Alton Brown's Four List Eating Plan

Alton Brown
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Being interested in kitchen science, I used to really enjoy Alton Brown's Good Eats show (reruns are probably still easy to find on the Food Network or the Cooking Channel). A few years ago, Mr. Brown noticed he had picked up some weight, and proceeded to lose 50 lbs. In one episode of that show ("Live and Let Diet") he explained his method. Naturally I was interested, particularly in how much carbohydrate would be featured in his eating plan.

I thought it would be fun to look at it and see what other people think.

Alton (who clearly states that not only is he not a nutritionist or doctor, and that he didn't consult a doctor) calls his way of eating the "Plan of Four Lists". He has assigned himself short lists of things to eat daily, things to eat 3 times per week, things to eat no more than once per week, and things to eat never.

There is appeal to an approach like this, because it tends to simplify your life. (I think there is a lot of value in having food rules to follow.) Alton Brown was mainly going for foods that are nutrient dense and that provide a variety of nutrients. Some of the things Alton eats would not be considered low-carb, but as a whole, I think the plan is moderate in carbs - definitely lower than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. So it might work for someone who has difficulties with glucose, but not severe ones.

A couple of adjustments would lower the carbs without significantly lowering the nutrients.

Alton Brown's "Eat Daily" List -


Whole Grains

Leafy greens



Green tea

Comment: Of course, the grains are the item which stands out as being carby, and really not at all necessary in a nutritious diet.

Carrots have gotten a bad rap because they are root vegetables, but they aren't as high in carbs as a lot of people think, and they are packed with nutrients. Most (but not all) people can eat at least one serving of low-sugar fruit per day. I agree that eating nuts and greens daily is an excellent idea. I haven't tried to create a list-type approach myself, but I would definitely put adequate protein and some olive oil on this daily list.

Alton Brown's "Eat Three Times Per Week" list -

Oily fish (wild salmon, sardines, etc)



Sweet potatoes


Comment: I would choose carrots or pumpkin as a lower-carb way to get the carotenoids and other nutrients in orange vegetables. Otherwise, I like this list.  I would also expand broccoli to include other vegetables in that family of cruciferous vegetables - cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc, and probably emphasize that it's better to eat these vegetables even more often.

Alton Brown's "Only Once per Week" list -


One alcoholic drink

Red meat


Comment: I don't think it's necessary to limit red meat this much, although limiting processed meats such as baloney and hot dogs could be a good idea.

Alton Brown's "Zero Times per Week" list -

Fast food


Processed meals

Canned soups

"Diet" anything (no artificial sweeteners)

Comment: Getting a burger without the bun at the drive-through once in awhile or having a little artificial sweetener aren't probably going to be horrible choices, but in general I agree with this list.

Notes: Alton doesn't drink milk because it makes him want cookies, cake, etc. He has a breakfast smoothie with reminds me a little of the Eades' (of Protein Power) Paleolithic Punch (though Alton adds soy milk to his).

What would your lists look like?

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