Do you look at food in terms of “good” and “bad”? Many people do – it is a seemingly simple way to define what you should and should not be doing related to your food choices. In general, when you eat a good food, you feel good – you made a good choice, which serves as a reminder that you are trying to take good care of your body. When you make bad choices, those serve as a reminder that you aren’t doing you best: you could be doing better.
If it is what works for you, there is nothing significantly wrong with this line of thinking, good food versus bad food. In fact, it is the foundation of a diet you have probably never heard of.
The Marshall Plan is based on author Cindi Marshall Oakley’s book, The Marshall Plan: Being Good to Be Bad. As the title suggests, this diet is all about making good dietary choices, so that you can also make bad ones in between the good ones.
Sound good to you? Following is a summary breakdown of the key points of the diet covered in the book and how you can apply this diet to your own life.
Marshall Plan Diet Plan Basics and Rules
The key to any reasonable and effective diet is a primary focus on healthy eating – that is:
- Only eliminating foods that offer no nutritional benefit to the body
- Eating a variety of foods from different food groups
- Choosing foods rich in protein, either or both plant and animal sources
- Steering clear of excessive added sugars and/or artificial food additives
There are diets out there that suggest eliminating certain food groups altogether simply because many commercial versions of the foods that fall under that general category (but not all) are heavily processed. Others focus on quantity, asking dieters to restrict calories or only eat at certain times of the day. This diet is not one of those.
The Marshall Plan diet follows all of the above healthy eating principles with a unique spin on it: a focus on good versus evil, in a sense. Eating both good and bad foods is virtually inevitable. Therefore, according to the diet’s creator, people should ideally think of this as more of a continuous series of lifestyle choices – both good ones and not so good ones.
The book’s author is clear from the very beginning: The Marshall Plan is not a diet – it is a lifestyle. Therefore, it is about more than just eating the right foods and hoping for results. It is about making conscious choices about the foods you choose. With every meal and snack, you are responsible for choosing what you believe to be the best foods for you.
The Marshall Plan diet divides all possible food choices into Good choices and Bad choices. Several of the book’s notable Good choices include:
- Lean protein
- Green vegetables at every meal
- Choosing whole grains and cutting out refined sugars
- Avoiding processed foods with added sugars
Marshall Oakley recognizes that no one is perfect, and understands that you are probably not going to be able to make Good choices all day every day. So that is why the book and diet also address Bad choices. As long as you make mostly Good choices, it is okay if you make some Bad ones as well.
Bad choices, according to the Marshall Plan, involve basically the opposite of all addressed Good choices – eating protein sources heavy in saturated fats; eating refined carbohydrates and grains, and foods that are heavily processed.
The key to succeeding with this diet is to make Good choices so that you can “Be Bad,” otherwise known as intentionally choosing a Bad food because you have made enough Good choices throughout the day.
The Marshall Plan diet also emphasizes the importance of drinking water constantly throughout the day, choosing good fats and dairy products in moderation and eating lean protein and Good Carbs as much as possible.
Portion control is also a factor – the book gives detailed suggestions about how to eat more high protein, high quality foods in fewer servings. Many people struggle with portion control, eating all the “good” foods available but not realizing they are still overindulging. This element adds much needed education about how variety and quality make it easier to reduce overall quantity.
The overall purpose of the Marshall Plan diet is to learn how to make Good choices, otherwise known as choices that in one way or another contribute to your overall health in the best way possible. When you make a Bad choice, it is not a mistake. You know you are doing so, and you are in complete control of that decision.
This seems like a lot, but really, it is nothing more than a set of healthy eating guidelines structured in a way that allows you to choose to eat whatever you want, when you want, without feeling guilty – as long as you are choosing as many healthy options as you are able to, that is.
As with any diet, meal planning is a must. It might actually help you to plan out your Bad choices, so you do not give in to spontaneously eating things you should not be eating. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Menu and Meal Planning
Like many of the diets we have already covered, the Marshall Plan diet requires that you purchase and prepare all of your meals and snacks yourself – aside from dining out, suggestions for which are also covered in the book (in short: have fun and eat tasty food, but as with anything else, do so in moderation).
In the case of this diet, the whole purpose of purchasing and preparing meals and snacks using as fresh as possible ingredients is to help you learn how to make Good choices to outweigh the Bad ones. It is likely in your best interest to make a list of both Good and Bad foods you enjoy and fill as much of your grocery list as possible with Good foods.
From there, you can either purchase the food and decide what you want to make with it later or plan out your meals in advance so you know not only what you need to buy, but when you can expect to spend more time in the kitchen, when you can plan for leftovers, and so on.
Here is a sample day’s menu made up of Good foods for each meal and snack.
- Seafood omelet with shrimp, avocado, lean meat and cheese of choice
- Fresh fruit, such as a bowl of mixed berrie
- Vegetable barley soup
- Grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato and onions
- Lean pork chop
- One half sweet potato
- Seasoned asparagus
- Spinach based salad
- Mixed nuts
- Raw vegetables with hummus dip
- Apples with nut butter
- Kale chips
- Sweet potato fries
Grocery Shopping List
Grocery shopping becomes a lot easier when you do not have to avoid entire aisles just to stay away from the foods you always reach for when you are craving something sweet. At least, it would seem that way.
On the Marshall Plan diet, you still need to do the absolute best you can to make Good choices when it comes to food. So before you make a list and head out, you should have a pretty good idea of the kinds of Good foods Marshall Oakley lists in her book, so that you can shop knowing that you are doing (mostly) all the right things.
Good foods as part of the Marshall Plan diet are divided into several key categories, which can make shopping for the right foods easier.
Green vegetable food sources, including:
- Green beans
Lean protein food sources, which include:
- Lean pork or steak
- White meat sources such as chicken
- Dry cheeses such as Parmesan
- Nuts such as almonds, cashews
- Nut butters
Other good carbohydrate sources, including:
- Fresh fruits such as strawberries, apples, pairs
- Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes
- Whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice
Limited amounts of dairy, including:
- Low fat sour cream
- Low fat cream cheese
- Parmesan cheese, feta or ricotta
Whether you make Good food Choices or Bad food choices, at least you know the difference – and you are okay with whichever way your decisions lean day in and day out. Nobody is perfect, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to be. Dieting isn’t about always doing the right thing – it’s about knowing the best choices to make, and making them for all the right reasons, as often as you possibly can.