Heart Healthy Eating with the Pritikin Diet

When it comes to heart healthy eating, there are several key factors that can affect heart health, including sodium, fat, and the overall balance of nutrients on your plate. In general, a balanced plate should be half-filled with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with a lean protein, one quarter with a whole grain, and then a serving low-fat dairy to round out the meal.

For people who want or may need to follow stricter guidelines around heart healthy eating, the Pritikin diet, developed by Nathan Pritikin the 1970s, is one option. The diet focuses on eating whole foods with a heavy focus on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which results in a daily intake that’s low calorie, low protein, and extremely low fat at 10 percent of daily calories.

Basic guidelines of the Pritikin diet

  • Five or more servings of whole grains, starchy vegetables, or legumes daily. This can include brown rice, barley, quinoa, millet, whole wheat, or oats for whole grains; potatoes or winter squashes for starchy vegetables; and beans, chickpeas, or lentils for legumes. 
  • Five or more servings of vegetables daily with a focus on eating a wide range of colorful vegetables each day. 
  • Four or more servings of whole fruits daily from fresh fruit or canned/frozen fruits with no sweeteners added. 
  • Two servings of nonfat dairy or dairy substitutes daily, ensuring that any dairy substitutes contain very little or no added sugars or saturated fat. 
  • One serving (3.5 to 4 ounces) of lean animal meat daily, such as fish, white meat poultry, or free-range game meats like bison or venison. 
  • Two egg whites daily and additional protein-rich plant foods such as beans, peas, lentils, tofu, or edamame. 

The foods recommended on the Pritikin diet are low in calorie density and naturally high in nutrients, which means you can eat more of them without worrying about counting calories. These guidelines are used by the Oklahoma Heart Hospital food service team in preparing menus for our hospital patients recovering from various types of heart disease.