Very Low-Fat Diets for Weight Loss

Overview

Although there are many weight-loss diets, statistics show that most people who lose weight on a diet regain that weight, and sometimes they gain more. The best ways to stay healthy are eating well and being physically active.

Excess calories from meals, snacks, and drinks can lead to weight gain. Low-fat eating helps you lower the amount of calories you get from fats. Eating less fat is also part of a heart-healthy diet. It can help lower the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.

You do need some fat in your diet for energy and to help absorb vitamins.

Low-fat programs such as the Life Choice Diet (Ornish) and Pritikin suggest only 10% of your daily calories come from fat. These very low-fat diets do not follow the MyPyramid guidelines for healthy eating.

The Life Choice Diet

Author Dean Ornish, MD, suggests people make lifetime changes that include very low-fat eating habits, exercise, and stress management.

Basic concept

Ornish promotes low-fat vegetarian eating to reverse or prevent heart disease. Exercising and managing stress are equally important in this lifestyle program.

How it works

There are two versions of the Life Choice Diet. The "reversal diet" is for people who have diagnosed heart disease or high cholesterol levels. Because you are trying to reverse damage to your body, you must follow strict guidelines. The "prevention diet" is less structured. You still eat a diet very low in fat, but you have more flexibility in what you can eat.

Guidelines for both versions of Ornish's diet include eating a vegetarian diet high in complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their natural forms). About 10% of your calories come from fat in the reversal diet. You may have more fat in the prevention diet as long as your weight or your cholesterol levels don't begin to rise. Oils are limited to 3 teaspoons a day. Mostly, you eat foods that have less than 3 grams of fat in a serving, and you stay away from saturated fat and sugar.

On the menu

  • High-fiber grains, legumes (beans and peas)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nonfat dairy products
  • Egg whites
  • Small amounts of alcohol

Off the menu

  • Meat and all animal products
  • Caffeine
  • Nuts, seeds, olives
  • Chocolate, coconut
  • Avocado
  • Oils, except for small amounts of canola oil for cooking

Pritikin

Nathan Pritikin, PhD, developed the Pritikin diet in the 1970s. It’s similar to the Ornish program, with no more than 10% of calories coming from fat. Pritikin does allow some lean meat and seafood that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Basic concept

Pritikin encourages eating natural, nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods. Daily exercise is part of the program.

How it works

The theory is that when you limit fat to 10% of your daily calories, there’s no need to count calories. Eat often to keep from feeling hungry—six or seven meals a day. You can eat as much as you want of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. Exercise every day: for example, take a 45-minute walk.

On the menu

  • Whole grains
  • Unprocessed vegetables
  • Unprocessed fruits
  • Nonfat dairy products
  • Egg whites
  • Lean meats
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fat like that found in fish) in very small amounts

Off the menu

  • White pasta
  • White bread
  • Egg yolks
  • Caffeine
  • Processed foods
  • Most fats

For more information, see the topic Weight Management.

Credits

Author Debby Golonka, MPH
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Diabetes Educator
Last Updated February 6, 2009

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.