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Is this allowed on 4HB?
That’s one of the most famous questions you’ll hear if you do any digging for info about the 4 Hour Body and slow carb diets.
It might even be one of the biggest questions you have.
Because food is somewhat a passion of mine, I understand that people don’t want to just stick to the few that everyone talks about. I even have a whole page dedicated to recipes using 4HB-friendly foods.
The list below is pretty much how you find it in the book, so it’s great if you want to be a literalist. I’ve also put together a fairly exhaustive list of slow-carb foods, very highly researched and cross-referenced with everything Tim Ferriss has put out (that I could find) with food in it. You can find the extensive slow-carb food list here.
The Slow-Carb Diet Food List
You’ll find the first answer to this question around page 90 (depending on your edition). There’s a list of 16 foods, and your meals should include one thing from each of the three types of food.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but really with just those foods, you can make over 160 different meals (nearly 2 months) without repeating one. Start by asking yourself this question: do you eat 160 meals before repeating one?
- 1 or 2 eggs with egg whites
- chicken breast/thigh
- fish (tilapia, halibut, salmon)
- various kinds of bean (pinto, red, soy, black…)
- greens (spinach, chard, kale, collards)
- mixed vegetables
- cabbages (kimchi, saurkraut)
- cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower)
- green beans
The list in the book is pretty small, sure, but it certainly was never meant to be exclusive.
Other foods not on the list
Although you can limit your diet to just the foods in that list, I don’t believe you have to. In fact, I lose weight eating foods that aren’t explicitly on the list but are definitely included in the categories.
Tim says lean meats, but it’s OK if it’s not. Judging by some of his comments about organic vs. not organic, it seems like his concern is less in the fat of the cut and more the non-organic materials that make their ways into the fat.
These are the tricky ones, but only because people might not know what a legume is (although if you’ve been on this diet for three days you are *well* acquainted with them).
One legume I added when I wanted to eat more asian food that usually has noodles was the mung bean sprout. Mung sprouts are the thicker ones (I believe the stringy sprouts are soy).
You can also try adding soy nuts once in a while. They will give a nice crunch to a salad, and now that I think about it maybe even a vegetable dish. I’ll have to try that.
Let’s be clear: broccoli and cauliflower are vegetables; corn and potatoes are not.
Other veggies I eat that aren’t on the list: summer squash, cucumbers & zucchini, tomatoes (especially in salsa), eggplant, onions, peppers, bok choy, and spaghetti squash.
Despite what it says about artificial sweeteners, you’ll also find sugar-free Jell-O listed as OK, specifically for your late-night hunger pangs. No more than 12oz of diet soda a day is also approved.
One of my favorite go-to snacks is natural peanut butter. Jiff and Skippy are not on this list. Smucker’s makes a really good natural peanut butter, but my favorite is Archer Farms (I think that’s the Target brand). When I get hungry between meals, I will eat a tablespoon or two of peanut butter. Make sure yours has at most two ingredients: peanuts and salt.
Other handy snack options are various seeds, like pumpkin and watermelon, and nuts. Be careful with these guys though, because they are very calorie-dense.
The grey areas
One of my more recent discoveries is cottage cheese. Yes, the majority of the book says to avoid dairy period, but if you read closely you’ll see that Tim says there’s something about cottage cheese that doesn’t have the same effect as milk and other cheeses. Some people say that he said to eat it in moderation, but I haven’t found that yet. In “The Slow-Carb Diet II” chapter, about breakfasts he says “cottage cheese, my mother’s preference, is also a fine addition”.
We can also have clarified butter.
Something I think is kind of confusing is that in some places he says that tofu is not “allowed” because of the way it’s made. However, there’s another list he has for “good slow-carb options” for potassium, and he lists tofu. Soybeans and sprouts are always OK.
I want to finish this post with something that Tim Ferriss himself has promoted: Test things out. If you’re wondering, try it for a week and see how the results work for you.
If you’ve found slow-carb friendly foods that I haven’t listed here, please add to the list in the comments!