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-wheat pasta, and oatmeal
- Starchy Vegetables like potatoes, corn, and yams
- Legumes such as beans (like black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans); peas; and lentils
- Lean Calcium-Rich Foods such as nonfat dairy milk, nonfat yogurt, and fortified 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 venison; 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
Unrefined Complex Carbohydrates
5 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; and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils). A serving is 1/2 cup cooked. For whole-grain bread products (such as breads, bagels, and crackers), a serving is 1 ounce. Limit refined grains (such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta) as much as possible.
5 (preferably more) servings 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. The more vegetables and other low-calorie-dense foods you eat, the less need there is for counting calories. You’ll just naturally eat fewer calories, and shed excess weight.
4 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. Enjoy whole fruit, not fruit juices. And don’t believe silly science that says fruit is fattening. To the contrary! People have shed 100 pounds and more with Pritikin’s fruit-rich diet.
Dairy and/or Dairy Substitutes
2 servings daily of dairy foods and/or dairy substitutes.
For dairy foods, choose from nonfat milk (1 cup), nonfat yogurt (3/4 cup), and nonfat varieties of ricotta and cottage cheese (1/2 cup). Choose plain nonfat milk, not flavored varieties like chocolate. Nonfat Lactaid is also acceptable.
For dairy milk substitutes, choose those that closely match the nutritional richness of nonfat cow’s milk for calcium, vitamins D and B-12, and protein. Optimal choices tend to be fortified soymilks (original or unsweetened). Almond and rice milks usually score well for calcium, D, and B-12, but poorly for protein. So if you drink a cup of almond or rice milk, add to your daily diet a lean, protein-rich food like 1/2 cup cooked legumes (beans) or 2 egg whites. Steer clear of coconut milk because it contains saturated fat.
For all dairy milk substitutes, make sure they contain very little or no added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat.
Note: Many plant foods are rich sources of calcium, such as leafy greens like collard greens, turnip greens and kale, as well as tofu and tempeh.
Protein-Rich Animal Foods:
Fish, White Poultry, Lean Meat
No more than 1 serving per day. A serving is about 3½ to 4 ounces cooked (the size of a deck of cards).
Below are fish/poultry/meat choices rated from “Best” to “Poor”:
- Best: Omega-3-rich fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and trout). Choose at least 2 times weekly. If you’re using canned fish, such as canned sardines, select very-low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties.
- Good: Most other fish, plus shelled mollusks (clams, oysters, mussels, scallops).
- Satisfactory: Crustaceans (shrimp, crab, lobster),
Poultry (white meat, skinless),
Game meat (bison, venison, elk), optimally free-range and grass-fed.
- Poor: Red meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb, goat). For all red meat choices, select cuts that are under 30% fat.
For optimal heart-health results, limit “Satisfactory” choices to no more than 1 serving per week and “Poor” choices to no more than 1 serving per month.
Up to 2 daily. If you prefer egg whites instead of other land-based animal foods like white poultry and lean meat, you may eat more. About 7 egg whites is the protein equivalent of 1 serving of poultry or meat. Steer clear of egg yolks and their high dietary cholesterol.
Protein-Rich Plant Foods:
Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils
Soy products like tofu and edamame
For maximum cholesterol reduction and giving yourself the best chance at reversing atherosclerosis (heart disease), choose on most days protein-rich plant foods like beans instead of land-based animal foods like poultry and meat. And yes, you can get plenty of protein with a plant-based diet.
Scientifically Proven Results
More than 100 studies in prestigious medical journals have documented Pritikin's extraordinary success in helping thousands worldwide. What can Pritikin do for you?
Water (plain, bottled, low-sodium, mineral); hot grain beverages (coffee substitutes); non-medicinal herbal teas (such as peppermint, rosehips, and chamomile); and cocoa – up to 2 tablespoons per day (use non-alkali processed cocoa). You do not have to drink large amounts of water daily. Simply drink when thirsty.
If you choose to drink caffeinated beverages, we recommend green or black tea over coffee because of tea’s many health benefits. We also recommend moderation: no more than 400 mg of caffeine daily (the amount in about 4 eight-ounce cups of coffee or 8 eight-ounce cups of tea).
Coffee, both regular and decaf, does contain chemicals (diterpenes) that may modestly raise LDL cholesterol. However, by brewing with paper filters like paper cones or capsule filters like Keurig, the diterpenes are largely eliminated.
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 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer, or 1½ oz of 80 proof liquor. Choose red wine over white wine, wine over beer, and either over liquor.
Culinary herbs are rich sources of many beneficial phytonutrients, and are a good way to add flavor without extra calories, fat, or salt. Include at least 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herbs or 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs each day.
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) and stevia (brand names include SweetLeaf and Truvia) appear to be the safest choices.
If You Want To Lose Weight
Go wild on vegetables. The more vegetables, including dark green, yellow, red, or orange vegetables, the better! They’re among the best foods for weight loss.
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. These foods are low in calorie density. You’ll eat more – and weigh less.
Steer clear of fruit and vegetable juices because they provide less satiety than whole fruits and vegetables.
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.
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.
Weight Loss Guide
Everything you need to lose weight permanently. Ultimate Guide For Healthy Weight Loss
14-Day Pritikin Diet
Includes shopping list, recipes and more! Get the 14-Day Healthy Meal Plan
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. It’s one of the most important things you can do to lower blood pressure.
Limit as much as possible foods containing refined grains (such as white pasta, white bread, and white rice).
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. Be wary of headline-grabbing media stories that suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is largely made up of “Caution” and “Stop” foods.
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.
Potassium chloride. Learn more about salt substitutes.
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.
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