Keeping it simple with 4Leaf

 The tale of the banana and the BK Whopper-No Cheese

A medium raw banana contains 105 calories and ALL of them are whole plant calories.

A reader told me recently that making the transition is difficult enough as it is. Adding in confusing calculations makes it almost impossible. With our 4-Leaf Program, we are striving to make things as simple as possible, trying to help you establish a routine for getting over 80% of your daily calories from whole plant-based foods.

So exactly how do you go about measuring that? In Chapter 10 of the book, we showed two simple examples for computing the percent of calories from whole plants: a banana and a BK Whopper, No Cheese. The banana was easy. Click on the image above and you will see all of the data (on on this handy and healthy fruit. You will find that it has 105 calories (3 from fat), protein, fiber, calcium, and a few other nutrients — all natural and still in nature’s package.

It also has some “sugars” but we don’t worry about those “sugars” when Nature put them there. When humans put the sugar in the product, it’s called “added sugar;” and it’s never a good thing. So our banana is 100% whole plant, and it is definitely in the 4-Leaf range. The Whopper is a little more complicated.

I chose the Whopper because I wanted to analyze a food that many people around the world think is pretty healthy. Without cheese and with five different plants — tomato, lettuce, onion, seeds and pickle; the average person might think this is a pretty good choice. Not. I did my analysis on and just copied the following from Chapter 10 of the book:

Click on Image for the data on the BK Whopper (No Cheese)

Burger King Whopper, No Cheese

  • Total calories = 678; Calories from fat = 336
  • Percentage of calories from fat = 336 ÷ 678 = 50%
  • Calories from whole plants (tomato, lettuce, onion, seeds, pickles) = 14
  • Percentage of calories from whole plants = 14 ÷ 678 = 2%
  • These data put it at the No-leaf level in our system (0 to 19% whole plant calories).
  • It gets worse: The Whopper also contains 12 grams of saturated fat, 87 milligrams of cholesterol, 911 milligrams of sodium, and 12 grams of added sugars. 

Click on the Whopper image above to view all of the data for this product on The calories from the whole plants were calculated one at a time on this same helpful site. A tedious process to be sure, but you only have to do it once. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to identify a 4-Leaf meal without doing any calculations.

You’ll also be able to identify the No-Leaf products and restaurant meals very easily. That’s because an estimated 90% or more of ALL commercial products/meals for sale in the Western world today are in the No-Leaf range. You don’t need or a calculator to tell you that a sausage biscuit is No-Leaf.

Leveraging the simple, yet powerful concept of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods — still in nature’s package

Establishing your 4-Leaf routine. The real key is developing a daily routine that features several meals that are high in the 4-Leaf zone. I did the same analysis as above for my Sailors Daily Oatmeal and came up with 90% whole plants. Definitely 4-Leaf. Only the soy or almond milk was not a whole plant.

We’re also creatures of habit when we go out to dinner. I sat next to a friend at a local pub earlier this week and he ordered the very same entree that he has ordered every single time in that restaurant for over 8 years — Duck and Scallops. You don’t need to calculate anything to know that it was in the NO Leaf range — below 20% of calories from whole plants — probably less than 5% (from the garnish).

So when you visit; use the Recipe function to add up the calories of all the whole plants in the meal. Divide that by the total calories of the meal. Most people are surprised to find how very little whole plant calories there are in a Pasta Primavera at a place like Olive Garden. So just cruise around on and sign up as a member for free. Then you can create your own list of foods that you use regularly. Soon, you will get into a routine of eating 4-Leaf meals and you will never need to count calories again — just eat all you want.

Rule of Thumb. In the interest of making this process even simpler, we recommend this handy rule of thumb. Most of use need to consume between 2000 and 2500 calories, and if you’re eating mostly 4-Leaf, it will actually be almost impossible to eat more than that — unless you load up on calorie-dense plant foods like avocado, olives and nuts. Nothing wrong with these healthy foods; but they are about 80% fat — and we’re also trying to keep our fat calories below 20% of our total calories.

So for 2000 calories a day, each meal (3 meals plus a few snacks) is going to average about 500 calories (give or take). And you want 80% of those calories to be from whole plants. So, for each meal, you’re looking for approximately 400 calories from whole plants. Simply said:

4-Leaf = 400 calories per meal from whole plant foods.

Bottom Line. If you’re getting 400 calories of whole plants from each meal, you don’t really need to worry that much about the other 20% — as you will be in the top one percent of the healthiest eaters in the Western world. So after about one month of making sure that your routine meals are in the 4-Leaf zone, you never have to worry about doing any calculations again.

**Note: There is a daily calorie needs generator in the bottom right corner of the home page of It will tell you how many calories you “need” based on your height, weight, sex, age and activity level. I need around 2000, my son needs over 3000 (a cyclist who thinks nothing of taking a 50-mile bike ride after work).

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

International. We’re now reaching people in over 150 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

We encourage you to visit our daily blog website at and if you like what 4Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our “4Leaf Gear” store. Finally, click here to order our book, Healthy Eating, Healthy World from Amazon.

J. Morris Hicks

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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