It's easy to get confused over the various fad diets out there — and wonder which one is best for you. But if you follow the official Mayo Clinic diet, you may find yourself reaching your weight loss goals and learning how to sustain weight management in the long term.
The official Mayo Clinic diet, designed by the experts at Mayo Clinic, isn't a seven-day fad diet but a healthy way of eating for life. This diet breaks down daily meal plans that focus on healthy, low-fat, low-calorie foods. It’s meant to help you sustain weight management in the long term, as it requires you to embrace an overall lifestyle change that emphasizes exercise and a healthy relationship with eating.
The Official Mayo Clinic Diet
As you do research on the Mayo Clinic diet, it's important to be aware that there are some fad Mayo Clinic diets as well. One of the fad diets with the Mayo Clinic label argues you should eat grapefruit with nearly every meal as part of your weight loss plan. This fad diet, however, has not been officially linked to the Mayo Clinic.
The official Mayo Clinic diet, meanwhile, is espoused by the medical center and consists of two phases: Lose It! and Live It! Phase 1 of the diet is designed to help you take charge of your diet and weight loss plan within two weeks and is a good way to jump-start the diet. It involves cutting 500 to 1,000 calories a day and may result in losing 6 to 10 pounds within two weeks.
Phase 2 is the long-term plan, which provides you with techniques to sustain the diet over the long haul (which is often the hardest part). Eventually, the diet will have you losing weight at a slower but healthier pace, at about 1 to 2 pounds a week.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the diet relies heavily on major behavior changes rather than a quick, instantly gratifying loss of pounds in a week. That means you'll be required to figure out what your motivation is, learn to handle obstacles and follow through on goals. The diet is one "you can stick with for life, not a fad or quick fix," the Mayo Clinic states.
Read more: How to Avoid Processed Foods and What to Eat Instead
Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid
Your guide to the diet is the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid, which shows you exactly how much of each food group you should be eating daily. The base of the pyramid, or the biggest part, consists of daily physical activity as well as fruits and vegetables. A July 2019 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increasing fruit and vegetable intake actually reduces long-term weight gain for people who are genetically predisposed to a higher body mass index.
Above the fruit and vegetable base, as each section gets smaller, are carbohydrates, protein/dairy and fats. At the very top is a small section allotted for sweets.
You'll notice that the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid doesn't require you to cut out any specific foods or food groups, but rather it aims to teach you how to balance what you're eating. This way, your diet may be sustainable in the long term once you learn how to eat less of the unhealthy things and more of the healthy options.
Read more: 10 of the Most Common Weight-Loss Mistakes
How to Follow It
Let's say you're getting started on your first week on the Mayo diet menu. You'll want to plan out a seven-day meal plan, and your Mayo diet recipes will look something like this:
On Day 1, for breakfast, you can eat one hard-boiled egg with whole-wheat toast and an orange. Lunch would be a big salad consisting of 3 cups of vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce and onions. For dinner, you could grill some salmon and eat it with spinach or another vegetable. You're allowed to eat a small whole-wheat roll with dinner and munch on some snacks throughout the day like fruit, whole-wheat crackers with reduced-fat cheese or baby carrots.
Day 2 will be a variation of the first day with different meals. For example, breakfast might be 1/2 cup of oatmeal cooked with milk and tossed with raisins, nuts or fresh fruit. Lunch could be another salad, this time with quinoa and sweet potato cakes. For a snack, you might eat some chopped bell peppers and hummus, and for dinner, perhaps a homemade veggie black bean burger.
How to Stay on It
While any research done on the efficacy of the Mayo Clinic diet has been done at the Mayo Clinic itself, plenty of other evidence supports general low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets in enacting weight loss. A September 2014 study published in JAMA found that people adhering to any low-carb or low-fat diet plan saw significant weight loss. In short, it's less about the specific diet and more about how you're going about eating and balancing your meals.
This is why the Mayo Clinic diet is a good way to jump-start a healthier lifestyle — it provides you with the general framework you need for meal plans, while also encouraging you to build up your daily physical activity levels. This will be key in sustaining your weight loss rather than gaining all the weight back after two weeks of a fast or a fad diet.
- Mayo Clinic: "The Mayo Clinic Diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "The Mayo Clinic Diet: A Weight-Loss Program for Life"
- American Journal of Clinic Nutrition: "Improving Fruit and Vegetable Intake Attenuates the Genetic Association With Long-Term Weight Gain"
- JAMA: "Comparison of Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Meta-Analysis"