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How to Get Started: Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an of-the-moment eating style that includes short periods of fasting. While there are many ways you can do it, the most common way is the 16/8 method. The 16/8 method includes fasting for 16 hours with an 8-hour eating window every day. While not eating for 16+ hours can seem intimidating, there’s no need to be too afraid. It’s best to start small and build up, anyway. But how?

You can gradually increase the number of hours you fast for and the number of days a week you fast. Alternatively, you can gradually decrease the amount of food you eat during fasting times. Read on for some tips on how to shift your eating schedule.

8 Ways to Ease Into Intermittent Fasting

1. Cut evening snacks

movie theater popcorn
  • The snacks we choose to consume at night tend to be of fairly low quality. When evening cravings (or boredom) strike, most people reach for salty and sweet snacks. We sip, munch, and crunch on sugary drinks, chips, and chocolate. These snacks offer us few nutrients and plenty of empty calories.
  • We also tend to eat late-night snacks more mindlessly, as we watch movies or surf social media. Mindless eating can easily lead to over-consuming and under-enjoying food.
  • Whether you choose to fully commit to the 16/8 method or not, swapping out unhealthy after-dark snacks will improve your health. If you must munch, there are plenty of healthier options available.

[Staff picks: Our favorite grab-and-go snacks]

2. Eat dinner earlier

woman dishing up healthy dinner with red wine
  • Once you’ve said good-bye to bedtime snacks, the next step is shifting dinner a bit earlier. This step can be a tricky one, as we sometimes put dinner off until hunger strikes. #8 on this list can help.
  • This change can be gradual in itself too. You don’t have to jump from 9 p.m. dinners to 5 p.m. dinners in one day. You can try gradually shifting dinner time to the earlier hours of the evening, shooting for an earlier dinner time on certain days of the week, or both.

3. Gradually eat breakfast later

bowl of filling oatmeal with berries and yogurt

This step is essentially just shortening your eating window from the other side, so the same tips apply. This is a good option for people who aren’t hungry in the morning. Eating breakfast at work as a late morning snack or eating an early lunch are two options.

4. Skip breakfast or replace it with beverages that don’t spike your insulin

black bulletproof coffee instead of breakfast for intermittent fasting next to laptop

If you’re eating breakfast later or skipping it altogether, certain beverages can tide you over. There are two schools of thought on approved beverages during fasting:

  1. You should only consume drinks with zero calories: This approach to fasting suggests that anything with calories can give you energy and therefore break your fast. This means beverage options include water and unsweetened/plain tea or coffee. Zero calorie drinks sweetened with stevia (carbonated or uncarbonated) also fall into this category.
  2. You should only consume drinks that don’t cause an insulin spike: This approach sees insulin spikes as the end to a fast. This means drinks who source all of their calories from fat do not break the fast. The most popular of these drinks at the moment is probably “bulletproof” coffee.

Keep in mind that bulletproof coffee and other similar beverages are controversial (largely because of their high levels of saturated fat). Look out for an upcoming article weighing the pros and cons.

5. Drink more water, tea, and maybe coffee throughout your fasting period

colorful herbal tea bags

Keeping yourself hydrated will help manage your appetite and your digestion. If you fast in the evenings, make sure you avoid beverages that contain caffeine and opt for caffeine free or herbal drinks instead.

6. Eat less during the fasting window, and gradually decrease to 0%

empty plate symbol of intermittent fasting

This method can be applied to any form of fasting, and can be a good way to let your body adjust to periods of time with little or no food intake.

7. Eat more filling foods, especially for you last meal before your fast begins

grid of colorful legumes

Nutritious foods that contain plenty of fiber, protein, and volume are the most filling. Whole unprocessed foods are also generally more filling than processed ones. In one particular study on satiety (fullness), whole boiled potatoes (with the skin) were found to be particularly filling. Other filling foods include eggs, oatmeal, fish, Greek yogurt, meat, fruits and vegetables, legumes, quinoa, and nuts.

You’ll notice many of these foods are included in the tried-and-true Mediterranean Diet.

8. Meal prep

prepped meal with chicken rice and broccoli
Of course glass, microwaveable meal prep containers are better than plastic.

Meal prepping can make shortening your eating window much easier. It can mean prepping breakfast to take to work, or prepping dinner to eat immediately upon your return. Prepped meals also tend to be healthier.

Hopefully, these intermittent fasting techniques make starting seem a bit less intimidating. Which of these tips did you find to be most helpful? Let us know in the comments.