Fasting Update: The Soup and Noodles Solution

by Jimmy Akin

in Diet

miracle noodle pho

In the months I’ve been doing Intermittent Fasting (IF), I’ve changed around what I’ve been eating for my one meal a day, and I’ve noted that (as expected) different meal types have resulted in different amounts of weight loss.

(NOTE: In addition to the food choices discussed below, I’ve also been taking my vitamins and nutritional supplements to make sure I’m not missing out on needed nutrients.)



Phase 1: Low Carb IF

When I first started IF, I was eating a low carb diet, and I saw rapid weight loss. This was great, and very encouraging.

However, I’d spent something like 15 years (maybe more) eating low carb, and the number of calories I was eating in the one meal was low enough that I decided to try . . .


Phase 2: The Carb Vacation

In this phase I largely went off the low carb diet I’d been on for so long, and in my one daily meal I allowed myself to eat a more normal American diet–e.g., regular pizza, pasta, etc. (not the low carb versions).

I still kept the carbs somewhat down–e.g., I would eat thin crust pizza instead of regular or thick crust–but I allowed myself more carbs than I had in ages.

I also allowed myself popcorn, which has some carbs but not a huge amount (especially if you do the little 110-130 calorie microwave bags).

The carb vacation was fun, but I noticed that it slowed down my weight loss dramatically. I was still losing, but not nearly as fast, and that began to get discouraging.

So it was time for . . .


Phase 3: Fewer Calories and Carbs

I started drawing down the number of calories and carbs I was eating, with the primary emphasis being on reducing calories. The lower those go, the less the ratio of macronutrients (carbs/fat/protein) matters.

At the zero point, a percentage of nothing is still nothing, and the macronutrient ratios don’t matter at all.

I wasn’t at the zero point, but I wanted to get closer, and as I did so, I saw the weight loss rate increase again. (Still without the hunger you might think would be there; since my body is in fat-burning mode, it has a fuel source and doesn’t need to turn on the hunger signal.)

One food I started turning to in this period was soups–the pre-made kind (Progresso, Campbells, etc.), just for convenience.

Because they’re mostly liquid, soups have a lot of heft to them (meaning: they weigh more in your stomach) and, though their carb counts are higher than what I’d normally want, they typically don’t have that many calories.

A large can of soup has a net weight of around 18.5 ounces (more than a pound of food with all that liquid!), but comparatively few calories. For comparison purposes (based on what I currently have in the kitchen):

  • 1 large can Campbell’s Chunky Creamy Chicken & Dumplings: 340 calories
  • 1 large can Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo: 280 calories
  • 1 large can Progresso Chicken Noodle: 140 calories

Also, soup is hot food, and that helps, too.

I’ve always liked crackers with my soup, but instead of that I’d allow myself to have popcorn, which is high in crunch factor (satisfying the psychological need to chew) but lower in carbs and calories than crackers.

With the new emphasis on fewer calories and carbs, I saw the weight loss pick up again!

Around this time I also started . . .


Phase 4: Adding a Snack

When I first started doing research on IF, I ran into advisors talking about occasionally allowing oneself a very low calorie snack (e.g., 35-50 calories).

Now, the whole point of intermittent fasting is not to be eating all the time. If you let yourself adopt the “grazing” strategy that has been so prominently recommended in (misguided) diet advice in recent years, you’ll ruin what you’re doing and may actually gain weight.

Consequently, at first I didn’t use any snacks. But occasionally I would have a psychological need to just chew something, even though I wasn’t hungry.

So I re-thought the snacking issue and decided to experiment with allowing myself to have up to 1 snack a day (many days I still have 0 snacks), of a very low calorie variety, on the view that a single bump of <100 calories sometime during the day would not materially throw off weight loss.

I’ve written about snacking ideas here.

Quick tips:

  1. Sliced bell peppers make good snacks
  2. So do homemade pickles

Also: Most pickling recipes are way overcomplicated. All you need to do is put sliced cucumbers into a container, cover them with apple cider vinegar (or another vinegar, but apple cider vinegar tastes better), and leave them in the fridge for a few days. That’s all!

My experience was that, indeed, adding this form of minimal snacking did not materially interfere with weight loss.

By this point I was optimizing the basic strategy, so I carried the optimization further in . . .


Phase 5: Low-Carb Soups and Noodles

As I turned over ideas for further optimization in my head, I started thinking about how to further improve the soup strategy.

The things that make soups satisfying include:

  • It’s got taste
  • It’s got heft (weight, due to all the liquid)
  • It’s hot

So what could I do to get the calories down while retaining the satisfaction level of a well-made soup?

The first thing that occurred to me was egg-drop soup.

All you really need for that is chicken broth and eggs. Everything else is optional (some good options include: black and white pepper, salt or salt substitute, green onion garnish, mushrooms or other low-carb, low-cal veggies).

So I pulled out a carton of chicken broth and a carton of Egg Beaters (which are really colored egg whites, so they’re lower in calorie than whole eggs–though whole eggs are fine), and was very pleased with the results!

Also, my mind drifted back to the various low-carb noodles that exist. The best ones are:

What all these have in common is that they are basically fiber and water, which means they satisfy the need to chew, take up space in your stomach, and have next to no calories.

Noodles (whether low carb or not) also are meant to have basically no taste, so you need to add something to them (e.g., a sauce) to give them flavor.

So I thought: Why not use these in soups?

The different noodles have different properties. Zucchini noodles won’t withstand boiling well, so they need to be put in near the end of cooking.

Shirataki noodles will withstand boiling, and they have a more chewy texture, which would help with the psychological need to chew even better than zucchini noodles.

The downside of shirataki noodles is that they often have an odor that needs to be taken care of by boiling or–better–by dry roasting (i.e., fry them in a pan with no oil), although Skinny Pasta (not the same as Skinny Noodles) claims to have eliminated the odor issue (I’ve got some on order; will let you know what I find).

It struck me that a particularly good bet would be kelp noodles. These don’t have the odor problem that shirataki noodles do, and they can have an almost crunchy texture, which would give even more chewing satisfaction.

But all three kinds of noodles could work: I could get broth (chicken, beef, veggie) or a soup base (e.g., miso, pho, hot and sour), add the noodles, and have a really good, satisfying, low-cal, low-carb soup!

I could even add low-carb, low-cal veggies to the soup and keep everything in the range I wanted.

This seemed so obvious that I thought, “Why hasn’t someone already done this commercially?”

As I was in the store picking up ingredients to do just this, I discovered much to my surprise that someone already had!

Miracle Noodles has produced a line of ready-to-heat-and-eat foods incorporating their product (a version of shirataki noodles), including the Miracle Noodle Pho pictured above. (They have several other, similar products–see the scrolling flavor selector on the right of the Amazon page.)

I’ve already tried the pho, and it was awesome! It comes only with noodles and sauce (you have to add your own veggies if you want them), but it was really good! And a whole package (2 servings) is only 76 calories!

With that few calories, one could even have a big bowl of soup as a snack during the day and another at night.

So that’s what I’ve been doing recently.

I might, for example, have a bowl of nothing but chicken or miso broth and low-carb noodles during the day (keeping the calories to 50 or so), and then another, more elaborate bowl (with veggies and popcorn) during the night.

Also, soup is not the only thing to which one can add to such noodles. Other things can give them flavor.

Thus I’ve been experimenting with low-carb, low-cal mac and cheese (ziti shaped low carb noodles plus a cheese sauce). In this case, to keep the calories low, I’ve deviated from standard low-carb advice and used low-calorie cheeses for the sauce. On a normal low-carb diet, you don’t do that since low-cal substitutes typically have more carbs, but the number of carbs we’re dealing with here is so small that it doesn’t matter.

Other sauces–e.g., pasta sauces–are also totally possible.

So that’s the current phase of my diet, which is based on Intermittent Fasting using low-cal, low-carb noodles in low-cal, low-carb soups and sauces. These aren’t the only things I’m eating (and I am taking my vitamins to make sure I’m getting enough micronutrients), but they are the core.

And the results have been dramatic! I’ve seen more rapid weight loss since implementing this strategy than I have since I started the program.

Of course, I won’t eat this way indefinitely. But I have found this–in my case (no medical advice is being offered here)–to be a useful strategy to incorporate during this phase of my journey.

And, as I’m only 15-25 lbs from what may be my ultimate goal (having lost 128 lbs overall and 66 lbs since beginning Intermittent Fasting), I’m going to be changing my eating plan soon enough anyway.


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Jaine July 31, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your tips…you’re definitely an inspiration! my husband is 400 lb plus and has been struggling to lose weight since his layoff a feevyears ago. everyday is a struggle but watching you and all that you do and praying for health has helped this past mont. he is now down 20 pounds and looking forward to maintaining it off…any tips are greatly appreciated!!

Gale August 2, 2017 at 6:03 am

I can understand how you’d need something crunchy to snack on, since you’re now only eating soups for your one meal. I seem to be stuck on a new “set point” after losing 20+ lbs. I think I need a bit more exercise now, and probably to cut out creamer in my coffee, and drink more water instead of watered-down lemonade. One of the best things about intermittent fasting is not thinking about/planning for one’s food all day, and being able to eat a reasonable meal (whatever meal you choose) and not be starving on a diet.

Jan August 2, 2017 at 6:03 pm


You will reach your ultimate goal. :)

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