The Military Diet: Shortcut to Weight Loss, or Health Hazard?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There's nothing like an upcoming wedding, class reunion or beach vacation to kick a fitness plan into high gear. When you have just a matter of weeks or days to look your best for a big event, it can be tempting to try a last-minute "emergency" weight loss plan. One that's gotten a lot of attention lately is the Military Diet. Is it worth a try, or do the potential dangers and drawbacks rule it out as a safe and viable option?

What is the Military Diet?

Named for the soldiers who used it to lose weight quickly, this three-day diet has also been a go-to tool for performers and dancers. The crux of the diet is calorie restriction: For three days, participants are limited to 800 to 1,000 calories per day.
According to the site, the diet kick-starts your metabolism, promotes fat burning and is a form of intermittent fasting, resulting in weight loss of up to 10 pounds in a week. Seniors, those with chronic medical conditions and pregnant or nursing women should not follow the plan.

What the Experts Say

Toby Amidor, nutrition expert and author of "The Greek Yogurt Kitchen," says the quick-fix Military Diet has no scientific merit. "According to the National Institute of Health, a healthy rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week," says Amidor. "The creators don’t seem to take this important guideline seriously. The diet's website states that you are likely to gain the weight back, which is unsettling."
Beyond the likelihood of regaining weight, Amidor points out that the diet could actually be dangerous. "The listed acceptable foods have no rhyme or reason, and if someone was to follow this plan for a long period of time, it could possibly result in insufficient nutrient intake."

Becky Hand
, SparkPeople's registered dietitian, agrees that the Military Diet offers little to no benefit for those pursuing a long-term healthy lifestyle. "To maintain weight loss, one must learn the skills for lifelong success, but no skills are being learned with this diet," says Hand. She also points out that as a result of the very low calorie intake, it's lacking in key nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

The Military Diet Meal Plan

The diet's website lists very specific (and sparse) meal plans for the first three days:
1/2 grapefruit
1 slice toast
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup coffee or tea (with caffeine)
1/2 cup tuna
1 slice toast
1 cup coffee or tea (with caffeine)
3 ounces any type of meat
1 cup green beans
1/2 banana
1 small apple
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1 egg
1 slice toast
1/2 banana
1 cup cottage cheese
1 hard-boiled egg
5 saltine crackers
2 hot dogs (without bun)
1 cup broccoli
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 banana
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
5 saltine crackers
1 slice (1 ounce) cheddar cheese
1 small apple
1 hard-boiled egg (cooked however you like)
1 slice toast
1 cup tuna
1/2 banana
1 cup vanilla ice cream
For those who wish to continue the diet for another four days, the calorie limit is bumped up to 1,500 per day with an expanded menu. Hydration is emphasized, with a recommendation to drink water, caffeine-free herbal tea and black tea, using Stevia as the only sweetener.
Amidor isn't a fan of the strictness of the three-day diet, which includes no snacks, no added condiments and only limited substitutions. "The dieter is essentially following a 'blind' diet and just eating exactly what is on the list," she says. "A dieter should want to understand why they are eating certain foods and ask questions if no answers are really given."
If there is an upside, it's that the Military Diet can be downloaded for free, and the recommended foods are extremely affordable and easy to prepare. However, its lack of nutritional value and potentially dangerous accelerated weight loss cause most dietitians to frown upon this diet.

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CHERYLHURT 9/12/2020
Great Report
CD10676776 8/30/2020
Thanks, good need-to-know information. Report
LEANJEAN6 8/29/2020
great menu to work with Report
Thanks for these great menus! Report
thanks Report
If your job was dependent on keeping weight off, you probably would do a lot of things to lose weight for your test. I have a friend who was in the military. She said this was how her husband would pass his PT. It reminds me of the original Weight Watchers with the requirement to eat fish (tuna) several times a week. I remember how terrible some of the recipes for tuna were. Check the links for the site and the substitutions. I still think of diets like this one as a starting point and then adapt and change it was you want. I like the simplicity. Otherwise I don't see much difference between this and other diets that are popular right now. Report
It is not for me. Report
Another fad diet unless you live like you’re in the military Report
Great information . Report
Military has guidelines for weight, if you are overweight and have your test coming up they will diet to reach weight. Son and DIL in military DIL always diets before a weigh in. Just not this diet she uses the 10 day green smoothie diet. Report
Interesting. But definitely not appealing. Report
Tried it once. I really lost the pounds in 3 days but I was beyond starved on day 4 and I gained ALL the weight back and more by day 5/6 I'm sure.
What we mostly lose is water weight really. Not worth it to be honest. Though to be fair, the diet isn't touted as a lifestyle choice. It is advertised as a crash diet (aptly so) for emergencies and nothing more...
Nevertheless, I quite like the idea of keeping the weight off so I'll just stick to spark :p Report
Oh, boy. Brings back memories of me doing this before my weigh-in when i was in the Army. I've always hated it, but it did the job. Report
will just keep eating healthy Report
How can they call it a military diet without the traditional S* on a shingle. Report
3 days won't hurt you but I don't know if it will help. Report
Good to know this== Report
I think it's okay for a jump start, then on to good nutrition. Report
Thanks Report
The Military Diet is considered to be a fad diet. However, the meal and snack suggestions in the 1500 calorie 7 day expanded version of the Military Diet sound delicious. In my opinion, even the 3 day version of the Military Diet would taste delicious if I could have graham crackers instead of saltine crackers and if I could have condiments (such as ketchup, jam, and Miracle Whip) on my food. The Military Diet could be used to jump start weight loss before counting calories with Spark People, but should not be done long term. Report
I tried this earlier this year--in May--I needed to get my eating under control and thought, "I can do this for 3 days." I didn't lose a lot of weight, but I did shrink my appetite a bit--and then I went right on to Spark and have been eating that way since. I don't think it is a diet that should be used for the long term, but I think it is an excellent way to get jumpstarted when your eating is out of control and you want to get control back! It worked for me. 5 1/2 months later I am 30 pounds lighter--thanks in a very small way to the Military Diet! Report
The problem with weight loss that is too rapid us that it also comes back quickly. Report
I tried it years ago. There is not enough food and I always felt hungry. Report
It seems like not much food there--think Ill stick to Spark! Report
"Military Diet", (rotfl). Sorry but this looks like it was cooked up by a guy who had a weigh in and didn't want to be put on what grunts refer to as the "fat boy program". Needed to drop weight quick to stay within regulations and avoid the dreaded program which controls everything you eat and do. The better "Military Diet" is 90 minutes of exercise a day in the morning, 3 meals and a lot of walking, digging, cleaning, and running errands for some NCO who is less than pleased with your attitude. ;-) Report
The one I wanted to find was the DND (Cnd military) "punishment diet " that was fed to the prisoners in the detention barracks (aka military prison) but the staff caught hell for because they were putting it in a blender and were told that that was inhumane and apparently you DID lose weight on it (A LOT) even though it wasn't bad for you supposedly. Report
I've used diets like this one as a guide but then I make substitutions, adapt, and expand the foods with recipes and such. I'm not sure I would do it as written for very long and do a lot of exercise. Truth is this version isn't bad. It has fruit, vegetables, protein (meat) and carb or starch. One of the reasons I've used diets like this one the way I do is I need something to start with, otherwise my eating is all over the place. But, on the other hand, I'm not good at following anything to the letter and I tend to take any diet or plan and expand, adapt and substitute. I drive anyone who likes to follow diet rules crazy. I make it my own. Report
I use this diet only when I have overindulged and want to get back on track. There is a list of substitutions that go with the military diet, so if you don't like cottage cheese or tuna you can try something different. The last time I did it I couldn't stomach eating hot dogs so I substituted an equal amount of roasted chicken. I always lose 3 to 5 pounds then I go back up to my normal range of calories. I really like it! Report
I like this diet's simplicity, but know I need to stick to one more nutritcious.. Report
I have actually done this diet a few times. So far as nutritional value of food, the hot dogs I feel are the only questionable item, but in their defense, you get to have 2 (so you don't feel deprived) and a lot of people like hot dogs. And you can also chose your own brand with all products. The cottage cheese, grapefruit, toast, saltines, none are bad for you and you are limited in quantity. A very important strategy to all healthy eating lifestyles, portion control. There are a lot of healthy substitutes too.Whole grain, reduced calorie breads, and lower sodium, The remaining 4 days of the week you are to count your calories to 1500, which for many of us is a good range. I like the ice cream and banana after dinner, its a real treat. I do low fat. I never lose a lot of weight , but I do lose a few lbs. For me, its a good "jump start" when I need it and it gives me incentive to continue on- if and when I've gained a few lbs. Report
This was never meant to be a lifestyle change - it was a quick fix in 3 days for someone who was slightly over the military weight requirement so they could drop pounds very quickly and pass a weigh-in. I don't think it was intended to continue beyond the 3 days! (At least that's the way it was 50 years ago!) Report
A lot of poor people who have to restrict their calories eat food just like the extended menu. Also, the diet is HEALTHIER than other typically consumed food on a low-income diet. I am not kidding. Report
This kind of diet isn't worth it to me either! If I restrict calories it is with whole foods and no packaged foods, especially hotdogs! Plus you can eat all the veggies you want and not get all that sodium. If it's one thing I've learned in my life long journey is the fewer manufactured products that I consume, the better! Report
It's been around a long time. If you're in a slump and need a kick start, why not. It's not meant to be a long term way of eating, just a 3 day kick start. I've not tried it yet, but I've been very undisciplined in my eating for a long while now. I might give it a shot, subbing the hot dog franks for more tuna maybe... not a fan of franks. yuck. But the other foods don't look unhealthy... fruit, toast (whole wheat for me,) eggs, veggies, and tuna. Ok, the ice cream is not healthy, but a nice treat. :) The only unhealthy thing on here is the hot dogs, and perhaps the crackers, but not enough crackers to raise a stink about... and I usually get unsalted saltines anyhow. Sure the cals are low, but again... 3 days. Report
I remember my mother did a very similar diet. It was 7 days long and low calorie/low nutrition. Every time she did this, she would lose less weight than the previous time and gain back even more than last time. Eventually she got a gastric bypass. She was all about the quick fixes. But I think she wouldn't have to if she hadn't done this kind of restrictive diet. Report
Weird diet. Report
I tried The Military Diet. Like around 3 or 4 times. The first time I lost about 3 kgs and since then 1 to 1 1/2 max each time. Seriously guys, its so not worth it. Yes you will lose weight but I swear you will gain the lost weight and much more in time. My weight gain was due to my two pregnancies and I was (and still am) trying to get rid of the baby weight. I stayed steady at the preggie weight through the years. But after I went on the Military Diet, I gained 10 kgs in time!
Also, it messed up with my periods.
And I hated tuna ever since. Lol! Report
If you were going to restrict your calories to 800-1000 per day, it seems to me that there are more nutritionally dense foods you could eat to accomplish this. I don't understand why you'd eat hot dogs, bread, ice cream, and saltine crackers. Seems like it would be logical to remove the simple carbs and replace them with complex carbs from vegetables. Report
nope, not for me. need food Report
I hadn't heard of this before. I had during the summer slipped down to eating 800 to 1,000 calories for 3 weeks. Before this happened,,, I had losing very well. During those 3 weeks i was NOT losing and some slight gainage, but, only ozs. Once I reviewed my food tracker and noticed this I at once back up to my normal of 1250 to 1500 and TA DA and AM LOSING Successfully again ! Report
This is a diet that has been around for 25-ish years. I remember being on this diet back in the early '80s. We didn't have the internet then, it was just a piece of paper that was copied over and over and passed around to friends (yes, my husband was in the military at the time, but mostly it was the wives at church that went on this diet).
#1 You can't do this "diet" for very long. One or two rounds of it gets extremely boring. The ice cream at the end of the day was the reward for staying on it.
#2 Yes, you can lose weight on just about any diet if you stick to it.
#3 Yes, you will gain the weight back if you don't find a healthier way of eating.

If you want to try a lower calorie diet, find one with better nutrition, like magmom23 said. Report
Looking at the nutrition of the plan, there are far better food choices that provide you with real nutrients if you want to go this low on calories. Crackers, toast, and vanilla ice cream provide little vitamins, minerals, fiber. Oatmeal, sweet potatoes would be better starch choices. For 3 days - skip the ice cream and have greek yogurt with berries and a bit of honey if you want some sweetness. Certainly adding more low starch veggies - each day would add nutrients and fiber with minimal calories. I doubt any nutritionist would back these food choices. Report
Who spreads this type of stuff around? How desperate are people to latch on to these schemes, back in the "old" days, we just assumed people were uneducated then, but people now are supposed to be smarter! No average person will stick to this kind of thing, guaranteed!!! Report
Sometimes in a sedentary job, they might gain a few lbs but rarely do they get more than 5-10 lbs over their approved range. Report
Silveryyesterday: If you don't 'make weight', you might not get promoted. My dad, years ago, ate nothing but eggs for a few weeks to drop weight. Apparently, he was a complete jerk during this time, but he got the rank. Report
I have to ask: why would people in the military need to lose weight quickly? Not sarcastic, just genuinely curious. Report