The Zone Meal Plan

The Zone Meal Plan

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Vegetables and lean-protein foods such as fish form the core of the Zone meal plan.

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The Zone Diet was developed by biochemist Barry Sears, Ph.D., who treats food like a drug and claims that his diet is designed to keep your body in the “Zone." This occurs when insulin is balanced and inflammation-causing hormones are kept in check. The Zone meal plan emphasizes lean protein, fruits, vegetables and healthful fats.

The Basics

The Zone Diet tops out between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day, spread over three meals and two snacks. Daily calories average out to about 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent lean protein and 30 percent fat, most of it monounsaturated. Carbs come mainly from fruits and vegetables, and foods such as nuts, olive oil and avocados supply much of the fat. Starchy foods are kept to a minimum, except for barley and oats. Sweeteners are used very sparingly.

How Much to Eat

Dr. Sears breaks foods into units called blocks, and he provides formulas for figuring out how many blocks of protein, carbohydrate and fat you should eat at every meal. To make figuring proportions even easier, he recommends dividing your plate into thirds. A lean protein, such as meat, makes up one third of the plate, with the remaining two-thirds filled with fruits or vegetables. A drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkling of nuts provides healthful fat. These guidelines apply to every meal and every snack.

Zone-Friendly Breakfasts

Breakfast ideas include scrambled egg whites; a vegetable and egg-white omelet cooked in a dab of olive oil, accompanied by fruit; or a hash of Canadian bacon and an assortment of vegetables. Fruit and chopped nuts make a good topping for oatmeal or barley. Or you can layer plain yogurt with fruit and sprinkle it with chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts.

Healthy Lunches

For a filling salad, combine cooked shrimp or chicken breast, celery, chopped red onion, and fruits such as apples, pears or oranges. Toss the ingredients with a dressing of nonfat Greek yogurt, light mayonnaise and a bit of olive oil. Combining black beans with chopped turkey breast, avocado, peppers and a little low-fat cheese yields a Southwestern-style salad. Other lunch ideas include a light chicken soup paired with a fruit salad, or a hearty chicken-vegetable-barley soup for an all-in-one meal.

Satisfying Dinners

Broil or lightly sautee meat, chicken or fish, and accompany the main dish with mixed vegetables and mashed, cooked cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes. Artichokes, red bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, turkey ham and a few olives make an attractive antipasto platter. Make a crust for your fish with lemon zest and chopped almonds, then drizzle with olive oil and bake with spinach. You can wrap lean burgers in lettuce instead of a bun, or use cooked egg whites to substitute for the pasta in a tofu-vegetable lasagna.

Fill up on Snacks

The Zone meal plan includes a snack in the afternoon and another before bed. An ideal snack is a piece of fruit, such as an apple or orange, accompanied by either a slice of low-fat cheese or a slice of turkey and a few nuts or olives. You can make frozen pops with berries, finely chopped almonds and plain yogurt.

Resources (1)

  • Mastering the Zone; Barry Spears