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Zone Diet
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Zone Diet Overview

Written by Alice.

The Zone Diet was developed by Dr. Barry Sears in 1995 and suggests that by choosing the right foods, your body will be ‘in the zone’ and function at it’s optimal level. The Zone Diet focuses on stabilizing hormone levels, specifically insulin production, and allowing the body to return to a natural "hormonal state" for better health of body and mind. As stated by Sears, the Zone is a "metabolic state in which the body works at peak efficiency," The Zone is a low (refined) carbohydrate diet that encourages good protein consumption, lots of fruits and vegetables and adequate levels of mono-unsaturated fats all to stabilize blood sugar and maintain equilibrium within the body. On the Zone diet meals, there is a 40:30:30 ratio of complex carbohydrates (mostly from vegetables or fruits), protein and healthy fats. For each meal, 40% of calories from complex carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables (broccoli, tomatoes, green beans, apples, strawberries, etc.), 30% of calories come from low-fat protein* (about the size of your palm) as well as 30% monounsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds or avocados. The balance of protein, complex and unrefined carbohydrates (mostly vegetables, fruits, lentils, beans, whole grains) and fat is very important. Protein must be included in all main meals and snacks. By maintaining this balance, a zone dieter shouldn’t experience carbohydrate cravings or hunger because their hormonal and insulin levels are being kept constant.

*For vegetarians, Sears published the Soy Zone in 2000 where he outlined a zone diet based around soy protein and soy foods.

The timing of what you eat is an important factor within the Zone diet in order to maintain consistent insulin levels throughout the day. Zone Dieters eat 3 main meals a day and at least 2 snacks throughout the day. The guidelines suggest eating 4-5 hours after a meal or 2-2.5 hours after a snack. This timing of meals and snacks is to prevent major drops or increases in insulin levels and dieters are encouraged to stick to this schedule, hungry or not. The diet claims that you should never be hungry if you are eating at regular intervals and choosing the right foods for each meal. Dr. Sears focuses on insulin as a cause for much of today’s obesity problems and states, ‘excess insulin makes you fat and keeps you fat.’ An excess of carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates found in breads, cereals, white pasta, rice and sweets, are a major cause of skyrocketing insulin levels and need to be drastically reduced for weight loss and overall health benefits. Fat on the other hand, especially healthy fats like Omega 3’s found in fatty fish and other mono-unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds and avocados help burn fat and are important in the Zone balance diet.

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How It Works

Guidelines & Levels of the Zone Diet - By Barry Sears

Level 1:

  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day (eight 8-ounce glasses).
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, and less pasta, breads, grains, and starches during the day.
  • Eat more frequent meals with fewer calories.
  • Eat small amounts of low-fat protein at every meal and snack.

Level 2:

  • Determine how much protein you require per day and consume that amount.
  • Use the eyeball method to control your ratio of protein to carbohydrate at every meal.
  • Add some extra monounsaturated fat to every meal.
  • Drink 8 ounces of water thirty minutes before a meal.

Level 3:

  • Make sure most of your carbohydrates come from fruits and vegetables, and use grains, starches, pasta, and breads as condiments. Try to keep grains, starches, pasta, and bread to no more than 25 percent of the total carbohydrates consumed at a meal.
  • Never let more than five hours go by without eating a Zone meal or snack.
  • Always eat a Zone breakfast within one hour of rising.
  • Always have a small Zone snack before you go to bed.
  • Always have a small Zone snack thirty minutes before you exercise.


Kathleen Robers. “Menu for the Zone Diet,” LovetoknowDiet, July 17, 2011,

Sears, Barry (2000). The Soy Zone. Regan Books. ISBN 0060393106.

Sears, Barry (1995). The Zone: A Dietary Road Map. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0060987065. Sears's initial book on the Zone diet.

WebMD. “The Zone Diet,” WebMD, July 18, 2011,

Wikipedia. “Zone Diet,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, May 16, 2011, “Dr. Sears Zone Diet,”, July 18, 2011,

The Zone Diet “The Zone Diet Plan: Your Healthy Weight Loss Solution!,” The Zone Diet, July 17, 2011,



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