YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Hows and Whats of 7 Diets



What: A low-fat diet developed by researcher Nathan Pritikin to fight and prevent cardiovascular disease. It later attracted other health-minded dieters because they could fill up on bulky foods and still lose weight while lowering cholesterol levels.

How: Focus is on low-fat foods and complex carbohydrates, grains, modest amounts of nonfat dairy products, lean meat, poultry and fish, high-fiber fruits and vegetables. It encourages five to six small meals a day, plus regular exercise and stress reduction.

Percentage of calories per day: Carbohydrates, 70% to 80%; protein, 10% to 20% or less; fat, 10% or less.

Approximate daily caloric intake: 1,200 to 1,400 for women; 1,300 to 1,600 for men. Counting calories is not stressed; smart food choices are.

Exercise: Three to five aerobic workouts per week, 25 to 45 minutes per session (walk, jog, swim, row, cycle, dance), plus resistance training, two to three times a week, from 10 to 30 minutes.

Pros: Encourages lifestyle changes. Appeals to lovers of complex carbohydrates and exercise.

Cons: Some dieters feel it's too spartan; the food lacks the rich mouth-feel that fat provides. Some medical authorities question cutting fat to 10%. Others say the diet is unrealistic.


The Zone

What: A low-carbohydrate, high-protein eating program developed by biochemist Barry Sears. It's used for weight loss and achieving optimal energy. The recently published "Mastering the Zone" (HarperCollins, 1997; $25) contains more interesting recipes than the first book and is easier to read.

How: Weight loss comes by calorie restriction and exercise. Foods stressed are lean meat, chicken, fish, non-starchy vegetables and certain fruits. Rice, potatoes, grains, breads and other starches are used in moderation. According to Sears, people need to select food combinations that balance fat and protein because the body's hormonal balance is influenced by the foods we eat. To maximize health, individuals need to find their own "zone." Dieters select food combinations (called blocks) to create Zone-favorable meals. No meal should exceed 500 calories.

Percentage of calories per day: Carbohydrates, 40%; protein, 30%; fat, 30%.

Approximate daily caloric intake: 1,000 for women; 1,300 for men.

Exercise: About 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, such as walking, and five minutes of weight-bearing exercise, such as using dumbbells.

Pros: Sears' message is one of balance and moderation, portion control, frequent meals and regular exercise. His contribution, say some nutritionists, is getting fat-phobic people to add moderate amounts of protein and fat to their diets. Many athletes and testimonials from celebrities have popularized The Zone. Women are said to like it because it reduces bloating by reducing carbohydrates that hold more water than protein.

Cons: Medical professionals criticize Sears for his lack of documented research and take issue with his ideas on hormonal imbalance. People who love carbohydrates find the diet hard to live with for a long period of time. Some dieters complain that buying so much protein increases their food costs.


Weight Watchers

What: Low-fat diet program by nationally recognized weight-loss group. It follows basic dietary guidelines from major health organizations and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

How: Menus emphasize low-fat and high-fiber foods. Foods are broken down into food groups and servings, not into calories. Participants attend weekly meetings at which they are weighed, listen to a lecture and discuss problems and diet-related matters. Group support provides motivation. Membership is by weekly fee.

Percentage of calories per day: Carbohydrates, 50% to 60%; protein, 20%; fat, 30% or less.

Daily caloric intake: Depends on individual's weight, but ranges between 1,200 and 1,745 calories for both men and women.

Exercise: 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily; walking is emphasized, plus a combination of toning and stretching exercises.

Pros: It promotes safe, steady weight loss and reinforces lifestyle changes. A variety of eating plans promotes flexibility. Group support appeals to many who failed previous diets. Weekly weigh-ins help keep dieters on track. Considered medically sound by professionals.

Cons: Suffers from a conservative image and fails to promise miracles. Enrollment fee adds to cost. Initial registration fee is $17 to 19; weekly meeting charge is $11 to $13. Exact price varies depending on area of california and US in general. Some complain that the meal plans aren't interesting enough for long-term eating.


Jenny Craig Weight Loss Systems

What: Weight-loss program promotes low-fat diet with a variety of menu programs. Created in 1983 and based in La Jolla, it has about 130,000 members.

Los Angeles Times Articles