The Pritikin Eating Plan

On the Pritikin Eating Plan, you never go hungry. You're enjoying a superabundance of fresh whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

There is nothing extreme about the Pritikin Eating Plan except that it is extremely healthy. In more than 100 studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals, the Pritikin Program of food and fitness has been found to not only promote weight loss but also prevent and control many of the world’s leading killers, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

The focus of the Pritikin Eating Plan is not food components like carbs or fat. The focus is food, healthy whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish. The Pritikin Eating Plan is naturally low in total fat and sodium, and rich in unprocessed carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, beneficial phytochemicals, antioxidants and dietary fiber, and it has adequate amounts of protein and essential fatty acids.

The typical Western diet, on the other hand, is high in cholesterol, hydrogenated fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and it is low in fiber and many important nutrients. The typical Western diet also includes an excess of “empty” calories in the form of sugar and other refined sweeteners, refined fats and oils, and alcohol.

Making optimal food choices is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And, when combined with Exercise and Mind-Body Health, the Pritikin Eating Plan has been scientifically documented to:

  • Improve virtually all modifiable risk factors for heart disease, the #1 killer in the U.S;
  • Prevent and control Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, the Metabolic Syndrome, and several cancers; and
  • Promote healthy, long-term weight loss.

Learn to live a healthier life. Feel younger. Look younger. For all these benefits and more, the optimal dietary strategy, confirmed in more than 100 studies, is the Pritikin Eating Plan.

Go - Recommended Foods

Choose at least five servings of unrefined complex carbohydrates: Five or more servings daily of whole grains (wheat, oats, rye, brown rice, barley, 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, white pasta) as much as possible.

Choose at least five vegetable servings: Five (preferably more) servings of raw or cooked vegetables daily. A serving is 1 cup of raw or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables. Include dark green, yellow, or orange vegetables daily.

Choose at least four fruit servings: Four or more servings of whole fruit 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: 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 poultry, and choose lean poultry over lean red meat. A serving is about 3-1/2 oz to 4 oz cooked, or the size of the palm of your hand and the 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 or other lean game meat 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.

Go - Miscellaneous

Beverages: 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).

Alcoholic beverages: 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 1 to 1-1/2 oz of 80 proof liquor. Choose red wine over white wine, wine over beer and either over liquor.

Garnish/herbs: 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.

Egg whites:  Limit to 1 to 2 egg whites 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.

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.

Artificial sweeteners:

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

What if you feel stuck and need to adjust your choices? Enter category 2: Caution – The Less, The Better. While “Caution” foods are not recommended, this list provides direction when food choices are limited.

Refined fats and 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.

Refined 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.

Stop - Stay Away

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.

Meats: Such as fatty meats, organ meats, and processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, and bologna).

Whole and lowfat dairy:  All cheese, cream, cream cheese, half-and-half, ice cream, milk, sour cream, and yogurt, unless fat-free and low in sodium.

Nuts: Coconuts.

Salt substitutes: Potassium chloride.

Miscellaneous: Egg yolks, deep fried foods, non-dairy whipped toppings, rich desserts and pastries, and salty snack foods.

Eugenia Killoran

Senior Editor & Writer

Eugenia Killoran has been the food and fitness journalist for the Pritikin Program since 1992. She has published more than 3,000 articles, lectures, and book chapters on a wide variety of healthy living and weight-loss topics.

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