Below is a quick summary of the Pritikin Diet. For all the details, scroll down to the section entitled “Food Choices For a Lifetime Of Good Health.”
The Pritikin Diet focuses on a wide variety of whole (unprocessed) or minimally processed foods. Click on the “GO” tab for these foods.
“CAUTION” and “STOP” foods on the Pritikin Diet are those that have been proven to increase the risk of obesity and/or multiple health concerns, including high blood cholesterol, high blood sugar, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.
“GO” Foods on the Pritikin Diet include:
- Whole Grains like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, and couscous
- Starchy Vegetables like potatoes, corn, and yams
- Legumes such as beans (black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, etc), peas, and lentils
- Lean Calcium-Rich Foods such as nonfat dairy milk, nonfat yogurt, and soymilk
- Fish (a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids)
- Lean Sources of Protein (very low in saturated fat) such as skinless white poultry, lean red meat like bison, and plant sources of protein, such as legumes and soy-based foods like tofu and edamame (soybeans)
“CAUTION” (less is better) foods include:
- Refined Sweeteners such as sugar, corn syrup, and honey
- Refined Grains such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice
“STOP” (none is optimal) foods include:
- Saturated-Fat-Rich Foods such as butter, tropical oils like coconut oil, fatty meats, and dairy foods like cheese, cream, and whole/low-fat milk
- Organ Meats
- Processed Meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and bologna
- Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils
- Cholesterol-Rich Foods like egg yolks
Food Choices For a Lifetime Of Good Health
GO – Recommended Foods
Choose at least five servings of unrefined complex carbohydrates per day
Five or more servings daily of whole grains (such as whole wheat, oats, rye, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and millet), starchy vegetables (like potatoes, yams, and winter squashes), chestnuts, beans, and peas. A serving is 1/2 cup cooked. Limit refined grains (such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta) as much as possible.
Choose at least five vegetable servings per day
Five (preferably more) servings of raw or cooked vegetables daily. A serving is 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked. Enjoy a variety of colors, like dark green, yellow, red, and orange vegetables.
Choose at least four fruit servings per day
Four or more servings of whole fruits daily. For most fruits, a serving fits in your hand. Examples include all fresh and raw fruits, and frozen and canned fruits without added sugar.
Choose two calcium-rich foods per day
Two servings daily of calcium-rich foods. Choose from nonfat milk (1 cup), nonfat yogurt (3/4 cup), nonfat varieties of ricotta and cottage cheese (1/2 cup), or soymilk (1 cup).
Choose no more than one serving of animal protein per day
Fish or shellfish are preferable over lean white meat poultry, and choose lean poultry over lean red meat. A serving is 3-1/2 to 4 ounces cooked, which is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.
Optimally, limit poultry to no more than one serving per week and red meat to no more than one serving per month. If you prefer red meat weekly, substitute free-range, grass-fed bison in place of poultry.
Vegetarian options: For maximal cholesterol reduction, choose on most days legumes like beans, peas, and lentils or soy products like tofu instead of lean meat, fish, or poultry.
Culinary herbs are rich sources of many beneficial phytonutrients, and are a good way to add flavor without extra calories, fats, or salt. Include at least 1 to 2 teapoons of dried herbs or 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs each day.
GO – In Moderation
Water (plain, bottled, low-sodium, mineral), hot grain beverages (coffee substitutes), and non-medicinal herbal teas (such as peppermint, rosehips, or chamomile), and cocoa powder – up to 2 tablespoons per day (use non-alkali processed). You do not have to drink large amounts of water daily. Simply drink when thirsty.
If you choose to drink caffeinated beverages, we recommend no more than 8 cups of caffeinated tea OR no more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee per day (1 cup = 8 ounces).
Limit to 1 to 2 egg whites per day.
If your weight is fine
Celebrate! Eat as many whole grains, vegetables, legumes (such as beans and peas), and fruits as you want. Enjoy more calorie-dense foods such as avocados and nuts, but limit them to keep your weight under control. Limit avocado intake to no more than 2 ounces per day. Limit walnuts, flaxseeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, filberts (hazelnuts), peanuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts to no more than 1 ounce per day.
If you want to lose weight
Go wild on vegetables. The more vegetables, including dark green, yellow, red, or orange vegetables, the better!
Limit calorie-dense foods such as dried grains (breads, crackers, cold cereals), dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Avoid refined or concentrated sweeteners. They all pack a lot of calories into very small amounts of food. You’ll find it much easier to feel full and satisfied – and curb hunger – if you focus instead on high-water, high-fiber foods like cooked grains (such as oatmeal and brown rice), vegetables, and whole fruits. You’ll eat more – and weigh less.
Go easy on fruit and vegetable juices because they provide less satiety than whole fruits and vegetables.
While artificial sweeteners have not been proven to aid weight loss, they may be of benefit to people with diabetes, elevated triglycerides, and those following the Pritikin Eating Plan to lose weight. Limit intake to no more than 10 to 12 packets per day. Sucralose (Splenda) appears to be the safest choice.
CAUTION – The Less the Better
While “Caution” foods are not recommended, this list provides direction when food choices are limited.
Refined Fats & Oils
Limit the consumption of ALL oils to no more than 1 teaspoon per 1000 calories consumed, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, because oils have the highest calorie density of any food or ingredient.
Use in moderation or not at all. For women, up to 4 drinks per week, with no more than 1/2 to 1 drink per day. For men, up to 7 drinks per week, with no more than 1 to 2 drinks per day. A drink is approximately 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1-1/2 ounces of 80 proof liquor. Choose red wine over white wine, wine over beer, and either over liquor.
Refined or Concentrated Sweeteners
For healthy individuals who choose to use sweeteners, a suggested rule of thumb is a maximum of 2 tablespoons of fruit juice concentrate or 1 tablespoon of other refined sweeteners (such as barley malt, corn syrup, rice syrup) per 1000 calories consumed. None is optimal. Avoid fructose and high fructose corn syrup.
Salt and High-Sodium Foods, Condiments
Avoid added salt, and highly salted, pickled, and smoked foods. Limit foods that have more than 1 mg of sodium per calorie so as not to exceed 1200 to 1500 mg of sodium per day, depending on age.
Limit as much as possible foods containing refined grains (such as white pasta, white bread, and white rice).
STOP – Think About It First
When faced with foods in the “Stop” category, search for choices in the “Go,” and, if necessary, “Caution” foods. “Stop” foods, due to their high content of saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, cholesterol, and/or sodium, may significantly compromise your personal health goals.
Limit the following choices to less than once per month. None is optimal.
Animal Fats, Tropical Oils, and Processed Refined Oils
Such as butter, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, lard, chicken fat, palm oil, cocoa butter, chocolate, margarine, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and shortenings.
Such as fatty meats, organ meats, and processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, and bologna).
Whole and Low-Fat Dairy
All cheese, cream, cream cheese, half-and-half, ice cream, milk, sour cream, and yogurt, unless fat-free and low in sodium.
Egg yolks, deep-fried foods, non-dairy whipped toppings, rich desserts and pastries, and salty snack foods.
Food Education at the Pritikin Longevity Center
Five bountiful meals and snacks are served daily at the Pritikin Longevity Center. The Pritikin Diet works in part “because you aren’t losing your mind while you’re losing weight,” notes comedian and actress Caroline Rhea, first host of The Biggest Loser. There’s no calorie counting, no deprivation, and no hunger.
Instead, the focus is a lot of good food that is low in calorie density, naturally high in nutrients, and delicious. “The food tastes great, and that’s saying something from a steakhouse guy like me,” says John Timothy Gannon, cofounder of Outback Steakhouse Restaurants.
Each day, workshops led by Pritikin’s award-winning chefs and nutritionists teach all the basics for healthy Pritikin living at home. Topics include:
- Eating On the Go
- Restaurant Dining
- Smart Supermarket Shopping
- Healthy No-Cook Recipes
- Gourmet Entertaining
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