The Hamptons diet is a low-carbohydrate, lowcalorie diet that could be described as a cross between the Atkins diet and the Mediterranean diet. The originator of the Hamptons diet, Dr. Fred Pescatore, is the former associate medical director of the Atkins Center. He has himself described the Hamptons diet as “low-carb with a Mediterranean twist.” The diet focuses on eating healthy monounsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and vegetables.
The basic guide to the Hamptons diet, The Hamptons Diet: Lose Weight Quickly and Safely with the Doctor's Delicious Meal Plans, was published in 2004, and the official cookbook of the diet appeared in print in 2006.
According to Fred Pescatore, author of The Hamptons Diet, his interest in nutrition originated in his painful experiences as an overweight teenager “frustrated by his inability to get a date,” as he told one Australian reporter. He went on a crash diet for 40 days during his sophomore year of college and resolved to “never allow myself to get that way again.” After college, Pescatore went to medical school at the American University of the Caribbean.
Pescatore then returned to New York City, where he completed a residency in internal medicine and a master's degree in public health. Still concerned about his weight, he tried the Atkins diet and reportedly lost an additional 20 pounds. In 1994, a recruiter for the Atkins Center in Manhattan hired Pescatore, who had started a nutrition-based practice in East Hampton, the associate medical director of the center. Pescatore remained at the center until 1999, after the publication of his first diet book, which focused on preventing obesity in children. A second low-carbohydrate diet book, Thin for Good, followed in 2000. This book was distinguished by a comparatively extensive treatment of the psychological issues involved in weight loss. It also contained a series of diet plans designed for men and women in different life stages.
After the Atkins Center closed in October 2003, Pescatore and four other former Atkins employees— an internist, an osteopath specializing in spinal manipulative treatment, a psychotherapist, and a physician's assistant—formed a practice called the Partners in Integrative Medicine (PIM). Pescatore describes PIM as creating five “amazing partnerships… at the center of low-carb medicine”—partnerships between traditional and alternative medicine; between the patient and PIM; among body, mind, and spirit; among the staff at PIM; and between PIM and other professionals.
Pescatore's variation on the Atkins theme, which he says took him five years to develop, was to separate good dietary fats from bad fats, a step that Atkins had not taken. More specifically, Pescatore departed from the high levels of saturated fats recommended in the Atkins diet. He based the Hamptons diet on the use of more healthful food oils and especially monounsaturated fats, which are fats or fatty acids with only one double-bonded carbon atom in their molecules. Monounsaturated fats soften and liquefy at lower temperatures than saturated fats and are thought to offer some protection against heart disease. They are found naturally in such foods as nuts and avocados. When Pescatore was asked whether the changes he introduced in his diet plan meant that Atkins was wrong, he said that Atkins “was starting to come around towards the end…. Dr. Atkins wasn't wrong at all. It's just times change and things evolve. And as the science evolves, so should the low-carb dieting world evolve, because it is not just a fad.”
The Hamptons diet uses macadamia nut oil not only for cooking, but also in salad dressings and marinades. Pescatore claims that macadamia nut oil is “the most monounsaturated oil on the planet.” Macadamia nut oil contains 84% monounsaturated fats, 3.5% polyunsaturated fats, 12.5% saturated fats, and no cholesterol.
In addition to the “secret ingredient,” the Hamptons diet is distinctive for the use of food lists defined by how much weight the dieter needs to lose. Calories and portion sizes are not emphasized; the dieter is expected to divide the recipes into portions according to the number of servings indicated by each recipe. The basic menu plans, however, provide between 1,000 and 1,200 calories per day. There are three food groups, labeled A, B, and C:
The Hamptons diet is essentially a low-carbohydrate diet intended to promote a moderate rate of weight loss in otherwise healthy people. It is not intended to treat any chronic medical conditions or disorders.
The Hamptons diet promotes gradual weight loss and encourages eating a balanced range of foods. It allows dieters complex carbohydrates (including whole grain breads and fresh fruit), discourages the use of processed foods, and distinguishes between healthy and unhealthy sources of fat in the diet. Its preference for such lean sources of protein as chicken and fish rather than the higher saturated fat items such as bacon and steaks is also in its favor. In addition, some people like the fact that the Hamptons diet allows moderate amounts of alcohol and the kinds of flavorful foods featured in the Mediterranean diet. The gourmet-quality recipes in this diet may also be useful to dieters who want to cook for a family or for guests without having to prepare two separate meals.
Although the Hamptons diet is not a very lowcalorie diet (VLCD), it is always advisable for people who need to lose 30 pounds or more; are pregnant or nursing; are below the age of 18; or have such chronic disorders as diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease to check with a physician before starting a weight-reduction diet.
The Hamptons diet has been criticized for its inadequate allowances of fiber, vitamin C, calcium, folate, vitamin D, and vitamin E. The diet is also high in fat, which provides as much as 70% of the calories in some menu plans, particularly those that call for cream cheese, bacon, and heavy whipping cream. The Hamptons diet does not focus on high saturated fat intake. Therefore, the cream cheese, bacon, and heavy whipping cream are generally only recommended in moderation.
Another potential drawback of the Hamptons diet for many people is that many of the recipes require advance preparation, as much as a day ahead of eating the dish. Others are time-consuming to cook or assemble apart from the time required for advance preparation.
The relatively high fat content of some of the recipes formulated for the Hamptons diet may be worrisome for dieters; however, only saturated and trans fats pose risks for heart health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, may actually promote heart health.
The Hamptons diet has been featured primarily in celebrity, fashion, and homemaking magazines rather than in clinical studies. There have been no clinical trials of the Hamptons diet reported in mainstream research journals. Pescatore is involved in two groups listed on his website, presumably to establish his credentials as a researcher. He is the president of the International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN) and a member of the American College for the Advancement of Medicine.
Like the Scarsdale diet, some of the appeal of the Hamptons diet comes from its name, which is shared with a group of villages in Long Island, New York. The Hamptons is typically viewed as a luxurious and expensive location.
See also Atkins diet ; High-protein diet ; Mediterranean diet ; Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids .
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Pescatore, Fred. Thin for Good: The One Low-Carb Diet That Will Finally Work for You. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000.
Pescatore, Fred, and Jeff Harter. The Hamptons Diet Cookbook: Enjoy the Hamptons Lifestyle Wherever You Live. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006.
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Rebecca J. Frey, PhD