Three-Day Military diet proponents claim you can lose as much as 10 pounds in a week on the plan. However, nutrition experts such as British Heart Foundation senior dietitian Victoria Taylor say it's a fad diet that won't lead to healthy or sustainable weight loss. Pregnant or nursing women, the elderly or anyone with a chronic medical condition should avoid the Three-Day Military diet, also known as the Birmingham Cardiac diet, the 3-Day diet, and the Army or Navy diet.
Each day of the Military diet plan features strict menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some substitutions are allowed -- swapping one type of fruit for another or lentils instead of meat, for example -- but all of the portions must be exact. The meals provide about 860 to 1,150 calories per day. You cannot use any added fats or condiments except for nonstick cooking spray, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice, herbs, spices and a calorie-free sweetener like sucralose. Water, black coffee and tea are the only recommended beverages.
A typical day on the Three-Day Military diet begins with a 266-calorie breakfast of a piece of dry toast, one egg and a banana. Lunch consists of five saltine crackers and 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese, for a total of 273 calories. At dinner time, you'll have two hot dogs, 1 cup of cooked broccoli or cabbage, 1/2 cup of cooked carrots and a banana, followed by a dessert of 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream. This meal would supply about 610 calories. No snacks are allowed on the diet.
You'll be eating so few calories on the Three-Day Military diet that you'll most likely lose weight, Taylor points out, however, that most of the pounds shed will be from lost water and that without other changes in your diet and physical activity, this weight will return after you resume your regular eating habits. Many dieters may be attracted to the plan's simplicity, because all of the meals are quick and easy to prepare. In addition, the diet is inexpensive and does not require calorie-counting or nutritional supplements.
The diet does not provide the minimum 1,200 daily calories recommended for women and the 1,800 advised for men. While following the Military diet for three days might not result in serious nutrient deficiencies, it can lead to repeated cycles of weight loss and weight gain that can weaken your organs and your immune system, and increase your risk of gallstones or heart problems. What's more, the plan does not encourage regular exercise or help dieters establish balanced eating habits.
A healthy, balanced weight-loss diet that supplies you with approximately 1,200 calories per day might start with a breakfast of 1/2 cup of high-fiber, low-sugar cereal; low- or nonfat milk; whole-wheat toast; and juice, followed by a lunch of lean roast beef, lettuce and tomatoes on whole-grain bread and a piece of whole fresh fruit. Dinner might be salmon, a baked potato, a variety of cooked vegetables and a whole-wheat roll. Air-popped popcorn could serve as a snack if you get hungry during the day.