Exactly What to Eat on the Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet is a long-term weight management program that aims to give you the resources to adopt healthy new habits and drop pounds safely. Learn about the foods that are permitted on the diet to find the healthiest options that fit your lifestyle.

The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid encourages followers to fill their plates with fruits and vegetables, whole-grain carbs and lean protein.
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What Is the Mayo Clinic Diet?

The Mayo Clinic is one of the most respected medical and research groups worldwide. So it's not surprising that this institution would develop a highly rated weight-loss program.

The Mayo Clinic Diet is based on the balanced Mayo Clinic food pyramid, where no foods are completely off-limits. The program focuses on teaching members how to make better food choices, estimate portion sizes and engage in consistent physical activity. Membership will get you access to meal plans, recipes, personalized workouts and guidance on a variety of topics. Trackers and food journals are also thrown in for those that join.

Read more: Can the Mayo Clinic Diet Really Help You Lose Weight?

Following the Healthy Weight Pyramid

The Mayo Clinic Diet isn't a calorie- or grams of fat-counting program. Rather, the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid guides members towards making smart food and portion choices. So, you fill most of your plate with foods from the base of the pyramid, and choose less foods that are closer to the top. The goal? To get full on healthy, lower-calorie foods.

At the Base: Fruits and Veggies

Eat as much as you like from this category, but remember — nothing packed in syrup or with added sugar. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense, low-calorie, fiber-packed foods that keep you feeling fuller longer.

"Leafy greens and berries get a lot of press as 'superfoods' for their nutrients and antioxidants, and rightfully so. However, for the most part, we can really put all fruits and vegetables into the superfood designation," Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, a nutrition expert with the Mayo Clinic, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Next Up: Carbs

Choose whole-grain breads and pastas, as well as brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal. Even buckwheat pancakes get the OK. "Whole grains are great sources of fiber and B vitamins that help run the energy cycle in our bodies, and can be good sources of protein," says Zeratsky. Try to avoid foods containing white flour and refined sugars, such as white bread and white rice.

In the Middle: Lean Protein and Dairy

Your body digests protein and dairy slowly, which helps control hunger between meals. We often think of protein as muscle-building food, but it has other important roles too, says Zeratsky.

Beans contain protein, fiber, folate and iron, and they're a rich energy source, while fish like salmon and trout are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and essential fats, which may improve heart and brain health. Cottage cheese is a good option for those who don't like unsweetened Greek yogurt but want just as much protein. Cow's and plant-based milks provide electrolytes and carbohydrates to supply and replenish our glycogen and protein stores.

Small but Mighty: Healthy Fats

Although fats are in one of the smallest categories, you do need them in your diet. "Like protein, fats are slow to digest, so including some fat in your meals keeps you feeling satiated. Nuts and seeds are nutrient powerhouses containing energy, fiber, zinc and magnesium — all important for a 'well-oiled' machine to run," Zeratsky says. Also on the superfood list? Avocados.

Read more: 7 Myths About Dietary Fats You Should Stop Believing Right Now

At the Top: Sweets

Although the Mayo Clinic pyramid does allow for some sweets, these foods are restricted to 75 calories per day. Keep in mind that some fruits do contain natural sugars and may satisfy your sweet tooth without the added fat and calories.

Getting Started at the Grocery Store

Going grocery shopping when starting a new diet can be quite overwhelming. First, you should take inventory of what you have while considering the foods in each group of the pyramid. Think about what you like from each category and make a list. It's best to organize your list by category, so you're not wandering all over the store (potentially picking up foods you don't need), suggests Zeratsky.

Read more: The 20 Best Foods in Your Grocery Store

Sample Meal Plan

  • Breakfast: ½ cup cottage cheese, ½ to 1 cup berries, whole-grain toast with 1 tablespoon no-sugar-added nut butter
  • Lunch: 2 cups (or more) leafy greens with 3 ounces canned salmon or tuna and chopped vegetables, ¼ to ½ cup cold cooked quinoa or wheat berries, 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar and oil as dressing
  • Dinner: Whole-wheat tortilla, ½ to ¾ cup black beans and 1 to 2 tablespoons shredded cheese (optional); top with chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and 2 tablespoon guacamole; side of sliced bell peppers, pea pods or carrots and/or tropical fruit salad (pineapple, mango, oranges) or stone fruits (plums, nectarines, peaches)
  • Snacks: Fruits and vegetables; depending on preference and calorie needs, add ¼ cup nuts or a single-serve package of hummus or guacamole
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