How to start on the Zone Diet Plan

This is an email I sent a guy who was just starting on the zone, and not getting it quite right. I hope I’ve managed to correct him properly. “> ” denote his comments on what he was eating, I thought I’d stick it up here for your benefit, if you’ve got an opinion, feel free to pipe up:

> Breakfast – porriage, small slice cold meat, 4 almonds.

You’re not giving precise measurements but that looks like 2 problems: not enough protein (*small* slice of meat), and too many carbs (porridge – I’m assuming a bowl full?). I always start by planning the protein in my meals. Protein always is the start which drives how much carb and fat to add. These days, protein is the only thing I still actually measure with scales, as it’s the most important to get right.

> snack – apple, small slice cold meat, 4 almonds.

Again, a *small* slice doesn’t sound like enough.

> Lunch 1 egg, 1 small brown pitta bread, small amount of cheese grated over and salad.

This looks a better protein to carb ratio, so long as the pitta was really small. Where’s the fat though? Salad dressing perhaps?

> dinner – 1 slice beef ham (thin), 3 small pototo, veg seclection stir fried with small amount of olive oil.

1 thin slice of ham doesn’t sound like nearly enough protein. Potatoes are very carb dense, so 3 pototoes could easily be 5 or 6 blocks worth of carbs. And what was in the veg selection? Carots and parsnips for example would be fine, but not with the potatoes.

> snack – plain yogurt, apple, 4 almonds and 1 thin slice of fruit loaf (home made)

That was a great snack, until the apple and fruit loaf! lol. 😉 A typical balance zone snack here would have been: plain yoghurt (1 block protein and 1 block carbs) and almonds (1 block fat). The apple adds 2 blocks of carbs with no protein or fat to balance it. And only you and the recipe book know how many carbs are in the fruit loaf.

> It was only a thin slice without any butter.

That’s not zone thinking. Butter is fine (in moderation) as a fat source. It’s actually better to have butter on a carb source, than just pure carbs, cos the fat helps to tell your brain you are full (providing the protein is there too).

The nice part about the zone is this: you can eat exactly what you are used to eating. You just need to change the proportions, and that can take some getting used to, cos you have to throw away everything you thought you knew about “healthy eating”. Let me give you an example:

When I first started on the zone, it entertained me no end that I could have a zoned bacon butty for breakfast! ;D Here’s what my bacon butties used to look like:

Old bacon butty: 2 slices of bread, 2 rashers of bacon, butter and brown source. Yum.

Then I zoned it, for my 5 block breakfast. I checked the carb count of the bread on the packet (9g carbs = 1 block) and found that 1 slice was 18g carbs, so 2 slices were 4 blocks. Then I checked the protein count of the bacon (7g of protein = 1 block) and discovered that an entire 6 rasher packet was about 35g protein, so that’s my 5 blocks).

So 2 pieces of bread and 6 rashers of bacon was 4 blocks of carbs and 5 blocks of protein. Checking the HP Brown Sauce bottle I discovered a modest squirt of HP was about 10g of carbs (about a block) which conveniently made up my missing carb block. But no fat yet – well 1/3 of a teaspoon of butter is 1 block of fat, so a thin spreading of butter on each bread makes the fat. Excellent, my 5 zone block bacon butty breakfast now looks like:

New bacon butty: 2 slices of bread, 6 rashers of bacon, butter and brown source. Yum, yum yum! 😀

What’s the difference? I use 3x as much bacon, and a little less butter than I would have done, apart from that, it’s exactly the same.

Just for the record, I don’t suggest this for every breakfast, as bacon is a fatty protein source, and all 5 blocks of carbs are made up of unfavourable (read high Glycemic Index) carbs. But it’s an illustration as to how you only have to change proportions, and normally that change is simply more protein, less carbs.

My personal recommendation, is that you go strict Zone for 2 weeks. Buy one of the Zone Books and measure everything for just 2 weeks. Once you’ve done that, you get a really good feel for what’s what. Like I said, I only measure the protein now, just to be sure I get enough, everything else is an educated guess, and I’m still losing fat (2 stone in fat lost now) and gaining muscle.

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