Rocco dispirito negative calorie diet

How Rocco Dispirito Lost 30 Pounds and Became a Diet Guru

Chef and cookbook author Rocco Dispirito shares his weight-loss secrets.

Rocco DiSpirito, reality-TV star, cookbook writer and former chef-owner of Union Pacific, a 3-star New York City restaurant, flirted with a healthier lifestyle for years. But it wasn’t until a routine checkup in 2006 that DiSpirito got a wake-up call and decided to take action. At 216 pounds, his heaviest, the 6’1″ chef had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Rather than take medication, DiSpirito, now 46, vowed to radically change his diet and amp up his exercise. Three months later he completed his first sprint triathlon. A year later, and 30 pounds lighter, he completed an Ironman. Here DiSpirito, author of Now Eat This! Diet and Now Eat This! 100 Quick Calorie Cuts (Grand Central, 2011) and star of Bravo’s Rocco’s Dinner Party, talks with us about his transformation.

How has your eating changed since you decided to improve your lifestyle?
I used to eat anything I wanted. At Union Pacific I packed fat into dishes for flavor-and I rarely ate at home. Now I cook a lot of vegetables and fruit, whole grains and lean protein and use those foods in healthy makeovers of comfort foods for myself and my cookbooks.

What’s your favorite healthy recipe?
My Flash-Fried Chicken “Carnitas” . It’s fast and comes out so delicious at 280 calories.

How was your first triathlon?
When I started training, I couldn’t even walk three miles. I’d never been able to swim. During the race women 20 years older were swimming by me like I was standing still. I was the second-to-last person to finish. Normally I would have been disappointed-but I felt triumphant.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Pushnik used by permission of Grand Central Publishing, Inc.

January/February 2012

Rocco Dispirito’s Healthier Chicken Parmigiana and Caprese Salad

rocco DiSpirito, has a great cookbook out. “Now eat this italian.” And he has a new website called noweatthisitaly. Who wouldn’t want to see it? You take the traditional recipes so we can eat it and look good. We don’t need to talk about looking good. The chicken parm. Normally 1,000 calories. Where is chris? 50 grams of fat, no good, right? This is how you make it healthy. This is not a traditional fourth of july. But in my house, this is traditional. Every american family had a little italian food mixed in. These are thin chicken cutlets you can buy anywhere. They’re three ounces each. Coat them in the egg white. And they go into whole wheat panko bread crumbs. They’re crunchy. And they go on a sheet pan. You line them with foil, so the heat is reflected and it stays crispy. You want it to be crispy. This is called bake. If you put it on the foil, it gets soggy on one side. This is how you fake and bake or faux fry. It’s crispy. It is. A little sauce. A little sauce you can buy in the store. No sugar, no fat it in. And going to get fresh mozzarella. Right on top. The reason you use fresh is because it’s low in calories. A lot of water in it. Only 60 calories an ounce. If you’re going to make that dish — delicious. It’s fresh. Yeah. Go. Fresh mozzarella, lower calories than processed mozzarella. Because it’s full of water. I could eat this all summer long, the caprese salad. You can grow vegetables. And they grow easily. And instead of olive oil, I use something I call super oil, this stuff rig here. It’s green olive juice, green olive juice — green olive juice, does that come in the olive jar? Yeah, this stuff right here. And thicken it. And if you’re allergic to gluten, you know what this is. And it’s 25% reduced fat. It’s so good. And for dessert, some peaches and sparkling cider. I brought the cider. You at home, should you and could you, use something like prosecco. By the way, you can get all of these recipes at goodmorningamerica.Com/recipes, for everything you see right here.

Rocco DiSpirito

“The Western diet is destroying our world and our lives and creating all these problems that we don’t need to have.”

Rocco DiSpirito

When it comes to food, we’ve been led to believe that healthy and delicious are mutually exclusive.

When it comes to eating plant-based, forget about it. Most people can’t imagine their palate can possibly be sated without animal products.

I’ve worked hard to bust this myth.

But I’m no chef.

Good thing today’s guest is.

But Rocco DiSpirito is no ordinary chef. A James Beard award-winning culinary wizard, this guy is a straight up food genius.

Named Food & Wine magazineʼs Best New Chef, People magazineʼs Sexiest Chef and the first chef to appear on Gourmet magazineʼs cover as Americaʼs Most Exciting Young Chef, Rocco is the author of 13 books (5 of which were NY Times bestsellers) who lorded over 3-Star restaurant Union Pacific, a New York City culinary landmark for many years (The New York Times deemed his dishes “pure genius”). Rocco skyrocketed to mainstream fame starring in a countless array of food and celebrity chef television shows, including NBC’s The Restaurant, ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss, Bravo’s Top Chef and Rocco’s Dinner Party, Restaurant Divided on Food Network — and even Dancing With The Stars.

But it hasn’t been all roses. Along the way, Rocco faced much adversity. He’s battled detractors. And eventually his fast-paced, rich food-laden life caught up with him. By 38, Rocco had become seriously ill, boasting the metabolic rate of a 64-year old with an extra 40 pounds around the mid-section. His doctor told him he had no choice but to go on a battery of medications. But Rocco declined, setting his focus on healing himself with healthier food and physical exercise. It’s a path that forever altered his career and indeed his life — a re-imagination of great tasting food in service to well-being; to physical exercise and the world of triathlon; and more recently to exploring the healing benefits of a plant-based diet and the challenge of creating tantalizing recipes without meat and dairy.

Ultimately, Rocco walked away from the cloistered sub-culture of New York City haute cuisine. It’s a move that puzzled the restaurant world, but Rocco was committed to leveraging his prodigious kitchen talents to help others achieve the vital wellness he now enjoys. Instead of opening up another bistro, he started coaching people. He launched an all-natural food product line. He founded a meal delivery service called The Pound A Day Diet. And he spends his free-time as an Ambassador for HealthCorps, visiting schools across the country performing cooking demonstrations and encouraging thousands of youth to build healthier habits.

Indeed, it’s a laudable mission to prove that healthy and delicious can indeed coexist.

Rocco’s more recent embrace of plant-based cuisine is what piqued my interest in sitting down with him. It’s also the thrust of his brand new cookbook, Rocco’s Healthy & Delicious: More than 200 (Mostly) Plant-Based Recipes for Everyday Life* hitting bookstores everywhere October 17.

I love a good character arc. Charismatic and engaging, Rocco delivers in this super fun conversation with one of the world’s greatest chefs.

We discuss the obstacles he met growing up modestly in a classic Italian-American household in Queens, New York, learning to appreciate the social applications of food from his mother — how making people feel loved became the why behind his how.

A life-long student of culinary arts, we track Rocco’s career from pizza boy to the Culinary Institute of America at the young age of 16, his subsequent stints at some of the world’s greatest restaurants, his tenure at Union Pacific, and what it’s like to be a true celebrity chef.

But mostly we focus on Rocco’s personal health journey — how he came to espouse the benefits of eating plant-based, the deleterious impact of the Western Diet on the planet and it’s people, and his unwavering commitment to helping others affordably access, achieve, and maintain true wellness.

Pretty sure I made a friend with this one. I sincerely hope you enjoy the listen.

For those visually inclined, the video version of the podcast is also viewable on YouTube.

Peace + Plants,

Rocco DiSpirito’s Slimmed-Down Italian Recipes

Award-winning chef and bestselling author Rocco DiSpirito traveled throughout Italy to learn the secrets of the cuisine from those who cook it best-Italian mothers-for his new cookbook, Now Eat This! Italian. He created more than 100 healthier versions of Italian-American favorites, all low in fat and with less than 350 calories, including these dishes. Each of which tastes just as delicious as the original but comes without the guit.

RELATED: Surprising Ways to Slim Down Comfort Food Favorites

Caprese Salad

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DiSpirito drizzles this salad with “super olive oil,” which has almost 75 percent less fat and calories than regular olive oil.

Serves: 4


3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon green olive juice (from a jar of green olives)

1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 large ripe tomatoes (heirloom, if possible) sliced into 16 1/2-inch slices


Freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick>br> 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, stems removed


1. Combine water, olive juice, and xanthan gym in a small bowl and whisk until thick. Add olive oil and whisk until smooth.

2. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Top each with a slice of mozzarella, then season again lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange 4 tomato and cheese slices overlapping on each of 4 small salad plates and scatter basil on top. Drizzle each plate with 1 tablespoon olive oil mix.

Nutritional score per serving: 167 calories, 11.5g fat

Spaghetti Pomodoro Sauce

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Pomodoro simply means “tomato” in Italian. The dish embodies the core philosophy of great Italian cooking: few ingredients at their peak equals lots of flavor.

Serves: 4


8 ounces 100% KAMUT wheat spaghetti (such as Alce Nero)


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes

16 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

2 cups diced very ripe tomatoes

1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Freshly ground black pepper


1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add spaghetti and cook until less than al dente, about 6 minutes, stirring after the first minute to avoid sticking. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.

2. Pour olive oil into a large nonstick skillet and add garlic, spreading evenly over the skillet. Place skillet over medium-high heat and cook until garlic begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Turn heat to medium, add red pepper flakes and half the basil leaves, and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook until sauce comes to a simmer and has slightly thickened, about 2 to 5 minutes. Add half the cheese and stir to combine completely into sauce. Turn off heat and season lightly with salt and pepper.

4. Add pasta and reserved cooking water. Raise heat to medium-high and toss pasta and sauce together using a heat-resistant rubber spatula. Cook until sauce coats pasta and noodles are just cooked. Add remaining basil and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve sprinkled with remaining cheese.

Nutritional score per serving: 277 calories, 6.5g fat

Peaches and Prosecco with Almond Cream

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This dessert version of the bellini cocktail, combining peaches with prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), is not to be missed.

Serves: 4


4 ripe peaches, cut into bite-size chunks

2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted

1/2 cup skim milk

2 tablespoons raw agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon soy lecithin (available at health food stores such as GNC)

16 ounces rosé Prosecco


1. Spoon peaches into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with almonds.

2. Combine milk, agave nectar, and almond extract in a medium bowl and blend with a hand blender until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add lecithin and blend for about 20 seconds until frothy.

3. Spoon mixture over peaches. Serve with prosecco.

Nutritional score per serving: 184 calories, 2.5g fat

  • By Locke Hughes

Now Eat This

In this appealing show, award-winning chef Rocco DiSpirito transforms America’s favourite comfort foods into deliciously healthy dishes — all with zero bad carbs, zero bad fats, zero sugar, and maximum flavour. What’s more, Rocco provides time-saving shortcuts, helpful personal advice, and nutritional breakdowns for each recipe from a board-certified nutritionist. So prepare your favourite foods without the guilt. Finally, a world-class chef has made healthy food taste great!

Episode 20: The Best Of Now Eat This

Enjoy the highlights of some of Rocco DiSpirito’s best dishes from this season of Now Eat This! See how Rocco’s healthy, delicious recipes transform each family’s approach to food and cooking.

Episode 19: Ferri Family

Jennifer and Michael Ferri are young newlyweds who are transitioning to a gluten free diet. This is particularly challenging for Michael, since his favorite dishes are Italian pastas and breads. Rocco educates them on the benefits of a gluten-free diet and how to create gluten/lactose-free versions of their Italian favorites.

Episode 18: Reilly Family

The Reilly Familyis a busy family of 4 in need of a diet makeover. The parents rely on blood pressure medication, blood thinners, cholesterol medication, asthma inhalers, and dietary supplements, in lieu of a healthy diet, and it’s time to make a change.Rocco teaches them recipes with vitamin-rich food like blueberry cream muffins, beef pot roast, and instant strawberry soft serve.

Episode 17: Jeffa–Duran

The Jeffra-Duran Family is led by two Newark police officers, Jennifer and Josue, who have developed unhealthy eating habits, which have been passed along to their children. Rocco helps them create healthy meals they can cook at home. Featuring buffalo popcorn chicken, fish tacos, and double chocolate chip cookies.

Episode 16: Aufiero Family

The Aufiero Family is a health conscious family : Sonia, the mother, is a professional nutritionist. They understand the importance of a balanced diet, but are having challenges finding healthy meals that are kid friendly. Rocco prepares his delicious Big Burger, grilled eggplant Parmigiano, and Mexican chili con carne with ground turkey.

Episode 15 : Albury Family

The Albury Family loves southern comfort food, but they need to watch their cholesterol levels. Rocco customizes healthy alternatives to southern cuisine, including southern fried chicken with potato salad and red velvet cupcakes.

Episode 14: Raspanti Family

Despite a commitment to exercise, the Raspanti family struggles to maintain a balanced diet. Rocco brings easy, healthy dishes that they can make together, including Fettuccine Alfredo, homemade meatloaf and 58-calorie sweet potato fries.

Episode 13: Persico

The Persico Family relies on junk food and large meals to satisfy their large appetites, and as a result, are battling weight issues. Rocco tailors a meal plan to help them change course. Featuring apple cranberry granola cereal, spaghetti pomodoro, and chocolate miracle cupcakes.

Episode 12: Cavallaro

The Cavallaros’ struggle with portion control and food allergies. Rocco teaches them healthy and delicious recipes that help them navigate these challenges, including Rocco’s strawberry balsamico, steak pizzaiola, and Mama’s meatballs.

Episode 11: Boutzalis

The Boutzalis family has a hard time meeting together for mealtime so Rocco demonstrates ways to prepare fast and healthy meals that the entire family can enjoy together. Featuring…

Episode 10: Ed & Samantha

Ed and Samantha are similar in many ways, but food is not one of them. Rocco teaches them some easy recipes they can enjoy together, like steak with tomato and spinach salad, Rocco’s smoked oysters in hickory wood, and homemade spaghetti with white clam sauce.

Episode 9: Bodre Family

Rocco guides single mother Heidy Bodre to make better food choices for her daughter Samantha, and teaches Heidy some easy, healthy recipes to incorporate into their weekly menu. Featuring sweet and sour beef stir-fry.

Episode 8: Hoboken Firemen

Rocco shows us, and the Hoboken Fire Department, it’s possible to eat like a man but still be healthy. Rocco creates fast, healthy versions of the foods these guys love, such as pork chops, chicken and rice jambalaya and Rocco’s savory shrimp tostada for fewer than 250 calories.

Episode 7: The Lazzaruolo Family

Rocco brings his cousin Ron into the Now Eat This kitchen to help him commit to healthier living, by creating dishes Ron loves, that are also good for his body. On the menu…Penne alla Bolognese and Eggplant Parmigiano in a low fat marinara sauce all for under 345 calories

Episode 6: Jon and Priscilla

Rocco teaches Priscilla and her son Jon healthy, delicious dishes that will change their poor diet choices and get them on the right track. On the menu is Rocco’s Penne Al Livernese with whole-wheat pasta and Sweet potato chips.

Episode 5: Koni and John

Rocco helps Koni and John get ready for their wedding day by challenging them to ditch fast food and bad eating habits, in favor of healthy, delicious meals they can cook themselves. Rocco whips up easy recipes for lasagna Bolognese, steak fajitas and panna cotta.

Episode 4: Pat and Lia

Pat and Lia Forman have a lot on common, but their eating habits couldn’t be more different. Between Pat’s wheat allergy, and Lia’s new barbeque-heavy diet—these two could really use some help in finding a balance! Rocco teaches them easy, gluten-free BBQ recipes and snacks they can prepare and enjoy together.

Episode 3: Kenley & Julia

Kenley & Julia are young, energetic friends living together in New York City. They try to eat right, but often skip meals, and when presented with a delicious meal or a big slice of cake, they just can’t help themselves! Rocco teaches them easy, healthy meals to prepare at home and some easy ways to balance their diets.

Episode 2: Kiernan Family

The Kiernan Family is a very active bunch, dealing with some challenging health issues. Lizzy, the middle daughter, was recently diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes. Rocco creates healthy versions of homemade chicken noodle soup, miracle risotto with mushroom, and chicken tenders with honey mustard.

Episode 1: Paskewitz Family

The Paskewitz Family is a large, highly active family with 5 growing boys. The Paskewitz’s are in need of help in identifying foods that will fuel their busy lifestyles and avoiding those that will cause lasting damage to their bodies. Rocco teaches them how to substitute carb and sugar-loaded junk food in favor of protein packed meals that are easy to cook and eat on the run.

What is a holiday meal at home like when you’re friends and family of a James Beard award-winning chef? For those close to Rocco DiSpirito, it involves a meal that is both healthy and delicious, which also happens to be the title of his 13th cookbook, Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious, released in October. His latest cookbook, which showcases over 200 mostly plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free and no-sugar-added recipes, is like taking a glimpse into DiSpirito’s kitchen and diet. His personal journey to improve his health and lose weight has also affected and transformed his culinary career and mission to inspire others to go “back to the basics” and eat nutritious, seasonal and organic food.

“It is really a return to the principles of how my grandparents ate, which was a mostly Mediterranean plan full of fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy fats and with small portions of high-quality organic meats, poultry and seafood and limited dairy and added sugars,” says DiSpirito. “We know about the healthy benefits of this style of eating now, but for them it really was just a way of life.”

Unlike some of DiSpirito’s previous books, which were more diet and weight-loss focused, his current book is more lifestyle focused and provides guidance on creating healthy habits that are sustainable throughout life. Some of the lifestyle habits he encourages include making meal preparation at home a priority, purchasing organic food—which he explains can be affordable—and focusing on a plant-based approach to eating. In addition, a gluten-free and dairy-free approach to eating are also emphasized in his book. DiSpirito doesn’t have celiac, a reason many individuals need to follow a gluten-free eating pattern, but he has adopted a totally gluten-free diet since 2014. Although his diet may exclude gluten, dairy and added sugars, it isn’t about deprivation. Instead, DiSpirito celebrates, enjoys and teaches others ways to focus on all the nourishing foods they can and should include as part of a healthy eating plan.

Gluten-Free Living caught up with the New York-based celebrity chef and discussed his new cookbook and the best tips for celebrating the holidays the healthy way.

GFL: Your definition of healthy eating has evolved since the publication of Now Eat This! and is reflected in your new cookbook. What or who had the most influence on refining your current dietary and culinary approach?

RD: The food and exercise changes I’ve made personally and how my culinary career and food philosophy has evolved was really an organic journey. It started out as a means to get my health in order. The first step for me to get in shape was to reduce my sugar intake, which helped naturally improve my food choices and helped naturally improve my food choices and made me feel better. In addition, I was training about five to eight hours daily for a triathlon I signed up for. I ended up losing about 30 pounds over a year, and that was really only the start of the evolution of my wellness journey. I’ve read books and attended various wellness conferences that really showcased the benefits of plant-based eating that was close to the Mediterranean diet that I grew up on, which focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, non-GMO wheat, limited animal protein and limited dairy. It is essentially a return to a simpler way of living and approaching food and eating. Professionally, my personal wellness journey impacted my career and food business, which is focused on helping individuals improve their health through improved food choices. It really encourages me to continue to be innovative to create healthy and delicious meals for myself and others.

GFL: Your new cookbook Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious is the 13th cookbook you’ve written and focuses on mostly plant-based recipes. Has the creative process changed since you’ve written your first cookbook?

RD: The process of developing recipes and creating a cookbook has sped up immensely since my first cookbook was written. I work through the recipe development process a lot faster and have created better strategies for taking pictures of the food for the books. I remember writing parts of my first cookbook, Flavor, in the basement of Union Pacific restaurant. It took about five years to write and complete my first cookbook. The food photography process was also quite different; for my first book, it took about eight months to take 10,000 pictures of the recipes on a Polaroid camera. Today, we have digital food photography, which helps expedite the food photography process. Additionally, I’ve taken a different approach to food styling, especially for my latest book, which really focuses on the simple beauty of the food itself versus extensive props. The photographs in Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious really let healthy food speak for itself and showcase how nutritious food can be beautiful and colorful without a lot of fuss.

GFL: What are your strategies to encourage a plant-based approach to eating?

RD: As a chef, I think the best way to encourage others to eat more plants is really to teach individuals how to prepare and eat fresh, local vegetables. Vegetable preparation goes beyond simply preparing salads or steaming vegetables; there are lots of great ways to include vegetables in your diet, and many of them are outlined in my new cookbook. A few of my favorite preparation methods include spiralizing or ricing vegetables, incorporating them into desserts, and preparing them with coconut oil and aromatics to add great flavor. I also love a good ratatouille and have a great raw vegetable ratatouille recipe in my new book. In my opinion, avocado, which is technically a fruit, has also really transformed the culinary world in terms of versatility of how we can incorporate various vegetables into our diets.

GFL: You follow the dietary principles outlined in your book, which is a gluten-free, dairy-free and no-sugar-added dietary pattern. What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out with a gluten-free diet?

RD: The most important thing is to focus on all the fantastic food you are able to incorporate into your meal plan versus what you feel like might be missing or lacking. When I was 16 years old, I lived and worked in Israel as part of a college work study program in a kosher kitchen. Cooking in a kosher kitchen, we had to adhere to kosher dietary guidelines and make delicious meals with the ingredients we were provided. We focused on the ingredients we were able to use instead of what was “missing,” and we were able to create some amazing and delicious meals. Utilizing that same perspective, focusing on what you can included versus what you cannot include is a fantastic place to start. I also encourage individuals to modify their expectations in regards to gluten-free replacements. It is really best to not try to replicate gluten-containing foods in terms of your expectations. It is very difficult to make a gluten-free bread, and it can take a lot of time in recipe development to create something delicious. It is a good idea to not try to recreate the wheel and try other people’s recipes, because they have likely already spent a lot of time on recipe testing and development. For example, I have a great microwave buckwheat bread in my new cookbook that is fantastic.

GFL: What is one of your favorite holiday memories?

RD: Although my mother traditionally did most of the food shopping for our household, my father always got involved in selecting food for a special holiday meal. On Christmas Eve, we always celebrated the feast of the seven fishes, which is an Italian-American celebration that typically consists of preparing seven different seafood dishes for the meal. I can fondly recall my father being assigned the duty of selecting the seafood choices for this particular meal and going to a fish market in Astoria to make his selection. Selecting quality food items and cooking has always been part of the holidays for me.

GFL: What are a few of your favorite holiday traditions?

RD: I typically enjoy hosting most of the major holiday meals and often do for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. At Thanksgiving, I always like to prepare three different turkeys—fried, roasted and spatchcocked along with a gluten-free stuffing. It is fun to see which turkey individuals enjoy eating the most. At Christmas, I love getting a huge Christmas tree. Putting together large stockings filled with fun gifts that family would enjoy has also been something that I thoroughly love and incorporate as part of my holiday tradition.

GFL: In the spirit of promoting a healthy lifestyle, what are some of your favorite culinary gifts that you like giving to family or friends during the holidays?

RD: There are a few favorite culinary gifts that I love giving to family and friends during the holidays, including:

Coconut manna: I use it for everything; in the kitchen, I use it in all types of dishes and put it in my coffee. I even use it outside of the kitchen, on my skin and to brush my dog’s teeth!

Espresso machines: Always a fantastic gift choice. The espresso machines that are easy to use with the espresso pods are typically a big hit.

Chef knife: Providing someone with a high-quality chef knife is a great way to promote more cooking at home.

Spiralizer: A spiralizer is a nice way to encourage someone to eat more vegetables. Oftentimes, a good spiralizer also comes with a few recipe ideas to get someone started in the kitchen.

Personalized Tabasco sauce bottle: You can purchase a personalized bottle of Tabasco sauce with someone’s name on it, which makes an excellent holiday gift.

Rocco’s Fresh Organic High Protein Shakes: You can purchase a month’s worth of fresh, organic shakes, which are part of my all-natural product food line, Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious. The shakes contain 28 grams of protein and at least 8 grams of fiber and are all gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and soy free. You can order them on my website,

Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious: I humbly think that my latest book would make an amazing holiday gift. It provides guidance on leading a healthy life and is full of simple and delicious recipes. It also includes recipes that would make great healthy food gifts to give to others, including gluten-free breads, spicy pistachio-goji bark and People Puppy Chow.

GFL: What tips do you have for staying on track with healthy eating and physical activity during the holiday season?

RD: I typically suggest that individuals that already have an established healthy lifestyle at least 60 to 70 percent of the time, get a “hall pass” to really just enjoy the holidays. If someone hasn’t quite established healthy lifestyle habits or recognizes that the holidays might derail healthy behaviors, there are a few tips that I generally share to stay on track with healthy eating, including:

  1. Eating before parties, which can help prevent overeating at the event.
  2. Limiting high-calorie sauces and condiments.
  3. Limiting calories from alcoholic beverages. Instead bring non-alcoholic beverages to the party, like a sparkling cider, or, if you want to have an alcoholic drink, champagne, which is a lower-calorie choice compared to other alcoholic options.

GFL: What’s next for Rocco in 2018?

RD: It’s my privilege to experiment in the kitchen and create new, easy and convenient ways for people to eat healthy and delicious food. I’m expanding my all-natural product line and trying out new recipes daily through my fresh meal delivery service, The Pound a Day Diet. Advocating on behalf of food issues has also been one of the most rewarding parts of my life, and I’ll continue my work with HealthCorps, Feeding America and other non-profits I have the honor of working with.

Photography by Flavorworks.

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The Negative Calorie Diet by Rocco DiSpirito: Food list

The Negative Calorie Diet (2015) is a diet book that encourages you to eat 10 foods that are “negative calorie” and can help your body burn fat and lose weight.

  • 10-Day Cleanse – 4 meals a day, including 3 smoothies and 1 meal (soup or salad every other day), mostly negative-calorie.
  • 20-Day Eating Plan – 4 meals a day, and unlimited amounts of negative-calorie foods.
  • Maintenance plan – Similar to 20-day plan, add some starches and occasional treats.

See below on this page for a description of the food recommendations in the diet. Negative calorie foods and proteins | General guidelines | 10-day cleanse | 20-day eating plan | Long-term diet / maintenance plan | Vegetarians and vegans. There’s a lot more in the book.

Use this page as a cheat sheet alongside the book. Send this page to friends, family, and anyone else who you want to understand what you’re eating on this diet.

Get a copy of The Negative Calorie Diet for the science behind the 10 negative calorie foods; guidelines on how to start the cleanse; goal-setting; incorporating the diet for yourself and your family; guidelines for eating out and on the go; exercise suggestions; shopping lists; meal plans (including vegetarian options); 70 negative calorie recipes, and other recipes.

The reasoning behind The Negative Calorie Diet

The author says that he knows that he packs on weight when he regularly wolfs down a greasy slice of pizza for dinner, but when he eats healthier meals that contain roughly the same amount of calories— such as a large piece of grilled tuna and some vegetables— his weight stays stable. It’s not how many calories you eat (quantity), but the types of calories you eat (quality).

Negative calorie foods are (1) whole (unprocessed) foods, (2) that are thermogenic, generating heat in your body which boosts your metabolism and burns calories, (3) that satiate you / fill you up because they’re high in water and loaded with fiber (e.g. fruits and vegetables) or are rich in proteins (like lean meats).

The Negative Calorie Diet plan – what to eat and foods to avoid

Negative calorie foods and proteins | General guidelines | 10-day cleanse | 20-day eating plan | Long-term diet / maintenance plan | Vegetarians and vegans

Negative calorie foods and proteins to eat with them

Negative calorie foods, combined with protein, have a powerful effect on metabolism, weight loss, and appetite.

Negative calorie foods | Proteins

Negative calorie foods (10 + more)

  • (1) Almonds
    • Eat a handful of almonds about 20 minutes before a meal to control your appetite and help you eat less overall. Or enjoy them as a snack anytime. They are also included in recipes
  • (2) Apples
    • Try having a few apple slices about 15 minutes before a meal to help tame your appetite, or as a snack, or in one of the recipes
  • (3) Berries
    • g. strawberries, raspberries
    • Enjoy a daily dose of berries in smoothies, stirred into a bowl of oatmeal, in salads, or all by themselves.
  • (4) Celery
    • Eat it as a snack; in stews, soups, and salads; juice with apples. As it has almost no calories, you can eat or juice as much celery as you want
  • (5) Citrus fruits
    • g. grapefruits, lemons, limes, oranges
    • Eat as a snack or dessert; add lemon and lime slices to water for extra fat-burning benefits; add citrus zest to salads, smoothies, and yogurt; there are also recipes in the book
  • (6) Cruciferous vegetables
    • g. broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower
    • Eat cruciferous vegetables daily, as much as you want— raw as snacks, in stir-fries and salads, or as side dishes seasoned with spices or peppers. Recipes in the book
  • (7) Cucumbers
    • Use in salads, soups, snacks, juices, sandwiches. Try starting your meals with a cucumber-based salad
  • (8) Green leafy vegetables
    • g. arugula, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, spinach, swiss chard, turnip greens
    • Have at least one moderately sized mixed salad every day, which can also include celery and cucumbers; add spinach or kale to smoothies
  • (9) Mushrooms
    • g. button mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms
    • Add to salads, include in stir-fries and soups, omelets, or as toppings for meat, chicken, and fish dishes
  • (10) Nightshades / foods in the nightshade family
    • Avoid if you’re allergic / intolerant to you – the main symptom is joint pain
    • g. sweet peppers (e.g. bell peppers, poblano peppers), hot peppers (e.g. chiles, habaneros, jalapeños), tomatoes, eggplant (NOTE – does not include potatoes as they are a starchy vegetable)
    • Use in salads, Italian and Mexican dishes; recipes in book
  • Water
    • The one true negative calorie food – drinking a little over two 8-ounces glasses of water was shown to increase metabolic rate by 30 percent in just 10 minutes. Water also satisfies both thirst and hunger signals
  • Condiments & spices
    • Black pepper, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, ginger, horseradish, mustard, turmeric


A highly thermogenic macronutrient that keeps hunger at bay.

Here are the author’s top 10:

  • Beef – lean cuts such as flank steak and lean ground beef; opt for grass-fed whenever possible
  • Chicken – humanely raised, organic chicken that was raised without antibiotics, hormones, or other drugs
  • Clams
  • Crabmeat (real, not imitation)
  • Eggs – the highest quality you can afford, as close to the farm as possible. The best eggs have a bright orange yolk, not a pale yellow one. As with all proteins, the way the animal is raised has a real impact on both flavor and nutrition
  • Flounder – plus a wide variety of fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, cod
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna – canned (water packed), or fresh, wild-caught, sushi-grade tuna such as ahu tuna (can be frozen)
  • Turkey – especially skinless turkey breast
  • Try to always cook with farm-raised poultry and meat
    • Chickens and turkeys with the “farm-raised” designation are typically raised without the regular use of antibiotics
    • Beef labeled “organic” has been raised without routine usage of antibiotics or hormones. Also look for the terms “American Grass-Fed Approved” or “USDA Process Verified Grass-Fed.” This certification guarantees that the cow was raised on a diet of 99 percent grass and had seasonal access to a pasture.
  • Choose wild seafood over farmed; eat wild-caught fish a couple of times a week – e.g. tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon

Chapter 12, “Going Meatless”, lists the top plant-based proteins, which are listed in the Guidelines for vegetarians/vegans below

General guidelines

  • Eat fresh, local, organic food
  • Start incorporating more meatless mains into your diet. Pick one or two days a week to eat only plant-based meals.

Eat, all phases | Have in moderation, all phases | Avoid, all phases

Foods to eat, all phases

  • Eat organic fruits and vegetables
    • Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower – are especially rich in inflammation-fighting phytochemicals
    • Fruits and vegetables are listed in more detail on each phase below
  • Herbs
    • g. basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, thyme
  • Spices
    • g. black pepper, Baharat spice blend, caraway seeds, cayenne pepper, chili powder, chipotle chili powder (or other spicy/smoky chili), cinnamon, coriander, crab boil spice (such as reduced-sodium Old Bay), cumin, curry powder, fennel seeds, fresh ginger, garlic powder, mustard seeds, paprika, smoked paprika / smoky paprika, red pepper flakes
    • Salt, preferably unprocessed Celtic sea salt
  • Beverages
    • Focus on drinking water, and if you want something with a little flavor you can try seltzer, green tea, or herbal tea
    • Water
    • Herbal teas
    • Coffee substitutes such as Pero, Roma, Cafix, Teeccino
    • Maca tea
  • Sweeteners (in smoothies)
    • Monk fruit extract (e.g. Monk Fruit In The Raw)
  • Condiments and pantry
    • Capers, raw coconut aminos such as Coconut Secret, horseradish, miso paste, mustard, unsalted chicken stock (such as Kitchen Basics), soy sauce, vegetable stock, vinegar (e.g. apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar)
    • Organic vanilla extract, almond extract
    • Acacia fiber (such as Navitas or Renew Life)
    • Coconut manna (such as Nutiva Organic)

Foods to have in moderation, all phases

  • Healthful fats – oils
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Other foods high in natural healthful fats
    • Avocados – small amounts, looks like serving size is ¼ avocado
    • Nuts – moderate amounts – although it looks like almonds are encouraged
    • Other seeds – moderate amounts, amount not given

Foods to avoid, all phases

  • Nonorganic / conventionally raised meats
  • Farmed fish
  • Nonorganic dairy
    • To avoid obesogens in dairy, one solution is to go dairy-free, or at least milk-free. Some suggestions: Opt for nondairy milks made from nuts such as almond milk or coconut milk; from grains, like rice milk; or from vegetables such as hemp (not soy as highly processed soy is an endocrine disrupter); Get your calcium from nondairy sources. Leafy greens such as kale and collard greens, as well as cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, are great sources of calcium, as are sardines, chickpeas, beans, and figs
    • If you want to eat dairy, purchase only organic, grass-fed milk products
    • Note that fat-free unsweetened Greek yogurt and some Italian cheeses are included in both phases (presumably they should be organic)
  • Non-organic foods / genetically modified / GMO foods
    • Avoid buying a lot of packaged foods and, when you do buy them, always read the label and look for organic varieties and brands that are stamped with the blue-and-green Project Verified NonGMO label
  • Added sugar and sweeteners
    • g. sodas, store-bought fruit and vegetable juices, sweetened coffees, any beverages made with sugar or artificial sweeteners, and any bottled beverage that lists high-fructose corn syrup HFCS on the label
    • Artificial sweeteners – e.g. you can’t have diet soda
  • High-fructose corn syrup HFCS
    • Typically present in packaged bread, crackers, candy, cookies, soda, and sugary drinks; also found in seemingly “healthy” foods such as granola bars, yogurt, frozen entrées, tomato sauce, condiments, and nut mixes
    • Read food labels
    • Avoid fast food
    • Eliminate all sugary beverages
  • Processed foods and refined carbs
    • Processed grains – e.g. white flour and foods made with it
    • Many foods that come in a box
  • Gluten – the book discourages eating it during the cleanse, and advises against USA gluten-containing foods as they tend to be GMO and contain very high levels of gluten. There are no guidelines for reintroducing gluten
    • Including wheat, barley, and rye, and foods made with them
  • Trans fats / hydrogenated fats
    • Foods or food products that contain “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” / trans fat
    • Anything “hydrogenated” must be avoided
  • Eliminate possible allergens from your diet – don’t ignore an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten, lactose, or other substances

10-Day Cleanse

This is centered on 10 negative calorie foods – the book says you can expect to lose up to a pound a day for a total of 10 pounds in 10 days.

Meal plan | What to eat | Foods to have in moderation | Foods to avoid

Meal plan and other guidelines – 10-Day Cleanse

  • Meal plan
    • First thing in the morning, drink 2 liters of water (yes, it says 2 liters) (presumably filtered)
    • Drink another 8 cups of filtered water throughout the day. You can use some of this quota to make herbal tea. Feel free to add fresh lemon juice to your water
    • Have 3 smoothies daily (recipes in the book), and 1 solid meal for dinner
    • Every other day, your solid meal should be a salad or a soup (recipes in the book). On “salad” or “soup” days, you may have the soup or salad for lunch, and the meal 2 or meal 3 smoothie for dinner, or have the soup or salad for dinner. The soups and salads in the meal plan can be interchanged for lunch or dinner
    • Follow the suggested meal plan (in the book) or improvise. You can choose a few smoothies, soups, and salads, and stick to them for the entire 10 days, or follow the plans as written
    • Space out your smoothies and daily meal so that you’re eating every 3-4 hours
    • Eat until you feel full and satisfied – then stop
    • Don’t count calories or weigh anything. If you’re eating the right detox foods, you should instinctively know how much to eat and what is right for your body
    • Don’t eat after 8pm
    • Don’t stay on the cleanse longer than 10 days
  • Other guidelines
    • Eat mindfully – stretch out your meals, relax your mind, chew or sip slowly, and really taste the food you’re eating and drinking
    • Most hunger cravings between meals are signs of dehydration – try having a glass or water or a cup of warm herbal tea such as mint tea
    • Don’t skip the morning smoothie, or you might have cravings throughout the day
    • Add some superfood greens to your smoothie or juice – a few teaspoons of spirulina, barley grass, wheatgrass, or a combo of green powders
    • If you feel tired, sleep. Sleep 7-8 hours every night
    • Stay active – walk, do yoga, or light exercise
    • Before you cave in to urges, ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or if you’re bored, mad, stressed out, lonely, bored, tired, or having some other emotional reaction

Foods to eat in The Negative Calorie Diet – 10-Day Cleanse

  • Foods to eat, all phases
  • Fruits (in smoothies and on salads)
    • g. apples, bananas, blueberries, kiwi fruits, lemons, limes, mixed berries, oranges, pineapple, strawberries
    • Dried fruit, e.g. unsweetened dried cranberries, golden raisins
  • Vegetables (in smoothies, soups, and salads, and for solid meals)
    • g. bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cucumbers, eggplant, escarole, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, peppers, romaine, scallions, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes
  • Proteins (in smoothies, soups, and salads, and for solid meals))
    • Nuts, e.g. raw almonds
    • Protein powder – e.g. Rocco’s, or a protein powder made from organic egg white powder, dehydrated beef broth, or pea protein; ensure there is no added sugar
    • Legumes, e.g. chickpeas
    • Tofu, e.g. silken tofu
    • Lean poultry, e.g. skinless chicken breast, skinless turkey breast
    • Eggs
    • Fish/seafood, e.g. sushi-grade tuna steak, blue crabmeat, shrimp, mussels
    • Lean meat, e.g. flank steak
  • Dairy alternatives (in smoothies and salads)
    • Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese (yes, it’s real dairy, but it’s listed as an ingredient and on the shopping list for this phase)
    • Fat-free no-sugar-added Greek yogurt (ditto)
    • Vanilla almond beverage (such as So Delicious) (in smoothies)
    • Unsweetened almond milk (in smoothies)
    • Frozen unsweetened coconut dessert (such as So Delicious)

Foods to have in moderation with The Negative Calorie Diet – 10-Day Cleanse

  • Fats
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • Olive oil cooking spray
    • Unrefined coconut oil
  • Beverages
    • Espresso (just one a day during the cleanse)

Foods to avoid with The Negative Calorie Diet – 10-Day Cleanse

  • Foods to avoid, all phases
  • Coffee
    • Don’t have regular coffee – you can switch to espresso (just one a day during the cleanse), or herbal teas, or coffee substitutes such as Pero, Roma, Cafix, Teeccino, or maca tea
  • Grains
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Alcohol

20-Day Eating Plan

In this phase you eat protein, supplemented by negative calorie foods, spices, and an array of superfoods. You can dine outside the home if you want, following the guidelines in the book.

Meal plan | What to eat | Foods to have in moderation | Foods to avoid

Meal Plan – 20-Day Eating Plan

  • 4 meals a day; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 1 snack
  • Each meal should contain 2 or more negative calorie foods + 1 lean protein + a small amount of fat such as extra-virgin olive oil or avocado.
  • Unlimited amounts of negative calorie foods
  • Drink water throughout the day – eight to ten 8-ounce glasses
  • There’s a detailed meal plan in the book, or you can make your own plan:
    • Breakfast – don’t skip breakfast. Pick one of the following:
      • Breakfast from the meal plan in the book
      • One of the breakfast recipes in the book
      • A Negative Calorie Smoothie
      • Several scrambled egg whites, plus one or two negative calorie fruits on the side. Scramble your eggs with spinach, mushrooms, and/ or tomatoes for an extra fat-burning boost
      • A small bowl of oatmeal, topped with berries
    • Lunch – pick one of the following:
      • Lunch from the meal plan in the book
      • Have a salad— a generous bed of leafy greens, chopped tomatoes, chopped celery, sliced cucumbers, or other negative calorie vegetables, topped with chicken, shrimp or other shellfish, turkey, tuna, or beef. Drizzle with olive oil, plus some vinegar and maybe a fat-burning spice or two
      • A tomato stuffed with crabmeat, shrimp, or tuna, along with a negative calorie fruit for dessert, if you wish
      • Some leftover beef or chicken with a side of cooked greens or cruciferous vegetables or both
      • One of the soup or salad recipes in the book
      • Leftovers from one of the entrée recipes in the book
    • Dinner – make sure you have at least 2 negative calorie foods at main meals. Pick one of the following:
      • Dinner from the meal plan in the book
      • Match up a protein such as grilled chicken with a cooked negative calorie vegetable and a soup or salad
      • Any of the 10 fat-burning proteins paired up with two or more the of 10 negative calorie foods
      • A soup or salad from the recipes in the book
      • Any one of the entrée recipes in the book, plus one of my desserts if you wish
      • Leftover entrée recipe from the night before
      • Go meatless: Enjoy one of the plant-based entrées
    • Snack – you can choose to have your snack at mid-morning or mid-afternoon, whenever you feel hungrier. Pick one of the following:
      • Snack from the meal plan in the book
      • Negative calorie fruits such as apples, citrus fruits, or berries, or any negative calorie veggie; paired with some almonds
      • Leftover negative calorie soup
      • A negative calorie smoothie
      • Celery with almond butter
      • Any of the negative calorie snacks in the book

Foods to eat in The Negative Calorie Diet – 20-Day Eating Plan

Foods to have in moderation with The Negative Calorie Diet – 20-Day Eating Plan

  • General foods to have in moderation
  • Nuts and seeds – portion size not given
    • Nuts – almonds and almond butter (encouraged as negative calorie foods), almond meal/flour, peanut butter powder
    • Seeds – chia seeds, hemp hearts
  • Beans and legumes. Portion sizes are unclear, but the recipes show 1/8 cup to ¼ cup of cooked beans. Unclear whether you can eat more of these if you’re on a plant-based diet and use them as a protein source
    • Beans – e.g. aduki beans, black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, cranberry beans, fava beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pink beans, pinto beans,
    • Dried peas – e.g. black-eyed peas, green split peas, yellow split peas
    • Lentils
  • Cereals and grains. Portion sizes are unclear, but look very small, e.g. 1 tablespoon uncooked whole grain per person, 1 slice of bread, 2 ounces of pizza dough
    • Whole grains, e.g. oats, quinoa
    • Gluten-free products such as gluten-free bread, gluten-free pizza dough
    • Puffed brown rice, brown rice thins
  • Beverages
    • Espresso (unclear whether you still have to limit yourself to 1 per day)

Foods to avoid with The Negative Calorie Diet – 20-Day Eating Plan

  • Foods to avoid, all phases
  • Coffee
    • Don’t have regular coffee – you can switch to espresso (just one a day during the cleanse), or herbal teas, or coffee substitutes such as Pero, Roma, Cafix, Teeccino, or maca tea
  • Starchy vegetables (although a small amount of carrots are included in the meal plan)
  • Alcohol

Long-term diet / maintenance plan

Meal plan | Foods to add

You can continue the guidelines in the 20-day plan for a longer period to feel healthy and continue to lose weight.

If you have a weight loss plateau, or have over-splurged, do another 10-day (or less) cleanse.

Once you reach your goal weight, follow the guidelines below, and see chapter 15 “Maintain”.

Meal plan

  • Maintenance breakfast – can include any of the following:
    • A negative-calorie smoothie
    • A high-protein breakfast, e.g. several scrambled egg whites, or a couple of scrambled eggs, maybe some turkey bacon or sausage, plus a slice of whole-grain toast. Always include a serving of fresh fruit, preferably a negative calorie fruit. Have a different fresh negative calorie fruit each morning, although maintenance will work just as well if you have your favorite fruit every morning
    • Cereal and fruit – this might include a bowl of oatmeal, quinoa, or some whole-grain cereal with berries or sliced banana. Add some unsweetened nondairy milk, such as almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, flax milk, or cashew milk
    • Negative calorie diet breakfast recipes – continue to include your favorites at breakfast
    • For any breakfast, have your choice of tea (green is best) or coffee. Add a splash of nondairy milk if you like
  • Maintenance lunch – can include any of the following:
    • Salads – choose as many negative calorie veggies as possible and top it off with a lean protein (either animal or plant-based). Add in some healthy fats like avocado slices and a simple dressing of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Soup – stick with broth-based soups like vegetable soups, as well as protein-rich soups like lentil or pea soup. Avoid creamy soups such as “cream of” anything, bisques, or heavy chowders. Pair a bowl of soup with a small salad for a full meal
    • Sandwiches – between two slices of whole-grain or sprouted-grain bread, place veggies, tuna, leftover chicken, mashed avocado, hummus, or whatever you like
    • A negative-calorie smoothie
    • Negative calorie diet lunch recipes from the book
  • Maintenance dinner
    • Eat a lean protein at dinner, such as grilled, roasted, or baked fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, lean beef, or a vegetarian protein source
    • Pair your protein of choice with a heap of negative calorie vegetables and a green salad
    • You can also include a moderate serving of starch (keep an eye out for daily limits): ½ cup of brown rice, ½ cup of whole wheat or quinoa pasta, a baked potato or sweet potato, ½ cup of beans or legumes, or a cup of a starchy vegetables such as mashed winter squash, turnips, or parsnips
    • A dessert is permissible, too, up to twice a week (see notes below on treats); note that the negative calorie dessert recipes in the book are unlimited
  • Maintenance snacks – can be any of the following:
    • A negative calorie smoothie
    • Fresh fruit and nuts
    • A cup of broth-based soup, including any of the negative calorie soup recipes in the book
    • Sliced cucumbers or other raw veggies to dip in hummus
    • 2 ounces of cheese and 4 to 6 whole-grain crackers
    • Fresh fruit with ½ cup of cottage cheese
    • 2 cups of air-popped popcorn
    • 2 ounces of dark chocolate (about 2 small squares)
    • Any one of the negative calorie snacks from the book
  • Beverages
    • Drink plenty of water throughout the day – 8-10 glasses recommended

Foods you can add in the Negative Calorie Diet – Maintenance Plan

Continue to follow the guidelines for the 20-day eating plan, and you can add the following

  • Starchy vegetables
    • You can reintroduce a wider range of quality starchy vegetables
    • g. artichokes, beets, carrots, corn, parsnips, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash
    • Additional beans and legumes
    • Portion size: an average baking potato, sweet potato, beet, or turnip; ½ cup of beans or legumes; and 1 cup of winter squash
    • Have one portion a day if you wish
  • Whole grains
    • You may start to reincorporate more whole-grain foods such as pasta, brown rice, bread, and cereal
    • Recommended grains include brown rice, bulgur, couscous, miracle noodles, miracle rice, oatmeal, oat bran, quinoa, pastas (whole-grain, gluten-free, quinoa, or vegetable-based pastas, rather than refined white pastas), wild rice, whole-grain, gluten-free, and sprouted-grain breads, buns, or rolls
    • Portion size: ½ cup of pasta, rice, or cooked cereal; 1 to 2 slices of bread, 1 bun, or 1 roll; 4 to 6 whole-grain crackers
    • Have one portion a day if you wish
  • Fats
    • You can eat more avocados on the maintenance plan: ¼ to ½ of a fruit daily, if you wish
    • You may also incorporate additional cheeses, if desired, such as goat cheese, feta, mozzarella, cheddar, or other hard cheeses— aim for no more than 2 ounces daily; and for cottage cheese or ricotta, no more than ½ cup daily
  • Treats
    • Once you’re down to your target weight, you can also add in some treats if you feel that you can enjoy them in moderation without overindulging
    • The author suggests that people focus on eating clean during the week and save their treats for the weekends
    • Naturally, you’ll have to be careful with treats. If you continue with the negative calorie principles, you shouldn’t experience cravings, but it can still be tricky to add in high-sugar or high-carb foods because they tend to lead us to overeat
    • Alcohol: If you want a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail with your evening meal, go ahead. Skip sugary concoctions and opt for a simple vodka, tequila, rum, gin, or whiskey on the rocks or mixed with club soda. As for wine, just have a glass, sip it slowly, and alternate your sips with sips of water
    • Chocolate: Choose dark chocolate that contains at least 60 percent cocoa, though 70 percent or greater is ideal, and preferably organic. This type of chocolate contains antioxidants, magnesium, and iron. Enjoy a couple of small squares a day, if you wish
    • Desserts: Allow yourself an occasional dessert. Be cautious because it’s easy to reactivate a sweet tooth. Have no more than 2 (small) desserts a week, if any. If possible, choose desserts made with ingredients such as organic eggs, whole meal or legume flour, sweeteners like maple syrup or agave nectar, and so on
  • It isn’t clear whether you can add regular coffee back in, or whether it’s considered a treat to be had in moderation, or should be avoided where possible

Guidelines for vegetarians/vegans

See chapter 12, “Going Meatless”, which contains guidelines and meal plans. There are also references to plant-based eating throughout the book.

  • Eating a plant-based diet is recommended for weight loss
  • Any time you see a meat entrée in the 20-day eating plan, swap in a meatless recipe
  • Recommended plant-based proteins with weight-control benefits:
    • Chickpeas, hummus
    • Hemp seeds
    • Kidney beans
    • Lentils
    • Peas and pea protein
    • Pistachios
    • Quinoa
    • Chia seeds
    • Tofu
    • Walnuts

Health benefits claimed in The Negative Calorie Diet

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: some cancers (breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, gallbladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, rectal cancer), chronic pain, cognitive decline, depression, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight/obesity, stroke

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, not endorsing it.

Get a copy of The Negative Calorie Diet for the science behind the 10 negative calorie foods; guidelines on how to start the cleanse; goal-setting; incorporating the diet for yourself and your family; guidelines for eating out and on the go; exercise suggestions; shopping lists; meal plans (including vegetarian options); 70 negative calorie recipes, and other recipes.

How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment or question below.

Rocco DiSpirito dishes up ‘The Negative Calorie Diet’

Over the course of 12 cookbooks, Rocco DiSpirito has learned a thing or two about healthy eating.

The latest from the New York City-based chef finds inspiration in negative calorie foods that help fuel your metabolism.

“The Negative Calorie Diet,” out now ($27.99, Harper Wave), features a 10-day cleanse, 20-day meal plan and 75 new recipes that incorporate ingredients such as nightshade and cruciferous vegetables, as well as advice on maintaining weight and what to eat when dining out.

“It’s the meatiest book I’ve written so far,” says DiSpirito, who will be at the 92Y Thursday.

amNewYork spoke with DiSpirito, 49, about the cookbook.

How has your approach evolved?

It’s come piece by piece. I’ve evolved from using things like artificial sweeteners and pudding mixes to give foods certain flavors so they would mimic and duplicate the flavors of our favorite comfort foods. That was OK for the time — 2006 — I think people were really just starting to get into the mode where they were thinking about healthy choices. Ten years later a lot has changed. Making healthy choices is on everyone’s mind now. There’s so much data that points to lifestyle disease and the results of poor eating choices. What people understand now is a local, natural, farm-to-table, whole foods lifestyle. Trying to make healthy choices is the new normal, versus trying to find the silver bullet, quick-fix swap.

What’s the focus of the new cookbook?

Instead of telling you what you can’t eat, I’m going to tell you what you can eat. We used to preach same-in, same-out , but there’s an alternative to that, which is the quality of the calorie. If the calorie is nutritionally-dense, fiber-dense, water-dense, it’s a calorie which will help you burn more fat. You will burn more fat than you consume — that’s the concept of the negative calorie diet. Water is the best example — you burn one calorie metabolizing one ounce of water. If you eat foods which are filled with water and fiber and nutrients, it makes sense that those foods will burn a lot more calories than foods which don’t have any fiber or water in them — most of the fast foods and processed foods. You cannot get fat eating broccoli. You can eat these foods with impunity.

How do you deal with conflicting medical advice on the best healthy eating practices?

It’s mad confusing. I have a fresh food delivery service — I cook and coach for about 40 to 50 people every day. What I found is you have to treat each person as an individual — each person has their own needs and goals. You’re going to see a trend in the next year — personalization is going to be a big thing. Common weight-loss programs are going to have to figure out how to personalize and curate. There are a lot of programs that contradict other programs, and they all work, it’s just a matter of figuring out which one works for you. For my clients, I do that for them.

You recommend no coffee and alcohol during the cleanse?

I try to get people off coffee and alcohol, but it’s not an all-or-nothing game. Any little bit of advice you can take and make a part of your life will help. If you cut coffee from 10 cups a day to three, over time that’s a gigantic difference on the acidity in your body and the inflammation that causes. If you’re drinking 10 cups of coffee and 10 Diet Cokes a day, you have created this scenario in your gut that will prevent any wellness. I drink both but in very measured amounts — I’m very prudent about when and where and how much. And I drink espresso because it has 80% less acid.

Do you still make rich fatty foods?

I’m a reformed butter-holic. I don’t miss the rich foods. I miss cooking without some of the restrictions or having to be in this specific set of parameters. I eat my own food, I rarely go out. When I go out I can eat anything and not really have to worry about what I’m consuming because most of the time I’m consuming nutritionally-dense, local, organic, healthy food.

IF YOU GO: Rocco DiSpirito in conversation with Stacy London at 92Y | Jan. 7, 8:15 p.m. | $32-$36 | 1395 Lexington Ave., 212-415-5500,

Healthy food means expensive food, right? Rocco DiSpirito says that’s a myth in need of busting.

In an interview with CBS News, the celebrity chef and author of “The Pound A Day Diet,” argued that “pound for pound,” healthy whole food is cheaper than processed meals, and worth the extra time it might take to prepare.

DiSpirito, author of “The Pound A Day Diet,” embarked on his own battle to lose pounds in 2006. His New York Times bestselling diet promises to help participants “lose up to five pounds in five days” until reaching their goal weight, by following a series of menus for four five-day plans and four weekend plans. DiSpirito says he based the recipes — which total about 850 daily calories on weekdays and 1,200 calories on weekends — off the Mediterranean diet, which has been tied to health benefits.

He added that seeing the pounds come off motivates dieters to maintain healthy habits. However, calorie-restricted diets often raise questions over the safety and long-term effectiveness of rapid weight loss.

DiSpirito defends his plan as “a diet that’s built on a foundation of medicine, science and deliciousness.”

Does food that helps your waistline have to hurt your wallet?

It’s a popular assumption, backed by a recent Harvard School of Public Health study which found that a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts costs about $550 more a year than a typical U.S. diet filled with processed, foods, meat and refined grains.

DiSpirito however disagrees that healthy eating has to be more expensive.

“Pound for pound, healthy food, whole food, a head of broccoli, a whole chicken, is going to be much less expensive because you’re doing the processing,” he said. “If you buy a package of hot pockets, and you compare pound to pound — not serving size to serving size, which is what packaged food companies like to do, confuse people with serving size — it’s entirely mathematical that you’ll get a lot more for your money with whole food than you will with processed food.

“Someone has to get paid to do the processing.”

DiSpirito isn’t alone in making the argument that healthy eating and dieting doesn’t have to bust budgets.

“There’s definitely ways people can eat healthy and have it cost even less,” said Dr. Christopher Ochner, an assistant professor of pediatrics, adolescent medicine and psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who focuses on nutrition research and weight loss.

“Are fruits and vegetables more expensive than frozen pizza? Yea.” said Ochner, who pointed out he’s eaten healthily on a student’s budget for the better part of his adult life. “But you can buy in bulk,” he told CBS News.

Then there’s unhealthy eating’s costs to society and families over the long term, said DiSpirito. The extra gasoline needed to transport the population’s extra pounds. The pricey medications prescribed to battle diseases linked to obesity.

“What does it cost a family when the primary income earner dies 20 years too soon?” he asked. “How much in potential income?”

What about all the time it takes to cook?

Fast food and processed foods are popular for a reason: They’re compatible with a busy day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that adults get about 11 percent of their daily calories from fast food, with obese individuals having the highest percentage of their diets made up from these convenient meals.

“Cooking does take time,” DiSpirito admits. “But the question you have to ask is, not will it take time, is it worth my time? What’s the return on investment? And I think when it comes to healthy, the return on investment is pretty obvious.”

With his “Pound a Day Diet,” DiSpirito said, he tried keep the recipes simple, and the cooking time to around five to ten minutes.

Rotisserie Chicken and Teriyaki Asian Noodles from DiSpirito’s diet. CBS News His rotisserie chicken and teriyaki noodles? “The slowest cook I know would take 15 minutes.”

Buy a roasted chicken from the supermarket, DiSpirito instructed, “pull it apart, you throw it in a bowl with miracle noodles, which are noodles that are made out of fiber and calorie-free. You add sugar-free Asian flavored sauce… and two other ingredients, broccoli slaw and cilantro, and you’re done.”

How do you make healthy also tasty?

For DiSpirito, the question of making delicious food healthy, and healthy food delicious, gained a personal importance when he got a wake-up call in 2006.

“I was faced with my own declining health due to obesity — I was 41 pounds heavier, I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels,” DiSpirito said. “I was prescribed statin drugs, and blood pressure drugs that lower libido and have a lot of terrible side effects and when the picture was painted for me, I was given that option, the prescription medicine option or diet and exercise. And for once in my life, I made the right choice and picked diet and exercise.”

Sour Cream and Onion Sweet Potato Chips from DiSpirito’s diet CBS News A year later, he was competing in an Ironman 70.3-mile triathlon. The problem was, the dieting part quickly grew old.

“I got tired of the smoothies after a few months of training for that Ironman so I started to make the food that I love healthy,” DiSpirito said. “And little by little I started to amass a number of dishes that were absolutely wonderful and much less calories.”

The first dish he toyed with was lobster bisque: “Turns out that tastes better when it’s made with lower fat liquids than when it’s made with cream as it traditionally is.”

He applied his findings to the recipes in his new diet, keen on maintaining what he calls the “deliciousness factor.” Dishes include sour cream and onion sweet potato chips, bacon wrapped chicken, and a banana cream smoothie.

The diet, while rich in dishes with delicious names, is also low on calories. But, calorie-restricted diets are often criticized for concerns that the weight might come back once the diet ends.

Is losing a pound a day healthy or sustainable?

DiSpirito’s diet features an average daily calorie count of about 850, while the U.S. Government generally estimates daily caloric needs at above 2,000 calories per day for many adults. Depriving the body of those calories, DiSprito said, is the whole point, and accepted science.

“You create a 3,500-calorie-a-day deficit and hopefully burn a pound of fat,” said DiSpirito. “3,500 calories equals a pound of fat.”

Fresh raspberries with sugar free vanilla cream. Total calories: 83. CBS News It’s an approach that might sound extreme, but, DiSpirito said, it’s intended to combat an extreme condition: potentially life-threatening obesity.

“It’s a diet for people who need to lose weight. And only for people who need to lose weight.”

Ochner, from Mount Sinai, said such a low-calorie diet can be safe for obese individuals and this particular diet contains a “pretty good” macronutrient breakdown of high protein, low fat and low carbohydrates.

But, he recommended for any calorie restricted diet, “It should definitely be done under physician supervision. There’s no doubt about that.”

With his rapid results diet, DiSpirito joins a long-running debate in weight loss circles: Slow versus fast. DiSpirito cites two studies from the University of Melbourne and the University of Florida in his argument for fast, noting that both found that “people who experience rapid results at the beginning of the diet tend to stay on the diet longer.”

“And it just makes sense on the merits right? When you get rapid results, you’re more motivated.”

The daily menu encourages eating smaller meals every two to three hours in an effort to boost metabolism and stave off hunger.

Banana cream smoothie. Total calories: 103. CBS News Ochner said the data overall has been mixed about what weight-loss method works best. He noted that the rapid approach may have an opposite-than-intended effect for some dieters.

“After two weeks on the diet, some pounds have come off, so now maybe I can ease off a little. I’ve been going nuts for two weeks, what if I back off a little bit. I don’t need to be as stringent about it,” Ochner said. “And that’s usually when you get a big big reversal.”

But for DiSpirito, healthy living all comes back to investing the time in healthy eating.

“It’s not a coincidence that the three countries with the lowest obesity rates are also the highest at home cooking rates: Italy, Spain and France. And they essentially live a lifestyle that is very sustainable, where they eat whole, fresh food every day, cooked at home. Imagine that,” said DiSpirito.

“If everyone did that, you wouldn’t need me and I’d be out of a job. But it would make me very happy, and it’s how I grew up.”

Ryan Jaslow contributed to this report.

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