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Forks Over Knives: What to eat and foods to avoid

Forks Over Knives Plan by Alona Pulde MD and Matthew Lederman MDForks-Over-Knives (145x200)The Forks Over Knives video and series of books recommend a low-fat, whole-food, 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.

See below on this page for a description of the food recommendations in the diet.  Foods to eat freely  |  Foods to eat sparingly  |  Foods to avoid  |  Transition guide.  There’s a lot more in the book.

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.

Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook by Del SoufreGet The Forks Over Knives Plan by Alone Pulde MD and Matthew Lederman MD (2014) for a 4-week guide to transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet, as well as calorie density charts, eating out guidelines, how to respond to social pressures when eating a vegan diet, and more recipes.

The reasoning behind Forks Over Knives

The books suggest 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), as well as The Forks Over Knives Plan. 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, cherries, 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, collard greens, dandelion greens, escarole, kale, lettuce, parsley, spinach
    • Other vegetables e.g. acorn squash, artichokes, asparagus, beets, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, garlic, green beans, leeks, onions, parsnips, peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, bell peppers, hot peppers, pumpkin, scallions/green onions/spring onions, shallots, spaghetti squash, squash, tomatillos, tomatoes, 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, great northern 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
    • Whole, not ground into flour (whole grain flours and products made from them should be eaten sparingly, see below)
    • E.g. amaranth, barley, buckwheat groats, bulgur wheat, corn, hominy, kasha, millet, rolled oats/old-fashioned oats, steel-cut oats, quinoa, brown rice/brown basmati rice, rye berries, spelt berries, wheat berries, wild rice
  • Herbs and spices
    • Herbs – e.g. basil, bay leaf, cilantro, dill, marjoram, 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 (not garlic salt), 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
    • 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, coconut, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts
    • Nut and seed butters, e.g. almond butter, cashew butter, chestnut puree, peanut butter, tahini
    • Seeds, e.g. chia seeds, 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
  • Beverages
    • Fruit juices
    • Plant milks (unsweetened) including soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk, and nut milks such as almond milk
    • Fruit juices and plant milks are okay to have a little on cereal or to flavor foods when cooking, however you should avoid drinking glasses of them
    • Smoothies can be enjoyed occasionally, if desired, but should not be a major part of the diet
  • Whole grain products (The Forks Over Knives plan doesn’t ask you to limit these, although the original book does)
    • 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
    • Arrowroot powder, barbecue sauce, low-sodium vegetable broth, Bragg liquid aminos, capers, cornstarch, gochujang, hot sauce such as Tabasco, ketchup, mirin, miso, mustard, nutritional yeast, sambal oelek (Indonesian chili sauce), low-sodium soy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), low-sodium tamari, Thai red curry paste, tomato paste, tomato puree, tomato sauce, vinegar (including balsamic vinegar, brown rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar), vegan Worcestershire sauce, wasabi paste
    • Aluminum-free baking powder, baking soda, grain-sweetened chocolate chips, unsweetened cocoa powder, unsweetened apple cider, unsweetened pineapple juice, tamarind pastetahini, pure vanilla extract
    • Egg replacer, such as Ener-G

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
  • Liquid calories
    • Soda, energy drinks, and other sweetened beverages
  • 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

Transition guide from The Forks Over Knives Plan

How much to eat

  • Consider calorie density instead of counting calories. Leafy vegetables contain 100 to 200 calories per pound while oil contains 4,000 calories per pound
  • Aim for 15% of calories from fat, which allows for only a minimal amount of your food to contain a higher percentage than that
  • A diet of 10% of calories from protein is sufficient for most people, athlete and nonathlete alike
  • Aim to keep sodium to no higher than 1 mg per calorie, unless the product is a condiment or you’re using just a small amount of it as part of a larger recipe
  • 75-80% of your calories will come from carbohydrates

General guidelines

  • Eat until you are satisfied, of “foods to eat freely” above
  • For more rapid weight loss – for any meal, begin with foods that have lower calorie density, such as salads or vegetables
  • Don’t go to extreme and eat only green leafy vegetables – this isn’t sustainable and you’re more likely to “fall off the wagon”
  • Make a meal plan for each week of the diet – and build your shopping list at the same time
  • Keep a “food and mood” journal of what you eat and how you feel
  • You don’t have to eat a variety of foods at a given meal (for example combining different plant foods to get proteins)

Week by week

  • Week One: Change your breakfast – try to follow the diet for all your breakfast meals
  • Week Two: Change your lunch – try to follow the diet for all your lunchtime meals, and your between-meal snacks
  • Week Three: Change your dinner – try to follow the diet for all your evening meals
  • Week Four: Fine-tuning and feeling the freedom of just eating

What if I’m not losing weight?

  • Start keeping a food and mood journal, if you haven’t already, or step up your use of it if you have
  • For a week or two, include absolutely everything that goes in your mouth, and read all the labels on your food to ensure that you have no dairy or oil
  • Look at what you’re eating on the calorie density chart; you may need to substitute more foods that are lower in calorie density than what you are currently eating

How to cook without oil or fat

  • Use primarily nonstick pots and pans. These are not mandatory – if you prefer to avoid Teflon-coated nonstick pans, you can use good-quality, heavy-bottomed stainless steel pans, enamel-coated cast iron, or ceramic titanium
  • To sauté without oil or butter, use vegetable broth or water instead. Don’t use too much liquid, as this would lead to steamed, not browned vegetables. Look at the recipes in the book for examples of how to do this
  • For baking, use pureed fruit such as unsweetened applesauce, dates, or crushed pineapple in place of oil or butter

Health benefits claimed in Forks Over Knives

The diet in these books claims to reduce the risks for: acne and other skin conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, bad breath, birth defects, bloating, body odor, cancer, cataracts, constipation, dementia, depression, diabetes I and II, diarrhea, diverticular disease, ear infections, erectile dysfunction, food addiction, gallstones, gout, headaches, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension / high blood pressure, infertility, inflammatory bowel disease IBD, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome IBS, kidney disease, kidney stones, lupus, macular degeneration, migraine, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, overweight/obesity, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, prostate disease, reflux, rheumatoid arthritis, sexual dysfunction, sleep apnea, stomachaches, stress, 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 book for a description of why you should follow a plant-based diet.
Buy now from AmazonOriginal book
Get The Forks Over Knives Plan for a 4-week meal-by-meal makeover, a transition guide to a whole-food plant-based diet, as well as over 100 new recipes.
Buy now from AmazonDiet plan
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 http://www.forksoverknives.com; it’s on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ForksOverKnives, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/forksoverknives, and Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/forksoverknives/.

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

{ 114 comments… add one }

  • alan melancon August 15, 2013, 8:29 am

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

    • Penny Hammond August 15, 2013, 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, 9:37 am

        thanks

  • Jerry December 2, 2013, 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?

    thanks,
    Jerry

    • Penny Hammond December 4, 2013, 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, 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, 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, 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epithelial_cell) 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, 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.

      • Jeroen August 23, 2014, 3:30 am

        +1 Isabella. Same happened to me

  • Leslie January 30, 2014, 10:43 pm

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

    • Penny Hammond January 31, 2014, 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, 10:13 am

    does this mean I could eat potatos every day?

    • Penny Hammond February 6, 2014, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 6:52 pm

        Thank you

    • suzanne July 12, 2014, 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

    • Dave September 28, 2014, 11:47 am

      I was also told to use fish oil but after 6 Months use my problems had esculated

  • michele April 18, 2014, 6:49 pm

    Is lactose free cheese considered vegan?

    • Penny Hammond April 20, 2014, 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, 8:46 pm

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

    • Penny Hammond April 27, 2014, 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, 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, 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.

      • Suly N. July 14, 2015, 3:21 pm

        what about Parboiled brown rice?

        • Penny Hammond July 19, 2015, 12:04 pm

          Parboiled brown rice still has the bran coating on it, so it should be fine on this diet.

    • Jeff G March 13, 2015, 11:44 pm

      White rice is processed, so you will want to stick with brown. To make it white, they strip away the outer layer of the grain, so it actually has less nutrients than the brown does. White rice became popular in Asian cultures because it was seen as a higher class thing. The rich ate white rice and the poor ate brown. Now that we have more ways to study medicine, we are seeing how these products effect our bodies. So the roles have been reversed (which becomes obvious when looking at the price tags) brown is now the rice of the rich while white is the rice for the poor.

  • marty June 13, 2014, 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, 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, 3:41 pm

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

    • Penny Hammond June 13, 2014, 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.

    • A j February 20, 2015, 1:47 pm

      Diet coke is processed with man made artificial sweeteners…that junk will kill you. Stay away from anything man made…if it is grown from the earth it is most likely healthy, unless it is from GMO seeds.

  • Dorilee June 21, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Is air popped popcorn ok to eat?

    • Penny Hammond June 22, 2014, 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, 4:36 pm

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

    • Penny Hammond July 13, 2014, 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.

    • Erin January 17, 2015, 6:34 pm

      I know it’s been many months since you asked this question, but I want to answer just in case it might be helpful for others who read this page. You will learn many things that can take the place of butter in your diet. In baking, oils can be replaced with unsweetened applesauce! Avocado and hummus can also be great to eat when you’re craving a buttered or cheesy item!

  • Melody July 15, 2014, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.

  • Cat September 18, 2014, 12:46 pm

    I have been on this plan for 14 days and monitoring my Blood sugar has been fine until this morning and it was high. I had a bowl of oatmeal flavored with fresh peaches and 1/4 cup of pinto beans this spike was after an hour of swimming. Do I limit the grains and just eat the fresh stuff? Baffled in Nevada

    • Penny Hammond October 12, 2014, 6:09 pm

      Try mixing your carb-heavy foods with leafy green vegetables, see if that helps.

  • Pamela Womack-Worley September 29, 2014, 7:57 pm

    why should we eliminate organic and natural olive oils and coconut oils in forksoverknives way of eating?

    • Penny Hammond October 12, 2014, 6:05 pm

      This is a low-fat diet, and part of the reason they give is that oils have a very high calorie density – a small amount of oil gives you a lot of calories.
      The original book also calls oils “refined foods,” and gives this example: “Oil is 100 percent pure fat. This means that, in the case of olive oil for instance, the manufacturers have taken whole olives, squeezed out and chemically extracted the good parts (the healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals), and left you with little more than a concentrated dose of calories. Olive oil contains close to 4,100 calories per 16 ounces!”

  • Eileen Ellis October 28, 2014, 3:06 pm

    What about Ezekiel Bread? Ok or no?

    • Penny Hammond October 29, 2014, 8:11 pm

      You can eat whole grains freely, and barely processed foods more lightly. Ezekiel bread usually has sprouted wheat as the main ingredient – that should be fine to eat freely on this diet. The bread often has other ingredients, which would probably mean that you can eat it but not in unlimited quantities.

  • Valerie November 3, 2014, 6:17 am

    I am a vicarious web user and rarely comment. But I wanted to thank you so much for this thoughtful and thorough information on forks over knives. Really helpful!

  • Valerie November 3, 2014, 6:21 am

    Ps I especially appreciate your efforts to parse out the grey areas that are a part of any thing we do in life. In fact one of the things I like about this approach is that it has a built in flexibility, once the tenets are understood and accounted for. Thanks again.

  • Rebecca Taylor November 6, 2014, 12:12 am

    What about people who have a wheat intolerance? The old wheat belly bloat. Is this a do able diet?

    • Penny Hammond November 6, 2014, 7:31 am

      There’s nothing in this diet that says you have to eat wheat. Many different types of grains are suggested.

  • Angie November 29, 2014, 7:45 am

    I am new to this lifestyle and am trying to figure out how often and what quantity one can from the foods (such as almonds, avocado, and coconut) which are listed okay to eat occasionally?

    • Penny Hammond November 30, 2014, 5:09 pm

      The authors say to aim for 15% of your calories from fat – there aren’t any specific guidelines on portion sizes or how often to eat naturally fatty foods such as nuts and avocado; just to build them into your diet so that 15% of calories are from fats.

  • carol December 7, 2014, 12:20 am

    How does the diet work for people with hypoglycemia? Also if you have candida and IBS?. Thanks

    • Penny Hammond December 9, 2014, 1:07 pm

      How do you personally react to wholefood carbs? If you crash after eating them and/or your candida gets worse, it’s probably not the best diet for you.
      For IBS, it may work pretty well as long as you avoid trigger foods. It all depends on how you react to foods!

  • dina December 26, 2014, 3:30 pm

    After watching the film, I am under the impression that they feel this is the best eating program for everyone. Supposed to ‘cure’ diseases. If that is the case, then someone with hypoglycemia should be able to eat this way and be ok. And candida and IBS should also be not affected. I want a program that will help me lose weight and feel better, and truly thought I found it. Now I am not sure….I have hypoglycemia, candida and IBS. Possibly mixing this program with a gluten free program would be helpful.

    • Penny Hammond December 28, 2014, 2:08 pm

      This is basically a diet that gets energy from carbohydrates, and not from fats. Even if you were to go gluten-free, it would still be a high-carb whole foods diet. That may not help for your hypoglycemia and candida.

  • Malena January 21, 2015, 6:31 am

    Why is it that coconut water is to be consumed sparingly? Given that you drink it freshly from a real coconut and don’t buy it packed in a container in the supermarket, shouldn’t it be free to consume? What are the disadvantages of it?

    • Penny Hammond January 21, 2015, 10:11 am

      Coconut water isn’t just water and minerals – it contains a surprisingly high amount of natural sugars.

  • Dori March 13, 2015, 11:44 pm

    I was intrigued when I first began reading about the whole food, vegan philosophy of Forks over Knives, but after digging a little further, it became just another “diet” that limits even whole foods. It is bananas to say to limit olive and coconut oils and avocados.

  • misty April 7, 2015, 11:15 pm

    I am a gastric bypass patient. It helped me to lose a good amount of weight and reverse several illness such as diabetes. I have been considering this diet but I don’t know if this would be a good diet for me since my body now has malabsorption problems. My doctors tell me protein is the single most important part of my diet now and for me to aim for 85 grams a day. Is that even possible if I remove meat and dairy from my diet? I also suffer several vitamin deficiencies, such as calcium and iron. I would like to one day be able to stop taking so many supplements. I’d be grateful for any input you may have.

    • Penny Hammond April 12, 2015, 1:00 pm

      The book says that 10% of your calories from protein is sufficient for most people. Having a lot of protein is difficult on a plant-based diet, especially if you’re diabetic and don’t want to eat a lot of starchy foods. If your doctor told you to eat a lot of protein, this diet won’t meat their recommendations.

      You could try this diet for a few days to see how you feel – if you’re feeling energized it might work for you, at least in the short run if you’re adding more vegetables to your diet, but if you feel more tired it may not be the right approach.

      Alternatively you could try an unprocessed diet that’s high in protein and other nutrient-rich foods, e.g. a paleo diet. Examples include It Starts With Food (and the Whole30 which is about to be released) by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, The Paleo Cure by Chris Kresser, or Practical Paleo by Diana Sanfilippo. Check out the food lists for each of those diets in these links, and ask your doctor if you think that this type of diet would be suitable for you.

  • Erica Hoover April 20, 2015, 10:19 pm

    I take a flaxseed oil pill. Is that a nono?

    • Penny Hammond April 21, 2015, 10:28 am

      The books are anti fat of all kinds.

      From The Forks Over Knives Plan:
      “Note that while walnuts and flax- and chia seeds are whole plant foods with higher concentrations of essential fatty acids, there’s no evidence that you actually need to eat these foods to get the proper amount of any kind of fat. Most whole plant foods have small amounts of essential fats. Over the course of a day full of these foods you will achieve the needed amounts— which aren’t that much to begin with. In fact, it is significantly more important to worry about not consuming excess fat than it is to worry about consuming sufficient omega-3.” (p. 103)
      “We are baffled that certain oils are presented as “health” foods. Olive oil is not a health food. Neither is coconut, grape seed, flaxseed, or any other oil you’ve heard you must endeavor to add to your diet because it’s good for you. Sure, if you replace some or all of the butter in your diet with vegetable oil, you may do a little bit better, but that’s not at all the same as doing well. Oil is a bad idea because it is highly refined and its nutritional package is inadequate.” (p. 106)

      Note that this is an opinion that is going out of fashion – most of the recent dietary recommendations advise that unprocessed fats are part of a healthy diet.

  • nellie madeira April 24, 2015, 3:14 pm

    What yogurt do u suggest

    • Penny Hammond April 26, 2015, 8:24 pm

      This is a plant-based diet, and milk products aren’t allowed, so regular yogurt made from animal milk of any kind shouldn’t be eaten according to the book.

      You can eat limited amounts of unsweetened plain soy yogurt.

  • norrine May 6, 2015, 12:21 pm

    it’s interesting to read the “limited foods and not to eat foods” on this list because if you read the recipes in the book and all the apps they use everyone of them and frequently. they are the main ingredients. Contradicts themselves at every turn!!

    • Penny Hammond May 7, 2015, 7:10 am

      Limited foods mean that you can’t eat them in unlimited amounts, you should eat them sparingly – consider them as extra flavor in recipes, not the main part of the meal (which is usually vegetables and legumes).

      I’d be surprised to find the “avoid” foods in any recipes in the book or app.

  • alice July 22, 2015, 11:07 pm

    I find this way of eating very hard to live by.

  • Shea July 24, 2015, 12:18 pm

    Is Coffee allowed, rather it’s decaffeinated or reg.?

    • Penny Hammond July 24, 2015, 6:52 pm

      There’s no mention of coffee in the books.
      It comes from plants, and it’s not very processed (although you could say decaf coffee is somewhat processed) – so it would probably be okay.

  • Nancy September 1, 2015, 10:04 am

    What do coffee drinkers use as creamer?
    I’ve made almond, coconut, hemp and soy milk at home but wasn’t happy with any of them as a coffee creamer.

  • Julie Klingler September 11, 2015, 8:14 am

    What about drinking coconut milk? I know it’s high in saturated fat and the list I think says to drink lite coconut milk but is does the saturated fat in coconut milk function the same as the fat from animal products in your body?

    • Penny Hammond September 11, 2015, 7:13 pm

      The position of this book on fat is that it’s bad and should be avoided – even olive oil is included in the list of foods to avoid, and that’s definitely not high in saturated fat and it’s not animal fat.
      So only lite coconut milk is recommended.

  • Xscape September 23, 2015, 3:21 pm

    How about hemp seeds? To be eaten freely or limited?

    • Penny Hammond October 2, 2015, 9:26 am

      Seeds are listed as a food to eat sparingly, as they contain fat.

  • Greg Crick October 29, 2015, 8:23 pm

    This book is bull doodie. Read Nourishing Traditions instead. That is all.

  • Roberta November 10, 2015, 4:30 pm

    What about popcorn? Is it allowed?

    • Penny Hammond November 18, 2015, 7:37 pm

      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)

  • Karencho December 27, 2015, 6:34 pm

    I would like to lose weight and be a healthy person.l also want to keep my weight off as longest l live my life.

  • kaikai February 3, 2016, 7:45 pm

    I heard Dr. Esselstyne say in a interview to include these extra supplements: Vitamin C, B-12 and Vitamin D. Does “D” come in other than oil?

    • Penny Hammond February 15, 2016, 2:32 pm

      I’m sorry, I only focus on the food side of diets, don’t really know much about supplements.

      In The Forks Over Knives Plan, chapter 3 The Forks Over Knives Lifestyle, there’s a discussion of vitamin D, and it strongly recommends sun exposure before supplements. Please look in that chapter for more details.

  • J February 6, 2016, 10:35 am

    My doctor said the best milk sub was rice milk. It’s not great creamer but if you want to make it work, you work with what you have. I never stopped my coffee.

  • Shyla February 10, 2016, 9:07 pm

    I love this it works my favorite how I feel

  • Jo Newsad February 25, 2016, 10:16 am

    I know a lady that ate mashed potatoes every night for dinner, and she was shaped like a potato by the time she was in her 40s. Starches turn to sugar, sugar gets stored as fat.

  • Savannah March 6, 2016, 4:14 pm

    I’m having a hard time giving up cheese and yogurt completely. I know you’re not supposed to eat any at all, but what would you suggest would be ok on a daily basis to help?

    • Penny Hammond March 10, 2016, 7:31 pm

      The diet is pretty insistent on avoiding dairy completely.
      Have you tried soy yogurt and soy cheese, or other substitutes such as coconut yogurt?
      If the nondairy alternatives don’t work for you (and this would be against the advice of the book), you could try having goat or sheep cheese versions instead of cow’s milk dairy, as it’s often easier to digest and the animals are less likely to be factory farmed.

  • Augusto Crespin March 15, 2016, 9:05 pm

    Why Avocado is restricted? what about couscous?

    • Penny Hammond March 22, 2016, 5:45 pm

      Avocado is restricted on this diet because it’s fairly high in fat, and this is a very-low-fat diet.

      Couscous is basically a pasta, usually made with white flour. White couscous wouldn’t be allowed on this diet because it’s made with bleached flour. However, whole wheat couscous would be allowed – the original book suggested restricting foods made with whole grain flours, and the Plan doesn’t place any limits on them.

  • Troy Roach March 22, 2016, 11:40 pm

    My wife finds that using “Silk Almond for Coffee” is a great creamer substitute. It is very lightly sweetened with cane sugar though, with 4 grams of sugar per Tbsp.

    https://www.drinksilk.ca/products/vanilla-almond-coffee-whitener

    • Penny Hammond March 24, 2016, 1:37 pm

      How annoying that it contains sugar, as the books clearly say to avoid all processed sugars!

  • Brittaney Cook March 31, 2016, 12:12 pm

    You probably get this question all of the time… BUT: what about vegan protein powders? Let’s say, pea protein based… If it’s something that should be avoided, is it because it’s ‘processed’?

    Thanks!

    • Penny Hammond April 17, 2016, 9:01 pm

      There isn’t any guidance in the book on this, and I went to the Facebook page and did a search for protein powder (you can “search for posts on this page”) and there were no results.
      It appears that the authors would probably believe that vegan protein powders are “processed” and not as good as whole foods.

  • Liz April 1, 2016, 9:51 pm

    What about calcium. Tofu and Soy Milk are good for calcium yet you recommend that they be used sparingly. What do you recommend? Thank you

    • Penny Hammond April 17, 2016, 9:21 pm

      See “Eye on Nutrition: Calcium and Dairy” (chapter 5, p.84) – it contains a long discussion about calcium on plant-based diets. Tofu and soy milk are not the only plant-based sources of calcium. The book says “You’ll get all the calcium you need from a whole-food, plant-based diet.” (p.85)
      Other sources include leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and some dried fruits.

  • Jill co April 8, 2016, 4:37 pm

    What about a meat substiture like seitan or tempeh? Or would these be considered to be allowed on the plan. I would say this would be enjoyed sparingly but even most vegan restaurants in my area use these products heavily.

    • Penny Hammond April 17, 2016, 10:05 pm

      Seitan is wheat gluten – imagine you knead the dough for bread very heavily so the gluten is very strong, then you remove the other stuff and just leave the gluten. It would probably be categorized as somewhat processed, to be eaten in moderation on this diet.

      Tempeh is a legume or grain (typically soy, but sometimes other ingredients) that’s been naturally fermented. It’s pretty unprocessed, so you wouldn’t have to hold back on it too much.

  • lynn May 17, 2016, 7:23 pm

    My Dr. told me to go on this diet, I am a type 2 diabetic. I am in my 60’s, 5’5 and weight 120 lbs. A lot of people on this board, seem to go on this diet to lose excess weight. I do not want to lose weight, as I am skin and bones already. If I did go on this diet, would I lose a lot of weight?

    • Penny Hammond May 22, 2016, 5:45 pm

      You would probably want to eat more of the “foods to limit” foods than people who wanted to lose weight – fatty whole foods and plant milks. Check with your doctor what is their opinion of you eating dried fruit and whole grains, and if s/he says they’re okay you can have more of them as well.

  • Tim May 21, 2016, 10:42 am

    would alcohol be allowed in moderation, specifically beer/lager? the diet is very easy to follow but a pint every now and then would make it better.

    • Penny Hammond May 22, 2016, 5:50 pm

      In The Forks Over Knives Plan, there’s a section “What About Alcohol?”
      “It’s been reported in the media and many people think that drinking some alcohol is protective against heart attacks and strokes. There does seem to be a beneficial association between some study populations who moderately drink and their risk of heart disease. However, this relationship is not clearly causal in nature. Furthermore, it turns out that only in the unhealthiest populations does the possibility of such a benefit even exist.
      An interesting study looked at “healthy” people and found that there were no longer any cardioprotective effects of alcohol in that population. We are putting “healthy” in quotation marks because we don’t know whether this study’s definition of healthy was adequate: it was composed of exercising moderately or vigorously a minimum of three hours a week and not smoking, but the published results referenced eating an unspecified amount of fruits and vegetables each day. (It is unclear in the study whether eating as little as a single serving of one or the other each day may have qualified as sufficient.) Yet these habits alone were healthy enough to cancel out any possible benefits of alcohol. The diet recommended in this book is at least as healthy as the diet component in this study. Furthermore, a plant-based diet protects your heart and blood vessels, likely negating any potential positive effect of the alcohol and leaving only the harmful effects.
      Alcohol seems to increase the risk of many other problems, including getting cancer (even with very light drinking), cancer recurrence, weight gain, liver damage, and heart arrhythmias. And the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to succumb to liver cancer because obesity and alcohol synergistically increase the risk of incident liver cancer.
      In short, there is nothing health-promoting about alcohol. If you do not presently drink alcohol, we urge you not to begin.
      That being said, the most important thing you can do for your health is to change your diet over to whole, plant-based foods. So focus on what’s easiest for you to change right now. However, if you feel ready to push further toward optimum health, then by all means cut out the alcohol.” (p.126)

      So… maybe a single drink every now and then.

  • Blue Moon May 25, 2016, 10:28 am

    I’m looking at switching from Eat to Live, and I have a couple of questions:
    1. I don’t understand why smoothies are only to be enjoyed occasionally. Unless I’m calling the concoction I normally make, a smoothie, and it’s not what the book is referring to. A typical smoothie for me is an apple, an orange or two, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, a banana, and water blended in my Vitamix. I’m not seeing what’s wrong with that. Why can’t I have those daily, if they’re made up of foods that are unlimited. Please explain.
    2. Is stevia allowable?
    Thank you!

    • Penny Hammond May 30, 2016, 3:35 pm

      Fruit juices are listed as foods to limit, and when you make a smoothie you’re pretty much juicing the fruit you’re putting into it. Looking at your fruit ingredients, that could add up to a fair amount of juice… could you make a green smoothie without the fruits, and drink that while eating the fruits whole?

      Stevia is mentioned in one of the recipes in the original book, so it’s probably allowed (although you may want to use it in moderation).

  • Blue Moon May 25, 2016, 10:50 am

    I just submitted two questions, but I wanted to ask this one by itself, in case you want to respond individually to me at my e-mail, without posting it. I’m looking at switching to Forks Over Knives from Eat to Live. I’m not 100% sure yet. I discovered your site a few days ago, and I’m amazed at your reviews and the information on your site – in particular the comments/questions and answers section. You have knowledge of so many plans. I’d like to know what you would recommend as your favorite plan – not just between the two I mentioned, but of all the plans you’re familiar with. It would need to be a vegan or vegetarian plan (either, but I’d lean toward vegan), and after I lose the weight, I plan to continue the plan for health, so the nutrition part is important as well. I really appreciate the health benefits mentioned in Eat to Live. Forks Over Knives promote several benefits as well, but they don’t appear to be quite as bold in their claims as Dr. Fuhrman in Eat to Live. I’m sure there are other similar ones out there, and last night I got a little overwhelmed skimming the list of many plans on your site. You’re so knowledgeable about all these, I thought I’d just ask you. Thank you for this website, and all the time you put into it! It is so very helpful.

    • Penny Hammond May 30, 2016, 3:56 pm

      Good question, although I’m not sure there’s a single right answer!

      Some of the most popular vegan books/series (Forks Over Knives, Eat to Live, The China Study / Whole, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Engine 2 Diet) ask that you eat little or no oil, including olive oil – this seems a little excessive, especially as the “fat is bad for you” theory is out of date.
      More recent books/younger authors tend to allow some fats – e.g. The 22-Day Revolution.

      They all make many claims, as do all diet books – I tend to take them with a bit of a pinch of salt (note that these vegan diet books tend to ask you to avoid salt as well…)
      When it comes down to it, they’re not that different from each other. Eat a plant-based diet, avoid processed foods. Some allow you to eat more fruits/natural carbs than others; others I’m not sure where you get enough calories to thrive.

      Pick one that doesn’t make you freak out when it tells you everything you have to avoid, because you want to be doing this long term. And see how you feel after being on it for a while.
      You might also want to use a resource like the Vegan for Life book to keep a track on the nutrients you’re eating.

      It’s possible that after following a vegan diet for a while you start to feel you’re not getting enough – if that happens you could switch to a vegetarian diet or something a little more like VB6 or Zero Belly Diet.

      Hope that helps.

  • Kerry Neighbors June 27, 2016, 7:52 pm

    Can I use light coconut milk on this diet?

    • Penny Hammond July 5, 2016, 2:46 pm

      Yes you can – it’s listed as something to eat sparingly.

  • Patricia June 30, 2016, 2:08 pm

    Thank you for this page. I realized that I was eating too much whole wheat this week which contributed to a 1.5 weight gain. My doctor wants me to lose 20 pounds and recommended this diet because it is heart healthy.

    1. I will cut out whole wheat pasta except for once a week
    2. I will only have corn tortillas once a week
    3. No avocados (nuts and seeds are not an issue, I rarely eat them)
    I will make these tweaks going forward.

  • Dan July 15, 2016, 12:38 pm

    My Dr. has also recommended this diet for weight loss. Two fold question, is peanut butter in the category of nut butters, and are there stats available to show weight loss timing?

    • Penny Hammond August 21, 2016, 5:15 pm

      The book lists peanut butter as a nut butter, so it’s in the category of foods to eat sparingly (unless, of course, you’re allergic to peanuts).

      I can’t find anything in the books on the speed of weight loss – this isn’t a “lose weight fast” book and doesn’t make claims like that; also none of the testimonials talk about the speed at which they lost weight.
      “In order to reach a comfortable body weight, we simply need to choose the right foods— which is much easier and more effective than counting calories and controlling our portion sizes. If we choose the whole, plant-based foods that are healthy for us, our body’s natural mechanisms for controlling weight will take care of the rest.” (p.30)
      “In general, whole, plant-based foods won’t make you gain weight as long as you are eating an average calorie density of 550 (or fewer) calories per pound.” (p. 30)
      “If weight loss is your primary goal, lowering the calorie density of your meals will help the weight come off faster.” (p. 31)
      “You can also try this trick for more rapid weight loss. For any meal, you can begin with foods that have a lower calorie density. For example, try beginning a meal with some fruit or a big salad. You can also add more vegetables to your plate and have them before or with your denser main course. These small measures will add low calorie density with high volume, which will leave you satiated on fewer calories.” (pp. 31-32)

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