The Daniel Plan

            The Daniel Plan is a diet and lifestyle guide based on science and Biblical teachings.  In general, the nutrition recommendations are in alignment with what I would recommend for someone just beginning to break away from a lifetime of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).  For someone further along in their nutrition education, it will become obvious that while the Daniel Plan encourages the use of plant protein, it also recognizes that not everyone is ready to give up animal protein.

            Aside from the faith-based concepts, the diet portion of the plan is similar to the Wholefood30 Diet, Volumetrics Diet, and the Full Plate Diet. Most importantly, The Daniel Plan reminds us that faith, food, and lifestyle are often the most potent tools for preventing and treating disease.

            Some recommendations in The Daniel Plan are overly rigid.  For example, a suggestion to get 8 hours of sleep might be right for some.  A few do fine with 6 hours, and others will need more than 8 hours of sleep.  The problem is that few aspects of our lives are ever absolutes.  Just keep in mind, as you read the book, that absolutes are often well intended, it’s just that few of us measure up to rigid metrics.

            On the plus side, “The Daniel Plan” offers believers a rationale for improving their health that is one with growing their spiritual well being. Recommendations for stress-reduction, prayer, laughter, and better sleep can all be valuable parts of a successful lifestyle change, and for the believer, there may be no better motivator than faith.

            Accountability is an essential part of “The Daniel Plan.”  In essence, the plan encourages participation in small groups that work toward common goals.  Ideally, this involves meeting with people that care about each other but are detached enough from each other’s daily drama enough to help provide insight.  Several examples help explain the dynamics of how a supportive group can generate ideas to solve problems.  The essence of the method is to use these meetings to find solutions in the context of the five Fs (faith, focus on fundamental rules, food selection, fitness, and friendship.)

            Stories of faith and accountability are integral to the book.  In one story, after the birth of their first child, a wife comments about the extra 100+ pounds of weight her husband, Steven, is carrying.  She says to Steven, “If you die early, I’m really going to miss you.  But if you die of something that was preventable, I’ll be really disappointed that you didn’t do everything you possibly could to be here for me and for your daughter.”

            At its essence, The Daniel Plan is rooted in a very simple principle. Take the junk out and let the abundance in.  For most that are transitioning away from the Standard American Diet (SAD), there is plenty of opportunities offered for improvement.  As a starting point, most need look no further than the 29 pounds of French Fries, 23 pounds of pizzas, 24 pounds of ice cream, 53 gallons of sodas, 24 pounds of artificial sweeteners, 2.7 pounds of salt, or 90,000 milligrams of caffeine consumed by the typical American per year.  Curiously, the Government manages to spend about $800 million a year on research to help unravel the mystery of weight gain.  Suppose it could be what people eat?

            For many, the problem with changing habits is that they have been led to believe that eating well is expensive and that cooking your own food takes too much time.  The Daniel Plan sets the record straight by showing that you can eat well and in less time and for less money than with fast foods and processed foods.  As for what these foods will be, the goal of the diet is:

  • 50% non-starchy vegetables
  • 25% healthy protein
  • 25% healthy starch (potatoes, whole grains, etc.)
  • Some fruit
  • Water to drink

            The good news is that you get unlimited refills on vegetables. That’s right, you can binge on broccoli.  Sorry, no cheese dip allowed. However, a homemade salsa or hummus dip would be ok.  Other helpful tactics include:

  • Cutting out white sugar and foods made from flour.
  • Cutting out artificial sweeteners
  • Increasing foods with natural fiber
  • Stopping eating for the day after the dinner meal
  • Waiting 20 minutes before getting a second serving
  • Putting your fork down between bites
  • Increasing exercise
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Relaxation before eating

            The Daniel Plan also reviews the myth that all calories are the same.  For example, a 20-ounce soda with 240 calories has quite a different health effect than 240 calories from 7.5 cups of broccoli.  The soda has no fiber, vitamins, or minerals.  The soda also spikes insulin with 15 equivalent teaspoons of sugar and includes phosphoric acid that can lead to osteoporosis. The sugar in the soda may also lead to fatty liver, increased triglycerides, lower good cholesterol, raised bad cholesterol, and increases cortisol (a stress hormone) that in turn can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

            The Daniel Plan also emphasizes that calorie counting is probably not going to be of much help and that using willpower to control eating is as futile as trying to hold your breath for more than 3 minutes.  There will come a point where your body will get what it wants. The secret to taming cravings is to eliminate addictive foods and begin getting accustomed to working from reserves that your body can call on without making you feel uncomfortable.  As the cravings subside, food intake becomes self-regulating as your body seeks its natural weight set point.

            The Daniel Plan is both a spiritual guide and a health style that helps take the guessing out of eating and cooking. At its best, The Daniel Plan is a plant-based whole food diet.  For a person new to eating nutritious foods, The Daniel Plan allows animal-based foods if they meet certain quality standards.  The plan allows almost anything you prepare yourself from whole foods.  A few recipes are provided in the book.  For more recipes, a companion book, “The Daniel Plan Cookbook” provides the visually appealing pictures missing in “The Daniel Plan” book along with plenty of recipe ideas.  Both books are available from the local library.  A web search on the phrase “Daniel Plan Recipes” will provide more recipes.

            Nancy Neighbors, MD

Walk With the Doc

Date: Saturday, December 7th

Location: Jones Family Park (see map)

Time: 7:00 a.m.

We begin in the parking lot located adjacent to Four Mile Post Road.  Join the walk whenever you arrive.  On our circular path, everyone eventually meets.

So, what’s for lunch?

            Looking for healthy school lunch ideas?  Below are six ideas for homemade, healthy lunch recipes for school (or work).  Click here for ingredients and direction for the six recipe ideas listed below.

  • Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese
  • Vegan “Egg” Salad
  • Smashed White Bean, Basil, & Avocado Sandwich
  • Rice Paper Rolls with Mango & Mint
  • Sweet and Spicy Cold Peanut Noodles
  • Lunchbox Black Bean Quinoa Salad

            In some school systems, school prepared lunches have already transformed into very nutritious meals.  For interesting stories about what’s possible read, “10 Revolutionary Ways School Lunch in America is Improving.”

Published by Nancy Neighbors, MD

... Dr. Neighbors provides a blend of traditional family medicine and evidence-based lifestyle medicine in Huntsville, Alabama. When indicated, lifestyle change is recommended as the first line of therapy.

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