Meal plans form the basis of all weight-loss programmes. There are many different versions. At the Institute we compared the effectiveness of a standard higher-carbohydrate, low-fat meal plan with a diet that contains more protein, but the same amount of energy, to establish how much weight and body fat people actually lost. Our research consistently shows that a carbohydrate-diminished meal plan gives our clients the best weight-loss results, especially if they suffer from insulin resistance. In addition, it lowers their baseline insulin levels and increases their fat loss far more than the standard balanced meal-plans do. We also found that the regular intake of protein helps control your hunger.
Another important benefit proved to be sustainability. From a medical point of view, long-term weight maintenance is of crucial importance, and we find that more people managed to maintain this eating style over the long term, reaping the rewards of decreased health risks and better health. Our findings on this topic are similar to those of other research programmes, for example, the work done by Australia’s national science agency SCIRO, under the leadership of Dr Manny Noakes.
We believe it is important or individuals to design their own meal plans based on their specific budget, personal taste preferences and the preferences of family members with whom they share meals. We aim for our solution to become a sustainable lifestyle habit, and it can be challenging to maintain if you’re forced to eat foods you naturally dislike, regardless of their healthiness. But we also understand a busy work life therefore we also offer already designed meal plans to get you going.
Remember that the MNI solution should ideally become part of a more permanent lifestyle habit, which can be difficult to maintain when you have to eat food that you naturally dislike, irrespective of how healthy it may be.
‘Meal-plans’, ‘diets’ and ‘eating styles’ all really mean the same thing. We found that many of our patients were tremendously confused by the whole concept. The truth is that there is no magic or mystery involved and once you understand the basics it becomes easy to assess any meal plan without having to be a nutritional expert. Whilst most diets are based on sound scientific principles, some are veiled in pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. To assist you with unravelling the mystery element, we will now discuss a few of the most popular diets.
Mono food diets
There are many versions of these diets, examples being the soup diet, fruit diet, grape diet, etc. Not many people can sustain these diets for long because they become painfully boring. They are mostly unbalanced and nutritionally deficient, lacking certain food groups or food components. Except for the “orange food only” diet that allows you to eat salmon with your carrots, oranges and pumpkin, they are too low in protein, meaning that you will lose some of your muscle over time, lowering your metabolic rate.
Our Verdict: – most of these diets, with perhaps some minor improvements, can probably be used as a detox process by those interested in the process. If used at intervals, they may be useful to break the monotony of a regular diet.
Very low kilojoule diets (Less than 1000 Calories / 4200 KJ per day)
These are based on the assumption that the less you eat the more weight you will lose. Unfortunately it does not quite work that way, as your body sees the process as famine and lowers your metabolic rate. In addition, it may also cause you to burn your muscle for energy purposes, further lowering your metabolic rate.
Our Verdict: – there are some cases where the medical profession has no alternative option but to use this diet. Few people are able to stick to it without the assistance of an appetite suppressant.
Very low fat diets
This diet is based on the assumption that the less fat you eat the more weight you will lose. Ironically, it’s not that simple, as essential fatty acids play a critical role in controlling the secretion of insulin, the fat producing and fat storing hormone. If fat needs to be burnt in the body’s energy furnace, small quantities of fat are required to assist with the process.
Our Verdict: – there are many extremely health-conscious people who will take to this diet like a duck to water. It is a bit too extreme and self-obsessive for our liking.
Food combining diet
This diet is based on a school of thought that protein and carbohydrates should not be eaten at the same time. Dietetic scientists do not agree with the logic behind this eating style, as mixed meals, containing fat and protein, often slow down the overall glycemic index, thereby controlling your hunger for longer periods. To complicate the issue further, all protein sources contain carbohydrate. Glycogen, the store form of glucose, is present in muscle. All meat (muscle) sources therefore contain some carbohydrate. Most carbohydrates, on the other hand, contain small quantities of protein. A good example is the “gluten” in wheat, a protein. Eating ‘more meat’ means that you also eat ‘more carbohydrate’ in a minor way, and vice versa.
Our Verdict: – Some report fewer stomach problems like heartburn and bloating when they follow this eating style. Others lose weight because of energy restriction and a more disciplined eating style.
Blood group diet
This diet is based on the premise that we should eat according to the genetic programming of our prehistoric forefathers, explaining how they became conditioned to certain food substances during their evolutionary migration period. This theory, however, is not supported by the scientific community. There are individuals who report that following the blood group diet reduces the frequency and severity of their migraines, whilst others feel less bloated.
Our Verdict: – we find it a fragile eating style, quite impossible to follow if you form part of a family group consisting of three people or more, with different blood groups. Imagine that you are the one responsible for preparing such a meal where each family member will need to eat different food items?
High protein, low carbohydrate diets.
These diets all restrict carbohydrates to varying degrees. Those with large appetites are allowed to consume larger portions of protein, hence the “high protein” part of the title. These diets often also require you to check for ketones in the urine. The reason this eating style is effective is because it lowers insulin levels. Because carbohydrates, especially large quantities of the high GI group raise blood insulin levels and precipitate the deposition of fat, doing the opposite by excluding them from your diet will keep your insulin levels low and help you lose weight. The so-called ‘ketogenic diet’ or high protein diet takes this process to the limit. ‘Lipolyses’, the medical term for ‘fat-breakdown’, is music to the ears of those trying to lose weight. As fat molecules are broken down for energy purposes, small carbon-containing molecules, called ketone bodies, are released. The process is therefore called ketogenesis. The ketogenic diet says it all – fat is being broken down! (It is not true that only carbohydrates raise insulin levels – certain proteins and fat can do so as well)
Our Verdict: – Although many people feel well on these diets and are satisfied with their weight loss results, there are others who report tiredness and constipation. It may precipitate an attack of gout or gallstones in those who are susceptible. It also places an additional load on the kidneys. Eating more than 80g of pure protein a day, which equates to 350g of meat, fish, chicken or cheese, also increases your risk for osteoporosis. We think that there are far better diets to follow.
High protein, high fat diets.
Same as above, but with more fat. You are, for example, not required to remove any visible fat off your food and may add cream to your coffee.
Our Verdict: – Far too extreme for our liking. If you are a food connoisseur that loves high fat dishes like marrow bones, fois gras and calf’s brain in cream sauce, this diet will suit you like a glove. Certainly not for us.
The GI diet.
The Glycaemic Index (GI) classifies carbohydrates according to the speed at which different food items release glucose into the system and their ability to raise blood glucose levels. Rising blood levels are directly linked to blood insulin levels. Food items with a low to intermediate GI value raise blood glucose levels much slower than food items with a high GI value. If glucose enters the system at a slower rate, less insulin is also secreted. The result is that less fat is deposited.
Various factors affect the rate at which glucose is released. Individual properties relating to the food substance, the presence of fat, fibre and protein in a mixed meal and different food production and processing techniques, all determine how quickly each food substance will be digested and release its glucose content.
Besides worrying about the Glycaemic Index, you also need to consider the Glycaemic Load. This stipulates how much energy each carbohydrate item contains. The basic idea is therefore to eat the smallest portions possible if you want to lose weight and to choose items from the low and intermediate group.
Our Verdict: – this is mainstream stuff, better for weight maintenance than weight loss purposes. There are many excellent cookbooks that are well worth buying.
Meal replacement diets
Many shakes contain as much energy as an entire meal. The question is, wouldn’t you rather prefer to eat proper food? We have had many cases where patients on the MNI solution battled to lose weight, only for us to find upon investigation that they were using meal replacements or slimming shakes. Once these were stopped, their weight-loss results improved dramatically.
Our Verdict: – For people with a busy lifestyle, meal replacements can form a good substitute for breakfast or lunch on occasion. Stay within an energy allocation of approximately 400 cal/1600kJ per meal. You will find this information on the nutrition label of the product.
Carbohydrate diminished, energy restricted diet.
The ketogenic diet allows you to fill your stomach, albeit with more protein and fat and virtually no carbohydrate, instead of just eating smaller balanced portions of everything. It is therefore referred to as a high protein diet. But, as usual, things are not quite that simple. Let us imagine that someone had an over hearty appetite. This person ate, on average, certain quantities of protein, carbohydrate and fat per day, in a X:Y:Z ratio for example. If this person ate less food, but only less carbohydrate, the X:Y:Z ratio would change, in other words, the fat and protein ratio would now be higher than before. Using the term ‘high protein diet’ to describe this person’s new diet is incorrect, hence the term ‘carbohydrate diminished’.
Compared to a high protein diet, this eating style contains a moderate amount of protein as well as a healthy range of low density carbohydrates which are low in energy value but are packed with tremendous nutritious value, thus offering you an additional health benefit.
Our Verdict: – we have found this diet very effective and have based our C.A.P.E Meal Plan on this concept.
To make things easy for you, you only need to remember the following three principles:
• Reduce the total amount of food that you eat.
• Reduce your total intake of high-density carbohydrates, especially those that have been refined through processing.
• Reduce your total intake of fat, especially saturated fats.
How can the C.A.P.E meal-plan help you lose weight?
With the C.A.P.E meal-plan our aim is to assist you with successful and perhaps even enhanced weight-loss, both over the short and long term, as well as to improve your general health. We believe that by optimising certain metabolic, biochemical and hormonal pathways that collectively influence body fat regulation within the extreme complexity of human biochemistry, better weight-loss results can be achieved. We also believe that this can be done without exposing yourself to any health risks and by helping you make better food choices, actually improve your health. In designing this diet, we have incorporated several modern dietetic concepts in one simplified platform.
What are the modern trends in dietetic science?
Although not all opinion leaders with an interest in obesity-related diseases are in agreement with every novel concept, there are an increasing number of researchers who suggest that some of the conventional opinions that several mainstream dietetic regulatory and advisory boards have been suggesting should be reviewed. This has also been our personal experience at the Medical Nutritional Institute, gained from working with a large number of overweight and obese patients in pharmacy clinics, corporate health, diabetic prevention and weight-loss programmes. In addition, with several other scientific research projects, many new discoveries relating to other factors that also play an important role in body-fat accumulation and overall health have been made. These include new information on how certain plant molecules called polyphenols positively influence our health and help regulate body-fat accumulation. Another new concept relates to the active role that trillions of micro-organisms living within our intestines play and how they help determine how our body either stores or burns fat.
What are the basic principles behind the C.A.P.E meal-plan?
As a healthcare organisation, we developed the C.A.P.E meal-plan over a decade ago and have been using it in a clinical setting since then. The acronym C.A.P.E stands for Carbohydrate Adjusted, Protein Enriched. The principals we adopted in the original meal-plan have been reaffirmed by recent research. This updated version offers you a simplified programme which incorporates the following principles:
• A general shift towards food quality rather than quantity which includes consuming fewer processed vegetable oils and foods, and where possible, eating foods in their natural form.
• Adjusted macronutrient composition can shift your metabolic rate from your default setting, which is predominantly fat storing, to a more active fat burning metabolic orientation. This is specifically so in the case of higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets.
• Certain eating styles and supplements help you optimise your blood sugar and blood insulin levels and therefore help you to control your appetite far better.
As we have advocated, diets should be more focussed on alleviating insulin resistance, a medical condition that leads to the development of metabolic syndrome, a condition that poses a significantly increased cardio-vascular risk in itself, than lowering your dietary intake of fat. This change of opinion is based on new findings collected through several recent studies that indicate that saturated fat does not threaten our health to the extent that was generally accepted in the past.
• The regular intake of plant based foods. These are high in healthy substances such as fibre and molecules called polyphenols. These not only offer you a wide variety of health benefits, but also actively help you lose weight. This was documented in a large study involving over 124,000 men and women over 24 years. We believe that you should be able to eat as many vegetables which have negligible amounts of carbohydrate as you like. Fruits on the other hand, while still high in these molecules, are also loaded with sugar, and so should not be eaten excessively.
• Optimising the delicate balance of the microbiome, the large colony of bacteria that lives in our intestines. Whilst investigation is ongoing, it is now clear that the microorganisms living inside obese and naturally slim individuals differ significantly, and research suggests that a shift in the composition of the microbiome will likely have a weight-loss benefit. This can be done by eating plant foods high in fibre and polyphenols, as well as reducing your total carbohydrate intake and improving the quality of your choices.
How does the C.A.P.E meal-plan work?
The C.A.P.E meal-plan stimulates your body to burn more fat whilst simultaneously reducing the production and storage of fat. This is achieved by not only limiting the total amount of calories that you consume on a daily basis, but also minimising your intake of energy-dense carbohydrates. Protein consumption is encouraged at every meal for the reasons explained below. Total fat intake is still restricted, whilst the increased intake of omega 3 fat in the form of oily fish, olive oil, flaxseed or nuts is encouraged. The advantage of this approach is that protein is metabolically processed immediately and not generally stored under normal conditions. Protein also increases your metabolic rate through a process called thermogenesis. In addition, several studies have shown that higher protein consumption helps to control hunger.
Over four decades ago researchers started to propose that a high-protein diet would enhance weight-loss results. Not surprisingly, since this idea was so radically different from traditional thinking, the concept was initially rejected by the orthodox dietetic fraternity. Some early criticism was based on opinions regarding the potential detrimental effects of higher protein intake on blood cholesterol levels, kidney function, blood pressure and osteoporosis. In recent years, however, numerous high quality academic studies have examined the effects of protein-enriched diets on energy expenditure, energy intake and actual weight loss, compared to diets containing less protein, debunking many of the concerns regarding the side effects associated with a higher protein intake.
The C.A.P.E meal-plan also puts emphasis on the regular intake of a variety of certain plant food sources, due to the numerous benefits that plant derived chemicals have been shown to have on the human body. It is well known that plants are an essential source of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. However, the actual reason you should eat certain plants is not to derive vitamins and minerals alone, since many of these are also available in protein sources, but to ingest several other unique plant based molecules, collectively called polyphenols as well as to increase the fibre content of the diet. These polyphenols can only be obtained from plants, and research suggests that they can improve our immune system, prevent overeating by regulating our appetite, suppress excess fat storage, regulate metabolism, alleviate chronic diseases, and allow us to feel healthier and more energetic each day.
What is a “high-density carbohydrate”?
Both wheat (a grain) and cucumber (a vegetable) are carbohydrates. Wheat, however, is more densely packed with energy by volume than cucumber. The dense carbohydrates are mainly the grains, i.e. corn, wheat (all forms including bread and pasta), rice and some vegetables like potatoes.
Can I deviate from this diet?
Yes, you may, but our research shows that this eating style is easy to follow and achieves the best weight-loss results. To assist you on occasions when you do deviate from your meal plan, we have provided you with some guidelines on “damage control”. (Discussed in chapter 10)
Can I eat out?
Yes, but do stick to our guidelines on your meal plan and order accordingly. Please bear in mind that all restaurant portions are excessively large and that you will never lose weight if you regularly consume a standard restaurant-sized portion, especially a pasta dish. Choose from the starter section and stick to a low-fat choice if possible. A protein meal with salad is a good choice. Vegetables in restaurants often are laced with fat (cream and butter) and sugar, so be careful – ask for steamed vegetables and all sauces or dressings on the side. Alternatively, ask for stir-fried vegetables prepared with soya sauce only. Share a dish with your partner or insist on a half portion. If these options are not available, divide your meal in two, and ask to take it home in a doggy bag.
Can I have alcohol?
Yes, we have also provided a damage control loophole for alcohol, but do keep in mind that alcohol is packed with energy. Try and minimise your alcohol intake for the best weight-loss results.
Can I feed my family the same food?
Our meal plans and food choices have been deliberately designed to enable you to share your food with your family. They will obviously expect bigger portions, so do provide them with an additional carbohydrate dish if you can’t persuade them to eat more vegetables.
What about artificial sweeteners?
There are many controversial opinions regarding sweeteners, many of them tending to be conspiracy-based, rather than scientifically factual or substantiated. We believe that sweeteners, in moderation, are not only acceptable but also are often a great idea. Ask your own doctor for a final opinion if you are concerned about the health issues that are circulated by the media.
What about diet drinks?
Diet drinks are fine but limit them to two cans a day.
What about condiments?
Bland food is boring (unless you prefer it). Please put some effort and planning into your meals. You may use:
• Spices, herbs, pepper, crushed/fresh garlic and chilli (without oil)
• One tablespoon of barbeque sauce, chilli sauce, horseradish, mustard, pesto sauce, taco sauce, teriyaki sauce, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pickles and gherkins
Where do I start?
Step 1 – Choose your food items and make a shopping list.
Highlight the food items on the lists below to suit your tastes and lifestyle.
Step 2 – Construct your own
Look at our suggested meal plans. Now complete your own meal plan by sticking to our portion guidelines.
Step 3 – Purchase what you need
Planning and preparing is an important part of success. You will achieve minimum results with minimum effort.
Can I swap my meals around?
Yes, you may. They can all easily be swapped to suit your type of lifestyle.
What about meal replacements?
As mentioned, they often contain more energy than an entire meal, so be careful. Stay within an energy allocation of approximately 400 cal/1600kJ. You will find this information indicated on the nutrition labels of most products.
What about protein bars?
You may use protein bars on occasion, but not as snacks. Use them instead of a meal and stay within an energy allocation of approximately 400 cal/1600kJ
What if I get hungry?
Although this meal plan has been structured to control your hunger levels, you may still experience episodes of hunger at times. Drink a cup of tea or coffee when this happens. Remember that when you are hungry, your body is burning fat, a worthy sacrifice. We are also providing you with the following list of snacks. If your hunger is severe, please ask your doctor for a suitable appetite suppressant.
For the best weight-loss results, try to eat the minimum amount most of the time.