The Zone Diet is a balanced, low-calorie weight management program that instructs followers to divide each meal into three parts: 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein. To make it easier for dieters to plan meals, Zone Diet developer, Barry Sears, created block charts listing the best choices for each category of food and their portion sizes. For a typical Zone Diet lunch, women should choose three blocks of protein, three of fat and three of carbohydrates. Men are advised to have four of each. Depending on your gender and level of physical activity, you may need more or less food at lunchtime. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist if you’re concerned about your diet.
Grilled Poultry or Steak Salad
If you have cold grilled chicken breast, lean steak or fish leftover from dinner the night before, use it to put together a quick Zone Diet salad. For a three-block meal, top mixed greens with chopped fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, your choice of cooked beans and the cooked meat, poultry or fish. For the fat, mix a homemade dressing prepared from extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar. You can turn this lunch into a four-block meal by increasing the amount of each component. For instance, use four ounces of grilled poultry instead of three.
Cold Cuts, Cheese, Fruit and Nuts
On days when you’re pressed for time, a simple lunch consisting of cold cuts, cubes of cheese, fresh fruit and a handful of nuts can keep you nourished while fulfilling all of the Zone Diet meal requirements. For the cold cuts, choose turkey or chicken breast whenever possible, because they contain less saturated fat than meats such as deli-style ham. Use low-fat cheese or skim milk mozzarella. The nuts supply your meal’s required fat blocks, though if you’re allergic to nuts, you can substitute them with fresh olives.
You don’t have to give up sandwiches on the Zone Diet, though you’ll need to be careful that they adhere to the plan’s block guidelines. For a quick four-block sandwich lunch, layer thinly sliced deli meat and cheese on two slices of whole-grain bread that you’ve spread with mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise. Make it a three-block lunch by using less meat and avocado. For a tuna sandwich, use light mayonnaise to keep your saturated fat intake low. By using only one slice of bread, you can fulfill the remainder of your required carbohydrate blocks with fresh fruit, for example, an apple.
Prepare a meat-free quesadilla for a quick Zone Diet lunch at home. For a single serving, use one corn tortilla, low-fat Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, or a combination of both, and cooked beans such as black or pinto beans. Serve the quesadilla with guacamole to fulfill your fat requirement and fresh fruit to round out your carbohydrate blocks. Top it with fresh salsa and chopped peppers, if desired. To alter the quesadilla for three or four blocks, alter the amount of cheese, fruit or guacamole as needed.
References and ResourcesU.S. News & World Report: Zone Diet
Dr. Sears Zone Diet: ZONE Food Blocks
The Crossfit Journal: Meal Plans
Dr. Sears Zone Diet: Quesadillas