Many churches and individuals participate in a time of fasting and prayer at the start of the year. Others practice intermittent fasting throughout the year for the physical health and spiritual benefits.
As defined in the dictionary, fasting: abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, esp. as a religious observance.
If you’re intimidated by the idea of giving up food completely, the Daniel Fast is a great option which allows you to modify what you eat.
In addition to the spiritual elements of fasting, this meal plan is extremely healthy from a physical standpoint – in fact the Daniel Fast guidelines parallel popular diet recommendations for how you should eat as part of a healthy lifestyle ALL the time!
This post is going to be centered on the food-specific logistics of a Daniel Fast, but I would highly recommend you read about fasting in your bible and utilize more comprehensive resources about fasting, such as the books Fasting by Jentezen Franklin and The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life by Rick Warren
General Guidelines for the Daniel Fast
The guidelines for a Daniel fast are based on the commitment of Daniel and his friends not to eat the king’s choice food and wine. Instead they asked for “some vegetables to eat and water to drink” (Daniel 1:8-20).
Daniel Fast Guidelines:
- Drink only water
- Eat vegetables – which is interpreted to include plant-based foods: vegetables, fruit, and whole grains
- Abstain from all other foods – meat, animal products like dairy and butter, any processed foods, baked goods, sweeteners, artificial ingredients, etc.
The bible doesn’t include a detailed food list, so there is some disagreement about whether certain food items should be excluded (like leavened or unleavened bread). Obviously, there were none of the packaged convenience foods that we have today in Daniel’s time.
I don’t think it’s necessary to nitpick about individual food items, but would advise the following
- Eat foods in their natural form (what would come directly from the ground, with minimal to no processing)
- Decide what YOUR specifications are ahead of time and then stick to them. If you decide to eat flat bread (unleavened bread without yeast) as part of your fast, that’s great. If your original intent was to go without wheat/baked goods in any form, then stick to your plan even when the cravings come.
Nothing in this post is intended to be medical advice, it’s simply my personal experience and opinions.
Although the Daniel plan is generally safe, it’s always wise to speak with your physician about any major diet changes. If you’re pregnant, nursing, on medication, under the age of 18, or have any type of medical condition you should definitely check in with your doctor.
Possible side effects include
Gradually reducing caffeine, sugar, and other items before your fast begins will mitigate these side effects.
Starting and Ending Your Daniel Fast
Some ways to make the transition and process of fasting more effective:
- Begin to reduce and eliminate processed food, fast food, and caffeine at least 7 days before your fast.
- Increase your water intake. Recommendations are 64-96 ounces per day, or drink half your body weight in ounces, but you may feel best to drink even more while you’re fasting.
- Increase your intake of high fiber foods such as vegetables, beans and whole grains – the Daniel fast contains lots of fiber, which is good for your body but can be uncomfortable if rapidly increased and your body is not adjusted.
- Prepare in advance. Have a meal plan, go grocery shopping, and prep your food before you get started. Try to fix a big salad and/or soups so you have something ready when you’re in a hurry.
- Get plenty of rest throughout. Your body will need it, and your mind will be better able to focus on the purpose and intent of your fast.
- Avoid overly tempting situations if possible. Now is not the best time to go to a restaurant buffet.
- After your fast – SLOWLY incorporate excluded foods back into your diet. It can be really challenging, but your body will feel miserable if you gorge the day after your fast ends.
Foods to Avoid on a Daniel Fast
- Animal Products: meat, fish, eggs, dairy (butter, cheese, milk, yogurt)
- Sweets: any form of sugar, agave, honey, molasses, syrup or artificial sweeteners
- Baked Goods: leavened breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, etc.
- Refined and Processed Foods: any artificial additives/chemicals/preservatives, packaged snacks like bars, chips, pretzels, cookies, white breads
- Drinks other than Water: alcohol, coffee, carbonated beverages and sodas, energy drinks, tea, juices that aren’t 100% natural
Foods to Eat
Here is a long list of foods included within a Daniel fast. Try to eat a variety of foods, vegetables of different colors, and fruit in moderation (since it does contain sugar).
Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables are included on the Daniel Fast: fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Examples include (but not limited to):
- Lemons and limes
- Brown Rice
- Popcorn (natural)
- Whole wheat unleavened bread like pitas and tortillas
- Canned or dried
- Beans: black, kidney, pinto, white
- Black eyed peas
Nuts and seeds
- Brazil Nuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Nut butters: Almond, cashew, peanut
- Plant based oils (olive, grapeseed, sesame)
- Sea salt or Himalayan salt
- Soy Sauce
Ready to Get Started?
Here are some meal plans, recipes, and shopping lists to help you plan:
- Daniel Fast Week 1 Meal Plan and Shopping List
- Daniel Fast Week 2 Meal Plan and Shopping List
- Daniel Fast Daily Meal Plan #1
- Daniel Fast Daily Meal Plan #2
- 7 Daniel Fast Breakfast Ideas
Have you ever done a Daniel Fast? I would love to hear about your experience, challenges, and triumphs in the comments below!