This isn’t an article about another fad diet. No instant weight loss promises or calorie counting strategies here. Instead, celeb cook Rachael Ray keeps eating her famous Italian pasta dinners—and still loses weight! Rachael Ray offers free advice (based on her own experience) about how to eat well and stay trim. The tenets of her “diet” are the basics of healthy living—work out, eat fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, and indulge now and then.

Those are the essentials, but what does this look like in your daily life? Do you have the willpower to turn to water instead of soda? To choose a side salad instead of potato chips? That’s what it comes down to if you want to look—and eat—like Rachael Ray.

What is the Rachael Ray diet?

Although there’s no official “Rachael Ray diet” that you can purchase and sink your teeth into—no matter how much easier that may seem—the basics are so simple that anyone can follow along. That’s what is so refreshing about this vivacious cook’s recipes, so it makes sense that this is the style of her diet, too.

Back in 2009, Rachael Ray’s doctor discovered a benign cyst on her vocal cord. After the simple three-hour operation, Ray was sent home and instructed not to utter a word for three weeks. The chatty TV host went from talking a solid 12 hours a day to complete silence. So how did she channel that energy?

She surprised herself by getting into running. What she used to see as a boring chore (and one she had successfully procrastinated about for the first 40 years of her life) transformed into a daily habit after persevering for three weeks. It set off a chain reaction: the more fit Ray felt, the more she wanted to live a healthy lifestyle. (1)

While Ray’s rise to fitness is certainly about getting adequate exercise, that’s not all she does. She sticks to a Mediterranean-inspired diet and drinks tons of water. Her diet is rich in whole foods and olive oil—an element she has dubbed “EVOO,” inspired by the acronym for “extra virgin olive oil.” She encourages fans to use plenty of the oil to stay healthy, to stick to water in place of soda, and to eat leafy salads as much as possible.

What is a Mediterranean diet?

Mediterranean-diet-foodsSince Rachael Ray lives by it, it’s helpful to consider the tenets of the Mediterranean diet. You might picture hummus and pita, or pizza and pasta. However, the basics are much healthier and a bit more challenging for a fast-paced lifestyle.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mediterranean diet is low in refined carbs (like pizza) and red meat. A traditional Mediterranean diet contains fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and olive oil. The result is a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat. You can imagine that you wouldn’t gain much weight on such a diet.

A Mediterranean diet consists of:

  • Whole grains (barley, buckwheat, bulgar, polenta, couscous, etc.)
  • Fresh vegetables (artichokes, zucchini, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, etc.)
  • Fresh fruit (apples, strawberries, tomatoes, melons, etc.)
  • No-sugar fruit juices
  • EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.)
  • Beans (fava beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, etc.)
  • Legumes (split peas, lentils, etc.)
  • Dairy products (yogurt, ricotta, brie, pecorino, chevre, etc.)
  • Fish and shellfish (sardines, oysters, octopus, shrimp, squid, lobster, abalone, clams, etc.)
  • Eggs (chicken, duck, quail, etc.)
  • Meat (small portions of poultry, goat, beef, lamb, mutton, etc.)
  • Wine (consumed moderately, one five-ounce glass for women and two of the same for men)
  • Plenty of water
  • Daily aerobic exertion (running, walking, stairs, housework, etc.)
  • Eating with others

As you can tell, the Mediterranean diet isn’t just a diet—it’s a lifestyle. You should eat healthy foods low in saturated fats, exercise, drink water—and you should do none of it alone. It is the Mediterranean mindset that you enjoy food more when you share the experience, making Rachael Ray’s diet good not just for your body, but your mind too.

Does it work?

Just ask Rachael Ray. Although the cooking star hasn’t set foot on a scale since she was 12, she knows she was overweight. After beginning her exercise routine, Ray lost two pants sizes and two inches off her waistline in eight weeks. She can tell she has lost weight because she feels more fit, more energized, and more healthy. (2)

Although Ray hasn’t given up her evening pasta or steak meals (and never intends to), she does mainly stick to a Mediterranean diet like the one her Italian ancestors followed. This combination has worked for Rachael Ray and many other folks—including native Mediterranean peoples, who have a history of low cardiovascular disease.(3)

Studies have shown that a traditional Mediterranean diet does lead to weight loss, although not as much as say, a low-carb diet or a diet designed for diabetics. However, in one study, a low-carb Mediterranean diet resulted in weight loss of 22 pounds over the course of a year, 6 pounds more than those on the traditional Mediterranean diet. Combining exercise with a low-carb version of the Mediterranean diet might just be what you need to really shed some pounds.

Rachael Ray Diet Recipes

Mediterranean-dishThink about it—most fad diets place heavy food restrictions on dieters, sometimes cutting entire food groups (like carbs!). Such restrictions can be difficult to remember and maintain, which is probably why they often fail. These diets ask people to deny themselves the pleasure of food, something the Mediterranean diet—and thus the Rachael Ray diet—simply does not do. (4)

Rachael Ray has some recipes that adhere to the Mediterranean diet.

  • For example, one of her go-to lunches is to take a can of tuna, drizzle it with lemon juice and EVOO, and throw in some chopped antipasti—roasted red peppers, Greek olives, artichoke hearts, etc.
  • You could also try making her veggie dip by mixing Greek yogurt with seasonings like cumin and garlic powder, adding lemon juice and salt and pepper. This dip goes well with raw veggies like carrots, celery, etc.
  • Rachael Ray also has Mediterranean dinner recipes, like one that takes chicken to another level by adding cheese, salami, onions, chili peppers, parsley, EVOO, red wine, tomatoes, basil, and chicken broth. (5)
  • Don’t forget snacking. Rachael Ray recommends a “cucumber cup” for serving a sort of an antipasti snack dip. Mix together red onion, red bell pepper, tomatoes, olives, oregano, feta cheese, and parsley with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and EVOO as a light sauce. Carve cups out of sections of cucumber and serve. (6)

Follow Rachael’s show to catch many more Mediterranean cooking ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to following the Rachael Ray diet.

What is EVOO?

virgin-olive-oil-bottleWe’ve talked a bit about “EVOO,” which by now you know is extra virgin olive oil (and Rachael Ray’s favorite fat). You see this label at the store, but what does it mean, and why should you choose it over other oils?

For one thing, the type of oil you use for cooking matters. There are a few factors to consider, health among them. Oils derived from animal fat—butter, tallow, lard—generally have a higher smoking point and lower risk of health problems. Oils derived from plants and seeds, on the other hand, are usually harvested through high-pressure industrial processes where heat kills vital nutrients (like Vitamin E) and are mixed with BHT and BHA. These two preservatives are linked to cancer and brain damage. Avoiding canola oil, rapeseed oil, and safflower oil is important for staying healthy.

Where does EVOO fit in? Olive oil labeled as “extra virgin” has undergone a gentle extraction process called “expeller pressed.” Instead of exposure to high heat, the olives are crushed between steel rollers or stones. A dark-colored bottle of EVOO will last a long time in the refrigerator. Just be careful of its source—many brands of EVOO imported from outside the U.S. have been tested to reveal contamination with rancidity and must. (7)

EVOO has a moderate smoking point, restricting its usefulness on the stovetop. Its smoking point is 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius), meaning it is best reserved for sautéing and drizzling over salads. If you need a higher smoking point, virgin coconut oil and butter have a smoking point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 Celsius), and avocado oil goes all the way to 520 degrees Fahrenheit (271 Celsius). (8)

EVOO is an essential part of Rachael Ray’s diet and any Mediterranean diet.

Benefits of the Rachael Ray Diet

One of the best things about Rachael Ray’s diet is that it is part of the Mediterranean lifestyle—meaning that it is versatile and full of benefits. What are they?

The Benefit of Rachael Ray Diet
  • One, you have a wide range of dietary options. You can choose a different meal type every day of the week, ranging from vegetarian to beef-based to whole grain pasta or couscous.
  • Two, you drink lots of water. Water helps your body purge toxins and impurities, leaving you feeling great in every organ, including the brain. (9)
  • Three, it tastes good! You don’t have to dread mealtimes or worry that no one is going to like what you make for dinner. You can enjoy what you consume each and every day.
  • Four, it means eating with others. Sharing a meal with other people has been proven to establish a support system, reduce your intake of fast food, and encourage you to try new things. (10)
  • Five, it means getting out and exercising. Exercise leaves you feeling energized and promotes production of endorphins, or “feel good” chemicals. Exercise is so effective at treating depression and other mood disorders that in some cases, it can replace medication. (11)

Drawbacks to the Rachael Ray Diet

The thing about Rachael Ray’s diet is that it’s easy to get off track. If you slack off on exercise, you may see an increase in weight gain, especially if you tend to eat more carbs. The truth is that this diet is simply the way people eat in the Mediterranean, so it is not specially purposed for weight loss.

Because of all of the fresh food, this diet may also be difficult to fund on a regular basis. Not to mention that cooking fresh food can take much longer than cooking instant products. Those who live a Mediterranean lifestyle have time—something that is a high commodity in the Western lifestyle. (12)

Would you do the Rachael Ray diet?

Bottom line, eating the way Rachael Ray eats and taking up her exercise regimen can be the right choice for many people—but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Ask yourself: Do you enjoy purchasing and cooking fresh foods on a regular basis? Do you have time to simmer meals on the stove and chop up fresh veggies for a snack?

Even if you don’t have these things, you can still achieve a Mediterranean lifestyle. And there are many reasons to start making this lifestyle a priority—its focus on EVOO and water intake means your body will feel better, and its promotion of meal togetherness can bring together families, teaching them the value of good food (and each other).

Would you do the Rachael Ray diet? It might be a good place to start if you need to get motivated toward a healthier lifestyle.