Diet 101: The 5-Factor Diet

Celebrities like Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian have been following Harley Pasternak's 5-Factor Diet. Get an RD's take on the details of the plan.
5 factor diet

During the Grammys, Katy Perry was looking pretty va va voom. While I was in Grammy Twitterland, I found ooglers reporting that she'd been hitting the gym and following The 5-Factor Diet.


From John Mayer to Kim Kardashian, creator Harley Pasternak has built himself a sweet Hollywood client list. His plan promises to lower insulin levels, provide you with more energy, ignite metabolism, improve mood and reduce stress by using the magic number 5 (i.e. 5 meals a day, exercise 5 days a week).

Paternak is educated in and has experience in the field of nutrition and exercise. He earned his Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Toronto, and an Honors Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario. He has also worked as a nutritional scientist for the Canadian Department of National Defense.

The Plan

From start to finish, think 5.

  • 5 meals per day: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks
  • 5 elements in each meal: protein, low-to-moderate glycemic carbs, healthy fats, fiber and sugar-free beverage
  • 5-step recipes with 5 ingredients or less: Each recipe contains a maximum of 5 ingredients, 5 steps, and take no longer than 5 minutes so you won't have to spend hours slaving over a hot stove
  • 5 days per week to exercise: cardio, upper-body strength, lower-body strength, core training and fat-burning cardio workout
  • 5 food types to stock up on: You should always have proteins, carbs, condiments, snacks, and beverages
The 5 food groups that should be included at every meal include:
  • Low-fat protein: Egg whites, cottage cheese, chicken breast, fish and seafood
  • Low-to-moderate glycemic carbohydrates: Vegetables, wild rice, beans, lentils, oatmeal, sweet potato and quinoa. He recommends sticking to foods that have a glycemic index under 80.
  • Fiber: Every meal should provide between 5 to 10 grams of fiber. Favorite fiber-rich foods include whole-grain cereal, brown or wild rice, beans, lentils, no-flour wheat breads, and whole vegetables and fruit with edible fruit and seeds.
  • Healthy fats: Stick to unsaturated fats like grapeseed, canola, or extra-virgin olive oil for cooking.
  • Sugar-free beverages: You should be drinking 8 to 12 fluid ounces with every meal. Choose sugar-free beverages like water, sugar-free soda, tea, coffee, or unsweetened energy drinks.

The 5-Factor diet also advocates one "cheat day" a week to eat whatever you like. In addition, there's no need for supplements. Pasternak believes that you can get all the nutrients you need by eating a variety of foods. However, if you can't get your hands on lean protein it's okay to have protein powders and high-protein ready-to-drink supplements.

The Costs

The 5-Factor Diet was created for on-the-go lifestyles, making it ideal for Hollywood stars. Meals can be prepared in a jiffy and you can pretty much dine out anywhere in the world and attend social events.

The 5-Factor Diet book is sold for between $10.00 to $20.00 and you can purchase additional books, motivational workout and even a pretty cool looking pair of Harley Pasternak New Balance sneakers on his website. As Pasternak doesn't advocate supplements (only a multivitamin), there's no steep price to pay for supplements.

The Good
  • All food groups are included
  • Three meals and 2 snacks per day are encouraged
  • No counting calories
  • Easy-to-prepare recipes and meals
  • You can follow the rules when dining out
  • Exercise is highly encouraged
  • No dangerous supplements
The Not-So Good
  • The recommendations for egg whites only and nonfat dairy and other foods is outdated and certainly not as tasty as reduced fat or full-fat versions—both of which can be used when creating healthy recipes. The American Heart Association says one whole egg a day can be included in a healthy diet, especially since the yolk contains super good-for-you nutrients like heart healthy fats, vitamins like D, B12, and riboflavin and nutrients like choline and selenium.
  • Sugar substitutes are highly encouraged in the 5-Factor Diet and don’t have the best track record when it comes to health. Since they've only been around about 50 years, the long- term consequences of regular use are unclear.
  • Many of the recipes can be bulked up and made more nutritious by the addition of more vegetables. Although these are supposed to be simple and easy recipes, the lack of ingredients may also cut out flavorful herbs, spices, and additional veggies that can easily be incorporated.
  • Although the glycemic index (GI) can be tedious to follow, the recommendation for foods under a GI of 80 gives plenty of room for foods like sports drinks, vanilla wafers, and ice cream to be consumed.
  • Cheat days don't teach healthy eating habits or how to incorporate "junk" foods into your eating plan.

The Bottom Line: The Five-Factor Diet is a pretty all-inclusive plan that advocates both healthy eating along with regular exercise. There are no extreme gimmicks, but some of the recommendations (like sugar substitutes and egg whites only) should be swapped out for healthier alternatives.

TELL US: Have you tried The 5-Factor Diet?

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