The Zone Diet


About the Zone Diet

The Zone Diet ( was developed by Dr. Barry Sears. The diet itself is set up to give moderate amounts of the three major nutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrate. By doing this, Dr. Sears believes that the zone diet will balance and stabilize the three major hormones or hormone types: insulin, glucagons and eicosanoids. In addition, Dr. Sears believes that zone diet food is capable of controlling gene expression by turning on or off particular genes.

  • The Plan


The basic concept is that based on your daily protein needs, to stay in the diet zone you will eat a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate throughout the day using three meals and a few snacks. These are measured in blocks. A block of protein is roughly 1 ounce of meat. As a rule of thumb, women will have three blocks, or three ounces of lean meat and men will have four ounce of lean meat per meal. You then use equal blocks of fat and carbohydrate.

Lists are used to choose the blocks with options such as good choices, best choices, poor choices etc. You are advised to divide your plate in thirds filling one third with the correct amount of protein blocks, 2/3 with fruits and vegetables, and then sprinkling on your equivalent blocks of good fats such as nuts, avocado or olive oil. A block of olive oil is 1/3 tsp.

There are several books both to expound on the diet as well as give zone diet recipes. An example recipe would be South American Chili Soup which contains 4 blocks of protein. The ingredients include items such as chopped chicken (4 ounces of course), salsa, peppers, tomatoes, onion (what’s in the salsa?) as well as several seasonings and chicken stock. One needs to sauté some of the ingredients, then mix the rest together bringing it to a simmer. Corn starch is used as a thickener.

  • Pros

So, it’s healthy cuisine for sure. Who can argue with choices like lean protein, fruits, vegetables, a handful of whole grains and unsaturated fats such as olive oil and nuts? Eating several times a day is also good advice. Metabolism is at its peak rate when we eat throughout the day.

Any of the typical Zone diet meals are most certainly packed with nutrition. As well, the philosophy behind making the diet sound as though it’s not your typical diet that is merely for weight loss but rather for genetic control and hormone balance sort of removes the usual obsessive focus on weight loss. It shows the dieter that eating healthfully has merits above and beyond weight loss.

Many dieters obsess far too much about dieting and weight and this philosophy will help them shift focus to their benefit. I don’t pretend to be a geneticist, but regardless of what can be done here to control gene expression, I do believe it will help balance hormones provided there isn’t some major underlying cause for hormonal balance such as hyper or hypothyroidism.

The main reason for this would be the fact that precursors for hormone production and function are the micronutrients found in protein, fruits and vegetables. Eating a balance of these items will probably ensure adequate production and efficient function of hormones. And, will one lose weight while using the Zone diet? Theoretically, yes, if and ONLY if they can stick with it. But, that sort of leads me to the Cons….

  • Cons

Whoa! Holy complication Batman! As a person who is knowledgeable about nutrition, I look at the diet and am dizzied by all the numbers…. Numbers of blocks, ounces, grams, calories, portions. The carbohydrate section is a nightmare. Who the heck wants to memorize all these things? Good stuff, bad stuff, poor stuff, other….

What the? Some veggies are in one group, others are in another. You’d have to have cheat sheets plastered all over the kitchen in order to get this diet straight. And the recipes? Listen, I happen to enjoy cooking, but I simply don’t have time to be a culinary wizard every time I want to eat something. I suppose you could just stick with the list, but as I’ve said, that’s fairly complicated as well. The fat section sleighs me! A tablespoon of avocado? What should you do with rest of the avocado? They don’t last very long after you tap into one. I know, make some guac and give it to your too skinny friend with a bag of tortilla chips! Or how about nuts? Three almonds? Sorry, I’m not stopping at three almonds. Worse yet, pick macadamia and you’ve got one lonely little nut on your snack plate. Also, be prepared to take out a second mortgage on your home in order to cover the costs.

True, quality food is usually pretty pricey. The produce and meat portions of your market bill are usually high, but expect them to get higher; especially if you’re doing this for every meal and/or using the fancy recipes. Not to mention the pre-made food which I’m quite certain you’ll be tempted to use. Let’s see, cut up veggies, cook meat, find a plate, darn I forgot the fork OR zip open a Zone bar?

The bottom line?

No one will stick with this diet! Okay, maybe a monk. He’d probably like the third, third, third, three blocks, three blocks, three blocks sort of thing. For many busy, busy folks this diet is just way too complicated. The cuisine is in fact fabulously nutritious and pretty tasty to boot (all that time, it better taste good!); however, it just isn’t realistic to expect typical Americans to stick with this diet. Here’s an idea.

Try to incorporate as many vegetables into your diet as you can. Choose lean protein when choosing from protein. Choose whole grains when choosing a grain. Watch your portion sizes. Avoid junk food except as an occasional treat. Exercise. Sounds simple to me! Click here to join!


  1. Man! How can it be applied to a burger-and-fries person like me? I’m willing to sacrifice every now and then but how do I go about if I crave for that piece of steak?

  2. Dr. Sears pointed out very well, but yeah truly said by you no one would stick to the diet, i think not even monks..