I am a huge fan of the 21 day Daniel Fast! I do the Daniel Fast at the beginning of every New Year and find that it is the perfect way to jump start the year. During this 21-day period, I renew my body, mind, and soul towards God. It is a great way to gain clarity and direction for the New Year, and to draw closer to God. Think of it as a spiritual, physical, and emotional reset. I absolutely love it, and hope you do too!
The 21-Day Daniel Fast
But, What is a Fast?
Okay, I hear you. Does the idea of a fast seem…dated? Have you heard of it but not sure what it actually is? No worries, I’ll explain. The textbook definition of fasting is, “a willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time”. Fasting is biblical, and was used frequently throughout the Bible by (but not limited to) Moses, Elijah, Esther, Job, David, Daniel, Paul, and even Jesus.
There are many different types of fasts including:
- Absolute Fast (or dry fast) – Abstinence from all food and liquid for a period of time (usually 24 hours to a few days)
- Water Fast – Allows water drinking but nothing else
- Partial Fast – Restrict certain foods and drink
- Juice Fast – Allows squeezed or blended foods only
Through fasting and prayer, we set ourselves up to be in the best possible position for breakthrough. It’s a practice of self-discipline that brings amazing spiritual results. When I am not able to hear from God or am really needing an answer to prayer, fasting works when nothing else will. It is truly amazing.
And I am not the only one to experience this. Countless stories from friends and family have told me that by combining fasting and prayer, it produces an environment for God to come into our lives and create breakthrough.
So What is a Daniel Fast
The Daniel Fast is an actual fast that the prophet Daniel did in the Book of Daniel from the Bible. It follows his dietary and spiritual practices which includes a partial fast (restricted food and drink) over the course of 21 days. It focuses heavily on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grain foods, and eliminates certain foods such as meats, sugars, and any beverage except water.
A reference from the Book of Daniel is below:
Wait, I thought the Daniel Fast for 21 Days?
To understand the length of time for the Daniel Fast we have to have a general understanding of the Book of Daniel.
Here’s a quick rundown:
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had seized Jerusalem and wanted to take some of Judah’s strongest, healthiest, and brightest young men back to Babylon as captives. Daniel and three others were chosen, and were to be trained for three years in Babylon. After the three-year period, they would then would enter the Babylon royal service.
Daniel was determined to not “defile” himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. Instead, Daniel asked for permission to not eat these unacceptable foods. However, his request was denied because they were afraid Daniel and his friends would become pale and thin compared to the other young men their age.
Daniel then spoke with the attendant and asked to be “tested” for 10 days on a diet of vegetables/pulses (“pulses” = vegetables, fruits, seeds, and grains) and water. At the end of 10 days, they were to be compared to the other men who were eating the king’s food. The attendant agreed to the test, and at the end of 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than the other young men. From then on Daniel and his friends only ate a diet of vegetables (pulses).
I know what you’re thinking, what about the 21-day fast?
So, fast forward to the 10th chapter of Daniel, where he says the following;
The context of this passage is when Daniel receives a vision from God, and is so troubled by it he mourns and prays for understanding for three weeks. By “choice foods” we can assume this is most likely breads and sweets. Nonetheless, during this period, Daniel chose to restrict his food intake down to the basics; only vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and water. The purpose was to not indulge in tasty foods so he could focus on God.
However, a fast can be for any specific period of time. It can be as short as only a day or two, and for as long as you choose. Moses and Jesus even fasted for 40 days! I personally like to do the Daniel Fast twice a year; once during the New Year for the full 21 days, and again in June for one week. I find this is perfect for me to have a bi-annual renewal and spiritual reset. 🙂
The Daniel Fast: Food List
Since the Daniel Fast is a partial fast (restricting certain foods and drink) there isn’t a limit to the amount of food you can eat, but instead the kinds of food you can eat.
Note: This is a general list from the information we are provided in the Bible. If you have any health issues or dietary restrictions, it is absolutely okay to tailor your fast to your specific needs. It is always best to consult a nutritionist or doctor before partaking in any fast.
Foods to Include During the Daniel Fast
All of these foods can be eaten any way you like. You could do raw or juiced for a more intense diet, or enjoy them cooked, steamed, grilled, or sautéed. The way that you choose to eat these foods is up to you. 🙂
- Fresh, frozen, juiced or cooked fruits are all okay
- Dried fruits without added sugar are okay
- Avoid canned fruits because of added sugar and preservatives
- Fresh, frozen, juiced or cooked vegetables are all okay
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams are all okay
- Avoid canned vegetables because of additives
All Whole Grains – All whole grains are okay including, but not limited to:
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Rice cakes
All Beans & Legumes – Can be canned or dried. Includes but not limited to:
- Pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils
- Hummus without added sugars
All Nuts & Seeds – Includes but not limited to:
- Peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, chia, flax, and hemp seeds
- Also includes all nut butter without added sugars
All Quality Oils – Includes but not limited to:
- Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, and coconut oil
- Water is allowed including, spring water and distilled water
- Vegetable or fruit juice (fresh squeezed only, no added sugars)
- Unsweetened coconut milk and almond milk
- Tofu, soy products, vinegar, seasonings, salt, herbs and spices
Foods to Avoid During the Daniel Fast
These foods should be avoided during the Daniel Fast. The most important thing is to CHECK THE LABELS before you eat anything. You will be shocked at the amount of added preservatives and sugars that are in most packaged or pre-made foods.
All Meat and Animal Products – Includes but not limited to:
- Beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and fish
All Dairy Products – Includes but not limited to:
- Milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and eggs
All Sweeteners/Sugars – Includes but not limited to:
- Any form of sugar
- Honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup
- Cookies, baked goods, gum, mints, candy, and chocolate
All Refined & Processed Foods – Includes but not limited to:
- Baked goods and breads (unless doesn’t include yeast or sugar)
- White flour, white rice, and crackers
- Foods with artificial preservatives, flavorings, additives, or chemicals
All Deep-fried Foods – Includes but not limited to:
- Potato chips, French fries, and tater tots
Beverages – Includes but not limited to:
- Coffee and tea (even decaf or herbal tea)
- Alcohol (even wine)
- Juices that aren’t fresh squeezed or without added sugars/preservatives
- Carbonated beverages
- Energy drinks
Wow this Looks Hard, is there a Cheat Day?
If this looks extremely limiting, then you are probably on the right track. 🙂 It will be a real test of self-control and discipline to follow through with this diet for an entire three-week period. However, if you “cheat” or are unable to make it the entire fast, don’t worry! The Daniel Fast is meant to be a time of renewal and closeness between you and God. It’s about your relationship with God, not your performance for God.
My first time doing the fast, I had booked a vacation during week 3 of the fast, and promised myself I would stick to the diet even on vacation. As you can imagine, this didn’t happen. If you are having a special dinner or there’s a birthday, or if your cravings are just getting the best of you, don’t beat yourself up! Have a cheat day or a cheat meal. The fast is to help you gain spiritual clarity and renewal with God. Not to beat yourself up for cheating here and there. 🙂
A Sample Daniel Fast Meal Plan
The key is to have plenty of “Daniel Fast friendly” foods at the ready! Plan your meals out ahead of time. This way you won’t be so hungry you just eat anything in sight. Never leave the house without snacks. An added bonus of the Daniel Fast is you might even find you save money by cooking your own meals instead of ordering out. 🙂
For an easy Daniel Fast cookbook, try out this one for 50 Daniel Fast Recipes by David Richards.
Daniel Fast Meals & Recipes
Banana and Date Oatmeal Smoothie
- 1 whole banana
- 5 pitted dates
- 1 tablespoon nut butter (I prefer almond)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened nut milk (I prefer coconut or almond)
- ¼ cup rolled oats
- 1 cup ice
- Optional: 1 tablespoon chia seeds, flax seeds, or hemp seeds
- Optional: 1 serving of a plant-based protein powder
Blend all ingredients together in a blender.
Snack: Snap peas and hummus
Quinoa and Avocado Salad
- 1 cup quinoa
- 3 ripe avocados, diced
- 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 pints of grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- In a small saucepan bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add in a pinch of salt if desired.
- Stir in 1 cup of quinoa.
- Reduce heat to LOW and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Mix together black beans, grape tomatoes, red onion, and yellow pepper in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Pour over vegetables.
- Once the quinoa is cooled, blend in the quinoa and avocados. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!
Snack: Steamed edamame and sea salt
Spaghetti squash with Marinara Sauce
- 1 medium spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- ½ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup red onion, chopped
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Place the spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking dish.
- Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. The flesh of the squash will be tender, and the skin is easily pierced with a fork.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the zucchini, onion, and garlic. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Add mushrooms and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper. Simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the squash is finished.
- When the squash is finished, scoop the flesh from the squash onto a plate. Using two forks, separate and fluff the strands of squash
- Combine the squash with the sauce in the skillet. Enjoy!
If you want these recipes as a FREE print out, just click the image below!
Benefits and Side-Effects of Fasting
Let’s start with the side-effects first so you’re fully aware of what could be happening to you.
Side-Effects of the Daniel Fast
As you change your eating habits, it’s common to experience one or all of the below:
- Muscle soreness
For me, I tend to have a headache and feel foggy and fatigued for the first three days. This is mostly because I love love love coffee, and my body is detoxing from the lack of caffeine. However, around day 4 or 5 I start feeling more energized than before!
My body also doesn’t handle beans very well. Because of this I try to avoid eating an excessive amount or else I might experience bloating.
I recommend to start the Daniel Fast on a Saturday, so if you are not feeling your best, you have the option to relax at home. 🙂
Benefits of the Daniel Fast
There are so many benefits of fasting. It’s fantastic and I honestly look forward to it every year! I am amazed at how effective fasting and fervent prayer can be. The two go hand in hand, and it makes complete sense. Our body, mind, and soul is all connected. The foods that we eat affect our bodies, which in turn affects our minds and souls.
- Draws you closer to God
- Makes you more sensitive, clear, and level-headed so you are able to hear God’s voice
- Able to experience breakthrough and answered prayers
- Able to experience more clarity and understanding about the direction for your life
- Helps you to depend and rely on God
It’s no coincidence that the Daniel Fast is 21 days, and it takes 21 days to break a habit. Through fasting you break down bad habits and addictions (ahem…for me that’s coffee and sugar).
- Breaks down bad habits and addictions
- Helps to detoxify your body
- Can experience an increase in energy levels
- Helps with a healthy form of weight loss
- Improves skin and hair through an increase in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (fruits and vegetables)
- Boosts your immune system
Fasting and Prayer
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, fasting and prayer is a wonderful way to draw closer to God and experience breakthrough. I just can’t say enough positive things about it. Fasting helps to focus your body, mind and spirit on God and not your own desires. It is common throughout the Bible (and life!) for a sacrifice to be made, in order to achieve breakthrough. We are asked to give our tithes first to God, in representation that we are putting Him first in our lives. In sports, we are required to train and sacrifice muscular fatigue and soreness in order to achieve our team goals. In our careers, we might be asked to sacrifice long work hours in order to reach our company goals.
When you experience hunger or cravings, use this time to lean in and depend on God. Ask for strength and perseverance. This is why I recommend spending extra quiet time with God (through prayer and bible study) during the fast. This is just as important as the actual dietary restrictions. If you are simply restricting your diet without seeking God, then you may still experience the physical/emotional benefits of a fast, without experiencing the spiritual benefits. But again, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day of bible study or forget to pray. This is not about performance, but about drawing closer to God. 🙂
Before doing the Daniel Fast, I recommend writing down any goals or prayer requests you hope to gain during the fast. I also recommend that you journal during the Daniel Fast. It is common for people to hear God more clearly so that is why it is important to write down everything as you experience it so you won’t forget. 🙂
The easiest way to do this is to have a Daniel Fast devotional. A great one (that’s super affordable!) is conveniently called The Daniel Fast Devotional by Nannette Elkins. I find this is the perfect way to create some sort of structure to your quiet time with God during the fast. 🙂
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Have you done the 21-day Daniel Fast? Love to know your thoughts below!