Food Plans & Diets: A Series

In the late 1990s, when I lived in Seattle, I wrote an article entitled: From Ayurveda to The Zone, published in a local magazine. Of course, now that I need to re-read it, I can’t find it, but I did find an article by Dr. Dean Ornish, who is famous for his program to bypass the bypass in favor of a change in diet and lifestyle. The article appeared in Time Magazine, in June of 2004 and is a perfect entrance for this article on the popular food plans that have been floating around for several years.

The article is entitled: The Atkins Ornish South Beach Zone Diet. There are several others in between, but you get the idea. Ornish writes about being a veteran of the “diet wars” and notes that there are points of difference among the several popular-at-one-time-or-another diets. However, his emphasis is on where the diets agree, which I think is a much better approach.

Here is a list of the agreements, which I think works for any healthy eating program and will be a backdrop to my series on these different diets or food plans. I actually want to expand the idea to include special diets, such as gluten-free, since the ones on Ornish’s list are mostly about weight loss and I think many people are on special diets for other reasons, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Allergies.

Here are the areas of agreement:

1. Avoid trans-fatty acids & hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, which is called “bad fats.”

2. Consume some Omega-3 fatty acids every day. These are called good fats and include flaxseed oil and fish.

3  Eat fewer bad carbs such as sugar and white flour.

4. Eat more good carbs such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and unrefined grains such as whole-wheat flour & brown rice.

5.  Calories count. It is not low fat vs. low carb. Rather, eat less fat and fewer simple carbs.

6. What you include in your diet is as important as what you exclude. (Protective substances, with few exceptions, include good carbs (see # 4).

7. Lose weight in a way that enhances health rather than harms it. (Ex. amphetamines)

8. Energy balance is important, because you lose weight when your burn more calories than you consume.

9. Exercise more. (Not just because of weight loss, but also to maintain flexibility and energy. es)

10. Eat less red meat. (Atkins may disagree.)

11. Begin by making moderate changes in your diet. (I would add in your lifestyle, also. es)

12. Talk to suppliers. (Ornish means to let food makers and restaurants know your need and ideas for healthier eating.)

13. Choose quality over quantity. Here I quote: Smaller portions of good foods are more satisfying than larger portions of junk foods, especially if you pay attention to what you’re eating.

Dr. Ornish ends his excellent one page article on a positive note, telling the reader we have a wide range of dietary choices and to see our food choices as part of a spectrum. The object is to move in a more healthful direction, day by day, maybe two steps forward and one step back as you learn to replace an unhealthy or junk food with a healthier choice. Take a chance on eating more healthful, even when you fall short of that day’s goal. Changing food (and exercise) habits is not easy, but generally worth the effort.

P.S. I would add one more item: Enjoy what you eat!

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