|Weight Loss Short-term|
|Weight Loss Long-term|
|Easy to Follow|
|For Heart Health|
Scores are based on experts' reviews
Pros & Cons
- Nutritionally sound
- Fitness guidance
- Difficult to dine out
- Rigid daily guidelines
Do's & Don'ts
May include weight loss and optimal health.
Two weeks of structured diet and exercise will put you on the fast track to successful weight loss and healthier living.
The folks behind the online diet and healthy living community SparkPeople.com believe the Spark Solution diet will help you lose weight as a result of nutritious, reduced-calorie meal plans that optimize your metabolism. You’ll also complement the diet with regular fitness and maintain momentum with positive reinforcement and advice from people who’ve benefited from the Spark Solution.
How does the Spark Solution Diet work?
Dieters follow “The Spark Solution” book, which gives detailed guidance for the meal plan’s first two weeks. The diet authors figure it takes about two weeks to create and maintain healthy diets and point out that many people fall off the diet wagon in the first two weeks.While the book provides follow-up guidance for weeks three, four and beyond, detailed meal plans and exercise routines are provided for the first 14 days.
The 1,500-calorie diet breaks down to 45 to 65 percent carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent fats and 16 to 35 percent proteins. Meal plans include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and the book provides specific recipes. These meals are dubbed “Spark Swaps” and are pitted against typical, less healthy meals. For example, instead of snacking on 1 ounce of potato chips on day one, the meal plan proposes making a healthy swap for 12 almonds. The book shows how many calories the swap saves, why the swap is a healthier choice and other nutrition tips.
Exercise plays a significant role in the Spark Solution. In addition to meal plans, the book provides daily workouts for the first two weeks. Roughly 40 pages are devoted to fitness, including photos to show how certain exercises should be preformed, a workout “menu” detailing the number of calories various workouts burn and other practical fitness guidance. Each day, dieters also read about the mental aspects of dieting in a series called the “Mind-Set Makeover.” Dieters might, for example, learn about stress eating and tips for relaxing. Each day’s plan concludes with a daily reflection.
Will you lose weight?
Probably. If you successfully stick to the plan, you’ll be exercising regularly and limiting your calories to about 1,500 per day– a combination that’s likely to drop a few pounds. At this point, little research specifically examines the Spark Solution. However, studies that look at the effects of the Spark Solution’s two broad tenants – diet and weight loss – provide some insight.
- A 2009 study published in Obesity Reviews compared the weight-loss successes of people who dieted and exercised versus those who only dieted. The researchers found that participants who both dieted and exercised had greater long-term weight loss.
- A 2012 study in the journal Obesity looked at weight-loss interventions for obese and overweight sedentary postmenopausal women. While the control group maintained their lifestyles, a second group adopted a reduced-calorie low-fat diet, a third group began an exercise program and the fourth group tried a combination of both diet and exercise interventions. After a year, the dieters lost an average of 16 pounds; the exercisers lost an average of 4.5 pounds; and the group that combined diet and exercise lost an average of nearly 20 pounds.
Does it have cardiovascular benefits?
It’s likely. On the Spark Solution, you’ll consume lots of fiber, often through fruits and vegetables, and limited fat – a combination proven to promote heart health. Plus, the diet emphasizes the importance of exercise, which is certainly good for the ticker.
Can it prevent or control diabetes?
The diet appears to be a viable option for both.
Prevention: Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. If you need to lose weight and keep it off, and the Spark Solution helps you do it, you’ll almost certainly tilt the odds in your favor. Studies have found that adopting a lifestyle that includes healthy diet and exercise – the tenants of the Spark Solution – can help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
Control: In a 2010 study published in the American Diabetes Association journal, patients with Type 2 diabetes who adopted a one-year lifestyle intervention of diet and exercise saw major improvements in insulin sensitivity, as measured by glucose disposal rate, fasting glucose and more.
Are there health risks?
No indications of serious risks or side effects have surfaced. However, if you have a health condition, talk with your doctor before making major dietary changes.
How well does it conform to accepted dietary guidelines?
Fat. The sample daily menu provides 18 percent of daily calories from fat, which isless than the government’s recommendation of 20 to 35 percent.
Protein. It’s within the acceptable range for protein consumption – 28 percent, compared with the 10 to 35 percent the government recommends.
Carbohydrates.The government advises that between 45 and 65 percent of daily calories come from carbohydrates. The Spark Solution sample menu has 57 percent of calories from carbs.
Salt. The majority of Americans consume too much salt. The recommended daily maximum is 2,300 milligrams of sodium, but if you’re 51 or older, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the limit is 1,500 mg. A sample daily Spark Solution menu provides 3,207 mg –much more than the recommended amount.
Other key nutrients. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines call these “nutrients of concern” because many Americans get too little of one or more of them:
- Fiber. Getting the recommended daily amount of 22 to 34 grams for adults helps you feel full and promotes good digestion. A sample Spark Solution provides more than enough fiber at 38 grams.
- Potassium. A sufficient amount of this important nutrient, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, counters salt’s ability to raise blood pressure, decreases bone loss and reduces the risk of developing kidney stones. It’s not that easy to get the recommended daily 4,700 mg. from food. (Bananas are high in potassium, yet you’d have to eat 11 a day.) The majority of Americans take in far too little potassium. A sample daily menu for the Spark Solution came up quite short at 1,785 mg.
- Calcium. It’s essential not only to build and maintain bones but to make blood vessels and muscles function properly. Many Americans don’t get enough. Women and anyone older than 50 should try especially hard to meet the government’s recommendation of 1,000 to 1,300 mg. A sample daily menu provides 1,302 mg.
- Vitamin B-12. Adults should shoot for 2.4 micrograms of this nutrient, which is critical for proper cell metabolism. Fish like salmon and trout, along with eggs and yogurt, are good sources. A sample daily menu provides 4.5 mcg.
- Vitamin D. Adults who don’t get enough sunlight need to meet the government’s 15 microgram recommendation with food or a supplement to lower the risk of bone fractures. A sample daily menu provides 6.2 mcg.
Supplement recommended? N/A
How easy is it to follow?
That depends. The Spark Solution will likely work best for people who enjoy planning and do well with structure. If that doesn’t sound like you, the diet’s detailed guidelines and rules may be tough to digest. This plan will also keep you from dining out for the first few weeks, and it’s impractical for folks who are unable to (or simply won’t) exercise regularly.
Convenience: The Spark Solution guidelines are specific, which makes it convenient for dieters who don’t want to make any decisions, but perhaps a pain for others.
- Recipes. For the first three weeks, dieters are supposed to follow the recipes and meal plans found in the “The Spark Solution” book. At week four, dieters can “spark it up” by adding recipes that aren’t in the book, so long as they follow the Spark Solution guidelines for calories, protein, fats and carbs. The authors suggest finding recipes and nutritional information for various foods on SparkRecipes.com.
- Eating out. Dining out becomes an option in week four, as long as dieters continue to abide by their nutritional goals, track their food intake and measure portions. Menus with nutritional information will eliminate much of the guesswork when eating out.
- Alcohol. People looking to lose weight are advised by the diet authors to drink no more than two servings of alcohol per week or to avoid it altogether.
- Timesavers. None, unless you hire somebody to plan your meals, shop for them and prepare them. However, the Spark Solution provides tips for planning ahead on the next day’s meals.
- Extras. SparkPeople.com includes a Spark Solution forum to connect with other dieters and SparkRecipes.com offers hundreds of thousands of healthy recipes.
Fullness:Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, or the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough. While you’ll consume fewer calories than the average American, the meal plans include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, which should help to curb hunger. The meal plan analyzed above also provides a whopping 38 grams of fiber, which may help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Taste: If you don’t love what’s on tap for that day’s meal plan, then it’s up to you to tweak the ingredients to make meals more enjoyable.
How much does it cost?
The Spark Solution diet shouldn’t be as costly as other diets, especially given that you’re not supposed to dine out in the first three weeks. Plus, “The Smart Solution” book provides detailed shopping lists for each week’s worth of meals, which may curb impulse buying and food waste.
Does the diet allow for restrictions and preferences?
Most people can customize the Spark Solution to fit their needs – pick a preference for more information.
Maybe. “The Spark Solution” book seems to barely address meat-free options, and just about every meal plan includes a recipe or two with meat. Vegetarians and vegans could likely tweak their meals or make substitutions to achieve the goal of 16 to 35 percent protein, but it could be tricky, and as of now, there seems to be little guidance for these adaptations in the book.
People who can’t tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, can easily follow the Spark Solution. The key is selecting gluten-free ingredients when possible.
Yes, just check the nutrition information on recipes and keep track of your sodium intake.
Yes, you can make sure your diet is kosher.
Yes, but it’s up to you to ensure your food conforms.
What is the role of exercise?
Exercise is key to the Spark Solution diet. Along with daily workouts for the first two weeks, the book provides roughly 40 pages devoted to fitness, including photos to show how certain exercises should be preformed, a workout “menu” with the number of calories various workouts burn and other practical fitness guidance.
Last updated by Laura McMullen | January 08, 2014