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How to Combine Diets, in 6 Steps

Have you been on a specific diet for a long time but want to try another?  Second guessing yourself because you are comfortable with the diet on which you have been?  Wish you could keep your old diet and just mix and match the new one?

Diets are like off the rack suits or bikinis.  One size fits all... doesn't. Technology continues to advance and new revelations emerge nearly daily.  So yes, it is possible, even ok, to re-think your diet and merge two or more together.  How to do so, then, is the hard part.

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In 1995, Barry Sears, PhD., published the first book of The Zone Diet. He had engineered this diet based on 25 years of research into drug-delivery systems for diabetic and heart patients.  Working out of M.I.T., Dr. Sears achieved 12 awards for his revolutionary diet.  I picked up a book, worked it out for myself, and have been on it all these years.

In my continuing efforts to find more and better solutions, for my conditions, my husband's, and those of friends and strangers alike, other diets have been reviewed.  The Zone Diet is a balanced protein/carbohydrate/fat diet.  The Pagano Diet, designed to treat Psoriasis naturally, is an acid/alkaline balancing diet, basically low protein, high carbohydrate.  The Atkins Diet is a ketogenic diet, basically high protein, low carbohydrate.  The Paleo Diet is also high protein, low carbohydrate, but somewhat less ketogenic than Atkins.  

Which is best?  I know what works for me but it may not work best for you.  And I've modified mine to suit my special needs.  Your special needs will be different.

Step 1: Choose a Control Diet...

To design a diet that addresses all or most of your special needs, you need to start with one specific diet and then add and subtract to make it fit you.

Diets either count calories or measure something else, usually the Big 3: protein, carbohydrates (carbs), and fats.  Counting calories is difficult, tedious, and, IMHO, boring.  What's more, if the diet is not simple and easy to implement, we lose interest and fall off the diet quickly, never to pick it up again.  Counting calorie diets are their own worst enemy.

FYI, this page is not intended to promote a specific diet over another.  I mention The Zone Diet the most herein because I am most familiar with it.  You can just as easily begin with the Paleo Diet or an acid/alkaline balancing diet or a vegetarian or vegan diet.

The Zone Diet represents a good control diet because it doesn't count calories.  It is unlike other diets that begin by measuring your weight with the target of straightforward weight loss.  The Zone Diet determines a daily allowance based on your Body Mass Index (BMI).  It uses height, weight, and bone density (fine, medium, heavy) in a mathematical formula.  Different measurements are used for men and women.  Best yet, as you lose weight, your BMI changes, and the formula allows you to eat MORE, not less.  This is because lean body tissue burns more energy and thus needs more food.  And as an added bonus, this diet also benefits people wishing to GAIN weight.  

The Zone Diet also sets portions for balance, and certain foods as well.  What is excluded is saturated fats, encouraging instead mono-unsaturated fats, and key sources of arachidonic acid, such as eggs.  Arachidonic acid is a chemical shortcut to the generation of "bad" eicosanoids (eye-KAH-sah-noyds) such as the one that causes LDL cholesterol to build up within arterial walls.

Step 2: Choose a Second Diet ...

So one of the biggest trends nowadays is the Paleo Diet.  How does this diet differ from the Zone Diet?  The Paleo Diet is largely a ketogenic diet.  A ketogenic diet is one that does not consume enough carbohydrates to provide sufficient energy for activity, and forces the body to break down muscle fiber to fuel activity instead.  Breaking down muscle fiber is more difficult and time-consuming than burning the energy of carbs.  What's more, this breakdown releases unhealthy substances into the bloodstream, such as ketones.  Ketones put an additional load on the liver and kidneys to evacuate from the body.  Ketosis is a risk.

However, the Paleo Diet has some good points.  It promotes raw fruits and vegetables over cooked, which helps to preserve flavor and nutrients.  It is an excellent diet for people with gluten allergies.  It also promotes nuts and discourages seeds and beans, based on facts that report that seeds and beans contain anti-nutrients.  Anti-nutrients interfere with the action of nutrients that improve health, such as fighting cancer.

Step 3:  Blend diets one and two ...

So the Paleo Diet has fairly loose guidelines for portion control.  Let's use the Zone Diet to dictate portions and the Paleo Diet to limit gluten, cooked fruits and vegetables, seeds and beans.  

For example, say you want to have a "milk"shake periodically.  I have discovered that when I take my protein in liquid form, I will lose half a pound of body weight per serving.  But I can only stomach one liquid serving a day, due to my diabetes.  

Now you have the choice of some version of milk (from an animal) or "milk" from soy, almond, or rice.  Soy is a bean, hence it is off the menu, per the Paleo Diet.  However, almonds are nuts, and so are allowed.  Rice, however, is a grain, another Paleo discouragement.  Goat's milk may be better than cow's milk, especially for people who are lactose intolerant.  

Powdered proteins are most often derived from soy or whey.  Again, soy is not allowed.  Whey is a by-product of milk production.  So, were I to have a liquid protein serving, my first choice would be almond milk, then goat's milk, then cow's milk, in that order, mixing in with whey protein (chocolate flavored).  My husband uses vanilla flavored, as he combines his with fruits and juice.

Step 4:  Add in key modifications ...

Ok, so now we have roughed out a Zone/Paleo combined diet.  Here is where we get personal.

The Pagano Diet, as I mentioned above is an acid/alkaline balancing diet that favors a heavy vegetarian slant.  One memorable recommendation in the Pagano Diet is the avoidance of nightshades for people with arthritis, as nightshades increase inflammation.  Nightshades include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and paprika.  If you have an inflammatory condition, then you may want to limit these.

If you have Multiple Sclerosis, you want to increase your intake of Vitamin B13, Orotic Acid.  The only food sources are whey protein and root vegetables.  Since the Paleo Diet favors raw carbs, you may want to add in those root vegetables that can be eaten raw, which may not be all of them.  Fortunately, we have already mentioned whey protein milkshakes.

Say you are a diabetic, like me.  I like a few vegetables, but not all of them.  I like more fruit, but they don't like me.  Fruit sugars will affect a diabetic's blood sugar faster than vegetables or grains.  So I might give greater weight to vegetables and limit fruit, eating both raw, per the Paleo Diet.  Sounds like a daily salad, also a good source of fiber and an excellent way to lose weight.  For me, that might include red leaf, romaine, and head lettuce, cucumber, tomato, some other veggies (not corn) and a portion of pre-cooked shrimp, tuna, or imitation crab on top.  Finish with italian dressing (or oil and vinegar) or olives, an excellent source of mono-unsaturated fats.

Passing kidney stones produces agony.  A co-worker who has passed several was directed by his physician to consume oatmeal regularly.  So I have a portion on Saturday mornings, as it has another impact that can be inconvenient on workdays.  Kidney stones are built from oxalates, so a diet that identifies oxalate content might be a wise addition.  The Vulvar Pain Foundation publishes two cookbooks on this subject.  Even if  you are male, if kidney stones are a concern, these cookbooks are an excellent investment in your health.  I do not know of any other comprehensive source of oxalate information.

Step 5:  Match portions to your control diet ...

In this exercise, we have chosen The Zone Diet as our control diet.  The Zone Diet is useful here because the portion controls are clear and simple.  As follows:

  • Seven (7) grams of protein equals one block
  • Nine (9) grams of carbohydrates equals one block
  • 1.5 grams of fat equals on block

So a balanced serving is equal to one block each of protein, carbs, and fats.  One block of protein generally works out to one ounce of red or white meat or 1.5 ounces of fish.  One block of fats can be three olives or three macadamia nuts or a teaspoon or tablespoon of another mono-unsaturated fat.  Before creating your "cheatsheet" of notes to guide you, establish one block portions for all the foods you have blended in to your modified diet.  A good resource is nutritiondata.self.com.

Say you want to add raw parsnips to your combined diet.  They aren't listed in any of the Zone books nor your Paleo diet resources.  If you use the Zone diet as your control, you need to figure out what constitutes a one block serving of carbohydrates.

Going to the nutrition data website, you search for parsnips.  Three options are returned, one of which is raw parsnips.  Clicking on this choice, your next page has a selection box below the video and above the data.  You select the "1 ounce = 28 grams" choice.  The results say that 28 grams of parsnips provide 5 grams of carbohydrates.  But one block of carbs equals 9 grams of carbs.  How do you calculate out these figures?

Well, some people are strong in math and some are not.  So for those of you for which math may be a struggle, this is how I worked it out the math.

  1. Divide 28 by 5 to find out how many grams of product yield each gram of carbs.  The answer is 5.6.
  2. Multiply 5.6 by 9 to find out how many grams of product will yield one block of carbs.  The answer is 50.4.
  3. Divide 50.4 by 28 to find out how many ounces of product equal one block of carbs.  The answer is 1.8.

Using a simple plastic measuring scale, you can now apportion one or more blocks of parsnips to suit your diet, using multiples of 1.8 ounces.

Step 6:  Create a "cheatsheet" ...

The first cheatsheet I created, based on multiple diets, was in Excel and was color-coded.  Nowadays, I use Evernote.  

So here is an example of that two page cheatsheet, created over 20 years ago.  I don't expect you to use or copy this.  It is provided as an example of ways and means.  Whether you use a 3x5 card system like Evernote, or create your own personal website, there are many tools at hand for setting up your own system, until your personalized diet becomes second nature to you.

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This website is for information purposes only and is not intended to be, or to serve as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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