Based on the work of Dr Barry Sears.
“What to Eat in the Zone” HarperTorch, 2004.
amongst others.


  • Many dietary ideas have been used by various weight-loss programs with varying degrees of success but the Zone Diet concept is comprehensive and focused on total health. The bio-chemistry is complex but most of the principles are easily understood. Dr Sears’s main points are:
  • Consider your food as a drug, for surely that’s what it is. It will trigger chemical and hormonal changes in your body and brain in a similar way to medication.
  • As a general guide proteins come from things that move around e. g. animals plus egg whites.
  • Carbohydrates come from things growing in the ground that do not move.
  • You should have three meals a day with a snack in between. Breakfast should be within one hour of waking. Snack is usually half the quantity of a meal.
  • Every meal should include a portion of oil, a portion of protein and a portion of carbohydrate, a ZONE combination. (From now on we will use the term ”carbo” for carbohydrate.)
  • All carbos are not equal. Some are absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream, as indicated by their Glycemic Load while others are absorbed more slowly. It is the consumption of carbos with high Glycemic Loads that pushes up our insulin load and when that is depleted we crave our next “fix”. Dr Sears calls this “self-medicating”
  • The Zone Diet is so designed that you do not get hungry between meals and snacks and crave for a “fix”.
  • Once you are familiar with the portions it is easy to implement including portions in lunch boxes and kid’s coming-home boxes left in the fridge.



We have considered many dietary systems and this Zone Diet is the easiest to implement and, if you follow it, will give you and your family a healthy body and brain. It is also the one which gives you a way of BALANCING your diet and your blood sugar.
Dr Barry Sears has three similar systems to help one organise one’s foodprep.
1. Dividing your plate into sections, 2. Using calculated Zone Blocks and
3. Using the 1, 2, 3 system, which, we think is the best one to start with.

We have taken what Dr Sears offers, which is considerable, and we have modified some of his terms to suit our South Africa vocabulary. For example we use the words ”oils” instead of “fats” and “Portions” instead of his “Zone Block” system. Also, he uses the American system of ounces, teaspoons and cups. We have given weights in grams and volumes in millilitres, and sometimes in Cups.

Starting off.

To start your voyage into Zone Eating, if you do not have one, get a small kitchen scale. As you get to know, for example, what 150 gms of steak looks like you can skip using the scale. (But now that we are using the scale, we realise that we have always had too big a portion in case we got hungry before the next meal. Our bodies and “body-minds” program this information and we store the excess sugar, first in the liver as saturated fat and then in the midriff for the “famine and drought” the body fears may be coming.)

Dr Sears’s main point is that if you balance the three elements in each meal, (the oils, proteins and carbohydrates) you will absorb the sugars and nutrients slowly and you will not get hungry before the next meal.

Each day you have three Zone meals and two in-between snacks. There should be no longer than five hours between a meal and snack and snack and a meal. You can mix and match the actual vegetables and fruits as you like but keep to the quantities. Let’s start with the:

The 1, 2, 3 System.

This system says that for every ONE portion of oil you have TWO portions of protein and THREE portions of carbo. How much actual product or vege goes into a portion is indicated on the ZONE COUNTER list to follow. The average male can have slightly more (about half as much again) as the average female.
1. Oils

To help you get the hang of this system let’s do the Oils first as their quantities are much lower.
Firstly, the Zone Lists are for the average female. For the male quantities multiply by 1.5 or, in other words, add half as much again.
Look at the List. Under oils you find various oils and nuts under three headings, Best, Good and OK. Note that the flax seed oil at 2/3 teaspoon per 10 gm times five times per day = 1 Tablespoon per day which is what we are suggesting is a good start on Omega-3 oils.
On the 1, 2, 3 system we need ONE of the oils. So let us say one 2/3 teaspoon of olive oil to which we will add a like quantity of vinegar for our salad dressing. (Male would have 1.5 time this = approximately one teaspoon (5 ml)
Easy? Bet you thought you were going to have to glug the oil in cups full from the bottle!

2. Protein

Now for our protein remembering that the whole secret of this system is to have a portion of protein with every meal/snack. Remember that it is step 2 so there are TWO portions per meal. Also note that to get the 10 gram portion of protein or carbo you have to add much more in total weight. of product
Calculate the female first. Let us say we are going to have chicken, hormone free if possible.
Look up how much actual chicken you need for 10 gm of protein. The Chart says 36 gm so for the female (2x10 gm) portion you will need (2 x 36 gm = 72 gm) of say chicken breast.

(Dr Sears says that the protein portion on your plate should be approximately the size of the palm of your hand in area and thickness. Bigger people, with bigger hands can consume more than dainty people.)

If you weigh out the chicken you will find that the 72 gm is about the size of a small/medium chicken breast.
For the male (2 x 1.5 x 10 gm) portion you will then need about (2 x 1.5 x 36) = about 100 gm of chicken breast.
By using the chart you can mix and match the foods. So, for the female above, she could have half the chicken breast and two egg whites. Or 36 gm sardines and ½ Cup (we will use C from now on) yoghurt to mix with her oil to put over her salad.
You will note, as I have, that the portions that we end up with are a lot smaller than we have been used to eating. And that is always the problem eating more kilojoules than we are expending in energy jiggling our fingers over the computer keyboard.

3. Carbohydrates

This “ingredient” is the one that usually gives us the most problems because, to start with, we do not understand the Glycemic Loading concept.

For carbos we need THREE portions of 10 grams. So go to the  ZONE COUNTER and choose what carbo you are going to have with your chicken. You’ll find that 2 Cups of broccoli is a portion, and 2 C of boiled mushrooms is also a portion and for dessert you can have 3 apricots. This is quite a substantial meal. But if you look at the grains and “Poor Carbos” list you find that one portion of mashed potato would be a quarter cup. And a portion of brown rice is 1/5 cup which would not even sop up the gravy from the mushrooms!

You will realise what a useful device is this ZONE COUNTER list. We will continue to eat our rice but now we will KNOW what a load it is going to be on our insulin production. One reading of this list means that from now on you cannot say that you didn’t know.

Planning a meal or a snack

You can now plan meals by doing the little sums so you become familiar with it. The great secret is that by using this Zone system you don’t go hungry and you get the nutrients you need. But you have to make the effort to move away from fast carbo-rich foods.
Snacks are about half the meal amounts. (So how do we get the oil and protein into the tuck shops and lunch boxes? And breakfasts?)


(Alphabetically listed under each subheading.)
The following information has been extracted from various books by Dr Barry Sears on his Zone Foods system.  Some information has been added from other sources and the products chosen are common ones on the South African market. Excluded are soy products because of information recently received about non-fermented soy products. The fermented products such as soy sauce are OK.

OILS Amount for 10 gm of

Flax seed oil    4 ml
Macadamia nuts    2ml
Olive Oil  4 ml
Olives      5

Avocado   30 ml
Canola oil     4 ml
Cashews     6
Peanuts     6

PROTEIN Amount for 10 gm of

Chicken, hormone-free 36 gm
Egg whites      2
Fish, mackerel   36 gm
Fish, salmon   36 gm
Fish, sardines,  36 gm
Fish, tuna   36 gm
Turkey, breast  24 gm

Beef, hormone-free  24 gm
Cheese low fat   24 gm
Fish, canned, tuna, brine 36 gm
Ostrich   24 gm
Venison   24 gm

CARBOS. Amount for 10 gm of
(C = cups = 250 ml.)

Broccoli, cooked    3 C
Cauliflower     4 C
Lettuce, romaine  10 C
Spinach, cooked    3 C
Strawberries, diced    1 C

Alfalfa sprouts  10 C
Apricots     3
Barley, dry     7 ml
Bean sprouts     3 C
Brussels Sprouts  1 ½ C
Cabbage, cooked    3 C
Grapefruit, pink  ½
Green beans   1 ½ C
Lettuce, iceberg, heads   2
Oatmeal, slow cook    12 gm
Peas, snow, raw  1 ½ C
Peppers, red/green,    2
Plum    1
Tomato, canned  1 C
Tomato, cherry  2 C
Tomato, raw   2

Apple, medium   ½
Beans, string     1 C
Celery      2 C
Cucumber   1 ½ C
Grapes   ½ C
Mushrooms, boiled    2 C
Mushrooms, raw    4 C
Onions, chopped, boiled ½ C
Onions, raw     1 C
Orange     1
Peach      1
Pear      ½
Squash, boiled    2 C
Zucchini     2 C

Banana    1/3
Butternut     ½ C
Carrots, sliced    1 C
Corn, mielies     ¼ C
Dates, pieces     2
French Fries, pieces    5
Fruit juices   1/3 C
Guava    ½ C
Mango, sliced   1/3 C
Papaya, sliced  3/4 C
Pineapple, diced  ½ C
Potatoes, baked  ¼ C
Potatoes, boiled  1/3 C
Potatoes, mashed  ¼ C
Raisins   15 ml

Biscuit      ½
Cereal, breakfast    12 mg
Couscous, dry    12 mg
Croissant, plain    ¼
Muffin      ¼
Granola     12 mg
Noodles, egg     ¼ C
Popcorn, popped     2 C
Roll, hamburger    ½
Sugar, granulated    10 ml
Bread, wholegrain, slice   1/2
Rice, brown, cooked   1/5 C
Rice, white, cooked    1/5 C

Beer, light   180 ml (1/2 can)
Beer, regular   120 ml (1/3 can)
Spirits, distilled    30 ml (A metric tot)
Wine, red or white  120 ml (Small glass, ½ C)

SUMMARY 1,2,3, 3,2,1.

One Oil, Two Protein, Three Carbo,
Three Meals, Two Snacks, One Healthy Family

Go here for Dr Barry Sears web site.

Other useful sites are;  (Go here.)  and (Go Here.) and (Go here.)

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