Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect - Neal D. Barnard (2016)

Part II. Let’s Get Started




A Step-by-Step Program

In Part I, we learned the basic concepts. Now it’s time to put them into action by tasting new foods, trying new food stores, activating our muscles, and making a solid change in our lives.

Adapting to a new, improved menu is surprisingly easy. It does take a little time, about three to six weeks for a new habit to become routine, but soon you will wonder why you did not try this before.

First, give yourself a pat on the back. You wanted a change for the better, and here you are, well on your way there. You’ve already covered a lot of ground in learning about slimming down. Now we will put knowledge into practice. Here is how we will proceed.

1.We will throw out all the high-fat foods that have caused so many problems for us.

2.We will bring in new and interesting foods that are powerful for permanent weight control.

3.We will set up a simple, effective program of physical activity that will help burn off the pounds.



One reason this program works is that it provides a very powerful food program, linked with physical activity. But it does more: it takes into account what human beings need in order to make a major change in eating habits.

Let’s face it: it’s not always easy to change habits. But certain things make it much easier and much more likely to stick.

I recently reviewed several major research projects in which people were asked to change their diets. In some of these projects, the participants changed their diets very dramatically, and in others they hardly changed at all. It became very clear that the programs that yielded the most changes were those which had certain things going for them. These factors have been incorporated in this program.

1.Asking for the degree of change you want. Doctors or researchers who sell their patients short with weak recommendations get nothing more than they ask for.

2.Don’t just read about foods; taste them as well. That will be a major focus of this chapter.

3.Go for maximal reward. Nothing is more encouraging than success. So this program not only uses foods, it also brings in enjoyable physical activity designed for what people want most: permanent weight control.

4.Simplicity in foods. This program is designed to be easy to remember, with no need for charts, measuring, or limiting serving sizes. The two rules of thumb are:

•Use no animal products.

•Keep vegetable oils to an absolute minimum.

These simple guidelines are extremely powerful for long-term weight control.

5.Foods must be enjoyable. That means quality and quantity. So this program will use tasty foods and no calorie restriction.

6.Change completely. Do not tease yourself with foods. Anyone who has tried to change a habit knows about this one. Let’s take smoking as an example. If people try only to cut down on smoking, they get essentially nowhere, because the taste for tobacco is always fresh in their minds. It is very easy to increase the frequency of a habit that has not yet been broken. But if they quit completely, they can get some distance between themselves and tobacco and can start a new habit—the habit of being a non-smoker. The same is true of foods. If you have fried chicken or potato chips once a week, then you are constantly teasing yourself with the taste of these very fattening products. If, however, you get away from these foods completely, you allow a new habit to start; you are getting the force of habit working with you, starting a new habit.

7.Think short-term. There is no need to make any resolution about what you will do in the distant future. All you can control is what you are doing now. So plan to follow this program for three weeks. At the end of that time, see how you feel. Notice its effect on your waistline. And if you like what you see, you can try it again for another twenty-one days. If you continue, you will get its full benefit. If you stop, you will lose all your gains. But think short-term; do not burden yourself with feeling the need to make resolutions for the distant future.

8.Family and friends. Our families eat with us. They eat the food we prepare or, perhaps, prepare the food we eat. Having them on our side is a terrific boost. When researchers have worked with patients to modify their diets, they have found that including the family makes a tremendous amount of difference. So ask them to join you in this program. Now, they may not feel a need for any permanent change in their eating habits. And you do not need to ask them to change permanently. All you need to ask them is to join you while you are working on this program. In many cases, they will want to read it with you. That is the ideal. They will benefit from this program, too. This new way of eating not only slims waistlines; it can also lower cholesterol levels, help control blood pressure, help prevent cancer, and prevent many conditions from constipation to varicose veins. At the very least, however, your family and friends must not tempt you with unhealthful foods while you are working through these lessons, and you must not prepare any unhealthful foods for them.

Frequently families get stuck in old habits. They may even want to talk you out of changing and may forecast failure. In that case, you need to have a short sitdown talk. Tell them that if they care about you, they will understand that this is very important to you. They will help and not hinder you. If you have done this with sufficient sincerity, they will be overcome with guilt and will plead for forgiveness. (You might suggest that they can make it up to you by doing your shopping for you.)

Get them to think of it as a three-week adventure in eating, including foods from a host of exotic foreign locales. Involve your kids in the kitchen, learning about new foods by helping you prepare them.

Follow this program to the letter. Do not “cheat.” You are embarking on a powerful and rewarding program. Give it every chance for maximal success. You deserve no less, and I believe you will be really pleased with the results.



The first step is to throw out the foods that have been problems in the past and that will get in your way in the future. You can throw them away or give them away, but the key is to get them completely out of the house.

Before you begin, have a meal. It is very difficult for a hungry person to throw any food product away, no matter how unhealthful it may be. Then go on a search and destroy mission for the high-fat, no-fiber foods in your house. Get rid of all of the following:

Any meat, poultry, or fish products

All dairy products, including butter, milk or cream, yogurt, and cheese


Vegetable oil (Yes, even olive oil.)

All salad dressings other than non-fat dressings

Cookies, cakes, pies, and ice cream, other than non-fat

Potato chips

Nuts and nut butters

Sugary candies

You may notice a certain sense of relief as you rid yourself of these unhealthful products. Now we will stock our shelves with foods that will help us have the body we want.



We are going to go shopping for new kinds of foods and will learn how to prepare them. Don’t worry, they are all easy to fix. Our goal for right now is not to be gourmet cooks, but to learn new kinds of foods and to adapt our tastes to a lower-fat menu. If you like, gourmet recipes can come later.

The foods listed on the following pages create a simple beginning menu, but they are important for you to get to know. They are powerful for slimming down. Some are already quite familiar; others may be new. Some will seem very humble, but do not be deceived. They taste terrific and also have an excellent combination of nutritional factors that make them among the most powerful foods for keeping pounds off permanently.

•Eat before shopping

The emphasis in this list is on convenience and simplicity, with minimal preparation time. For example, you will see canned beans, rather than dried beans. Later, you may wish to cook from scratch, instead of using canned varieties. Frozen vegetables are also included for convenience. Their nutritional value is generally good, and better than canned vegetables.

We will start with a one-week menu. The idea is to stock your kitchen with enough healthful foods to give you a good start on adapting to new food tastes. It will also eliminate the need for frequent shopping trips, which are times of vulnerability to unhealthful impulse purchases.

Most of these items are available from any grocery store, but a few are found only at health food stores, as I will indicate. Notice that you do not have to mix any diet powders, and you certainly do not have to go hungry.

Do not go shopping on an empty stomach. If you do, you risk ending up buying anchovy-packed olives and coconut cream pie and avocado swirl-cake and all the other impulse purchases that seduce hungry stomachs.

People with food allergies should obviously skip any food to which they are allergic. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, look for low-sodium varieties of canned foods, or compensate with less sodium in other foods. Health food stores often stock low-sodium products.

People on prescribed diets should follow this program in consultation with their health care professional. For example, because these foods improve insulin’s efficacy, diabetics may need to reduce their insulin use. Similarly, people with high blood pressure may find they need less of their medication as well. Persons with high triglycerides may need to limit fruit.

•Keep in touch with your health care professional

First, let’s take a look at the foods we will be starting with. Then I will give you a shopping list you can use to guide your trip to the store.



1.Fresh fruit. Melon, grapefruit, oranges, bananas, pineapple, or any other fruit you like. It can be your entire breakfast, or just the beginning.

2.Hot cereal. Choose from old-fashioned rolled oats, grits, or other hot cereal. Cooked versions are best, but instant is acceptable. If you like, top with cinnamon, or try strawberries, raisins, or other fresh fruit. Do not use milk.

3.Whole-grain toast. Have plain, or top with jelly or cinnamon. Do not use butter, margarine, or cream cheese.

4.Cold cereal with soymilk. Choose whole-grain cereals. Soymilk is not only free of animal fats, it is also free of the cholesterol and lactose that are found in dairy products. Use only low-fat soymilk, such as Edensoy (soymilk is carried at any health food store, or in regular groceries near the condensed milks).

5.Black beans on toast. This Latin American breakfast sounds unusual, but can be popular on both sides of the border. Simply empty a can of black beans into a saucepan and heat. Spoon the beans onto toast and top with a touch of mild salsa or Dijon mustard. One can of black beans holds two generous servings.

6.Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Open a can of chickpeas and rinse. Eat plain or with non-fat salad dressing. One can holds two generous servings.

(If you are like me, you will be surprised to see these last two. But try them! You’re in for a treat.)



At lunch time, convenience is often key. Low-fat lunches not only help you slim down, they also prevent the after-lunch fatigue that follows high-fat meals.

1.Instant soups. Health food stores stock a wonderful variety of split pea soup, couscous, noodle soups, and others. These are easy to keep in your desk at work, since you just add hot water. (If you prefer, bring a thermos of vegetable or split pea soup from home.)

2.Bread, bread sticks, pretzels, Melba toast.

3.“Finger vegetables.” Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli and cauliflower tops with non-fat dressing.

4.Fresh fruit. Enjoy bananas, apples, pears, oranges, etc., as well as fruit like kiwi and fresh pineapple for a change of pace. Avoid avocados.

5.Sandwich. Have a CLT: Cucumber, lettuce, and tomato, on whole-grain bread. Add onion and mustard, if you like. Some people like to add sprouts. Unfortunately, most traditional sandwich fillings are loaded with fat. Avoid meats of any kind, cheese, mayonnaise, and peanut butter.

6.Chickpeas. It’s easy to keep a can of chickpeas in a desk drawer at work. Simply rinse and serve plain, or with non-fat salad dressing.

7.Leftovers from dinner or breakfast are always welcome. Microwave if you like.

8.If you eat lunch in a cafeteria, enjoy the cooked vegetables, potatoes, or the salad bar, using a twist of lemon juice instead of dressing. Avoid all meats, eggs, dairy products, and keep vegetable oils to an absolute minimum.



In planning meals, I suggest starting with vegetables, usually including two different ones at each meal. Then, add a grain or other starch, such as rice, potatoes, or pasta. Include a bean dish and finish with a serving of fruit. Be generous with grains and other starches, and have smaller portions of bean dishes.

1.Vegetables. Try broccoli, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, peas, lima beans, Brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus, succotash, or any other. Any fresh vegetable is fine: celery, Boston lettuce or other greens, plus any other salad vegetables that strike your fancy: peppers, tomatoes, etc. If you like, top vegetables with a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice, minced garlic, onion, or parsley. Avoid butter or margarine, sour cream, and other fatty toppings. Do not use oil as a topping or for sautéing or frying. Frozen vegetables are convenient and similar in nutritional value to fresh vegetables. Choose plain varieties, not those in cream sauce.

2.Grains and other starches.

a. Rice is one of the best foods for slimming down. It is very low in calories and very nutritious. At the grocery store, notice the variety of boxed rice dishes, such as curried rice, long grain and wild rice, brown rice, pecan rice, basmati rice, risotto with tomato, or rice pilaf. Nearby, you will see the fabulous mixes for couscous, tabouli, and vegetarian burgers. Avoid any mixes with meat products or a high fat content. At the health food store, you will find organic short-grain rice, which is an excellent choice (see recipe on page 161. Or try any other varieties of rice that catch your fancy.

b. Spaghetti with tomato sauce. Whole-grain spaghetti is best. If you are stuck with regular spaghetti, consider it acceptable for now, even though much of its fiber has been removed. Of commercial tomato sauces, choose those lowest in fat.

c. Bread. Whole-grain varieties are always best.

d. Corn. Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. Enjoy the natural taste of corn without butter, margarine, or oil.

e. Potatoes. Baked, mashed (instant is fine), steamed, or boiled. No hash browns, potato chips, or french fries. If you like, a dab of Dijon mustard or ketchup is okay. If you like gravy on potatoes, pick up a can of Franco American Mushroom-Flavor Gravy. Do not add milk to mashed potatoes, and use no butter, sour cream, margarine, cheese, or other fatty toppings.

3.Legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).

a. Black beans. Do not skip this one. Black beans are a delightful discovery. They are extremely low in fat, packed with fiber, and delicious. Top with mild salsa or mustard. If you are new to black beans, I strongly suggest buying them canned (note that different brands vary widely in their sodium content), rather than cooking up dried beans, which requires considerably more time. In case you were worrying, for most people, black beans do not seem to cause much gassiness.

b. Vegetarian baked beans. Several canned varieties are available at grocery stores, and are very convenient.

c. Lentil soup. Progresso and other companies make delicious, low-fat lentil soups. For those on sodium restrictions, health food stores carry low-sodium varieties.

4.Fruits. Pears, cherries, strawberries, peaches, apples, bananas, pineapples, and just about any other fruit make great desserts or garnishes for other foods.