All About: The Zone Diet

The Zone Diet name on cutting board with knife, rosemary, thyme, and arugula

What is the Zone Diet? Does it work? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Learn all of the above and more.

What is the Zone Diet?

The Zone Diet is a popular anti-inflammatory diet created by biochemist Dr. Barry Sears. It is among the fad diets that follow the low-carb, low-calorie rule but with its specific food types and diet guidelines. Dr. Sears claims this diet can help with weight loss and improve people’s mental and physical health.

The Zone Diet was developed to reduce inflammation in the body. It has a specific eating ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% protein. Supposedly, following this rule can result in weight loss leading to reduced risks of diseases like diabetes, heart attack, and gastrointestinal issues. Unlike other quick-fix fad diets, the Zone Diet is a long term dietary program that promotes eating habits for improved health and lifestyle.

How does the Zone Diet work?

The Zone Diet guidelines emphasize three things for dieters: recommended amount of food intake, proper schedule of meals, and specific food types.

The Zone Diet meal plan has a 40/30/30 framework. This number represents consuming 40% of carbs with a low glycemic index, 30% of healthy fats, and 30% of protein. In the past, eating foods with a large percentage of fat was frowned upon. The debate has changed recently. It's now believed that many high-fat foods are good for you. In particular, certain foods like olive oil, avocados, and walnuts are considered to be healthy fats. Dieters must follow this recommended amount of food for every meal.

This diet program also has a set meal schedule. The first meal should be within the first hour of waking up in the morning. The following meals would have 4 to 6 hours intervals and snacks should be eaten around 2 hours from mealtime. Dieters are encouraged to eat at least 5 times following this schedule whether hungry or not. Also, drinking 8 glasses of water and consuming some supplements are recommended.

The Zone Diet guidelines advocate the following food types: healthy carbs, healthy fats, and lean protein. Purportedly, the diet does not completely ban other kinds of food but it would be difficult to insert other edibles when dieters must adhere to the 40/30/30 ratio.

In summary, the rules ask dieters to eat five meals a day wherein every plate has to consist of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fats. Those who are interested in trying the Zone Diet have to follow the rigid instructions to enjoy its purported benefits.

Does the Zone Diet work? What are the Zone Diet health benefits?

As with other types of diet, people are looking to Zone Diet for weight loss. Since this 40/30/30 diet promotes calorie reduction and avoiding bad carbs, this in itself leads to losing weight. But this fad does not align itself with other short-term programs that have quick and dramatic slimming results. Supposedly, dieters can expect to lose only up to 1.5 pounds in the first week of trying the diet. The good news is this is a more permanent result as this plan claims to target excess body fats and not just water weight or even muscle mass. Maintaining this diet can help a person reach their weight goals over time.

Reducing bad carbs and eliminating body fats help dieters gain other potential health benefits. With the Zone Diet meal plan, a person can reach “The Zone.” Dr. Sears claims that “The Zone” is a real physiological state in the body which dictates that a person’s clinical markers are kept in the optimal range. This means that the body can effectively control diet-induced inflammation, regulate insulin levels, and decrease oxidative stress. Keeping these clinical markers within their ideal values can help reduce the risks of numerous diseases like diabetes, heart attack, and gastrointestinal issues. To put it simply, being in “The Zone” can help maintain wellness; this helps people boost their cognitive and physical performance in their lifetime despite the expected decline in aging.

While all these health benefits sound great, the diet’s effect is not scientifically proven. Though the medical implications with its nutritious food choices can benefit people, the diet itself is not addressed to be a universal method for people to achieve their health goals. There are even some claims that the Zone Diet does not differ to other types of diet in terms of benefits.

Is the Zone Diet safe? Is the Zone Diet unhealthy?

Overall, the general nutrition provided by the Zone Diet is safe and healthy. It encourages eating healthy fats, good carbs, and lean protein which are all great for the body. Contrarily, it restricts a selection of fruits, veggies, fats, and carbs with lesser nutritional content and eliminates junk food in its guidelines. These factors help dieters ward off health problems and keep a person in “the Zone” thus maintaining wellness.

However, like other dietary programs, there’s a catch in following the Zone Diet: it’s complicated and not practical for many. Some would say it’s expensive and many would say it’s time-consuming. Since the diet has a rigid 40/30/30 meal plan, people who lead busy lifestyles have a hard time following this rule. It becomes even more arduous since it’s a life-long diet. This has the potential of making people give up on the diet or practice a lot of cheat days rendering the diet useless and even unhealthy in the long run.

It should also be noted that the Zone Diet is helpful for individuals who are at risk of chronic diseases and genetic inheritance disorders such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart problems. However, those who are already diagnosed with any health conditions must consult with a medical professional before trying any type of diet.

Zone Diet shopping list, meal plan, and menu

While the Zone Diet has strict food choices and meal ratio, there are still plenty of delicious recipes that can be made using its recommended foods. To make it easier for dieters who are interested in trying this dietary program, here is a quick list as a basis for your Zone Diet shopping list:


Fish and seafood: Bass, cod, clams, crabmeat, salmon, shrimp, trout, tuna Meat and poultry: lean beef, skinless turkey and breast, veal, egg whites


Fruits: Apple, blueberries, grapefruit, kiwi, orange, peach, plum, strawberries Vegetables: Asparagus, bean sprouts, cabbage, green or red peppers, onion, spinach Grains: Oatmeal, barley


Oil: Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil avocado, almonds Nuts: Almonds, cashew, macadamia, pistachio Others: Avocado, tahini, peanut butter

There is a system called the Zone Diet block method which makes it easier for dieters to proceed with this diet. A Zone block is composed of one block of protein, one block of carbohydrates, and one block of fats. A protein block equates to 7 grams of protein, a carb block equates to 9 grams of carbohydrates, and a fat block equates to 1.5 grams of fat if it's sourced from animal protein or 3 grams of fat for a vegetarian option.

Zone food blocks are personalized according to a dieter’s body measurements. Purportedly, the average female consumes 3 Zone blocks per meal while the average male eats 4 Zone blocks. Depending on the body fat index calculation, a person can prep his or her own Zone Diet meal plan using the block method.

A Zone Diet Meal Plan Example

  • Breakfast: Ham and Cheese Omelet = 4 food blocks
  • Lunch: Barbecue Chicken Salad = 4 food blocks
  • Afternoon Snack: Celery with Hummus = 1 block
  • Dinner: Beef Stroganoff = 4 food blocks
  • Evening Snack: Chocolate Parfait = 1 block

Another Zone Diet Meal Plan Example

  • Breakfast: Asparagus Quiche = 3 food blocks
  • Lunch: Broccoli and Chicken Casserole = 3 food blocks
  • Afternoon Snack: Boiled egg, nuts and fruit = 1 block
  • Dinner: Cajun Salmon = 3 food blocks
  • Evening Snack: Almond & Blueberry Yogurt = 1 block

The food blocks have to do with the ingredients more than the recipe itself. It’s possible to have various meal options as long as it follows the 40/30/30 rule or the Zone Food Block method. Knowing the specific food measurements for each block of protein, carbs, and fats can help in arranging your meals accordingly.

Zone Diet Books

Zone Diet Recipes

Zone Diet Apps

Looking for more diet ideas?

Try our free Diet Optimizer Quiz and get quick, unique, customized ideas like:

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  • Alternatives to french fries, potato chips, or other fried foods.
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