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What is the Zone Diet?
The Zone diet is a highly structured diet program developed by Barry Sears, PhD, based on the concept of a balanced diet which can lead to weight loss and other health benefits. In this diet every meal and snack should consist of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fats. This, according to Sears, leads to optimal functioning which can boost energy, delay signs of aging, help prevent certain chronic diseases and allow the body to function at peak physical and mental levels. Rather than aiming for a specific weight, it is concerned more with reducing body fat, such that the goal is for men to have only 15 percent body fat and 22 percent for women.
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Weight Loss with the Zone Diet
To achieve weight loss in using the Zone diet, the dieter calculates the amount of food he/she needs according to his/her protein needs based on height, weight, hip and waist measurements and activity level. Carbohydrates are calculated in terms of a protein to carbohydrate ratio of .75. The result is a diet that is low in calories, ranging from 1,100–1,700 calories.
Although Sear’s book on the Zone diet describes a complicated and exacting measurement of what to eat, its recommendations can be simplified as follows:
- Eat three meals and two snacks daily, whereby each meal must meet the 40:30:30 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to fats.
- Eat the first meal of the day within one hour of rising from bed.
- Never allow more than five hours to pass without eating.
- Eat a small amount of protein at every meal (palm size or one small chicken breast) and at every snack.
- Protein sources include lean chicken, turkey, and other poultry, seafood, egg whites or egg substitutes, and low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
- Eat only "favorable" or “good” carbohydrates twice the size of the protein portion, which include most non-starchy vegetables and lentils, beans, whole grains, oatmeal, barley and most fruits.
- Good fat sources allowed include small amounts of canola and olive oil.
The list of restricted or “bad” foods includes
- Red meat, fatty meat and organ meats such as liver
- Egg yolks
- Carrots, corn, raisins, bananas, papaya, mango, most fruit juices and many fruits
- Bread, cereal, rice, bagels, most baked goods
- Whole milk dairy products
- Caffeinated coffee
- Diet soft drinks
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Sample Meal Plan
The Zone diet sample meal plan may include:
Breakfast – scrambled eggs using four egg whites with an ounce of non-fat cheese, a cup of grapes, half piece of rye toast with a small amount of peanut butter
Lunch – a cheese burger using four and a half ounces lean ground beef (with ten percent fat or less), a slice of low fat cheese, tomato, lettuce and onion, 1 piece rye bread, six peanuts and half an apple
Dinner - 3-ounces skinless barbecue chicken breast, one and a half cups steamed cauliflower and spinach salad with one tablespoon olive oil and vinegar dressing
Afternoon snack - one-ounce low-fat cottage cheese and half an orange
Late night snack – an ounce of sliced turkey breast, a cup of strawberries and 6 peanuts
In general, men can have bigger sizes or higher amounts of food depending on their size and activity levels. For example, instead of a three ounce chicken breast for women they may take four ounces, and have more egg whites (up to six).
The Zone diet program also recommends that one should drink more than 8 cups (or almost two liters) of water daily. Weight loss may also be achieved by doing moderate exercise every day.
And as a part of good health habits one is encouraged to meditate daily.
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Precautions on the Zone Diet
Some researchers and nutritionists believe that there are some risks and disadvantages in undergoing this diet program, especially to those who have kidney disease because of the high protein requirement. Furthermore, severely reducing the amount of whole grains in the diet may lead to constipation. In general, there are mixed reviews on the benefits of the Zone diet and readers are advised to consult a nutritionist for individualized guidance.
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WebMD, “The Zone Diet”, http://www.webmd.com/diet/zone-what-it-is
Diet.com, “Zone Diet”, http://www.diet.com/store/facts/zone-diet
433ZoneDiet.com, “The Zone Diet Plan”, http://www.433zonediet.com/zonedietmeal.htm