Harley Pasternak says that if you follow his 5 Factor diet, you will see results. First, eat five times a day: two meals and three snacks. Next, everything you eat should have five components: lean protein, low glycemic carbs, healthy fats, fiber, and a sugar-free beverage. And to keep it real, there's a cheat day once a week.
The in-demand trainer recently came out with a new book — the 5 Factor World Diet — that draws on lessons learned from constant travel. Harley selected 10 countries with the lowest obesity rates and highest life expectancies and studied what they eat, how they eat, and how they burn it off. Although busy bopping between clients, Harley took some time out of his day to talk all things food: what you should be eating, why fresh food isn't always better, and yes, even he has a cheat food.
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FitSugar: Your latest book, The 5 Factor World Diet, is based on the insights you’ve gained while traveling. What are some healthy eating tips you’ve picked up from other countries?
Harley Pasternak: I saw a lot of fish — not beef — in the healthiest countries, and whole grains, vegetable, and whole soy — especially in Okinawa where everyone is 100 years old. In Sweden, sandwiches are made with one piece of bread, not two — it’s always always an open-faced sandwich. Physical activity is very much tied to meals too. In Italy they have something called a "pasa giatta," and when the meal ends they all get up and go for a walk together. And in other parts of the world they go grocery shopping every day, so you’re basically burning off half the meal to pick up ingredients, and when you’re preparing your food, you have more control over what you put into it.
FS: What advice do you have for people who can’t walk to pick up fresh food because the nearest market is 30 miles away?
HP: I’m a big fan of frozen food and canned food. I know that’s not what we’re used to hearing but frozen and canned food can be as healthy, if not healthier than fresh counterpart options. Fresh produce is not the end-all be-all — when I make smoothies I almost always use frozen fruits, and when I make soups I often use frozen vegetables. You can use canned beans and frozen vegetables for dips as well. Also, don’t be afraid of canned fish, canned salmon, canned tuna, and frozen seafood like shrimp cocktail. It’s another great way to get seafood into your diet, if you can't get fresh.
FS: What are some of your favorite meals from the 5 Factor World Diet?
HP: Gosh, there are so many. As I wrote the World Diet book, I was looking abroad for some good fiber recipes and fell in love with Japanese food like soba noodles. I also love the idea of ceviche. Going to Spain and learning to make ceviche was great. It's absolutely foolproof, even for someone who has no idea how to cook.
FS: What about snacks — especially when you’re on the go?
HP: Snacks — as should a meal — [should] have a lowfat protein and a fibrous carbohydrate. I tell my clients to grab some plain nonfat Greek yogurt and some frozen berries and mix that together. Soy snacks are great too: edamame, Soy Joy bars, and soy milk are all great. I often make a dip out of nonfat Greek yogurt and natural peanut butter for protein and calcium. It’s 1:2 ratio of peanut butter to yogurt and it’s delicious with apples or pears.
FS: Now that you’ve brought up fruit, one of our readers wants to know why there are no grapes or bananas on the 5-Factor Diet?
HP: No one is going to live a shorter life if they have bananas or grapes, however there are much, much healthier fruits. I try and tell my clients to choose those fruits over others. I tell my clients to stick to fruits that either have edible skin, edible seeds, or citrus — bananas do not have edible skin, nor do they have edible seeds really, nor is it citrus. Most of the fiber and nutrients that are in a fruit are in a fruit’s skin. A banana is just the densest piece of fruit that you can put in your body, and since it doesn’t have much fiber, it won’t keep you full. It’s kind of a shame to have a fruit with no fiber.
Grapes are an exception to the rule because they have a special sugar in them called dextrose, which is the highest glycemic sugar that you can possibly put in your body. They actually make grape pills for diabetics so that they don’t become low.
FS: Are there any foods that you think people should avoid, even on their cheat days?
HP: Absolutely no, not at all. Life is short and you have to enjoy it, and you should indulge when it’s time to indulge. At some point, I think everyone should eat everything at least once.
FS: And what’s your cheat food?
HP: My cheat food? That’s easy, it’s chocolate chip cookies. I’m the biggest chocolate chip cookie freak in the world.
FS: And do you give yourself some cookies every week?
HP: At least every week.
To get a taste of Harley's diet, try his recipe for five-spice halibut. It's tasty and easy to make.