Forks Over Knives (2011): What to eat and foods to avoid

by Penny Hammond on April 9, 2013 · 38 comments

in Diets

Forks Over Knives - diet plan bookForks Over Knives (2011) is a book that recommends a plant-based diet for health.

  • Avoid all meat (including fish), dairy, eggs; also oils/fats and processed foods.
  • Eat freely: fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains.
  • Limit lightly-processed whole foods.

Get a copy of Forks Over Knives book, Forks Over Knives Kindle Edition, Forks Over Knives DVD, or Forks Over Knives Cookbook for more information on why plant-based diets are better for your health, animals, and the environment, and for recipes.

The reasoning behind Forks Over Knives

This book suggests that plant-based whole foods are good for your health, good for animals, and good for the environment.

Forks Over Knives diet plan – food list

What can you eat on the Forks Over Knives diet? The foods listed here are taken from the Forks Over Knives book (which says whether you can eat foods freely or sparingly), and the Forks Over Knives Cookbook (which lists ingredients). There are some assumptions made about which ingredients from the cookbook should go in each list.

Foods to eat freely in Forks Over Knives

  • Whole foods
  • Fruits
    • E.g. apples, apricots, bananas, berries, blackberries, blueberries, citrus, dates (presumably fresh dates as dried fruits should be limited), figs, grapes, lemons, limes, mangos, melons, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines
  • Vegetables
    • Cruciferous vegetables including bok choy, baby bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, napa cabbage, radishes, swiss chard, turnips, watercress
    • Leafy greens including arugula, beet greens, chard, collards, escarole, kale, lettuce, parsley, spinach
    • Other vegetables e.g. acorn squash, artichokes, asparagus, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, green beans, leeks, onions, parsnips, peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, bell peppers, hot peppers, pumpkin, scallions/green onions/spring onions, shallots, spaghetti squash, tomatillos, tomatoes, squash, yellow squash, zucchini
    • Bean sprouts and other sprouts including adzuki bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, mung bean sprouts, soybean sprouts, sunflower sprouts
    • Tubers including potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
    • Mushrooms including button mushrooms, cremini, porcini, portobello, shiitake, and other mushrooms
  • Legumes
    • Beans, e.g. adzuki beans, anasazi beans, black beans, cannellini beans, fava beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, white beans
    • Chickpeas/garbanzos
    • Lentils, e.g. green lentils, red lentils
    • Edamame
    • Dried peas, e.g. black-eyed peas
  • Whole grains
  • Herbs and spices
    • Herbs – e.g. basil, bay leaf, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
    • Spices – e.g. allspice, ancho chili powder, cardamom, cayenne pepper, chipotle peppers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, crushed red pepper, cumin, curry powder, fennel, fenugreek, garam masala, garlic powder, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, kombu, lemongrass, mustard powder, nutmeg, onion powder, paprika (smoked and sweet), peppercorns, saffron, turmeric
  • Slightly processed foods which are okay to eat
    • Oil-free salad dressings, also low in added sweeteners
    • Tofu
    • Pasta sauces with little or no added oils
    • Plant milks (unsweetened) including soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk, and nut milks such as almond milk
    • Unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree
    • Soups make from whole foods

Foods to limit / eat sparingly in Forks Over Knives

  • Fatty whole foods
    • Avocados
    • Nuts e.g. almonds, (raw) cashews, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts
    • Nut and seed butters, e.g. almond butter, cashew butter, chestnut puree, peanut butter
    • Seeds, e.g. flaxseeds and ground flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
    • Olives
    • Coconut products, e.g. coconut, unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut meat, coconut flour, lite coconut milk, coconut water
  • Sugary whole foods
    • Dried fruits (preferably unsulfured) – e.g. dried apples, dried apricots, dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried cranberries, currants, dates, mejdool dates, prunes, golden raisins, raisins
  • Dairy substitutes
    • Unsweetened plain soy yogurt
  • Whole grain products
    • Whole grain breads, mixes, and crackers, including whole-grain bagels, cereals, muffins, pancakes, pastas, pita pockets, pizza crusts, and waffles
    • Corn or whole wheat tortillas
    • Whole grain pasta, brown rice noodles, soba noodles
    • Foods made with whole grain flours such as brown rice flour, cornmeal, oat flour, sorghum flour, spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour
    • Be careful to avoid added oils, sugars, and other unwanted ingredients
  • Sweeteners
  • Condiments and pantry – barely processed

Don’t worry about carbohydrates – it’s important to eat carbohydrate-rich food

Consider a vitamin B12 supplement

Foods to avoid with Forks Over Knives

  • Animal-based foods
    • Meat, e.g. beef, pork, lamb, etc.
    • Poultry, e.g. chicken, turkey, etc.
    • Game meats and birds
    • Fish and shellfish
  • Eggs
    • Eggs including egg whites
    • Any foods containing eggs or ingredients made from eggs
  • Dairy
    • All milk products, including milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cream, etc.
    • Dairy from all kinds of animals, including cows, goats, sheep, etc.
    • An foods containing dairy products or ingredients made from dairy products
  • Hidden animal ingredients that may be on labels as casein, whey, whey protein, albumen, caseinate, sodium caseinate, lactose, lactic acid, rennet, and rennin
  • Refined foods
    • Foods made with bleached flour
    • Refined sugars and foods made with them
    • Potato chips, pretzels
  • Oils
    • Extracted oils including olive oil, vegetable oils, coconut oil, etc.
    • Fish oil
  • Artificial foods
    • Foods containing chemical additives such as artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives, including dairy-free pastries, low-calorie soda

Health benefits claimed inForks Over Knives

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: acne and other skin conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, bad breath, birth defects, bloating, body odor, cancer, cataracts, constipation, depression, diabetes I and II, diarrhea, ear infections, erectile dysfunction, gout, heart disease, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome IBS, kidney stones, lupus, macular degeneration, migraine, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, overweight/obesity, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, prostate disease, rheumatoid arthritis, stomachaches, 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, and does not endorse it.

Get a copy of the Forks Over Knives bookfor a description of why you should follow a plant-based diet.
Buy now from AmazonDiet book
See the Forks Over Knives DVD, the original documentary behind the books.
Buy now from AmazonDocumentary DVD
Get a the Forks Over Knives Cookbook for more information on why plant-based diets are better for your health, animals, and the environment, and for recipes.
Buy now from AmazonCookbook
The diet’s website is; it’s on Twitter at, Facebook at, and Pinterest at

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

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

alan melancon August 15, 2013 at 8:29 am

Is fava/garbonzo bean flour considered a legume, and can you eat it freely ?


Penny Hammond August 15, 2013 at 9:04 am

Fava beans and garbanzos/chickpeas are legumes, so pure fava/garbanzo bean flour would be a legume.
Whole beans can be eaten freely, but I’d assume that bean flours and foods you make with them should be in the “eat more sparingly” category, similar to whole grain bread.


alan melancon August 16, 2013 at 9:37 am



Jerry December 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm

So many questions, but for starters I don’t see any references to the use of honey. How does honey, esp as a sweetener fit into this diet?



Penny Hammond December 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm

There are a couple of references in the book to honey, in recipes.
Other minimally processed sweeteners, such as maple syrup, are listed as foods to eat sparingly, and I’d expect that honey should also be limited on this diet.

Pure vegan diets often don’t allow honey as it’s an animal product, but there isn’t anything in the book specifically about the ethical issues of honey.


Justin December 31, 2013 at 5:45 am

I noticed in recipes on the website and on this list that olive oil (extra virgin or otherwise) is eschewed. I don’t understand why this is – isn’t olive oil minimally processed (first cold press extra virgin, that is)? Nut butters and plant milks are permitted sparingly, while olive oil is not. I am interested in moving toward this lifestyle, but the lack of any sort of oil to use to help flavor and cook these plants is a little daunting.


Penny Hammond December 31, 2013 at 11:40 am

This diet is from a generation of diets that thought that all fats and oils were bad, even if minimally processed. Some people tweak the diet to be a little more relaxed about fats like olive oil that have been used for thousands of years.


Isabella April 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Actually, I just watched the Extented Interviews with the doctors last night and the reason the doctor said “no oils” of any kind is because oils stop the vessels from expanding, which makes it more difficult for the blood to pass through. The epithelial cells ( are damaged by oils. I was blown away to find that taking the Omega 3 oils are actually doing harm by doing this, rather than doing good. I recommend that everyone watch the Extended Interviews. It does get a bit long at close to two hours but the information I gleaned has changed me overnight. Literally.


Angela August 1, 2014 at 2:20 am

It also has high calories compared to a relatively low nutritional density. We should be getting those calories with many other nutrients, many more than olive oil has per tbs.


Leslie January 30, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Why are soups made from whole foods to be eaten sparingly?


Penny Hammond January 31, 2014 at 8:35 am

That didn’t make sense – I went back and had another look. There’s a section on “lightly processed/processed/ready-made foods that are okay to eat” that’s underneath a section on “foods to eat sparingly” – the order is confusing but I couldn’t find anywhere in the book that said that those lightly-processed foods should be limited. So I moved things around in the post; they’re now under “foods to eat freely”. Thanks for letting me know!


Sandra February 6, 2014 at 10:13 am

does this mean I could eat potatos every day?


Penny Hammond February 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm

There’s nothing I can find in the book saying you shouldn’t eat whole potatoes every day (processed potatoes such as potato chips are a no, though).


Hui March 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm

How do you handle the phytic acid in the grain that is used freely? Does this diet recommend soaking/sprouting?


Penny Hammond March 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

The only reference I can find in the book to sprouting grains is a couple recipes that include tortillas which can be made from sprouted wheat. It has recipes that call for soaking legumes, barley (for faster cooking), or nuts, but nothing about soaking other grains.


michele April 16, 2014 at 10:11 am

My triglycerides are elevated and I was told a good quality fish oil/pure salmon oil would be very helpful to lower this… Is this not true?
Its in solid tablet form not an oil filled pill like most fish oils come like. Maybe that is better?


Penny Hammond April 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm

This book takes an extreme position against oils of any kind and any animal foods. Many other diets (and their underlying research) suggest that fish oil and other animal fats are good for you, when fed the foods they eat in the wild, not factory-farmed, and eaten in moderation.


michele April 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Thank you


suzanne July 12, 2014 at 3:05 pm

michlle once you stop eating chipsricepotatoes,bread your triglcerides will go down my husband has the same problem if i take all those things away his is normal


michele April 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Is lactose free cheese considered vegan?


Penny Hammond April 20, 2014 at 9:22 am

Lactose-free cheese is still made from milk, with the lactose removed as part of the cheese-making process. As it’s made from milk, it’s not considered vegan.


Thomas April 24, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Dates are listed as both eat freely and limit. On which list does it not belong?


Penny Hammond April 27, 2014 at 9:14 am

On page 49 of the book, in the fruits listed to eat freely, dates are included.
On page 50, under “Foods to eat more sparingly”, dried fruits are included.

It’s not uncommon for diet books to offer contradictory information.
Dates are usually dried – fresh dates are yellow and unwrinkled, and difficult to find except in tropical climates. So in most cases I’d assume they should be limited.


Alex.C May 7, 2014 at 11:08 am

I don’t see anything specified for rice. If carbohydrates are okay I guess that rice is under food to eat freely?
I mean white rice(because you talk about brown rice) . For most of Asian, me included, culturally speaking, white rice is “vital for survival”.


Penny Hammond May 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm

The book mentions brown rice, brown basmati rice, and wild rice as foods to eat freely as they are whole grains.
It doesn’t specifically mention white rice, although in general it asks you to avoid refined foods (in many whole foods diets, white rice is considered a refined food).

The Forks Over Knives Plan will be coming out in September – hopefully it will be a bit clearer about its guidelines.


marty June 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm

My doctor has suggest for weight issue that I go on this diet. As I live for bacon, this is not going to be easy. First question; is there any type of bread I can eat? And what about pasta, any kind that is OK?


Penny Hammond June 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Breads are in the “limited” list – whole grain breads only. Pasta’s the same – limit the amount, eat whole grain pasta only. For both of these, be careful to avoid added oils, sugars, and other “avoid” ingredients.


marty June 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm

one more. Beverages. Diet coke ; yes or no??


Penny Hammond June 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Only minimally processed sweeteners are allowed (in limited quantities) on this diet – artificial sweeteners would be a no, and that’s how diet sodas are sweetened.


Dorilee June 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Is air popped popcorn ok to eat?


Penny Hammond June 22, 2014 at 9:36 am

Whole corn is a food to eat freely on this diet. It’s not clear whether the authors consider popping corn to be a type of processing, as processed whole grains are a food to limit. However they do list air-popped popcorn as an easy snack idea (for flavored popcorn, add seasonings or maple syrup)


Wendy July 13, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Is there any kind of substitute that you can use for butter or cheese?


Penny Hammond July 13, 2014 at 5:32 pm

There are a few substitutes suggested for butter in sweet foods:
- remove the butter from the toast and replace it with sugarless jam
- take the butter out of the oatmeal and add blueberries
- use nut butters

Nothing really offered for savory foods. Try using herbs and spices to punch up the flavor.


Melody July 15, 2014 at 5:29 pm

No offense, but in the Forks Over Knives book coconuts, oils, nuts and the ilk are “to be used MORE sparingly.” There’s a difference between using a food in minute quantities (sparingly) and just to limit them by not eating them freely “more sparingly”. Not to be nitpicking, but I daresay that avocado, nuts, etc. are very satiating on this plan. Of course we can’t go hog wild. It will be interesting to see what the new Forks Over Knives Plan book has to say.

I predict eating an eighth of your avocado will be a deal breaker for most people. We’ll see.


Juliette Deschamps July 28, 2014 at 7:16 pm

What about wine? I hate to ask this, but this is my daily habit, and I don’t mind all the rest as I have not eaten meat for over 30 years, but am 73 and would like to remain a “bon vivant”.
What about coffee?

Thank you.


Penny Hammond August 4, 2014 at 7:19 pm

The book quotes Doug Lisle – “Drugs, alcohol, processed foods— they overstimulate the pleasure mechanism, and the result is behavior that is tipped out of balance and out of control. This is the pleasure trap, where the ancient message of pleasure tells us that we are doing the right thing. But we’re not.”
On the other hand – one of the recipes for a dressing contains white wine.
And there’s no mention of coffee.

There aren’t clear guidelines in the book – let’s see what the new “Forks Over Knives Plan” book says when it comes out (due in September).


Trish August 14, 2014 at 7:22 am

Not sure why they would put Lactic Acid under “hidden animal ingredients.” Lactic acid in not derived from animals and is in fact vegan. Odd …


Penny Hammond August 14, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Lactic acid was originally derived from soured or fermented milk.
Commercially produced lactic acid is made from fermenting carbohydrates, so in most cases it’s not from animal products.


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