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
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; and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils). 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. Enjoy whole fruit, not fruit juices.
Choose two dairy and/or dairy substitutes per day
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 are free of added sugars, cholesterol, 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.
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); 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
Pritikin Diet Articles
- Eggs, Cholesterol, and the Proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines
- Healthy Comfort Food Recipes
- NBC Miami Features Fabulous Foods the Pritikin Way
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- The Truth About Counting Calories
- How To Live To 100
- The Acid Reflux Diet
- Pritikin faculty refutes Wall Street Journal low-fat diet article
- How To Live To 100 | 6 Top Foods
- The Hunger Scale: Mindful Eating for Weight Loss
- Are salt substitutes safe?
- 5 Tips for Adding More Whole Grains To Your Diet
- Healthy Thanksgiving Menu
- 9 Tips For a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving
- Reduce Sodium Intake | Cut 1,000+ Mg From Your Diet
- Which Milk Is Best?
- Foods That Promote Liver Health
- Diets That Fail, Diets That Work
- Shopping List for Diabetics
- Healthy Halloween Treats & Tricks
- How To Read Nutrition Labels | Video
- How To Read Nutrition Labels Part 2 | Video
- Foods That Promote Eye Health
- Want to Live to 100? Eat More Beans!
- Healthy Picnic Food Ideas
- Are low-sodium diets unhealthy?
- The Healthier Red Meat – Bison Recipes
- Is Soy Bad For You? Good? Get the Facts
- Best Ice Creams For Weight Loss
- Healthy Brown Bag Lunch Ideas
- Healthy Shopping List
- Use Mindful Eating To Help You Reach Your Health and Weight-Loss Goals
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- What are free radicals?
- Q&A: “Should I go on a gluten-free diet?”
- Cooking Video – Easy Healthy Cornish Hens + Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Top Tips For Ordering Tasty, Healthy Restaurant Food
- Healthy Meal Plans For Summer
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- 14-Day Pritikin Meal Plan
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- 6 Healthy Dinners With 6 Ingredients Or Less
- 5 Things To Ditch From Your Fridge + 5 Healthy Alternatives
- The Real Superfoods Diet
- 3 Healthy Crockpot Recipes
- Should I eat breakfast if I’m not hungry?
- FAQ: High Temperature Cooking – Is It Healthy?
- FAQ: Alcoholic Beverages
- Cooking With Fresh Herbs
- Healthy Appetizers For Holiday Parties
- How To Read Food Labels – 10 Tips
- Snacks For Weight Loss: What’s Good? What Isn’t?
- Healthy Recipes Contest
- Trans Fat Ban – The Good and Bad News
- The Juice Illusion Infographic | Fruit vs Fruit Juice
- Winning Healthy Recipes From Food Blogs
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- The Typical American Diet Is Our Biggest Enemy
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- Top Ten Healthy Salad Recipes
- How To Cook Fava Beans
- Chard Recipes and Nutrition
- Healthy Dinner Ideas at the Pritikin Center
- Emergency Preparedness Kit: Keep Your Heart Healthy
- Fast Healthy Meals: 5 Tips From Our Chefs
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- Are Eggs Healthy? Ask the Experts
- Healthy Recipes For Fall
- Fish Oil Benefits & Risks
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- Healthy Asparagus Recipes – Easy and Delicious
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- Ask the Experts: “Are gluten-free foods healthier?”
- Special Date Night Recipes (That Also Please Your Heart)
- Salad Recipes – Tips For Tasty Toppings
- Healthy Dessert Recipes and Dinner Featured On The TODAY Show
- Reducing Sodium Intake: Pritikin Staff Speaks at FDA Meeting
- Healthy Restaurants – Top Tips For Dining Out
- Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes Featured On The TODAY Show
- No-Cook Recipes: Tasty 2-Minute Tips For Healthy Home Cooking
- Do I need probiotics?
- Arugula Recipes – Super-Easy and Healthy
- Chicken Burgers: 6 Healthy, Juicy Tips
- Healthy Party Snacks
- Healthy Grilling Recipes and Tips
- Is diet soda bad for you?
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- Healthy Halloween Treats – 10 Tips
- Healthy Sauces – A “Divine” Mustard Sauce
- “I eat too much at night.” How To Stop.
- Spaghetti Squash Recipes – Healthy, Easy, Yummy
- Persimmon Recipes and Healthy, Quick-Fix Tips
- Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?
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- Healthy Pizza Recipes
- Pluots Season – Easy Tips
- Red Meat Is Good For You? Baloney.
- Bring On the Bison Meat!
- Avoiding Fast Food Restaurants – 6 Tips
- Salt and High Blood Pressure
- Diet and Macular Degeneration
- Meat and the Environment
- 10 “Meaty” Red Meat Alternatives
- How To Reduce Sodium Intake Quickly and Easily
- Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs
- 12 Oh-So-Easy Healthy Summer Recipes and Treats
- Olive Oil Nutrition – What’s Wrong With Olive Oil?
- Healthy Salad Recipes For Summer
- Oh, What Just One High Fat Meal Can Do!
- Grilling and Cancer – 6 Tips For Safe BBQs
- Healthy Fast Food?
- Trans Fat Ban: What We Still Need To Watch Out For
- The Truth About Olive Oil
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- Diet Pills, Diet Miracles – What To Watch Out For
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- The Real SuperFoods Diet
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- Healthy Snacks – 7 Quick and Easy Combos
- Stevia vs Splenda
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- Whole Grains and Weight Loss – Which Grains Work Best?
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- 8 Quick & Easy Healthy Salad Dressing Tips
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- 9 Tips For Controlling Holiday Binge Eating
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- Healthy Breakfast Foods – 6 Tips
- Healthy Brown Bag Lunches
- Are low-sodium diets healthy?
- FAQ: Caffeine and Health – Coffee & Tea on the Pritikin Program