Lose weight 103: Diet plan replacing Coke, pizza, burgers and other popular items

Let’s open with a shocker – taste is impossible to replace. There, I said it. While Coca Cola company proudly advertises that Coke Zero tastes EXACTLY the same like original Coke… we all know it’s a lie. White lie, but lie non the less.

So, for the moment we need to come back to mindset as a building block. We again need to reiterate your decision to stop idolizing certain foods. Taste is acquired. You don’t need to slave to decisions of yesterday. The same way you’ve built up habit of enjoying bad things, you can build up habit of enjoying good things.

Diet plan core

Weight loss is all about calories you take in. Take for example professor of human nutrition who lost 27 pounds (~13 kgs) in 2 months on a Twinkie diet. Yeah, you read that right – someone lost lots of weight while eating junk and sweets. Even more surprising: his bad cholesterol dropped 20 percent, good cholesterol went up 20 percent.

That shows it’s all about defining a diet in which you can maintain caloric intake. The easiest way to reduce caloric intake is to take a look at high-calorie, high-risk foods. Then you can either take those out of your diet or replace them. Let’s take a look at a list of popular items that are bad for you

Soft drinks

Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, 7up, Ginger Ale. Or any sugary drink. Apple juice may sound better than Coke, but it’s actually same amount of sugar. Orange juice in the morning has been breakfast favorite in many households. While antioxidants and vitamin C are great, the sugar in orange juice outweighs benefits.

  • If you are consuming lots of soft drinks, losing weight should be easy for you. Just stop drinking these. Or, if you can’t completely stop, replace them. Here is how:
    The biggest problem is for those who don’t want to give up taste. For this group of people I would recommend trying brand name replacements. So, if you are Coke drinker, try Diet or Coke Zero. If you are Pepsi drinker, try Diet Pepsi. Now, be warned – lots of these drinks have artificial sweeteners that are bad for you. So, 0 calories do come with some downsides.
  • If you are willing to compromise on taste, then there are more options available for you. My personal favorite is Zevia, soft drinks that are sweetened with Stevia (natural sweetener). They have bunch of different tastes – Cola, Ginger Ale, Root Beer… you name it. Obviously you’ll need some time to get used to the taste. But once you do, you’ll be able to enjoy 0 calorie Cola with no downsides.
  • You are able to completely give up taste. The best drink is pure water. It always was, always will be. If you can, drink just water and don’t think too much about other choices. Because almost all choices come with a twist. For example, sparkling or mineral water is OK choice, but you need to be aware of sodium content and pH levels. Or water flavorings that are flooding market right now. Infusing water with fruits is interesting choice, but requires prep time, cleaning pitcher, etc.

In the end, the more water you can drink – the better off you’ll be. But if you want to spice up your fluid intake, look through options I gave and find 0 calorie option you can enjoy.


As some other dishes, the problem with pizza is how it’s made. Prepare super thin crust pizza with tomato sauce, no-fat cheese and bunch of veggies… and you’ll have a healthy meal. But when we say pizza, we don’t mean that, right? Pizza means solid crust, lots of juicy meat and finally – high fat pull cheese money shot.

Your diet plan is better without pizza pull cheese money shot. Good on eyes, bad on stomach...

Pizza pull cheese money shot. It hurts, I know…

As with soft drinks, giving up pizza is the best choice. Especially because you can’t replace pizza the way you replace soft drink taste. Sure: you can go with thin crust, no-fat cheese or healthier toppings. But it’s nowhere near replacing Coke with Diet or Zevia Coke. It ends up being completely different meal. Meaning, if you enjoy eating certain pizza – just eat it less. Don’t eat it once a week, eat it once a month. Try finding another meal you’ll enjoy as much. And the most important thing: avoid temptation of idolizing what you decided to leave.


As with pizza, great burger’s taste is irreplaceable. But, unlike pizza with burger you are in somewhat better position. If you skip buns and don’t drown your burger in condiments, you can actually eat a burger every day. Take McDonalds Big Mac as an illustration: 563 calories, 33g of fat. But, take out buns, cheese and half of the sauce and suddenly you have manageable meal. One patty is 90 calories and 7g of fat, so at most you are now looking at 230-240 calories depending on amount of sauce. Easily something you can consume whenever you want.

Now, again, I know what I am suggesting is not same as original. But you need to find the way to ditch extras. Take out whatever you don’t need. In ideal diet you won’t be eating BigMac. But if you do eat it, for whatever reason – ditch unnecessary stuff.


Another historic meal. Considering wheat production, it’s understandable our ancestors had bread as cornerstone of diet. But today, there is not a single reason to eat bread with every meal. Especially if we are talking about white bread. Well made whole wheat breads can be good for you. But you don’t need that with every meal either. Sure, make a sandwich. Enjoy a slice of whole wheat bread for breakfast. But if you already have 700 calorie meal in front of you, the last thing you need is a slice of bread to clean plate with.

I’ve found that most people don’t even enjoy the taste of bread. They eat it out of habit. So, ditch the habit. Uncover your sandwich or toss away extra bread. And only consume true whole wheat bread. White bread is terrible.

Chocolates and sweets

New products in this category rock. As a kid I adored Snickers, Mars, Milky Way and other bars. Nowadays I don’t even think about them because of Pure Protein bars I consume daily. It because easy to stay in shape when your “desert” is 180 calories with 3g of sugar and 21g of protein. I love the choice Pure Protein offers with their bars considering they have like 8 flavors.

Now, I am not advising Pure Protein only. They may not be your preferred choice for many reasons (taste, artificial sweeteners, etc). What you should do is try different “healthy” bars and find your favorite. In general you are looking for something that has less than 10g of sugar. If it’s protein bar 180 calories is OK; for “regular” bars you should be aiming for 150 calories or less.

Be aware that there are no “free” calories. 150 calories for desert is still a lot. But at least you are getting some micro-nutrients in those 150 calories vs pure sugar in regular bars. Also, one warning about artificial sweeteners used in most of healthy bars. Sugar alcohol tastes great, but beware of laxative effect ;). Here is my personal favorite review of sugar-free gummy bears.

Best sugar-free gummy bear Amazon review ever!

Sugar-free is not always guilt-free

Ultimate replacement – work it out before eating

You can use this method to illustrate how bad certain foods are for you. It also works great in developing rejection of certain foods. I’ve loved mayonnaise until I’ve started trying to work it out before eating. 2 tbsp of mayonnaise (~27 grams) is 188 calories. That approximates to running 1.5 miles in 15 minutes. The problem quickly becomes obvious. Anyone can save 188 calories by not eating 2 tbsp of mayonnaise. But less than 10% of people in the world can actually run 1.5 miles (~2.4 km) in 15 minutes.

Don’t dig a hole for yourself by overeating and then saying – I’ll work it out. You probably won’t, because it’s impossible. Burning 150-200 calories during 30 minute workout is pretty good. If you are at that level, congrats to you. But if you are not, don’t beat yourself. You are not bad, lazy or incompetent. You are simply focusing on the wrong thing. For start focus diet and caloric intake.

To conclude…

In future parts of this guide I’ll present my own nutrition plan and talk more about workouts. Both are important for maintaining ideal weight or losing weight. But – to repeat yet again – mindset is the king. Focusing on your goals and process is what matters. Workouts and nutrition are just tools. Powerful tools, but tools nonetheless. Thus, before proceeding to next chapter in this guide, I invite you to re-read 1st part: Mindset. As I said in that part: Eating right is not about food. It’s all about mindset.

Lose weight 102: Shifting your mindset and crafting a plan

With all the choices available today you would think enjoying healthy diet is easy. But, unfortunately there are too many bad choices from the past present on the dinner tables of today. Entrées of mainstream dining establishments are completely out of touch with nutritional needs. Any fast-food “meal” is a caricature illustrating the point: TONS of carbs and fat with little else.

And it’s not too hard to figure out why restaurants keep serving same, bad food – people buy it. Fries and Coke sell. What else can you serve that costs less than $1 that people will gladly pay as a “compliment” to main item? Steamed broccoli? Or go with not up-selling customer and tell him to have water with their burger? Yeah, dream on…

But, just because something is convenient for restaurant and their marketing department – it doesn’t mean it should be convenient for you. That’s the biggest problem with most people’s diets. It’s not that 600 calorie pizza slice that’ll kill you. It’s that extra can of Coke you can’t eat pizza without.

As I talked in part 1, mindset is really the biggest thing when it comes to losing weight and eating right. It’s about taking time to finally look into all habits built with help of marketing departments and your sugar enjoying taste buds. Only when you shift mindset can you proceed with planning proper diet.

Figuring out how to eat right is pretty easy. Here is the flow:

  1. Calculating daily caloric intake. Your body needs certain amount of calories each day to maintain weight. I like Bodybuilding.com Caloric Intake calculator. Visit link, you put height, age and sex and get your value.
  2. Macronutrients – carbs, proteins and fats. Here you can use different splits for different results. For example, 40/30/30 means that your calories will come be 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fats. For losing weight lowering carbs intake is beneficial, and you can go with 25/45/30. Here is great calculator that allows shows you breakdown of carbs, proteins and fats. Just input daily caloric intake we got in step 1 and select split.
  3. Micronutrients – most of us never spare a single thought on how much DHA, vitamins and minerals we need. Consuming various micronutrients is paramount to your health. It’s easy to overlook this part of diet – it’s daunting task. Preparing and consuming diet that satisfies all micronutritional demands is practically impossible for most of us. Let’s look at an example in which we completely forget vitamins and minerals. Let’s just look at Omega 3 DHA. To meet this micronutrient need, you should be eating fish 3 times a week for the rest of your life. Unless you are living in a culture where fish is standard part of diet (like Japan) there is no way you’ll be able to do this without significant effort. And we are not even talking about costs – being able to buy enough salmon and find time to cook it is another issue.
  4. Water – now here is one step that never ceases to amaze me. Lots of people can induce significant weight loss just by drinking more water. If you are over 5’3” (160cm) it’s likely you need at least 6 x 500ml bottles of water a day. Whenever I bring this up almost everyone tells me – no way I can drink that much water. Well, your body actually needs that much water. If you are not consuming 3 liters of water every day, it’s no wonder you feel “hungry” or are easy target for soft / hard drinks.

Reading previous list may have left you with impression that iron will is prerequisite for eating right. Well, not really. To lose weight or maintain ideal weight you don’t need much. Considering offers on the market today eating healthy nutritional diet is 5-minute work – IF you don’t mind gulping down meal replacement shakes. Take a look at:

  1. Vega – my go-to brand. Their flagship product is plant based meal replacement smoothie. 12 oz (350ml) drink contains 170 calories, 20g of protein, 6 servings of greens, 25% of daily fiber, 50% of vitamins&minerals, antioxidants, probiotics… and so on and so forth. This drink is actually TOO nutritious for meager calorie content. If you are to consume 10 of these shakes to get near 2000 daily calories, you would poison yourself. Too much vitamins is as bad as no vitamins. Vega has great presence on Amazon and I order using Subscribe&Save.
  2. Soylent – startup with interesting concept. Focus on building healthy, convenient, and finally – affordable food. I like how they present cost per calories. Currently they are at around $2 per 500 calories… eating healthy diet for $8 a day sounds great. What’s great is that price is same regardless of whether you order from Amazon or Soylent website. For people who are on Subscribe&Save ordering from Amazon can actually be cheaper.
  3. Ambronite – another interesting food startup. Their focus is on quality of their meal replacement drink. They are definitely not the cheapest alternative. I’m talking about 4x cost of Soylent. You can order Ambronite from Amazon or their own website.
  4. True Nutrition – All companies I’ve presented here basically do the same thing: grind certain foods and dehydrate them. True Nutrition is unique in allowing you to customize your powder. You decide composition of your meal replacement – macro and micro nutrient composition. Take a look at their website or order premixed powders they offer from Amazon.

I remember first time I saw these products. I was stunned that something like this is available. The prospect of being able to drink my diet in form of 5 daily shakes was mind blowing. It was like future from movies arrived and I had no idea it’s already here.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you completely switch to this. I am just saying you can do it – and if you did it you would eat “healthier” than 90% of people. I am still sticking with “standard” meal or two a day; not because of foods, but because I enjoy chewing.

But meal replacement shakes allowed me to simplify my daily eating. They hit all items from the list – calories, macronutrients, micronutrients and water. Add 2 meal replacement shakes to your routine and you have lot less calories to plan and break down.

Final thing I wanted to touch upon before closing this part are supplements. It’s easy to overlook many nutrients because we are not feeling impact. Iron deficiency is probably the best example. Most people never think about iron in their diet until their head starts hurting or their heart starts pounding. The problem is that deficiency of lots of other nutrients are not as easy to diagnose. Your insomnia could be related to magnesium deficiency. Your brain fog may be present because you haven’t consumed Omega 3 DHA in years. And so on…

Labdoor.com is great for identifying supplements to incorporate in your daily routine. So, invest a bit time to look through that website and figure out supplements you may need.

I understand this part covered lots of information and maybe sounded like too big of a shift. But give it a time. Read what I wrote once more and re-analyize products. And most importantly, keep open mind and think about what I suggested. If you read this far, I am pretty sure weight loss won’t be a problem for you. As I said, to lose weight is not hard. As long as you have will, figuring out battle plan is easy.

In next part we will take a detailed look at popular food items and what we can replace them with. Also, I will present my own eating schedule along with supplements and meal-replacement shakes.

Part 3 of this guide is up – Losing weight 103: Diet plan replacing Coke, pizza, burgers and other popular items

Lose weight 101: Mindset

Losing weight is one of the easiest things to do. Why do then so many people struggle with excessive pounds (or kilos)? As with any popular question, ask different person and you’ll get different answer. Some will blame their metabolism, others busy schedule, few will complain about sweet tooth for certain types of foods.

Reality is that while all those answers are valid and true, they don’t address the main point. The reason why most people gain weight is quite simple:

They are eating more calories then their body needs.

Now, I am being Mr Obvious for one simple reason. Whenever discussing any topic you always need to keep main cause in the focus. By doing that you allow yourself to filter real from perceived problems.

Zevia Soda, 0 calories, sweetened with Stevia

Zero calorie sodas with natural sweeteners are easy way to reduce calorie count, for those that consume such drinks. We’ll talk more about Zevia sodas in parts to come.

With proper focus, let’s now revisit original list of reasons that supposedly stand in way of losing weight:

  • Metabolism – genetic differences allow some people to eat more than others without gaining weight. But we are talking about minuscule differences here. You can easily negate bad metabolism. Drink green tea, increase muscle mass or walk 10 minutes a day; to name just few ideas.
  • Busy schedule – take time to find answers to your problems. In today’s world most of the problems are already solved. There are so many shakes, protein bars and ready-to-eat meals on the market today. Incorporate these in your diet and you’ll see that eating right is effortless.
  • Sweet tooth for certain types of foods – now we are getting somewhere. If you know you are craving something that’s bad, you are already ahead. You understand it’s area of subjective choice. Take smoking cigarettes for example. Everybody knows that smoking causes cancer; yet, some people still do it. Sure, tiny percentage will still deny cause-effect relationship, but only most extreme or oblivious will smoke when their child or someone they care about is present. Smoking becomes personal choice they embrace and enjoy living with.

Don’t torture yourself with special diets

Eating right to lose weight and maintain ideal BMR is not much different. Many get lost in sticking to certain diet, fasting and torturing themselves. We all know someone who does this once a year, only to roll back to old eating habits after reaching goal. I personally find this unnecessary. Why reward healthy eating by eating junk? I mean, I get the concept of guilty pleasure; but why focus on it? Guilty pleasure every now and then – sure, if you need it go for it. But every day?

I've only been on a diet for a week, I'm dying to have a pizza right now

Don’t idolize foods that are bad for you

Reality is that you don’t need to live like that. In today’s world it’s easy to eat healthy, nutritious diet that you 100% enjoy. It only a matter of taking time to figure things out and building proper mindset. Because it is all about mindset. Try to make someone who enjoys drinking water to gulp down a beer or two. You won’t be able to do it – simply because that person doesn’t enjoy beer. It’s not about calories, carbs, alcohol. It’s about being completely indifferent when it comes to taste of certain beverages.

For example – you can only be a voracious Coke drinker if you invested in that habit. Over time you have developed enjoyment in the act of drinking Coke. You associate taste of Coca Cola with pleasure and happiness. Now, here is something I find extremely funny. Try to give Pepsi to someone who drinks Coke (or the other way around). On the surface, for practical purposes it’s the same drink – same amount of sugar, calories, caffeine, guilty pleasure and all. But for person drinking – it’s nowhere near the same. It’s all about perceived taste.

Choose your healthy eating

So, in a nutshell – eating right is not about food. It’s all about mindset. It’s about not craving a Big Mac that you’ll get on your way back home from work. Dissociate pleasure and bad eating. If you are unable to find meaning and enjoyment in something else, then at least stop idolizing bad food. If you need to idolize food, idolize one that good for you.

It is not a diet, its a mindset change

You need to be willing to walk to the summit

In parts that follow I’ll take you on a journey of building your personal, healthy diet that you 100% enjoy. We will talk about exercising, foods you can try and address bunch of topics related to weight loss. But, to start you need to make a small first step:

Decide that you are willing to change your mindset.

You already know which foods in your diet you should be avoiding. For some of them we will find substitutions. Some of them we will ditch all together. But for this to work you need to be willing to stop associating pleasure to foods that are bad for you.

Leave your comments, and read part 2

If you are up for the journey – leave comment below. I will try to help anyone who comments and wants to lose weight regardless of exactly visit this page.

Part 2 of this guide is up – Lose weight 102: Shifting your mindset and crafting a plan