Fasting without starving: 7 Foods to eat in a fasting-mimicking diet

Fasting mimicking diet is a revolutionary approach that allows you to harness the power of fasting without subjecting yourself to prolonged hunger pangs and nutritional deprivation.

This article will explore the intricacies of fasting-mimicking diets, their scientific basis, and why they have become popular for those seeking the benefits of fasting without the traditional struggles.

Whether you’re a seasoned fasting enthusiast or a newcomer looking to enhance your well-being, join us on this informative journey to discover how fasting without starving is achievable but also sustainable, enjoyable, and transformative.

How does fasting mimicking diet work?

Fasting-mimicking diets, often abbreviated as FMDs, represent a groundbreaking approach to reaping the benefits of fasting without enduring the hardships of prolonged food deprivation. 

To fully grasp the concept, let’s dive into what fasting-mimicking diets entail and how they differ from traditional fasting.

What is a fasting-mimicking diet?

A fasting-mimicking diet is a structured eating plan designed to replicate the physiological effects of fasting while still allowing for the consumption of a limited number of calories and specific nutrients.

  • Caloric restriction

Unlike traditional fasting, which often involves complete abstinence from food, FMDs permit a reduced caloric intake, typically ranging from 40% to 60% of your usual daily caloric needs.

  • Time-limited

Fasting-mimicking diets are generally practiced for a set number of consecutive days, usually ranging from three to five days, although longer durations are possible [1].

  • Nutrient composition

These diets emphasize specific macronutrients and food types to support the fasting-mimicking process while ensuring essential nutrients are provided to the body.

How does it differ from traditional fasting?
Photograph: insidecreativehouse/Envato

How does it differ from traditional fasting?

Traditional fasting often involves a complete cessation of caloric intake, sometimes for extended periods. Fasting-mimicking diets, on the other hand, involve strategic caloric intake, allowing for a more sustainable approach.

  • Easier adherence

FMDs are often considered more approachable and feasible for many individuals since they mitigate the intense hunger and discomfort often associated with traditional fasting.

  • Safety and health considerations

Fasting-mimicking diets are generally regarded as safer for longer-term use and may offer advantages in terms of nutrient balance and safety.

  • Scientific foundation

FMDs are based on scientific research into fasting’s mechanisms and aim to replicate its beneficial effects on cellular health, metabolism, and overall well-being.

  • Customizability

FMDs can be tailored to individual preferences and health goals, allowing for flexibility in duration and nutrient composition.

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What foods are in the fasting mimicking diet?

To make the most of your fasting-mimicking diet and ensure it remains both satisfying and nutritionally balanced, it’s crucial to focus on specific foods that support your body’s needs during the fasting-mimicking phase. 

Here are the seven essential foods that can elevate your fasting-mimicking diet:

1. Fatty fish

Salmon, mackerel, sardines: These fatty fish varieties are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and provide satiety during your fasting-mimicking days.

2. Nuts and seeds

Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds: Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats, fiber, and essential minerals, helping you stay energized and full throughout the day.

3. Leafy green

Spinach, kale, swiss chard: Leafy greens offer vital nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals, while contributing to the overall volume of your meals [2].

4. Avocado

Creamy and filling: Avocado provides healthy monounsaturated fats, contributing to a feeling of fullness and promoting overall satisfaction.

5. Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries: Berries are antioxidant-rich, helping your body combat oxidative stress and inflammation during the fasting-mimicking period.

6. Bone broth

Collagen-rich broth: Bone broth is a source of collagen and essential amino acids, aiding in tissue repair and supporting joint health.

7. Herbal teas

Calorie-free hydration: Herbal teas not only keep you hydrated but also provide flavor variety, helping to break up the monotony of fasting-mimicking days.

Meal-planning on an FMD diet

Effective meal planning is the key to a successful fasting-mimicking diet. Here, we’ll guide you through the process and provide sample menus to help you get started on your fasting-mimicking journey. 

Daily caloric intake guidelines

Before we delve into sample menus, it’s essential to understand the daily caloric intake guidelines for a fasting-mimicking diet. Typically, you should aim for:

  • Day 1: About 40% of your usual daily caloric intake.
  • Days 2-5: Approximately 20-30% of your normal daily caloric intake.

Sample menus

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach and cherry tomatoes.
  • Lunch: Baked salmon with a side of steamed broccoli.
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken breast with mixed greens and a vinaigrette dressing.
  • Snack: A small handful of almonds.

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries and a drizzle of honey.
  • Lunch: Tuna salad with leafy greens and olive oil dressing.
  • Dinner: Baked cod with asparagus and lemon.
  • Snack: Celery sticks with almond butter.

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Omelet with mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.
  • Lunch: Spinach and feta stuffed chicken breast with a side salad.
  • Dinner: Shrimp stir-fry with broccoli and snap peas.
  • Snack: A small serving of mixed berries.

Day 4

  • Breakfast: Cottage cheese with pineapple chunks.
  • Lunch: Seared scallops with a side of sautéed kale.
  • Dinner: Roasted turkey breast with Brussels sprouts.
  • Snack: Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus.

Day 5

  • Breakfast: Smoked salmon with avocado slices.
  • Lunch: Quinoa salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, and lemon-tahini dressing.
  • Dinner: Grilled tilapia with zucchini noodles.
  • Snack: A small serving of mixed nuts.

Combining foods for maximum benefits

When planning your meals, aim to balance macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) to ensure sustained energy and satiety throughout the day [3]. 

Additionally, include a variety of the seven essential foods mentioned earlier to maximize the nutritional benefits of your fasting-mimicking diet.

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How do you prepare for fasting mimicking diet?

Navigating a fasting-mimicking diet can be both rewarding and challenging. To ensure a successful and satisfying experience, consider the following tips and tricks:

1. Stay hydrated

Hydration is crucial during fasting-mimicking days. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to curb hunger, support detoxification processes, and maintain overall well-being.

2. Managing hunger pangs

  • Herbal teas: Sip on calorie-free herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, or ginger to help suppress appetite and add flavor to your fasting days.
  • Gentle spices: Incorporate herbs and spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger into your meals for added flavor and potential appetite suppression.

3. Dos and don’ts

  • Low-intensity activities: Engage in light exercises such as walking or yoga during fasting-mimicking days to promote circulation and reduce muscle stiffness.
  • Avoid intense workouts: High-intensity workouts can be challenging while fasting. Save these for non-fasting days to prevent exhaustion.

4. Mindful eating and distraction

Practice mindful eating by savoring each bite, chewing slowly, and being present during your meals to enhance the sense of satisfaction. Engage in activities that distract you from thoughts of food, such as reading, meditation, or hobbies.

Mindful eating and distraction

5. Progressive adaptation

If you’re new to fasting-mimicking diets, consider starting with shorter fasting periods and gradually extending the duration as your body becomes accustomed to the experience.

Is fasting mimicking diet safe?

While fasting-mimicking diets offer numerous potential health benefits, they may not be suitable for everyone, and there are risks to consider. Before embarking on such a dietary regimen, it’s crucial to be aware of these potential risks and take necessary precautions:

Who should avoid fasting-mimicking diets?

  • Pregnant or nursing women

Fasting-mimicking diets may not provide adequate nutrients for expectant or breastfeeding mothers and their infants. It’s crucial for pregnant and nursing women to prioritize their nutritional needs.

  • Children and adolescents

Growing individuals require a consistent and balanced diet to support their development. Fasting-mimicking diets are not recommended for children and teenagers [4].

  • Individuals with eating disorders

Fasting-mimicking diets may exacerbate eating disorder behaviors and thought patterns. Those with a history of eating disorders should avoid these diets.

  • People with certain medical conditions

Individuals with diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or other chronic health conditions should consult their healthcare provider before attempting fasting-mimicking diets, as these diets can affect blood sugar levels and metabolic processes. 

Possible side effects and how to mitigate them

  • Hunger and irritability

It’s common to experience hunger and irritability during fasting-mimicking days. Staying hydrated, consuming herbal teas, and practicing mindful eating can help manage these feelings.

  • Low energy

Reduced calorie intake can lead to fatigue. Engaging in light activities, getting enough rest, and avoiding strenuous exercises can alleviate this.

  • Nutrient deficiencies

Prolonged or repeated fasting-mimicking diets may result in nutrient deficiencies. Ensure that your diet is well-balanced and that you meet your nutritional needs on non-fasting days.

  • Digestive discomfort

Some people may experience digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. Incorporating fiber-rich foods and staying hydrated can help regulate bowel movements.

Consulting a healthcare professional

Before starting a fasting-mimicking diet, especially if you have underlying health conditions or concerns [5], consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance and ensure the diet is safe for you.

If you experience severe or persistent side effects, discontinue the fasting-mimicking diet and seek medical advice.

Final takeaways

In the world of health and nutrition, fasting without starving has become more achievable and accessible than ever before, thanks to fasting-mimicking diets. 

Whether you’re seeking weight management, improved metabolic health, enhanced cognition, or longevity, fasting-mimicking diets offer a sustainable and enjoyable path toward these goals.

As you explore this transformative approach, remember that the true power of fasting without starving lies not just in the foods you consume, but in the profound impact it can have on your health and well-being.


What is a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD)?

A fasting-mimicking diet is a structured eating plan designed to replicate the physiological effects of fasting while still allowing for the consumption of a limited number of calories and specific nutrients.

How does a fasting-mimicking diet differ from traditional fasting?

Unlike traditional fasting, which often involves complete abstinence from food, fasting-mimicking diets permit a reduced caloric intake, usually ranging from 40% to 60% of your usual daily calories.

What are the health benefits of fasting-mimicking diets?

Fasting-mimicking diets have been associated with various health benefits, including improved metabolic health, weight management, cellular rejuvenation, and potential benefits for conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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Photograph: TaniaJoy/Envato
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