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Laura Dolson

Alton Brown's Four List Eating Plan

By February 10, 2010

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goodBeing interested in kitchen science, I've enjoyed Alton Brown's Good Eats show. Last year, Mr. Brown noticed he had picked up some weight, and proceeded to lose 50 lbs. In a recent episode of his show ("Live and Let Diet") he explained his method. Naturally, I was interested, particularly in how much carbohydrate would be featured in his eating plan. I thought it would be fun to look at it and see what other people think.

Alton (who clearly states that not only is he not a nutritionist or doctor, but that he didn't consult a doctor) calls his way of eating the "Plan of Four Lists". He has assigned himself short lists of things to eat daily, things to eat 3 times per week, things to eat no more than once per week, and things to eat never. There is appeal to an approach like this, because it tends to simplify your life. He was mainly going for foods that are nutrient dense and that provide a variety of nutrients. Some of the things Alton eats would not be considered low-carb, but as a whole, I think the plan is moderate in carbs - definitely lower than the Food Pyramid, for example. So it might work for someone who has difficulties with glucose, but not severe ones. A couple of adjustments would lower the carbs without significantly lowering the nutrients.

Alton Brown's "Eat Daily" List - fruits, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, carrots, green tea

Comment: Of course, the grains are the item which stands out as being carby, and really not at all necessary in a nutritious diet. Carrots have gotten a bad rap because they are root vegetables, but they aren't as high in carbs as a lot of people think, and they are packed with nutrients. Most (but not all) people can eat at least one serving of low-sugar fruit per day. I agree that eating nuts and greens daily is an excellent idea. I haven't tried to create a list-type approach myself, but I would definitely put adequate protein and olive oil on this daily list.

Alton Brown's "Eat Three Times Per Week" list - Oily fish (wild salmon, sardines, etc), yogurt, broccoli, sweet potatoes, avocado

I would choose carrots or pumpkin as a lower-carb way to get the carotenoids and other nutrients in orange vegetables.

Alton Brown's "Only Once per Week" list - pasta, one alcoholic drink, red meat, dessert

Alton Brown's "Zero Times per Week" list - fast food, soda, processed meals, canned soups, "diet" anything (no artificial sweeteners)

Notes: Alton doesn't drink milk because it makes him want cookies, cake, etc. He has a breakfast smoothie with reminds me a little of the Eades' (of Protein Power) Paleolithic Punch (though Alton adds soy milk to his).

What would your lists look like?

Image Courtesy of Pricegrabber

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February 11, 2010 at 10:49 am
(1) Denise Thornton says:

I think you are on the right track promoting carrots. I just learned that January was National Carrot Month. I think they should all be carrot month.
I attended recently a lecture by a carrot collector and researcher from UW-Madison and learned a ton.
check it out,

Bugs Bunny rules!
Denise Thornton

February 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm
(2) Kab says:

In spite of being on the lower carb side of the diet world, he apparently has an issue with “red” meat. Whatever it is, there has never been any proof whatsoever that it is not a good, healthy source of protein. We know the saturated fat phobia is based on manipulated data and there is nothing else but this junk “science” that can be used to back up this popular health notion that one should “limit red meat”. Despite his good intentions, he needs to do some unbiased reasearch on nutrition.

February 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm
(3) Ned says:

Kab is the one that needs to do some research! I would suggest that he start by reading “The China Study” by Campbell and Campbell. Also research John A. McDougall, M.D. and read his years of study about “limiting red meat”. I don’t agree that this is considered “junk science”.

February 15, 2010 at 7:39 pm
(4) LeftLucy says:

Up to Daily: Lots of vegetables, especially cruciferous for their anti-inflammatory properties; berries and other low sugar fruit; Flax (I hate fish, I’d rather get my O-3s elsewhere); Avocado (5 times a week, helps the arthritits, really), although some would say this is too caloric, I believe the nurtritional offset is fantastic; eggs, eggs, eggs; nuts. Any kind of meat that is not overly processed (like deli).

Up to, at most, 3 times per week: Not overly carby other items. Lentils, barley, perhaps some oatmeal.

Yup, that’s it.

February 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm
(5) ConnieWarner says:

Thanks- enjoyed that! I follow a somewhat lower carb diet. Here’s what I try to follow:

(1) Eat Daily List: Broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, vegetables, mushrooms, lean poultry or tempeh, apples/fruits, old fashioned oatmeal (with water and cinnamon only), nuts (almonds, walnuts), eggs, unsweetened cocoa powder/water drink, water, crushed red pepper, hot sauce

(2) Eat Three Times Per Week List: avocado, salad, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, cottage cheese, salmon, red grapes, soy sausage, spaghetti squash, sugar-free spaghetti sauce, tofu, onions, lime juice, green tea, vegetable broth

(3) Eat Once Per Week List (actually very rarely): red meat, dessert, plain yogurt, cheese, beans

(4) Eat Zero Times Per Week List: White flour, diet anything, soda, juice, coffee, alcohol, processed food (except for soy sausage), canned soups, butter, milk, bread, pasta, corn, popcorn, potatoes, fried food, pizza, fast food

March 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm
(6) Cathy says:

I don’t eat the type of fish that is recommended in Alton Brown’s 3 x’s a week list. Does anyone have any alternatives that would be nutritionally equivalent as the oily fish that I could eat instead of the fish?

March 14, 2010 at 4:55 am
(7) Ron says:

almonds, flax … you can get the same omega 3 as fish…and its safer than fish because you don`t know how much Mercury and other things are in fish…

March 27, 2010 at 11:02 pm
(8) Zoso says:

Carbs are not the enemy, nor does insulin make you fat.

March 28, 2010 at 5:09 pm
(9) Aimee Gallo says:

I disagree with the flax instead of fish argument. Flax and vegetarian sources of omega-3 fats are in form called ALA. In order to reap the benefit of Omega-3s, they must be broken down and converted to DHA and EPA. Our body isn’t very efficient at the conversion, so only 3-5% of the Omega 3s found in flax oil are converted to these beneficial compounds. The fish does the converting of algae to DHA/EPA for its own use, so when you consume fish or fish oil, you reap the benefits of getting the desired outcome without the “work”.
Historically, when we raised livestock outside and foraged wild plants, we were getting enough omega 3s from varied sources despite our poor ability to convert. With poor quality soil and agriculture practices, PLUS the addition of inflammatory foods that were unknown to our ancestors, AND polluted cities, we simply cannot keep up.
I recommend taking supplemental fish oil from a reputable company (talk with knowledgeable workers at your local health food store) or health practitioner to being levels back to ideal while also mindfully consuming oily fish. Quality Fish oil is treated to have any heavy metals removed.

May 13, 2010 at 12:52 am
(10) Matty says:

Love the article and I like how you asked others for feedback…

Just to make this more accurate, if you listen to what Alton says in the show, the three times a week list is actually an *AT LEAST *three times a week list.

I like this way a lot better. I can’t imagine limiting myself to broccoli for 3 times a week for any reason.

I have loosely followed this mixed with some ideas from Eat This, Not That and have dropped 25 pounds in 13 weeks… right on my two pounds a week curve. :D Here’s to hoping to hit my goal by Memorial Day!

August 22, 2010 at 1:36 pm
(11) Dinger says:

Actually, Alton said he did not drink milk because he is lactose intolerant, not because it reminded him of cookies (however the milk bottle was following him around with a plate of cookies). I drink fresh milk – some would say raw – and could not imagine having to give it up! It goes in the smoothie in place of the soy milk. We lived on soy for years because of my son, but, oh, gag! It was a joy to find he did not react to the raw milk, unlike the severe reactions he had to processed/pasteurized milk. Can’t wait to try his technique.

August 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm
(12) lowcarbdiets says:

I was just going by what he said on the show. Thanks for sharing your experience with raw milk – I thinking about writing an article about that.

September 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm
(13) fooly says:

Actually he said he’s not a Dietician or a doctor. Anyone who’s passed a cooking school (which he did) or taken a short course can call themselves a nutritionist.

July 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm
(14) Daniela says:

Actually Kab, there is something to be said about limiting red meat. I have been studying nutrition for years and I have learned many harmful properties in association to the over consumption of red meat, or pork.
I admit if this said meat is organic, naturally raised on a diet that a cow can digest, then the meat should be able to be consumed more regularly then once a week, but the fact remains that the amount of protein contained in red meat is often not conclusive to many people’s lifestyles. Too much protein is a bad thing. Moderation is the key with everything, even super healthy foods. Moderation and a healthy variety. I think you should check your facts before you start dissin’ alton!

July 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm
(15) Daniela says:

Also a note on the article. Grains are a very substantial and an important part of a nutritious diet. To say they are not is almost blasphemy. For a vegetarian or vegan grains are the best way to get in protein, instead of consuming large amounts of soy which is overall damaging.
Quinoa is a super grain, a complete protein, and I would say is far more nutritious than any other substitute.

July 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm
(16) lowcarbdiets says:

Daniela -

I think your statements are worthy of a response, and I plan to write a blog about them soon – probably within the next week.


September 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm
(17) Milton says:

Ron you couldn’t be more wrong. Insulin is the body’s response to a bad diet, and will make you fat.

December 13, 2011 at 12:55 am
(18) Monica says:

I eat a similar diet except I would add nearly daily yellow crookneck squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapefruits, and pranges. 3 times per week quinoa or sashimi ahi tuna. Berries!!!! And egg whites romaine wrap with pick de gallo or vegetarian green chili for reakfadt. I run 7 miles 6 days per weekend do lighter exercise on other days. Also some low weight remaining

December 23, 2011 at 10:46 am
(19) Jody says:

Expand your choices with this book
“Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” Esselstyn

Good dvd in support of eating healthily:
Forks over Knives, from Amazon or Whole Foods.

Good health and happiness to all.

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February 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm
(21) Paul A Heinemann says:

My God, you anticarb people are crazy. The fact is people can live on various types of diets, from carb rich to carb devoid. There is only one absolute in diets, the western diet is not good for you. Carbs are not poison.

September 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm
(22) Toby says:

Paul, what do you think is the basis of the Western Diet, if not carbs? You counterdicted yourself.

Not all carbs are poison, but the levels of carbs in a Western diet absolutely are.

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