Diet Plans & Programs: The "Skinny" on Popular Diet Plans

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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The Pritikin Principle

(Created by Nathan Pritikin, Revised by Robert Pritikin)

The Diet Plan Theory

The Pritikin diet is a very low-fat, high-carbohydrate eating plan. The focus is to eat vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber grains. Fats should not exceed 10% of total daily calories. Nathan Pritikin's diet is based on the theory of eating low-fat, low-calorie, plant-based foods to promote weight loss and improve or prevent heart disease. The revised Pritikin diet includes a "Calorie Density Solution:" Consume low-calorie dense foods (for example, apples, brown rice) until full, six to seven times daily. Eating low-calorie foods throughout the day will reduce hunger and cause weight loss.

Advantages

Research has shown that the calorie density of our diets will impact our weight. The calorie density is the amount of calories in a given weight of food. Consuming foods that are considered low-calorie dense aids in weight loss. These foods will provide a high volume without a lot of calories. By replacing foods that are considered high-calorie dense, you save additional calories. Some find it more satisfying to focus on consuming low-calorie dense foods in large quantities versus counting calories. The Pritikin diet also encourages daily exercise and stress-reduction techniques.

Disadvantages

The most controversial part of this diet is the severe fat restriction. The American Heart Association recommends a diet with 25% to 35% of your calories from fat. The Pritikin Principle requires you consume less than 10% of your calories from fat. Besides providing taste to your diet, dietary fat has other functions, and 10% may be too low to meet your needs. There has been a considerable amount of research showing the health benefits of omega-3 fats, including protecting your heart. The American Heart Association now recommends that people without coronary heart disease eat a variety of omega-3 fat-containing fish at least twice a week and that those with coronary heart disease consume one gram of omega-3 fats per day. Dietary fat is also needed to transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Without fat to transport them, they will not be able to serve their functions in your body.

Our diets are meant to have a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. When you consume too little of one of these nutrients it means you are consuming too much of another nutrient. Most people who follow a very low-fat diet end up consuming an excess amount of carbohydrates. Too much of any nutrient can cause health problems. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) established the need for each one of these nutrients based on research for optimal health and weight. The DRI set the dietary goals at 45% to 65% from carbohydrates, 20% to 35% from fat, and 10% to 35% from protein. If you follow the Pritikin Principle it would be best to adjust your intake to meet the DRI guidelines.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015

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