Fad diets have been popular for decades. These dietary approaches promise fast weight loss results. But, generally, fad diets don’t have any scientific base and may be unsustainable in terms of restrictions.
The military diet is a three-day fad diet that claims to result in the loss of up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in a week. It combines three days of calorie restriction followed by four days off. Notably, this diet doesn’t have any scientific evidence of its effectiveness.
The military diet consists of two phases. During the first three days, you follow a prepared meal plan that includes three meals daily (no snacks are allowed at this point). Your daily calorie intake during this time comprises 1,100-1,400 kcal and is defined as a low-calorie diet. Then, during the next four days, you are supposed to eat a well-balanced diet without specific limitations in the number of calories.
The meal plan for the first three days of the military diet includes the following foods:
- green beans
- cottage cheese
- hard-boiled eggs
- hot dogs without the bun
- peanut butter toast
- saltine crackers
- ice cream
During the four days “off,” the food list is not as strict. It is recommended, however, that you focus on consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods. Food products not recommended at this phase include:
- coffee with cream
- sugar (including white sugar, brown sugar, agave, honey, and maple syrup)
In addition, if you want to lose weight faster, the military diet provides a less restrictive 1,500-calories diet plan for the “off” days.
It is worth mentioning that the military diet allows food substitutions for individuals with specific dietary restrictions, such as allergies, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc. In addition, vegetarian and vegan variations of the military diet exist.
Infants, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and the elderly should avoid following any low-calorie nutritional plan, including the military diet. In addition, people with untreated or severe cardiac, hepatic, renal, thromboembolic, psychiatric, or cerebrovascular disease and individuals with type 1 diabetes, cancer, protein-wasting states, and severe eating disorders shouldn’t try this dietary approach.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
Since the military diet restricts many food groups, you may be at risk of developing a deficiency in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B-1, vitamin B-7, vitamin B-9, vitamin B-12, calcium, and magnesium while following this nutritional approach. To meet the body’s requirements for these nutrients, include some of the following foods in your diet:
- fiber: berries, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, whole wheat pasta and bread, legumes, nuts;
- omega-3 fatty acids: fatty fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies), cod liver oil, oysters, caviar, seeds (flaxseed, chia seeds), walnuts;
- vitamins B-1 (thiamine): fish, pork, yogurt, tofu, legumes, brown rice, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, asparagus, fortified cereals;
- vitamin B-7 (biotin): egg yolks, pork, beef liver, fish (salmon), legumes, avocado, bananas, sweet potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, nuts, seeds;
- vitamin B-9 (folate): leafy greens, asparagus, beets, avocado, citrus fruits, papaya, bananas, beans, sunflower, seeds, flaxseeds, peanuts, whole grains, eggs, liver, seafood;
- vitamin B-12: beef, organ meats, eggs, fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, trout), clams, milk, dairy products;
- calcium: milk, cheese, yogurt, fish (salmon, sardines), tofu, beans, lentils, edamame, leafy greens, rhubarb, figs, almonds;
- magnesium: dark chocolate, tofu, legumes, leafy greens, avocado, bananas, nuts (cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts), seeds (pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds), fish (salmon, mackerel);
Keeping in mind that the first three days of the military diet are very restrictive, it may be challenging to get enough of the listed nutrients from the food alone. Taking supplements is an alternative way to ensure you fulfill your body’s requirements. You can find out what supplements you may need from your healthcare provider.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
Since the military diet is a low-calorie diet, there is a significant risk of weight regain once you finish the program. In addition, repeating the 7-day cycle multiple times can lead to health issues and increase the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies.
Most specialists agree that a well-balanced diet that focuses on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods with an emphasis on your feeling of hunger and satiety is considerably more sustainable and healthier. In addition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a steady weight loss of 1-2 lbs per week as a “safe” weight loss.
The military diet is a low-calorie fad diet that claims to help you lose up to 10 pounds in a week. However, this nutritional plan has very strict calorie limitations that are not sustainable, can be unsafe, and may lead to disordered eating. In addition, a prepared meal plan for the first three days of the military diet is poorly-balanced and may leave you deficient in some essential nutrients. Food choices like hot dogs, crackers, and ice cream are not generally considered a part of a healthy diet.