Forbes Health shared bistroMD’s guidelines and nutritional information with several nutrition professionals to get their opinions about the healthfulness of the program.
The premise of bistroMD is a good one, because it encourages eating small, frequent meals high in protein throughout the day to promote blood sugar regulation, says Kimberly Duffy, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer in Shoreview, Minnesota.
“Unfortunately, it’s still a diet, which teaches caloric restriction and deprivation,” Duffy continues. “And it makes promises it can’t keep, like ‘correcting metabolic dysfunction’ and ‘targeting fat loss’ just by eating the meals and snacks.”
BistroMD’s total of 1,200 calories a day for a woman would be considered the lowest recommended intake for a woman wanting to lose weight, says Dana Ellis Hunnes Ph.D., a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and author of Recipe For Survival.
Adding exercise to a day with such a low calorie intake could cause the body to start hoarding calories, which can slow metabolism and may even cause the body to start burning its own muscle for energy, says Dr. Hunnes.
“This product has potential, but relies too heavily on processed foods and not enough on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds—things we know from studies of the Mediterranean diet are healthy for us,” says Dr. Hunnes. “A lot of their dishes also appear to be made with white flours and creams, and many of them have additives (xanthan gums, etc).”
BistroMD is much like the “Zone” diet from the 1990s, says Dr. Hunnes: “There’s nothing new or particularly inspired about this. There are other better options out there.”
For many people, however, bistro® might be a big step in a healthier direction, she notes. “It is portioned out, and [easy] to reheat at home,” she says. “However, I don’t really see much of an educational aspect since you’re primarily reheating a pre-made meal.”
The snacks are higher quality than some, says Duffy, with grass-fed whey, non-GMO soy, nuts and seeds and nitrate-free cured meats, but they’re nevertheless processed and packaged.
And because most of the meals and snacks contain dairy and eggs, bistroMD isn’t a good program for people with food sensitivities or allergies to those foods, not to mention vegetarians or vegans. In addition, most of the meals and snacks are not high in fiber (containing less than 10 grams per serving), which is a drawback, because eating foods with higher fiber content helps keep hunger at bay, says naturopathic doctor Revée (Ray) Barbour , MS.
The fiber content of bistro® meals could be improved upon, agrees registered dietitian and doctor of public health, Wendy Bazilian, author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean. Bazilian is also disappointed by online reviews saying that the program meals are bland, because, “Teaching through examples is so important, such as showing that it’s possible to have flavor and health [in meals] for weight management and maintenance. Because it is.”
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