The Pritikin Principle
The Pritikin Principle is a low-fat diet based heavily on eating fruits, grains and vegetables. It's not vegetarian, but very close. The prevailing message of the book is not necessarily weight reduction, but to lower cholesterol and to help diabetics get off insulin by normalizing their blood sugar. If you end up losing weight, well that's just a perk.
One unusual aspect of the program is that you are not instructed to count calories, but determine each foods caloric density. By choosing foods that are less "calorie dense" you will fill up much faster without gaining weight or excess body fat. For example, a pound of chocolate cake may have approximately 2,000 calories, while a pound of broccoli only 130 calories. So the chocolate cake would be bad, and the broccoli good.
Pritikin also instructs his readers to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. If you're in better shape, he suggests you should make walking 30 miles a week your goal.
Barley, brown rice and beans. Lean beef, chicken or fish are allowed, but in very small quantities. Fruits are allowed including apples, bananas and strawberries. The consumption of large amounts of water and fiber are encouraged to fill you up so you don't experience as much hunger. If you follow the Pritikin Principle as directed, you eat three meals each day and two snacks.
While calorie counting is out, you will need to have some understanding of how to calculate the caloric density of each meal, in order to keep those meals below a specific number.
How it Works
It's a reduced calorie diet. Whenever you take in fewer calories than your body burns, you lose weight. Unfortunately it takes fat to make you feel full. If you follow the Pritikin Principle strictly, it is possible you may experience hunger between meals.
The recommendation that you eat several times each day is also generally a good idea, as long as you stick with foods that are not calorie dense. By eating several small meals your body tends to use stored fat as energy and you are less likely to have cravings or engage in binge eating.
Pros and Cons
This is a very low-fat diet and may take some getting used to. Because it is so low in fat, you may experience some hunger between meals. For some people, the extreme low fat may actually harm their health because it can inhibit normal cell function.
Bodybuilders or competitive athletes may find this diet does not provide enough calories, proteins or healthy fats.
The Bottom Line
The Pritikin Principle is a difficult diet. Eating very low fat can be a challenge in today's on-the-go society and many people will not have the extra 1 or 2 hours a day to prepare the meals.
If you're a vegetarian, or willing to become a vegetarian, this diet may work for you. You should also consider this diet if you are obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or heart disease. If followed properly improvements in health can be made. We are simply concerned with most people's ability to stay on the diet once the weight loss has been achieved.
Because of the extremely low fat nature of the Pritikin Principle, we cannot recommend this diet for bodybuilders or competitive athletes.
CAUTION: You should NEVER attempt any diet without the supervision of a Medical Doctor or licensed Nutritionist.
General Reference Links
American Heart Association
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institutes of Health
United States Department of Agriculture