The Best Way to Lose Weight Isn’t Keto, It’s Food Combining, Says this Expert

|Updated Oct 30, 2020
Getty Images/Westend61

Despite what the keto dieters and the intermittent fasters would have you believe, the most effective and sustainable way to lose weight while eating a healthy diet is by consuming a small amount of all three major macro ingredients at each meal and snack, which means eating a combination of protein, fat, and carbs every time you consume calories, according to weight loss expert Rania Batayneh, author of The One One One Diet: The Simple 1:1:1 Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss who has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition. 

Batayneh has been encouraging her clients to do what she calls the 1-1-1 approach ever since she worked in a bariatric surgeon's office for several years and noticed that when she helped coach surgical patients prior to their procedures, many of them lost enough weight that they decided to keep going and skip the procedure altogether. That's what led her to write the book and that's what she believes is the secret to swift, sustainable and healthy weight loss, on a plant-based or whole foods diet free of junk food and high in fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. You feel like you're eating a lot and are never hungry on this plan, which means it's both effective and sustainable.

"You have to lose 10 percent of your weight before surgery, to be eligible for the procedure, and so patients would come in for a gastric lap band and it was my job to coach them. I designed their meals around eating one macro at every meal. That is how the diet started," she explained.

"I worked at the bariatric clinic in Portland Oregon, from 2010 to 2012, and I was coaching patients to lose the 10 percent they were required to lose before the surgery, and so many patients lost the weight this way, and their blood pressure and cholesterol improved, that many just kept going."

Of course, she explained, "some people wanted the surgery because they had really poor diets and they were struggling and often they had 50 or 100 pounds to lose, so they chose to go ahead with the surgery, but even after having it done, they had to continue to eat healthily [to keep the weight off] and they reported back to me that the diet worked."

A simple formula of protein, fat, and carbs to lose weight

It is a simple formula, she adds, since you include 1 serving of protein and 1 serving of carbohydrates, and 1 serving of fat every time you eat. This is also intuitive: Peanut Butter on toast with a glass of milk: It's how children eat and how many of our forbearers ate (turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy). For plant-based protein, choose 1 cup of beans for 8 to 20 grams of protein. For carbs add quinoa or whole grain and for fat, avocado slices. The goal is that by the end of the day you can look back at a balanced food spectrum of macros.

"It's fun and you can get creative with your combinations," says Batayneh, and the trick is to find foods that do double-duty such as quinoa (protein and carbs) or beans like chickpeas and soybeans or peas (protein and carbs) and add these as often an (s) possible, to salads, grain bowls and stir fry dinners. Snacks include fats like nuts and seeds, protein, and a carb like fruit.

While you don't have to be plant-based to make the One-One-One approach work, health benefits include less animal fat which is higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, "I have been encouraging my clients and social media followers to incorporate plant-based meals at least once a day to add a new and different spectrum of nutrients and for the fiber and the antioxidants," she adds.

The one thing Batayneh advises all her clients against: Artificial sweeteners since they can confuse the body and cause an insulin spike, leading the body to get the signal that sugar is coming, in large amounts, which can trigger fat storage. "For some people, these fake sugars will trick the body to spike your insulin, and many people have a sensitivity to artificial sweeteners and don't know it. In any case, it increases your cravings and makes your body seek out real sugar."

Here is what a day of eating the One-One-One Diet approach looks like

Breakfast: "We all love avocado toast. You get the fat from avocado, and carbs from the bread and then add either hummus or chickpeas to it, for more protein. Chickpeas are high in fiber and B vitamins which are essential for anyone trying to eat plant-based and lose weight. You can add some red pepper flakes or cumin to give it an exotic feel," she adds. "I buy the Sabra organic hummus and then put avocado on it ... I just make it as easy as possible."

Lunch: "Another thing I encourage clients to do is to get creative with salad dressing on a large salad. Lunch is also a great time to create a big bowl of something warm like rice and beans with vegetables on it. You get carbs in the rice and protein from the beans and add vegetables for fiber and antioxidants. Add guacamole or vegan cheese to melt on it for your healthy fat."

Eat most of your calories in the middle of the day. "At lunch is where I encourage them to have a more indulgent option like a tortilla or an open-faced sandwich on whole wheat bread, especially if weight loss is the goal or a wrap with roasted vegetables with faux sausage. (Always look at the label and check for processed ingredients. Falafel is another great for lunch with lettuce in a wrap. If it's too big just eat half the sandwich at lunch and the other half as your afternoon snack, so you redistribute the calories throughout the afternoon. If it's there and you know you can eat it then just nibble on that and you can skip your snack. This way you're eating fewer calories and spreading them out."

Dinner: I like a light dinner. "A cup of quinoa with pomegranate seeds, and something salty or crunchy like pistachios sprinkled on top, all on a bed of spinach leaves. It works to create a pop of color and to combine the protein from the quinoa and pistachios, and the carbs also from the quinoa and the pomegranate seeds, and the fat from a light dressing. One serving of pistachios has six grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and also contains monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy fat."

Snack During the day. "Look for the same combination of protein, fat, and carbs in a snack. It can be tortilla chips with salsa and whole chickpeas or have a salsa verde. You can roast chickpeas. I am Middle Eastern and on Sunday mornings, my parents would make falafel, chickpea patties, with a dip called FUL which is made with fava beans – this adds an additional boost of protein alongside the falafel. Or you can make an eggplant dip, which is your fat and pairs with pita and a protein nicely."

Take note of how you feel after you eat. How healthy are your skin, hair, nails?

"The key to eating this way is you never feel so full that you get tired. The fiber in plant-based whole foods is not present in animal proteins and it keeps you feeling full longer, so it's an effective way to diet. When you fill-up on fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans all high in fiber you never feel deprived. So if you use the food combining strategy and make sure you always have fiber-based meals,  you will stay fuller longer. That happens to me, but you also get all the vitamins and minerals, which makes you feel energetic and healthy."

Keto is not the answer and may leave you starved for essential vitamins and nutrients

"Keto is something I hear a lot about. People come to me when it doesn't work for them. I have clients who are so focused on where they are going to get their protein when they eat plant-based that they end up missing whole food groups, like vegetables and fruit," says Batayneh. And when they go off keto they are having trouble keeping the weight off.

Suddenly they tell me [after doing keto] that their hair is falling out of their skin is breaking out. On a low carb diet, you miss out on all the antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, the phytochemicals in vegetables and fruit. We all need B vitamins. Your hair, nails and overall health is related to getting enough vitamin B12," she adds. "There is so much low-carb dieting going on that women are starving themselves of important vitamins because fruits and vegetables are natural sources of these essential nutrients.

"Clients have the option of emailing food logs, and I send feedback to them on how to make the right tweaks in order to lose weight. By developing an eating strategy and building their meals using the 1:1:1 Formula, they learn how to eat right in order to lose weight. It's not complicated. It's about eating a balanced diet of mostly plant-based healthy whole foods in the right portions and combination."

To get in touch with Rania, please visit her website: Essential Nutrition For You.