting window.

Macronutrients are the three main categories of nutrients that your body needs in large amounts: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each one plays a unique role in your health and metabolism, and finding the right balance can help you optimize your intermittent fasting results.

Here’s a quick overview of each macronutrient and how to incorporate it into your IF meal plan:


Carbs are your body’s preferred source of quick energy, and they play a key role in everything from brain function to athletic performance. However, not all carbs are created equal.

During your eating window, focus on complex, fiber-rich carbohydrates like:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats
  • Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and black beans
  • Starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and winter squash

These foods will provide sustained energy and help keep your blood sugar levels stable, which can be especially important during your fasting periods. Plus, the fiber will help keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals.

On the other hand, try to limit your intake of simple, refined carbs like:

  • White bread, pasta, and rice
  • Sugary snacks and desserts
  • Fruit juices and other sweetened beverages

These foods can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can leave you feeling hungry, cranky, and craving more to improve blood sugar levels just a few hours later. Not exactly the ideal scenario when you’re trying to make it through a 16-hour fast!


Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, making enzymes and hormones, and supporting immune function. It’s also the most satiating macronutrient, meaning it keeps you feeling full and satisfied for longer than carbs or fat.

During your eating window, aim to include a source of high-quality protein at each meal, such as:

  • Poultry like chicken and turkey
  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Legumes like lentils, beans, and chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese (if tolerated)

How much protein you need will depend on factors like your age, sex, weight, and activity level, but a good general rule of thumb is to aim for at least 0.7-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Not only will adequate protein help you maintain and build lean muscle mass (which is key for a balanced diet and healthy metabolism), but it will also help keep you feeling satisfied and energized during your fasting periods.


Dietary fat has gotten a bad rap over the years, but the truth is that healthy fats are absolutely essential for optimal health and weight loss through healthy diet. They help absorb fat-soluble vitamins, support brain and hormone function, and keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals.

During your eating window, focus on incorporating sources of healthy, anti-inflammatory fats like:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil and other plant-based oils
  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
  • Grass-fed butter or ghee (if tolerated)

On the other hand, try to limit your food intake of processed, inflammatory fats like:

  • Vegetable oils like soybean, canola, and corn oil
  • Trans fats found in fried foods and baked goods
  • Fatty cuts of conventionally-raised meat

These fats can contribute to chronic inflammation, hormone imbalances, and other health issues that can sabotage your weight loss and overall wellness goals.

Sample Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan

Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics of what to eat during your intermittent fasting window, let’s put it all together with a sample meal plan!

Keep in mind that this is just an example, and your specific needs and preferences may vary. Feel free to use this as a starting point and adjust as needed to create a plan that works for you.

Meal 1 (12pm): Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Snack (3pm): Apple Slices with Almond Butter

  • 1 medium apple, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter

Meal 2 (6pm): Grilled Salmon with Asparagus and Sweet Potato

  • 4-6 oz grilled salmon
  • 1 cup roasted asparagus
  • 1 small baked sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Snack (8pm): Greek Yogurt with Berries and Chia Seeds

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

As you can see, this meal plan incorporates a balance of nutrient-dense, whole foods from all three macronutrient categories. It also includes a mix of larger meals and smaller snacks to help keep you feeling satisfied and energized throughout your eating window.

Of course, this is just one example, and there are countless other delicious and nutritious foods you can include in your intermittent fasting meal plan. The key is to experiment and find what works best for your unique preferences, eating habits, lifestyle, and goals.

FAQs About Intermittent Fasting and Food Choices

Still have questions about what to eat (and what to avoid) during your intermittent fasting window? Here are some common queries I hear from my coaching clients:

Can I have cream and sugar in my coffee during my fasting window?

Unfortunately, adding cream, sugar, or other caloric ingredients to your coffee will technically break your fast and negate some of the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting. Stick to plain black coffee, or try adding a splash of unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk for a creamy texture without the extra calories.

Should I eat breakfast or skip it with 16/8 fasting?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the “best” approach will depend on your individual schedule, preferences, and goals. Some people find that they feel better skipping breakfast and eating their first meal around lunchtime, while others prefer to eat a larger breakfast and finish their eating window earlier in the day.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to listen to your body and find an eating schedule that works for you. If you’re not sure where to start, try experimenting with different meal timings and pay attention to how you feel in terms of energy, focus, and satiety.

Can I have snacks during my eating window?

Absolutely! In fact, including healthy snacks between meals can be a great way to keep your energy levels stable and avoid getting overly hungry (which can lead to overeating later on).

Just be sure to choose nutrient-dense, whole food snacks like fresh fruit, veggies with hummus, a handful of nuts or seeds, or a small serving of Greek yogurt. Avoid processed snacks like chips, crackers, and candy, which can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes and leave you feeling unsatisfied.

How much should I be eating during my 8-hour window?

The amount of food you should eat during your eating window will depend on a variety of factors, including your age, sex, weight, activity level, and goals. In general, aim to eat until you feel satisfied but not stuffed, and pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues.

If you’re not sure where to start with calorie restriction, try using a calorie calculator or working with a registered dietitian to determine your individual needs. You can also check out this article on “Calories to Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16/8” for more guidance.

Can I drink alcohol during my intermittent fasting window?

While an occasional drink during your eating window is unlikely to derail your intermittent fasting efforts, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake for optimal results. Alcohol is high in calories and low in nutrients, and it can also interfere with your sleep quality and blood sugar control.

If you do choose to drink, opt for lower-calorie options like wine, light beer, or spirits mixed with soda water, and be sure to stay hydrated by alternating each alcoholic drink with a glass of water.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to deciding what to eat during your 16-hour intermittent fasting window, the key is to focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods that will nourish your body and support your health goals. Prioritize a balance of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different meal timings and combinations to find what works best for you.

Remember, the goal of intermittent fasting isn’t to deprive yourself or follow a restrictive diet, but rather to create a sustainable eating pattern that supports your overall health and well-being. By filling your plate with nutritious, satisfying foods during your eating window, you’ll be setting yourself up for success on your weight loss and wellness journey.

And if you’re looking for more guidance and inspiration, be sure to check out these additional resources:

Happy fasting, my friend – and bon appétit!

Important Disclaimer: As with any new diet or lifestyle change, it’s important to consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting intermittent fasting, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. Intermittent fasting may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, underweight, or have a history of disordered eating. Remember to always prioritize your overall health and well-being, and don’t hesitate to seek support if needed. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.

Molly Winter

About the author

Molly Winter, RDN & CPT, is passionate about helping you achieve optimal health through balanced nutrition and enjoyable exercise. With years of experience and a wealth of knowledge, she provides practical advice and delicious recipes to make healthy living sustainable. Join her on this journey to a healthier, happier you!

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