How to start the Zone Diet Eating Plan

Someone has asked me to help them get started on the Zone diet eating plan, as they are finding it hard to get their head round the books. I originally sent them the example meal plans you can get off the main zonediet.com site, but the feedback was that they were too expensive for someone on a tight budget.

I agreed then to summarise the zone diet and to put together some example cheap recipes, starting initially with breakfast to get the ball rolling. If you are struggling to get started on the zone, or just find it all too confusing and want zone help, hopefully this post will assist you. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive regurgitation of the Zone and it’s not ideal either due to the budgetary restriction, but this is what I came up with, what do you think?

Key Principals of the Zone Diet to Remember

1) At each meal, balance Protein, Carbohydrates (carbs) and a small amount of Fat. It’s this balance that helps you not feel hungry.
2) Examples of Protein: meat, fish, most cheese.
3) Examples of Fat: olive or vegetable oil, nuts, seeds, butter, cream cheese, mayonnaise, salad cream.
4) Examples of Carbs: vegetables, fruit, bread, pasta, cereal, rice, juice (if not diet), most sauces.
5) For carbs, try to eat mostly vegetables and some fruit. Eat bread, pasta, cereals, rice and potatoes very sparingly only.
6) Semi Skimmed milk is a great combination food, it is Protein, Carbs and Fat in perfect balance.
7) In most cases, you can count cheese as a source of protein AND fat.

Eating Plan

1) Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks per day.
2) One snack should be last thing as night, this is very important as it puts your body in the right state for when it does all its healing whilst you’re asleep.
3) Don’t go more than 4-5 hours without eating.
4) Don’t wait till you’re hungry before you eat, if you do you are more likely to over eat.

Example Breakfasts as cheap as I can make them

1) 2 oz sliced ham (protein), 1 large apple (carbs), a teaspoon of mayonnaise (fat), 1/3 pint of semi skimmed milk (protein, carbs and fat).
2) 2 eggs (protein), 1 slice of toast (carbs), 2/3 teaspoon of butter (fat), 1/3 pint of milk.
3) 3 oz of any meat, ham, chicken, turkey, beef etc (protein), 3 small fruits, e.g. satsuma, kiwi, and peach, 3 macadamia nuts (fat).
4) Cheese on toast or cheese sandwich: 3 oz cheddar cheese (protein and fat), 1 slice of toast/bread (carbs), 1 small fruit, e.g. apricot (carbs).
5) 3 oz low fat cottage cheese (protein), 1 large apple and a Satsuma (carbs), 9 almonds (fat). Drop the almonds if you get full fat cottage cheese.
6) Bacon and egg butty: 3 rashers of bacon and 1 egg (protein), 1 slice of bread and a good squirt of brown sauce (carbs), 1 teaspoon of butter (fat).
7) Can you come up with a 7th breakfast that balances protein, carbs and fat?  Post one in the comments below.

Note the above assumes you are using real meat you’ve prepared yourself. If you get the pre-sliced packs of reformed sandwich meat from the supermarkets (which is not recommended), increase the weight by a half again, e.g. 3 oz instead of 2 oz.

Examples of a Snack (remember to eat one no more than an hour before bed):

1) A really simple one is just a cup (1/3 pint) of semi skimmed milk.
2) 1 oz of cheddar cheese and a small fruit, e.g. peach.
3) 1 oz of any meat, a small fruit and 3 cashew nuts.
4) 1 oz of cheddar cheese and a small glass of wine!

I know I said these were breakfast ideas, but once you get out of the habit of breakfast only being cereal or toast, then breakfast becomes just another meal in the day. Which means the above examples work just as well for lunch too.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Steve J 23 September 2008, 7:07 pm

    Thanks a lot Colin. I really appreciate this!

    I’ve struggled translating some American nutrition guides and frankly I’m totally skint these days (house got repossessed recently etc etc!).

  • Colin McNulty 28 September 2008, 2:00 pm

    House repossessed? Oh dear, that’s never a good day. :S I keep thinking about doing more on the zone stuff as so many people struggle with it initially.

  • Eric 29 September 2008, 2:17 pm

    Colin, cheers for this, breaks it down nice and easy. Sure the zone pages arent the most complex, but just starting off makes all the blocks etc seem complex and offputting if im honest. been thinking of starting for some while but the thought of it has put me off.

    I’ve posted on one of the forums today, started with 2 egg omelete with l/fat cott cheese at 8am – then had muesli with protein shake at 1030ish (prob too soon?) had chicken with large plate of veg at 1300 and just about to have another protein shake with water now. Salmon and salad for tea tonite with snack just before bed.. How far off the mark am I with this?? zions or not too bad,.

    How much do you have to weigh out at start?

    Thanks v much

    Eric

  • Colin McNulty 30 September 2008, 8:54 pm

    That’s a great start Eric. Looking at your 2 egg omelette + cottage cheese breakfast, where did the carbs come from? If you are hungry 2.5 hours after eating, then something went wrong with your previous meal.

    Protein shake and water isn’t balanced (where’s the carbs and fat?) and won’t satisfy your hunger. Salad is also typically too low in carbs (depending on what you add to it).

    I would say if you want to try the Zone, then read the quickstart guide on zondediet.com and commit to just 2 weeks of your life weighing and measuring everything. After 2 weeks you won’t have to weigh anything again for 3-6 months cos you’ll be able to eye ball everything. I say 3-6 months because a refresher weigh in every now and then is not a bad thing.

  • sarah 12 October 2011, 8:07 am

    Hi Colin,

    I’ve tried these and other similar breakfasts, that are fast and cheap. Unfortunately I find that after a couple of hours I’m hungry again.

    I only seem to be able to go 4 or 5 hours if I have an omelette with zucchine and another veggie with my yogurt (that I like and prefer not to give up).

    Any ideas on fast and filling breakfasts?

    Thanks
    sarah

  • Colin McNulty 12 October 2011, 9:13 am

    Hi Sarah,

    4-5 hours between meals is spot on. The Zone diet suggests that you have 3 meals and 5 snacks a day. For example you could do something like this:

    7am – Breakfast
    Noon – Lunch
    4pm – Snack
    6pm – Dinner
    10pm – Snack

    However that omelette looks light on carbs. You may get 1 block of carbs from the yoghurt, but there’s not much in zucchini; you’d need over 1/2 lb of zucchini (courgette in the UK) to get 1 block of carbohydrates! Personally I’d add a piece of fruit to that breakfast to up the carbs a bit, e.g a satsuma or small apple.

    For the fastest breakfast though, I go for cold sliced meat (either from the deli counter or left overs from yesterday’s dinner), an apple and some nuts, like 9 almonds say.

  • Lara 16 November 2012, 8:59 pm

    Could you please tell me what a “rasher” of bacon is? Is it one slice? And what is “brown sauce”? Thanks 🙂

  • Colin McNulty 20 November 2012, 7:59 pm

    Yes a Rasher is 1 slice, and brown sauce is… err… the opposite of tomato ketchup?

  • Shelly 18 February 2013, 3:41 pm

    Hi Colin,
    How do I figure out if I am eating enough? I do Crossfit 4-5 times a week. I am 4’11 and weigh 120lbs. My goal is to tone (especially lower half) I know there is a smaller me in here!!! I also have a Visalus shake before (with almond milk and a few strawberries) the WOD and after the WOD I have a coconut water and Visalus shake powder., then shower and get ready for work, then I have solid food. I am muscular, so I wasn’t sure how to figure out how many “blocks” I should eat. thanks in advance

  • Colin McNulty 23 February 2013, 10:53 am

    Hi Shelly, it’s probably around 12-13 blocks per day, assuming you CrossFit 3-5 times a week.

  • Ria 23 August 2013, 9:08 am

    Hate cottage cheese so glad I can have some Cheddar cheese was born and grew up in England so the way you work it just sounds right to me thanks. R

  • David B 29 August 2013, 8:50 pm

    Hi Colin, loved your earlier comment when trying to describe brown sauce- opposite of ketchup, genius. I have just done my first week of zone from a few links I found (will post later). It is a little tricky but I spent a week planning and weighing and making a meal plan. All smooth sailing do far : )

  • David B 29 August 2013, 8:53 pm

    This is a great link, like with all lifestyle changes, preparation is key
    http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/cfjissue21_May04.pdf

  • Name dianne Burchell 18 January 2014, 8:47 am

    Hi, I did this diet a long time ago and am starting again. I remember being told that a small handful of almonds and sultanas then either slivered almonds or shaved coconut. Can you help my memory.

    Ta. Di

  • mary 22 April 2014, 11:52 pm

    did you come up with any cheap lunch and dinner meals for the zone? This has been a gift. I have such a hard time understanding the diet and I too watch my money. Thank you so much.

  • Linda 23 June 2014, 5:05 pm

    I am excited about starting the zone way of eating! It’s everything that I basically eat but I’m having to work on the balance of foods and the blocks. My daughter uses the zone in her meal planning and looks great! I read that a typical female needs 3 blocks each meal of each protein, carbs, and fat. Is this correct? What if you want to lose 5-10 lbs? Should I drop back to 2 blocks of each? Thanks.

  • Natalie 6 November 2014, 8:15 am

    Here’s a breakfast I’ve started having:
    25g of porridge oats mixed in with 15g oat bran (2 carb blocks)
    Cook in the microwave with 200ml semi skimmed milk and roughly 100 ml or so of water (1 carb and 1 protein block)
    Stir in 150g cottage cheese (2 protein), 1tsp butter (3 fat blocks) and cinnamon to taste.

    The only thing is I’m not currently counting the 7g or so of carbs in the cottage cheese. Nowhere I can see on the zone tells you to do this but it is sugar. Be interested if anyone else had any thoughts?

  • Misheck 19 November 2015, 9:41 pm

    Hey Colin, I recall you had a system before where you could get daily email notification of how you lost the beer belly. Is this still available? Love your work by the way!

  • Colin McNulty 20 November 2015, 1:34 pm

    Hi Misheck, I did but then I converted all that information into a book and popped it on Amazon for Kindle download. See here:

    http://www.colinmcnulty.com/blog/2012/01/01/how-i-lost-my-beer-belly-its-easier-than-you-think/

  • Megan 2 June 2016, 6:02 pm

    Hi there
    I’m currently nursing my three month old baby. I have only gained weight since the birth so I’d like to make sure I’m eating correctly for the best health and to aid in weight loss over time. How do I modify with nursing? Does anything change do you know?
    Thanks

  • Colin McNulty 13 June 2016, 2:52 pm

    Hi Megan. I’m no expert so I suggest you seek better advice, say from the forums on zonediet.com

    If you’re putting weight on, then clearly what you’re eating now isn’t right. Certainly I believe it’s a fallacy that pregnant or nursing mothers are “eating for 2”. You may be eating for 1.1 perhaps, but certainly not 2.

    I’ve seen a recent new mother for example eat a large adult sized lunch, and then go back for a second similar full adult sized lunch saying: “And now for baby’s lunch”!

    If it were me, I would just eat a healthy zone balanced diet to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to produce health milk, and monitor your weight. If you’re producing enough milk and maintaining weight, I think it would be hard for anyone to argue what you were doing was wrong.

    Good luck, Colin

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