Diets get a bad reputation, particularly those that include calorie counting. But the Zone Diet is teaching people that calorie counting is merely a way to better control portions. A standard for healthy eating habits, portions are often overlooked ‒ yet remain one of the most effective methods for weight loss. Learn how this popular diet works, as well as the benefits and potential results, with our Zone Diet 101.
What is the Zone Diet?
First published in 1995, the Zone Diet was created 30 years ago by biochemist Dr. Barry Sears. Originally developed to prevent early death from heart attacks, it is said to balance hormones and reduce inflammation – which Sears proposes are a factor in weight gain, illness and aging. By keeping your hormones balanced, or “in the zone,” your metabolism will work more efficiently. Dieters are said to lose between 1 to 1.5 pounds of fat a week. To achieve these results, followers eat a ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat.
Zone Diet Blocks
The Zone Diet can be followed using one of two methods, both of which are equally effective. Beginner – or first-time dieters – may prefer to start with the hand-eye method before progressing to the Zone food blocks. Each is based around a “zone-friendly” plate, with portions from the three major nutrient groups: fat, protein and carbs. First, divide your plate into thirds and fill it as follows:
- One-third of your plate should consist of lean protein, close to the size and thickness of your palm.
- Two-thirds of your plate will be carbs, preferably with a low glycemic index ‒ to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
- A small portion of monounsaturated fats.
The hand-eye method is a simplified version that does not require calorie-counting. By using your palm size and eyes, you can estimate a correct portion size. Your five fingers are a reminder to eat five times a day, and to never go without eating for more than five hours. For example, each meal may consist of the recommended carbs and protein, with a snack of healthy fats in between.
Once you have mastered the hand-eye method, or if you prefer calorie counting, the Zone block method will help you precisely balance every meal. Adult males are recommended around 1,500 calories daily, and adult women 1,200. A Zone block is made up of one of each nutrient block:
- Protein block: 7 grams
- Carb block: 9 grams
- Fat block: 1.5 grams (or 3 grams for a fat-free protein)
The number of zone blocks you consume in a day varies by your weight, height, waist and hip measurements. On average, an adult male will consume 14 Zone blocks a day, while a woman will consume 11. As an example, a typical meal will likely consist of three to five Zone blocks, but a snack will only be one.
Approved Zone Diet Food List:
Lean Protein – Skinless chicken or turkey, fish or shellfish, beef, pork, lamb, egg whites, tofu or soy, cheese, milk or yogurt.
Carbohydrates – Mainly vegetables, some grains and a little fruit – such as peppers, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, squash, oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, cranberries, guavas, citrus and more.
Fat – Nuts, chia seeds, or natural peanut butter, avocados, oils and tahini.
Foods You Should Avoid:
Unlike most other diets, there are no foods that are banned in the Zone diet. However, the following should be avoided, as they increase inflammation:
High-sugar fruits and vegetables – This group can include bananas, pineapple, raisins, cranberries, peas, potatoes and corn.
Processed foods – From soda, to cereal and bread – this group includes items that are processed, refined or contain added sugars. Other items include pasta, bagels, muffins, cookies, cakes and candy.
Coffee and tea – Acceptable from time-to-time; however, a minimum of eight eight-ounce glasses of water should be consumed daily.
Pros and Cons of The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is lax, with its own share of pros and cons. It is a long-term diet meant to improve your overall health, rather than stop once a goal is met. For this reason, it is important that you choose a method you are able to maintain. While calories do count, you are not required to count them, unless you choose to do so. When dining out, Zone-friendly plates are easily found. However, you will likely have to plan to take some home. If you prefer eating in, an abundance of recipes and meal plans are available online. And most importantly, you will never go hungry or find yourself bored. Despite being portioned, these meals will keep you full and allow for delicious dining.
At Solutions Weight Loss, we encourage all of our patients to seek a lifestyle change, rather than a temporary diet. Not only will you see long-lasting results, but you will feel them! Dr. Newsome, and our team, can help you achieve your weight loss goals and maintain a healthier life. Everyone is different and deserves personalized recommendations and individualized attention. Contact us today!
Every diet plan – including the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet and the ketogenic diet – work on the principle of modifying the portion of certain foods or food groups consumed on a daily basis, as well as eliminating certain types of food entirely. Now, the Whole30 diet program is sweeping the nation as not just a weight loss program (it pointedly does not use the word “diet”), but a supportive community of devotees dedicated to achieving and maintaining a truly transformative quality of life experience.
Developed by co-founders Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig in 2009, Whole30 is designed to change the way you eat and feel in 30 days. The website describes the program as “… a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.”
While that sounds like a pretty tall order, Whole30 achieves all of this and more by explicitly targeting the individual’s emotional and habitual relationship with food. The program revolves around breaking unhealthy behavioral patterns, putting a full-stop to stress-related comfort eating, and reducing carbohydrate and sugar cravings. Many people on the Whole30 program report having achieved food freedom within the 30-day period.
The purpose is to understand how your body responds to some foods. You eliminate these foods completely and then gradually reinstate them after 30 days. If you think these foods still work well for you, fine, and in case you find something that helps your body feel good, that’s even better!
The foods on the Whole30 program
Whole30 doesn’t ask you to leave your favorite foods forever. You are only asked to abstain from eating some foods and beverages for 30 days, and then slowly reinstate them. As mentioned earlier, the aim is to understand how your body responds to some foods.
Here is a partial list of permitted foods:
- Vegetables – Eat as many as you want.
- Fruits –Allowed in moderation, due to limits on sugar intake.
- Seafood – Allowed, including shellfish.
- Unprocessed meats – Make sure they don’t contain added sugar or preservatives.
- Eggs – No limit.
- Nuts and seeds – Allowed, except for peanuts (which is a legume, rather than a tree nut).
- Coffee – Allowed, but only without milk products or sugar.
- Oils and ghee – Olive and coconut oil are allowed, as well as ghee (clarified butter).
Following is a partial list of foods to avoid during the 30-day program:
- Dairy products – Includes cheese, butter (except for ghee), yogurt, cow’s milk, kefir and cream (sour or otherwise).
- Legumes – No members of this family, including soy (soy sauce, tofu, edamame or miso), peas, chickpeas, peanuts and lentils.
- Grains – Includes wheat, corn, quinoa, sprouted grains, millet, rye, bulgur, buckwheat, amaranth and sorghum.
- Alcohol – Abstain completely during the 30-day period, including using alcohol for cooking. Vanilla extract is also on the forbidden list.
- Added sugar in all forms – including artificial sweetener – This includes sugar in natural forms, such as maple or agave syrup. Check the label when shopping, as many items include some type or amount of sugar.
- Junk food – Almost needless to say. No baked goods, snack foods, ice cream, etc.
- MSG, sulfites and carrageenan – Common additives in processed foods. Carrageenan is a common additive in natural foods, and has been implicated in digestive system conditions.
The Whole30 community and forum
As mentioned earlier, Whole30 provides plenty of support and encouragement for those following the program. The Whole30 Forum is designed to help navigate the Whole30 program, ask questions and seek advice from the program’s experts. Those who have been through the program can share their success stories and provide motivation for others.
From features, updates and news from the Whole30 team to rules, regulations, recipes and books, you have everything on the Whole30 Forum that you wish to know and ask. There is something for everyone on the Forum – how to follow Whole30 with a medical condition, Whole30 for athletes and Whole30 while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Interacting with others sharing the Whole30 experience creates a community feeling, which greatly helps boost motivation. The Whole30 Community is like a close-knit family where you can get answers to questions, as well as track your meals, progress and results – and even share your recipes and success stories.
If the Whole30 program has had a positive effect on your life, you can become a certified Whole30 coach and help others by offering your resources and services to your local community.
We at Solutions Weight Loss encourage everyone to follow a healthy lifestyle by whatever means achieves the best result for each individual. If you’ve tried other programs and diets but feel that a medically supervised weight loss program may be what you need to achieve long-term results, contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. William E. Newsome and learn about your options.
Diet trends come and go faster than we can start them, but that does not hinder our curiosity. Consistently, they are chalked up to eliminating food groups or a restrictive food intake, setting us up for a mid-diet burnout or dangerous eating habits. Although some plans may achieve the desired results, they are often short-lived and lack practical healthy lifestyle choices. If you are ready to give yet another diet a go, we are happy to present our Mediterranean diet 101.
Consisting of well-balanced and relatively non-restrictive foods, the tried-and-true Mediterranean diet sets you up for a healthier, extended future. It focuses on the type of fats you eat, rather than how much. Online nutrition program, Real Living Nutrition Services, breaks down the difference between the three main fats found in our food. Along the way, you will learn about what food contains and how it has an impact on your overall health. As one of the few diets that will leave you both happy and healthy, it may be the right plan for you.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet encapsulates the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea in the 1960s. But why should you try the Mediterranean diet over other plans? To start, it was not developed in a lab, but evolved over 5,000 years based on a natural way of living. While the diet consists of a few basic rules, the meals created can be adapted to any local and seasonal food availability.
Elena Paravantes a Greek-American Registered Dietitian, founder of OliveTomato, and Culinary Nutritionist specializing in the Mediterranean Diet, explains that, “the diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables and olive oil, moderate amounts of carbohydrates, and small amounts of meat.”
Equally important, it is not just a weight loss plan, but promotes healthy living. The Mayo Clinic calls the diet “heart-healthy”, as it is associated with lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, thereby reducing your chance of heart disease. It is also said to reduce the chance of diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. For these reasons, most major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a similar diet. Notably, the base of the Mediterranean diet food pyramid consists of physical activity and interactive mealtimes. The Mediterranean lifestyle considers this aspect important, as it encourages healthy socialization.
Mediterranean Diet Meals
So what areas of your diet will change? Like the DASH Diet and Ketogenic Diet, it begins with a set calorie goal. A typical Mediterranean diet will range between 1,200 to 1,500 calories daily. This list will inform you about what you should and should not consume, as well as the recommended daily servings.
Meat and seafood – The ‘bad’ cholesterol previously mentioned is due to saturated fats ‒ which are the highest in red meat. The Mediterranean diet replaces meat with plant-based foods, although red meat can be enjoyed a few times a month. Eggs and poultry are better than red meat, but only in moderation. Instead, fresh fish or seafood is recommended up to twice a week, cooked in olive or canola oil.
Fruits and vegetables – As the base of every meal, an average of nine servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables should be consumed every day. At least one meal a day should include a salad or other leafy greens, so get your kale on! Other fruits and vegetable servings can include olives, figs, cherries, dates, tomatoes, grapes and melons, among others.
Grains – Unlike most diets, and a relief to many, bread is a staple in every Mediterranean meal. The only stipulation is that they are whole-grain. These contain tons of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Other grains and pasta are also regularly featured, from five to six servings a day. Whether it is dipped, smeared, or twirled on a fork, enjoy your carbs!
Nuts and seeds – A popular snack, raw nuts or seeds contain high doses of healthy fats, fiber and protein. You can have three to five one-ounce servings of raw nuts a week. The most popular are almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and sesame seeds. A fresh pesto or tahini is perfect for dipping whole-grain bread!
Dairy products – Approved dairy products are few and should be consumed in moderation. Try to stick to unprocessed and low-fat cheese and yogurt. For example, Greek yogurt, feta and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Other dairy products are eliminated, or can be replaced with olive oil, which is much more flavorful and rich in monounsaturated fats, omegas and antioxidants. Seven to 14 tablespoons is recommended weekly.
Seasonings – One large hurdle for many to overcome is the use of salt. Often consumed with pastas and grains, large amounts of salt can increase your blood pressure, putting you at risk for heart attack, stroke, dementia and kidney disease. Instead, the Mediterranean diet utilizes fresh herbs and spices, which have a variety of health benefits.
Beverages – If you have a hard time coping with a lack of your favorite dairy, take solace in the occasional glass of wine ‒ with your doctor’s approval. The Mediterranean diet allows up to five ounces of wine daily. Like any good diet, at least six glasses of water a day is recommended. If you want a little pick-me-up, a small unsweetened coffee or tea is fine.
Sweets – Unfortunately, sweets have no place in a Mediterranean diet, including sweeteners. If you are craving something sweet, a fresh and juicy piece of fruit will keep you full. A large grapefruit, nectarine or apple can go a long way.
Conveniently, most Mediterranean meals require little preparation. For example, our easy Mediterranean omelet. Like all dishes, it contains the freshest ingredients and consists of a range of flavors. Many assume that Mediterranean meals are strictly Greek, but they include foods from many countries, such as Morocco, Spain and Turkey. Don’t be afraid to look further! If you have a hard time discovering dishes, Healthline offers a helpful example of a week’s worth of Mediterranean meals.
If you are still feeling uninspired, Dr. Newsome would love to assist you in your diet plan decision. Start your weight loss journey with the care and knowledge of a physician who understands the frustrations and challenges of weight loss. Contact us at Solutions Weight Loss, the preferred Orlando weight loss clinic.