- Eat nonstarchy vegetables, healthy animal or plant proteins, healthy starch or whole grain, and some fruit.
- Limit high-sugar fruits and healthy natural sweeteners.
- Avoid processed foods, junk food, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and fake food substances.
- Optional – follow a 10-40 day detox which also avoids gluten, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol.
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 Daniel Plan for how to lean on your faith to help you improve your health, working with your community to change your habits, fitness guidelines and plan, planning, focus and attitude, meal plans, and recipes. Also get The Daniel Plan Journal to track everything you eat to help you change your habits (the book mentions an app but we can’t find it).
Get The Daniel Plan Cookbook for more than 100 recipes.
The reasoning behind The Daniel Plan
This book argues that your body belongs to God and you are expected to take care of it. The five Essentials of The Daniel Plan are Faith, Food, Fitness, Friends, and Focus. Pastor Rick Warren asked 3 medical experts – Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, to help him build a plan for himself and his congregation to lose weight and improve their health. More than 95 percent of chronic illness is not related to your genes, but to what those genes are exposed to in your lifetime – the study of nutrigenomics demonstrates that eating real foods, as created by God, is best for your health.
The Daniel Plan diet – what to eat and foods to avoid
The authors suggest that you start with the Daniel Detox plan, eliminating gluten and dairy as well as all the other food guidelines, and then continuing with the general plan.
Foods to eat in The Daniel Plan
Eat foods that your grandmother would recognize as food.
- Meal planning
- 50% non-starchy veggies – with unlimited refills. Choose colorful veggies, and eat at least 5-9 servings a day from a rainbow of colors
- 25% percent healthy animal or vegetable proteins. Choose a lean protein source (animal or plant) at every meal. A serving size is 4-6 ounces or about the size of your palm
- 25% healthy starch or whole grains. Starchy veggies should have a larger proportion on your plate than grains. The ideal serving size for grains is ½ cup for men and ⅓ cup for women.
- Side of low-glycemic fruit – the average serving size is ½ cup or one piece of fruit. If you are overweight or have blood sugar issues, then you want to be careful with fruit intake and limit it to one serving a day
- Drink — water or herbal teas
- Carbs are the single most important food you can eat for long-term weight loss and health. Vegetables and fruits are the most important sources of carbs; whole grains and beans are also carbs but since they are a little more starchy they should be eaten in moderation
- Eat organic, if you can afford it, to avoid pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics in food. If you are budget strapped, use the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list from the Environmental Working Group to choose the least contaminated conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and avoid the most contaminated versions
- Eat sustainably – try to buy sustainably raised animals and animal products when you can. This will help you avoid pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones. Look for the terms grass fed, pasture raised, free-range or organic, or made without hormones and antibiotics. Ask your butcher where things come from and how they were raised.
- Choose only real foods – if there are any words on the label that you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce, are in Latin, or sound like some science project, put it back on the shelf. If it is a real food product, it usually has less than 5 ingredients. Watch out for health claims as they don’t necessarily mean that a food is healthy.
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Eat at least 5-9 servings a day from a rainbow of colors
- Top 10 choices – asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, cucumbers, green beans, kale, spinach, zucchini
- Cruciferous vegetables – bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale – eat a cup or two every day to prevent cancer and support your health
- Non-starchy vegetables include arugula, artichokes/artichoke hearts, asparagus, avocado, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cucumbers, dandelion greens, eggplant, fennel, garlic, green beans, jicama, kale, lettuce, mushrooms (not raw), onions, peppers, seaweed (e.g. arame, kombu, nori, wakame), spinach, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, water chestnuts, watercress, yellow squash, zucchini
- Herbs, including cilantro
- Choose heirloom varieties whenever possible
- A serving size is 4-6 ounces or about the size of your palm
- Top 10 choices – beans, beef, chicken, eggs, halibut, lentils, nuts, salmon, seeds, turkey
- Meats – beef, bison, buffalo, lamb, venison. Choose quality over quantity, and eat small amounts of lean, organic, grass-fed, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. venison. Eat red meat no more than once or twice a week and no more than 4 to 6 ounces per serving.
- Poultry – chicken, turkey. Choose organic, grass-fed, free-range, and hormone-, antibiotic -, and pesticide-free poultry whenever you can.
- Fish and seafood – crawfish, halibut, herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines, scallops, shrimp, tilapia, freshwater trout, tuna. The best fish to eat are wild-caught and smaller, toxin -free fish
- Meat, poultry, or fish jerky with no nitrates or MSG
- Eggs – stick with whole eggs, not egg whites
- Legumes – beans, dried or in BPA-free cans (e.g. adzuki beans, Anasazi beans, black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, mung beans, pinto beans, white beans), chickpeas, lentils (e.g. French lentils, green lentils, red lentils), peas, whole soy foods including miso, natto, tempeh, and tofu
- Nuts – almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, coconut (unsweetened), hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts; also nut butters. Watch portion sizes. A serving is a handful or about 10 – 12 nuts. Buy raw or lightly toasted, unsalted nuts.
- Seeds – chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
- If you’re not on the Detox plan, you can eat minimally processed, unsweetened, full fat dairy/milk products such as milk, cheese, cream, butter, yogurt
- Starches and whole grains
- The ideal serving size for grains is ½ cup for men and ⅓ cup for women
- Top 10 choices – beets, brown or black rice, carrots, buckwheat, green peas, corn, quinoa, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash
- Starchy vegetables – beets, carrots, corn, Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes, parsnips, green peas, potatoes, pumpkin, rutabagas, sweet potatoes/yams, turnips, winter squash
- Whole grains – brown rice, red rice, black rice, buckwheat, oats (old-fashioned or steel cut), quinoa. Eat only whole grains, not processed in any way
- Breads – if you are not gluten sensitive (or on the Detox diet below), the best bread is whole kernel German rye bread (also made with flax and spelt), made from whole kernel grain, not whole grain flour. If you want regular flour bread, be sure that it contains no white flour (also labeled as “wheat flour”) and is made from coarse whole grain flour, with extra protein and fiber ingredients such as nuts and seeds. Try sprouted whole grain breads such as Ezekiel 4: 9 Whole Grain Sprouted Flax bread by Food for Life, if you are already healthy and fit. Change the way you think of bread. Think of it as a treat, to be used sparingly, ideally no more than one slice a day. Try some of the non-flour crackers made from seeds and nuts.
- If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you may not even be able to tolerate significant amounts of whole grains in your diet until you correct the underlying metabolic imbalances. So the best grains are the gluten-free grains. Try low-glycemic grains such as black rice (also known as the emperor’s rice), brown rice, red rice, buckwheat, and quinoa. Pastas cooked al dente (cooked just enough to retain some firm texture) are lower glycemic, but flour products should be considered a special treat that you only eat occasionally.
- Low-glycemic fruits
- The average serving size is ½ cup or one piece of fruit. If you are overweight or have blood sugar issues, then you want to be careful with fruit intake and limit it to one serving a day Top 10 choices – apples, blackberries, blueberries, goji/gogi berries, grapefruit, plums, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, raspberries
- The darker and richer the colors, the more unique and wonderful the fruits, the more power-packed nutrition they contain.
- We focus on the lower sugar fruits such as berries and apples and pears and use the others as treats in smaller quantities.
- Apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, dark berries, goji/gogi berries, purple grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, limes, mangos, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, pomegranate, raspberries
- Good fats
- No guidelines on serving sizes
- Oils – extra-virgin olive oil, cold-pressed; extra-virgin coconut oil; grapeseed/grape seed oil (for higher temperatures); 100% avocado oil; sesame oil
- Nuts and seeds, nut butters (without any added sugars or fat) e.g. almond butter, coconut butter, macadamia nut butter
- Avocados, olives
- Extra-virgin coconut butter
- Green tea
- Herbal teas
- Pantry and miscellaneous
- Almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk
- Unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, unsweetened protein powder
- Broth (low sodium), hot sauce, kimchi, mustard, miso paste, natural ketchup (no high fructose corn syrup), salsa, sauerkraut, tahini/sesame paste, wheat-free tamari sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, vinegar (all types)
- Spices – e.g. black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, chili, coriander, cumin, curry paste, ginger, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, sea salt
- Herbs – e.g. bay leaves, basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary
Foods to limit with The Daniel Plan
- Limit high-sugar fruits – melons, pineapples, and grapes
- Use dried fruit sparingly – e.g. dried apricots, dried blueberries, currants, dates, dried figs, raisins. Many dried fruits contain added sugars. Have one or two figs or dates or 2 tablespoons of raisins or currants as a treat, or mix a small amount with nuts and seeds to make your own trail mix.
- Fruit spreads (only 100% fruit, no sugar) – not clear in the book whether these should be limited
- Natural sugars / sweeteners
- Sugar is an occasional treat. When you have sugar, stick with traditional, natural forms: raw sugar, raw honey, natural fruit sugars, pure maple syrup. Stay away from all the rest. Use it in things you make yourself, but sparingly
- If you use stevia, make sure it’s whole plant stevia extract and NOT the isolated sweet chemical called “rebauside A” or “reb A” for short
- Limit coffee – 1 cup a day
- Limit alcohol – one or two glasses. Avoid alcohol if you have a history of alcoholism, have a high risk of breast cancer, are prone to mental illness, have liver or digestive problems, have a personal or family history of alcoholism, or are allergic to sulfites in wine
- Dark chocolate in moderation
Foods to avoid with The Daniel Plan
- Processed carbohydrates
- Cut out sugar and white flour. Go cold turkey
- White flour, white rice, white pasta
- Flour-containing foods such as waffles, muffins, donuts, pretzels, and crackers
- Sugars and sweeteners
- Sugars and sweeteners including agave, barley malt, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, coconut sugar, dextrose, dextrin, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup HFCS, honey, hydrogenated starch, juice concentrate, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, monosaccharides, palm sugar, sorghum, sucrose, sugar, xylose
- Don’t drink liquid sugar calories – soda, sport drinks, flavored coffees or teas, energy drinks, and fruit juices
- Artificial sweeteners
- Avoid fruit juices
- Pork is the least healthy meat
- Avoid charred or blackened meat, which causes cancer because overgrilling creates carcinogens
- Avoid nuts fried or cooked in oils
- Avoid processed soy products, such as those found in deli-meat replacements, soy cheese, or meal-replacement bars
- Trans fat, hydrogenated fat
- Processed and refined vegetable oils – e.g. canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil
- Food sensitivities
- Avoid foods you’re sensitive to. Common food sensitivities include gluten and dairy. If you have any chronic illness, are overweight, or just want to see how good you can feel, try a gluten-free and dairy-free diet for 10-40 days and then reintroduce foods to see your reactions
- Fake food substances
- MSG / monosodium glutamate and foods that may contain it – any “flavors” or “flavoring”; anything containing “enzymes”; anything “enzyme modified”; anything “hydrolyzed”; anything with the word “glutamate” in it; autolyzed plant protein; autolyzed yeast; barley malt; bouillon and broth; carrageenan; gelatin; glutamate; glutamic acid sodium; hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP); hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP); malt extract; maltodextrin; ; natural seasonings; protease; stock; textured protein; umami; vegetable protein extract; yeast extract; yeast food or nutrient
- Other common additives and chemicals in food – soy protein isolate, sodium and calcium caseinate, phosphoric acid (dipotassium phosphate and tricalcium phosphate) artificial flavors (often containing MSG), carrageenan, colors and dyes (yellow dye #5 or tartrazine and others) sulfites, nitrites and nitrates (in processed and deli meats and causes cancer)
Daniel Plan Detox diet – what to eat and foods to avoid
You don’t have to do this, but the authors recommend doing it to feel your best.
Start by following the guidelines above (what to eat, foods to limit, foods to avoid), and also eliminating a few foods for 10-40 days to see if your general health improves. There’s a separate meal plan in the book for the detox diet.
- Avoid stimulants and sedatives – alcohol, coffee, etc.
- Avoid processed or fast food, to get rid of any additives or chemicals
- Avoid artificial sweeteners of all kinds
- See list in “foods to avoid” above
- Avoid sugar in any form
- See list in “foods to avoid” above
- Avoid foods containing gluten – not even a crumb
- Anything containing wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut, and other ingredients with gluten
- Avoid dairy foods – not even a drop
- Milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, etc.
After doing this, you can reintroduce those foods to see how they affect your health.
Note that you may get headaches and other withdrawal symptoms for a few days.
Health benefits claimed in The Daniel Plan
The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: acid reflux/GERD, acne, allergies, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, bad breath, bloating, brain fog, canker sores, chronic fatigue syndrome, congestion, constipation, Crohn’s disease, dark circles under the eyes, depression, diabetes, pre-diabetes, eczema, fatigue, fibromyalgia, fluid retention, food cravings, gas, headaches, heart disease, heartburn, hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease IBD, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome IBS, joint pain, menopausal symptoms, menstrual symptoms, migraines, muscle aches, overweight/obesity, postnasal drip, psoriasis, puffy eyes, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis
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 Daniel Plan for how to lean on your faith to help you improve your health, working with your community to change your habits, fitness guidelines and plan, planning, focus and attitude, meal plans, and recipes.
Also get The Daniel Plan Journal to track everything you eat to help you change your habits (the book mentions an app but we can’t find it).
Get The Daniel Plan Cookbook for more than 100 recipes.
See the plan’s website, http://www.danielplan.com/, for stories, progress tracking, articles, cooking videos, and more. Also see Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theDanielPlan.
How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment or question below.