It's Time to Re-commit

by Valorie Cooper

We are well into 2016. It’s time to re-commit to strict adherence to the Swank low-fat eating plan. If you haven’t yet started, it’s time to begin. The Swank plan allows for a few rare “cheats” on special holidays or your birthday, but calls for strict adherence to the plan otherwise.

Everyone is busy, and some physicians will tell MS patients that diet doesn’t matter. But those of us who have walked through the fire know that the Swank diet does make a positive difference, and it’s really not that hard to stick with. Popular culture still promotes convenience/processed foods, but simple, whole food is easy to prepare, delicious and much healthier for everyone. For those of us with multiple sclerosis, it’s literally a matter of life or death.The goal of the Swank low-fat diet is to avoid a disabling attack. Our goal as MS patients is to reduce the number of attacks and promote a state of remission. We must work toward this goal every single day. The Swank low-fat diet for the treatment of MS is not really a diet; it’s a lifestyle change that will make everyone in your family healthier.

With the world-wide movement toward whole food, plant-based eating, and more and more people eating vegetarian and vegan, it’s easier than ever to find “legal” options in restaurants and grocery stores no matter where you live. And more doctors today understand the importance of a healthy diet. Some of these include Dr. George Jelinek, Dr. John McDougall (though I believe those of us with MS should stick with Dr. Swank’s prescription and ingest at least 20 grams of good fats per day), Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Perricone, and Dr. Roizen at Cleveland Clinic. Here is a link to a video discussing the importance of omega 3 fatty acids, which are contained in the fish, walnuts, almonds, flax, spinach and eggs included in the Swank diet I am very happy to see more and more doctors agreeing on the importance of diet and essential fatty acids!

The information in The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book, written by Dr. Roy Laver Swank and Barbara Brewer Dugan, contains all the information any of us needs to successfully live with MS. The book is available on and in major bookstores. If you don’t have a copy, get one! It contains great recipes and explicit instructions on what to eat and what to avoid, as well as recommendations for stress reduction, exercise and rest, which are important components of the Swank treatment for MS.

Key to the Swank diet is the limitation of total fat intake each day. Saturated fat is to be avoided altogether if possible, but is never to exceed 15 grams (or 3 teaspoons) in a day. Unsaturated fat intake must be at least 20 grams (4 teaspoons) per day, but no more than 50 grams (10 teaspoons) per day.Dr. Swank also recommended a few daily vitamin supplements: 5 grams (1 teaspoon or 4 capsules) cod liver oil, 1 multivitamin, 1,000 mgs. vitamin C and 400 I.U. vitamin E.

Certain ingredients are to be avoided always. These include: mono- and diglycerides, hydrogenated oils, animal fat, coconut and/or palm oil, macadamia nuts, margarine, butter, shortening, lard, cocoa butter and imitation dairy products.

Avocados should be limited to 1/8 per day due to their saturated fat content. Caffeine should be limited to 3 cups of coffee/tea/cola per day and patients should drink 8 8-oz. glasses of water per day.Here are other daily recommendations: 2 servings of fruit per day; 2 cups of vegetables per day; 4 servings of grains/cereals per day; 4 oz. of skinned, trimmed white meat poultry per day; 2 servings of dairy per day.

Simple meals are a great key to success on the Swank diet. Breakfast can be as simple as a smoothie. My favorite recipe is ¼ c. each of frozen raspberries, blueberries and pineapple, ½ frozen banana, and 1 c. milk (milk can be skim milk or soy, almond or rice milk). Another easy breakfast is oatmeal or cereal such as Cheerios, Wheaties, Grape Nuts or puffed rice, toast and fruit. Three eggs may be eaten per week, but no more than one egg in a day.

Lunch can be a large salad of leafy greens topped with your favorite vegetables, beans or meat, nuts/seeds and bread/rice/potato; or a nut butter sandwich and vegetable soup. (Whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread and brown rice is better than white.)

Dinner can be fish/poultry/beans/tofu, steamed vegetables, rice/potato/pasta; or pasta and a salad.

Here are links to examples of recipes that work for more complex but still pretty simple meals that fit within the Swank guidelines:

The internet is filled with recipes; explore and discover new tastes that you love! Rather than being a limitation, the Swank diet can be a doorway to a more adventurous way of eating as well as a truly life-saving tool.