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Pritikin Diet: Benefits and Risks

Written By: Paul

pritkin diet food list
Last Updated on July 2, 2022

Are you tired of counting carbohydrates? If you love your complex carbs and healthy whole grains, then the Pritikin Diet might be an eating plan to try.  

What Is the Pritikin Diet?

pritikin diet fish vegetables

Created by an engineer with a passion for fitness and nutrition, the Pritikin Diet came on the scene in 1979 through the best-selling book The Pritikin Plan for Diet and Exercise. Author Nathan Pritikin believed that healthy eating and lifestyle changes could lower cholesterol and improve heart health.  

After he had a brush with heart disease, Pritikin formulated a low-fat diet that influences cardiovascular care to this day. Many heart patients subscribe to the Pritikin Diet to improve their health.  

Focused on whole foods, the Pritikin Diet is low in fat and high in carbohydrates and fiber. Added sugars and processed foods are avoided. The idea of a low-fat diet being healthy became a prevailing idea in the late 20th century. Adherents claim the Pritikin Diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world.   

What Can You Eat on the Pritikin Diet?  

The Pritikin Diet food list includes plenty of healthy, fresh foods including:  

  • Fruits (four or more servings per day)  
  • Vegetables (five or more servings per day)  
  • Whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and oatmeal  
  • Legumes such as black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans  
  • Peas and lentils   
  • Nonfat dairy products such as milk and yogurt    
  • Fortified soy milk  
  • Fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Lean protein such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts, bison, and venison  
  • Plant-based proteins such as legumes, tofu, and edamame    

What Can’t You Eat on the Pritikin Diet?  

Foods that should be avoided while following the Pritikin Diet include fatty foods such as butter, oils like coconut oil, fatty meats, and dairy foods such as cheese, cream, and whole and low-fat milk. Some additional foods to avoid include:

  • Organ meats
  • Processed meats like deli meat, bacon, and other cured meats
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils  
  • Foods such as egg yolks that are high in cholesterol   

Foods that should be limited as part of the Pritikin Diet plan include the word “refined.” Refined sweeteners such as sugar and honey and refined white flour products such as white bread and pasta should be enjoyed sparingly. Salt and oil should also be limited on the Pritikin plan.  

What are the Health Benefits of the Pritikin Diet?  

The Pritikin Diet’s fans say the only extreme thing about the eating program is that it’s extremely easy to follow and extremely effective. The health benefits of the Pritikin Diet include:  

Weight loss of up to 11 pounds in three weeks has been proven in scientific studies  

  • Improved heart health  
  • Lower cholesterol of up to 23 percent, according to researchers
  • Lowered blood sugar for patients with Type 2 diabetes. Pritikin Diet followers saw blood sugar reduced by up to 19 percent. 
  • Lower blood pressure. More than 80 percent of those on the Pritikin Diet were able to get off their blood pressure medications.

What are the Health Risks of the Pritikin Diet?

Disadvantages of the Pritikin Diet include that it is very low in healthy fats and protein. Since the Pritikin plan is a strict diet, it can be hard to maintain as a lifestyle.

How Do You Start the Pritikin Diet? 

cherries with oat meal

Starting the Pritikin Diet isn’t difficult since there are no special supplements required. Avoiding high-calorie foods and fatty foods are required, and you’ll need to stop indulging in processed foods, fast foods, and junk food.   

Starting each meal with soup, fresh fruit, a salad, or whole grains is an easy way to move into the Pritikin Diet since they’ll fill you up and are easy and flavorful additions. As you progress, you can limit red meats, choosing salmon or chicken instead.   

What Is a Sample Daily Pritikin Diet Menu?  

Following the Pritikin eating program is easy, and those who do say they don’t feel hungry throughout the day. A daily menu for the Pritikin eating plan can include:  


Oatmeal with tea or coffee and nonfat milk  


A medium-sized apple  


Salmon with a side salad and whole-grain bread  


Split pea soup  


Mushroom orzo with roasted vegetables  


A cup of fresh seasonal fruits

Does the Pritikin Diet Work?  

Whether your goal is losing weight or improving your health, the Pritikin Diet does work. Studies show the Pritikin plan will boost heart health and help you lose weight while lowering your blood pressure and blood sugar.   

Does the Pritikin Diet Help You Lose Weight?  

Studies show that those who stick to the Pritikin Diet and give up added sugar, limit alcoholic beverages, and ditch processed foods and fast food will lose weight. Some find it difficult to limit fats, sugar, and salt.

Is the Pritikin Diet Considered a Healthy Diet?  

Cardiologists often recommend the Pritikin Diet since studies dating back to the late 1970s show the diet promotes heart health and overall well-being.  

Is the Pritikin Diet Expensive?  

Since the Pritikin Diet includes whole foods that you can buy at any supermarket, the Pritikin Diet is quite affordable. Some food choices such as oatmeal, brown rice, and dried beans and peas are bargains, while other Pritikin-approved choices such as salmon are more expensive.  

Many Pritikin followers save money on the plan since they aren’t spending money on sugary soft drinks, fast foods, and junk food snacks.  

What are Other Diets Similar to the Pritikin Diet?  

Healthy diets similar to the Pritikin Diet are plentiful. Usually, they include plenty of fruits and vegetables and are high in fiber. They include:  

Mediterranean Diet  

Based on the traditional foods eaten in the Mediterranean region, the Mediterranean Diet includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and heart-healthy fats such as olive oil.  

DASH Diet  

An acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the DASH Diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins.  

Ornish Diet  

Developed by Dr. Dean Ornish, the Ornish diet is a vegetarian eating program that includes nonfat dairy products, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 


Kris Gunnars, BSc, What Is Intermittent Fasting? Explained in Human Terms, retrieved from

Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle, retrieved from

Ana Sandoiu, 16:8 fasting diet actually works, study finds, retrieved from


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