By Julia Belluz
diet_snacks_group.0‘Tis the season for detox diets and juice cleanses. These programs promise that, if you severely restrict the amount and type of food you eat, your extra pounds will melt away like the butter you’re not allowed to taste.But the quest for health really doesn’t need to be that complicated or painful. We wanted to design a guide to healthy eating that is simple, achievable, and even enjoyable.We started from three facts.The first one is this: studies have shown, time and again, that there really is no single “best diet” that works for everyone. You can read a very compelling argument for the Mediterranean diet, and another science-driven polemic that’s diametrically opposed to that, arguing that more saturated fat is the key to health. Within these contradictory narratives are a few evidence-based nuggets that we can all agree on, and they underpin this menu: that we can stand to eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole food, and less added sugar and processed food.The second fact: we know that really restrictive diets aren’t sustainable and more often than not backfire. So we created a menu that includes chicken, cheese, bread, butter — not much is ruled out.The third fact: when we eat out, we typically consume about 20 to 40 percent more calories than we’d eat at home. If we found ways to cook more often — even a few more times per week — we’d be healthier and maybe even thinner. So our diet asks you to make your meals yourself.

If you’ve cooked at home more times than you ate out during the week, you’ve done your body a great favor.

We’re aware that home cooking can take up a lot of time and effort, which is why we’ve made these recipes as simple and easy as possible, with some cooking ahead and lots of leftovers.Every recipe requires only a few steps and fewer than six ingredients (not including condiments and spices — of which we used only the most basic).This menu was designed with assistance from nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald and obesity doctor Yoni Freedhoff, and Vox staffers tested and tweaked all the recipes before publication. We hope the eating plan will be an antidote to the insane fad diets that will hardly get you through a week, let alone a healthy life.

Here are the five simple ground rules for this meal plan:

  • The week-long menu requires you to shop only once in a regular grocery store, and costs no more than $10 per day (unless you need to buy all the spices and tools we list, though, again they are very basic so hopefully most of you have them on hand).
  • Instead of perpetuating pseudoscientific gluten phobia or imposing impossible food rules, the diet is based on facts everyone can agree on: no processed foods, limited excess sugar, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich whole foods.
  • There is a vegetarian option for every meat-based meal.
  • There are snack suggestions that you can pick and choose from. Eat them as you like, though we’d suggest pairing them with a protein when you’re hungry between meals.
  • Drink alcohol and unsweetened tea or coffee as you wish, though if the goal is weight loss or maintenance, the nutritionist and doctor we consulted suggested no more than one alcoholic beverage a day.

We recommend beginning the diet over the weekend: do your grocery shopping and prep on Saturday, and begin with the Day One recipes on Sunday. The meal plan will take a bit of work to get going, but then will be easy to follow. Breakfasts should take no more than 10 minutes to prepare, and you should be able to eat within 40 minutes (or less) of getting home at night. Dinners turn into your lunches the next day. It’s all very reasonable.Having said all that, we know that one person’s ideal diet can be another’s worst nightmare. So please, try it out, but not religiously. Make substitutions. Play. Use frozen vegetables or another vegetable if you prefer. If you like steak more than salmon, prepare that instead. If you don’t have an ingredient, don’t fret. Improvise. If you skip a meal or two, that’s fine too. No one is judging. If you’ve cooked at home more times than you ate out during the week, you’ve done your body a great favor.


Photography: Paperbird Photography

Nutritional consultants: Matt Fitzgerald and Yoni Freedhoff

Editor: Eleanor Barkhorn

Designer: Tyson Whiting

Developer: Yuri Victor


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