The Zone Diet
Written by Dr. Barry Sears, a biochemist, the Zone Diet is a low carb, high protein diet based on ratios of carbohydrate to protein and fat that Dr. Sears claims will produce optimum fat-burning and weight loss. The plan divides each meal into proportions, 40 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein and 30 percent from fat.
Each meal and snack should follow these ratios and include carbohydrate, protein and fat. Carbohydrates should come from mostly fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains. Proteins should be lean meats and you should eat no more than 3 to 4 ounces per meal and 1 ounce per snack. Fats should come from healthy sources like olive and canola oils.
This diet encourages fresh vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables; fresh fruit; nuts; lean meats; monounsaturated fats and at least 8 glasses of water a day. But no foods are really prohibited on the Zone Diet; however, high sugar, high sodium and highly processed foods are discouraged.
The plan encourages three meals and two snacks (one in the afternoon and one in the evening). The timing of meals on this diet plan are pretty strict, it instructs you to eat within one hour of waking in the morning and then every 4 to 6 hours after a meal or 2 to 2 ½ hours after a snack – even if you aren’t hungry. In fact, if you aren’t hungry than the diet claims you are in the zone. A meal should not exceed 500 calories and a snack should be within 100 calories.
The dieter can choose from different methods to put together a balanced Zone meal.
A. The Hand-Eye Method relies on your hand and a plate, with no math or measuring necessary. You visually divide your plate into three sections. One third of your plate, on the Zone Diet plan, is for lean protein and the remaining two thirds are for favorable carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables. Meats should be about the size and thickness of your palm. Once you have filled your plate with the required foods, add a touch of beneficial fat such as avocado or olive oil.
B. The Zone Counts Method offers a more exact method for calculating carbohydrates. Here, you add up your carbohydrates based on the Zone Counts values. Women can eat 15 Counts per meal, men 20 Counts per meal, and 5 Counts for snacks for either gender. A Zone Counts Index is available online or from the numerous books published by Dr. Barry Sears.
The Zone Diet plan is divided into three stages:
- Entering the Zone. This stage lasts for two weeks and allows you to learn the basic principles of the diet while beginning your initial weight loss. You will be drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer starches such as pasta and bread, eating smaller, more frequent meals, and eating small amounts of low-fat protein at every meal and snack.
- Eating in the Zone. This stage lasts for four weeks and fine-tunes your unique biochemistry. You will be figuring out how much protein is required at each meal and consuming that amount, balancing protein and carbohydrates at every meal, adding some extra "good fats" to every meal and snack, and timing your meals so you never go more than five hours without Zone-specific food.
- Living in the Zone. This stage is for the rest of your life and enables you to maintain health and wellness long term. You will be controlling silent inflammation, taking high doses of fish oils, beginning a moderate exercise program, and trying some relaxation techniques.
The Zone Diet plan encourages regular physical activity, both aerobic and anaerobic. It also suggests eating a zone snack 30 minutes before working out so you can be in the zone and ensure you get the hormonal benefits of exercise.
While on The Zone diet, certain foods should be limited. These include:
- Sugar, including that found in many fruits and vegetables like bananas, grapes and raisins, or carrots, corn and peas
- Starchy foods like pasta, potatoes and bread
Sample Meal Plans for The Zone Diet
- Day One
- Egg white and asparagus omelet cooked in olive oil
- Fresh strawberries
- Broiled chicken breast
- Mixed salad greens with tomato and olive oil salad dressing
- Sliced pear
- Salmon poached in orange juice
- Summer squash and zucchini sautéed in butter
- Day Two
- French toast made with low carb bread and egg whites, topped with light syrup
- Turkey bacon
- An orange
- Pita pocked stuffed with deli ham, low fat cheese, mustard, lettuce, tomato and alfalfa sprouts
- Lettuce and spinach salad with cucumber, tomato and broccoli, topped with olive oil and vinegar dressing.
- Eggplant Parmesan
- Baby spinach salad with strawberries and blackberries, dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
- Day Three
- Breakfast burrito with scrambled egg substitute, turkey bacon and cheese in a tortilla
- Fresh blueberries
- Chicken fajita
- Avocado and cottage cheese salad
- Shrimp stir-fry with snow peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and bean sprouts
- Strawberries with cottage cheese
- Mozzarella cheese and an orange
- Frozen blueberry yogurt
- Chicken salad
- Berry banana slush
- Almond oatmeal cookies
Today The Zone diet has plenty of celebrity affiliations and Madonna, Demi Moore and Jennifer Aniston swear by the results of this diet plan.
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David M. Masters