The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life
By Rick Warren, DMin, Daniel Amen, MD, and Mark Hymen, MD
Reviewed by Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE
The Daniel Plan details a lifestyle program based on five principles including faith, food, fitness, focus and friends. The program originated in 2011 and within the first year more than 15,000 church members lost, collectively, more than 250,000 pounds while reporting decreases in health issues and stress and increases in spiritual growth and energy.
Synopsis of the Diet Plan
The diet plan focuses on a plate containing 50 percent non-starchy vegetables, 25 percent healthy animal or vegetable proteins and 25 percent healthy starches or whole grains, along with a low-glycemic fruit and water or herbal tea. Readers are provided with a list of "good foods" on which to base meals. Produce is divided into two separate categories, one of which can be eaten freely. The book suggests that users purchase wild or grass-fed and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and seafood, if possible. A sample three-day menu is provided, and a cookbook is available for more extensive meal planning.
Supplements are recommended during the program. For both men and women, these include: a high-potency, high-quality, highly bioavailable multivitamin and mineral; vitamin D3; omega-3 fatty acids; and probiotics. It is recommended that women also take calcium and magnesium.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
The program uses diet and exercise, along with emotional support, in a positive way, which is beneficial. Preparing meals at home from raw ingredients is encouraged, which is also positive. While the program has a good overall goal, the dietary portion is restrictive and not individualized. It also appears a registered dietitian nutritionist was not consulted.
The list of "good foods" provided for the program tends to portray some foods — such as pastas, nuts and oils — in a negative light, which is discouraging, as RDNs prefer that food is seen in correct proportions and in moderation rather than cutting out particular items completely. Some oils, such as canola and olive, have been seen to have positive effects on cholesterol. The program promotes forgiveness and moving forward if one falls back, but does not seem to allow for generalized moderation. The caffeine restriction could be tough for many and seems extreme. There is also the issue of preparation time, as the suggested recipes for meals seem lengthy.
The program has strong components to help clients be successful including behavior modification, nutrition, exercise and support. The nutrition section could be improved by an RDN offering more meal planning ideas, facts about foods and science-based nutrition facts. The encouragement aspect could be helpful for some, but the dietary restrictions could make the program difficult for the average reader to stick to for 40 days.