Losing 20-plus pounds is a great accomplishment, and Joel Fuhrman, MD, aims to help you do that with his book, Eat to Live.
The 6-week plan shows that if you eat foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories, you can eat more and feel fuller for longer. Fuhrman calls this a "Nutritarian" diet.
On this plan, you cut down on some carbs (bread, pasta), sugar, and oil. You also quit meat and dairy for at least 6 weeks, and eat more whole fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, and whole grains.
What You Can Eat and What You Can't
In unlimited quantities, you may eat:
- Raw veggies
- Steamed or cooked green vegetables, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and more
- Beans and other legumes. Fuhrman suggests eating 1 cup daily to benefit fully from the fiber and resistant starch, which helps you feel full and passes through the intestine without being digested.
- At least four fresh fruits per day, but no juice. You can have frozen fruit, but not canned. You can use dried fruit sparingly, as a sweet accent.
In limited quantities, you may eat:
- 1 cup per day of cooked starchy vegetables or whole grains (winter squash, corn, potatoes, rice, bread, cereal)
- 1 ounce per day of raw nuts and seeds
- 2 ounces per day of avocado (1/5 of a medium avocado is 1 ounce)
- 2 tablespoons per day of dried fruit
- 1 tablespoon per day of ground flaxseed
- Dairy products
- Animal products
- Snacks between meals
- Fruit juice
- Processed foods
Fuhrman says it’s best to avoid alcohol if possible, but you can have one drink a day if that will help you stay on the plan.
Level of Effort: Medium to Hard
Limitations: This is a very restrictive diet. You will be eating tons of vegetables at most meals, with some fruit, some legumes, and a limited amount of starch at one meal. You will not eat meat, dairy, sugar, or oil at all on the initial 6-week plan. After you complete the first 6 weeks, you may reintroduce fat-free dairy, meat, fish, refined carbs, and olive oil in very small amounts. If you don't add the animal products back in, you will need to get supplemental vitamin B12, vitamin D, and potentially also an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
If you are looking for a more gradual transition to eating nutritarian, Fuhrman's other book, Eat for Health, may be a better option.
Cooking and shopping: You’ll spend a good amount of time prepping and cooking veggies, whether it’s washing, chopping, steaming, or roasting -- you’re going to need to do a lot of work to produce the 2 pounds of vegetables you need to eat each day.
Packaged foods or meals: No.
In-person meetings: No.
Exercise: Fuhrman encourages regular exercise but doesn’t offer specific suggestions.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
The Eat to Live diet is a vegetarian, vegan, low-salt, low-fat, and gluten-free (if you avoid grains with gluten) plan. After the first 6 weeks, when some restrictions loosen, you may add animal products in limited amounts, if you like.
What Else You Should Know
Cost: You will spend roughly the same amount on groceries, because though your produce budget will grow, you’ll spend nothing on meat or dairy. You have the option to buy items on Fuhrman's website, including his books, supplements, nutrition bars, and more.
Support: You can do this diet on your own, but there is additional help on Furhman's website. You can buy various membership plans, which give you access to a variety of weight loss tools, recipes, and member discussion forums.
What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:
Does It Work?
You will absolutely lose weight on this plan, but you may not be able to do it long term. Eat to Live is very low in calories, protein, fat, and sodium, and high in fiber.
The U.S. government's guidelines recommend shifting toward a more plant-based diet, but this extremely restrictive diet takes it a step further. It eliminates some food groups, and it doesn’t allow for snacks, sugar, or oils, which could make it very difficult to stay on.
Fuhrman promises a 20-pound weight loss in 6 weeks from his vegan-type diet, which calls for eating a substantial amount of vegetables, at least 1 cup of beans and 4 servings of fruit, and a few other foods each day. Plant-based diets can be healthy if you take supplements to get the missing nutrients.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
Eat to Live is low in calories, sodium, and fat can almost certainly lower cholesterol levels and lower the risk for heart disease, as well as drop pounds.
Anyone who has bowel disease may have trouble tolerating the volume of fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Consult your doctor before starting this plan.
The Final Word
This plan is ideal for vegans and veggie lovers who enjoy large volumes of raw and cooked produce. It requires lots of time in the kitchen and plenty of fresh produce, which can be costly.
People who love sweets, dairy, meat, and eggs won’t be satisfied on the plan. The absence of dairy during the first 6 weeks of the plan and limited amount of whole grains and oils, are a possible concern. The eating plan is NOT low in protein. But it does remove animal protein from your diet. Your doctor or a dietitian can let you know what you need to do to get all the vitamins and minerals you need while on this plan, especially during the strictest phase.