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Follow a macrobiotic diet w/ plant-based food

March 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
At M Cafe in Los Angeles, JJ Philbin is eating for two."I'm not a macrobiotic person, but the food here is really good, and I'm pregnant, trying to stay healthy," she said.

Many in Southern California enjoy eating healthy, but there's often confusion when it comes to defining macrobiotics.

"The diet is based on whole grains, vegetables, beans, mostly plant-based foods," said chef Lee Gross of M Café.

The diet is centuries old with varied interpretations. Gross has studied with macrobiotic masters and says the concept focuses on the energetics of food and the effects food has on the body.

"Foods that have an extreme energetic, either yin or yang, expansive or contractive, we tend to avoid," Gross said.

That means heavy proteins like beef and pork, along with refined sugars and alcohol. These are thought to cause the body stress.

But having no refined sugars, eggs, dairy or red meat does not mean no taste.

"Nothing is actually off the menu with macrobiotics, but we liked to stay focus on the plant-based foods for optimal balanced health," Gross said.

We took a peek at some macrobiotic offerings, like split pea and barley with lemon and dill soup. Soup is a huge part of the diet. There's also a whole grain quinoa used in a sprouted quinoa tabouli, and chick pea and greens salad with Tahini dressing.

M Café also offers a Mexican bean and corn salad.

"Jicima, roasted corn, Poblano, jalapeno, lots of cilantro, whole grain barley and black beans, I mean, it's a complete meal, it's a complete protein, it's really satisfying. It'll put you in Mexico when you're eating it," Gross said.

Of course eating a diet that is high in vegetables and whole grains is a great way to go, but many nutritionists recommend a supplement for key nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, iron and magnesium, as this diet is low in animal proteins and dairy if you're a strict follower of the program.

Breakdown of a typical macrobiotic diet (from Web MD)

  • Whole grains, especially brown rice: 50%-60%
  • Vegetables (and seaweed): 25%-30%
  • Beans: 5%-10%
  • Fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, miso soup: 5%-20%
  • Soup (made from ingredients above): 1-2 cups/day