Health promotion is all about what you “DO” eat; not what you’re avoiding.
The 4Leaf Program that was introduced in our book is all about maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods. We want to do that by always stressing the positive.
Your mother probably told you a million times that you should eat more fruits and vegetables. We want to build on that simple, positive advice…the same advice that Bill Clinton got from Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish. (See our post on “common ground.”
First let’s define “whole plant foods.” Quite simply, our definition is plant food…still in nature’s package. So that includes all fresh fruit, greens, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains — with a large portion of them being eaten raw.
So what about plant-based foods like bread, pasta and tofu? While not harmful like meat and dairy, these foods have been processed and simply don’t contain the nutrient density and health-promoting qualities of those foods that are still in nature’s package. Further, we have observed that many people who load up on these kinds of foods oftentimes don’t get the results that they were expecting. In my case, I have some bread almost every day and probably have pasta and/or tofu once a week. But I am still able to count most of my days in the 4Leaf column. Hopefully, you will be able to do the same.
What about fat and salt? Today, the average American derives almost 40% of her/his calories from fat and consumes 3400 mg. of sodium per day. With 4Leaf eating, we want to keep that percent of calories from fat below 20%, and we want to keep the sodium intake below 2000 mg. There are some simple guidelines in Chapter 10 of our book on how to easily do that.
Daily Goal offers flexibility. Rather than trying to make every single meal over 80% from whole plants, I shoot for a daily goal in that lofty 4Leaf range. For example, I usually eat a bowl of fruit at 8 a.m. and then a large bowl of oatmeal (with more fruit) at around 11 a.m. Those two meals total about 800 calories, with over 95% of them coming from whole plants — and both meals scoring very high in the 4Leaf range. Then, I have a big 4Leaf lunch in the afternoon — another 800 calories with about 85% of the calories from whole plants.
Just for the record, the non-4Leaf items in my diet hardly ever include any animal products; like in eating an hors ‘d oeuvre when in a friend’s home. Virtually all of my non-4Leaf items are things like bread, tofu, wine, pasta and low fat/low sodium chips.
So my 4Leaf score prior to my evening meal stands at roughly 90% of my calories from whole plants. Now I have the flexibility of having a 3Leaf meal, or even a small *2Leaf meal, for dinner; and still finish my day at 80% or more — and that makes me a 4-Leafer almost every day. Our intent with the 4Leaf Program was to make it easy for you to know exactly what constitutes the healthiest of diets for humans. How close you wish to come to that goal is totally up to you. If you want to experience vibrant health and enjoy maximum protection from chronic disease, we hope that you’ll join the healthy folks that have chosen the 4Leaf level for them and their families.
*A healthy 2Leaf meal might be a plate of whole wheat pasta with two sides of vegetables and a small basket of whole wheat bread—with 40% of the calories derived from the two sides of veggies. In the old days, I would have thought this was an exceptionally healthy meal—but now I prefer to make sure that the whole fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes make up the vast majority of my calories—at least 80%.
4 levels of eating in our “4Leaf” Program; beginning with the healthiest — at over 80% of your calories from whole plant foods.
4Leaf Level—over 80% of calories from whole plant foods
Representing a very small minority of the population; people in this group tend to have trim bodies, vibrant health, lots of energy, take no medications, almost never have ANY disease and will very likely live a long & healthy life.
3Leaf Level—over 60% of daily calories from whole plant foods
Already eating a superior diet, this group is deriving well over half of their calories from health-promoting, whole, plant-based foods…and has experienced many benefits healthy eating…well on their way to 4Leaf.
2Leaf Level—over 40% of daily calories from whole plant foods.
1Leaf Level—over 20% of calories from whole plant foods. Although eating five times as many whole plant calories as the majority of folks, they are not consuming enough whole plant foods to provide much protection against disease…and will need help to add more leaves.
No Leaf, “Better Than Most” (From 10 to 19% from whole plants) People at this level are actually trying to eat a healthier diet. They frequently say things like “I have given up red meat and am trying to watch what I eat.” All they need is a better understanding of what promotes vibrant health.
No-Leaf (Unhealthy) (Less than 10% of calories from whole plants) Eaten by the “majority,” this is the typical Western diet with meat, dairy and highly-processed foods at almost every meal. A very destructive diet-style, providing almost no fiber from whole plants and offering zero protection against chronic disease.
Do your body a favor, climb aboard the 4Leaf train, and take charge of your health — while simultaneously doing some wonderful things for the planet. Continue on to Part 2 (Analysis of current diet) of this 5-part series by clicking here.
If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
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—J. Morris Hicks