All About: The Mayo Clinic Diet

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What is the Mayo Clinic Diet? Does it work? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Learn all of the above and more.

What is the Mayo Clinic Diet?

The Mayo Clinic Diet is a diet created by the Mayo Clinic that focuses on sustainable, long-term weight loss and healthy habits.

Rather than short-term, extreme caloric restriction or precise calorie counting like other diets, the Mayo Clinic Diet is about building new, healthy habits and breaking unhealthy habits. It also emphasizes frequent exercise, setting achievable goals, and helping you find your own inner weight loss motivation.

The Mayo Clinic Diet also sells itself as a weight loss program created by experts and medical professionals with a lot of experience helping people lose weight. Here's a video primer on YouTube they created:

How does the Mayo Clinic Diet work?

The diet has two major phases:

  • "Lose It!": a 2-week phase with a variety of rules and restrictions around what to eat, where to eat, and exercising.
  • "Live It!": the remainder of the diet where you use what you learned during "Lose it!" but are allowed to break some of the rules.

During the "Lose It!" phase there are a variety of rules, recommendations, or guidelines including:

  • Eating foods at the bottom of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid. In particular, you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Also, unlike other diets, there are no restrictions on which fruits or vegetables you should eat.
  • Eating foods on Mayo Clinic's superfoods list.
  • Alcohol and sweets are restricted.
  • Eating out at restaurants is strongly discouraged.
  • Portion control and caloric intake are monitored.
  • 30-60 minutes of exercise per day is recommended.
  • Eating while watching television is also discouraged.

After the "Lose It!" phase the diet becomes more lenient to hopefully make it more realistic to stick with for the long haul.

What's good about the Mayo Clinic Diet?

We like a lot about the Mayo Clinic Diet and overall believe it's one of the better fad diets available. In particular, we like:

  • Its emphasis on long-term weight loss compared to diets that focus on unsustainable, short-term results. Rapid weight loss often leads to weight gain rebounds. Extreme caloric restriction can also cause a variety of health complications.
  • Its emphasis on breaking bad habits and building better habits. A lot of weight gain is related to underlying habits that trigger it.
  • Its emphasis on 30-60 minutes of movement per day without requiring a specific type of exercise. Even going for a 30-minute walk is much better than no exercise. It's also far more enjoyable and sustainable than more intense exercise programs.
  • Its emphasis on portion control and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables while avoiding alcohol and sweets.
  • Its emphasis on personalization. We believe there's no "one size fits all" diet that works for everybody.

What's bad about the Mayo Clinic Diet?

The biggest aspect we dislike about the Mayo Clinic Diet is that the "Lose It!" phase has too many rapid, extreme changes, which might cause people to give up before the 2 week period is completed. Alternatively, we'd recommend smaller, incremental changes. For example, maybe try incorporating 1 or 2 changes that the Mayo Clinic recommends for a week or two. Then try another change.

We also question the order of the Mayo Clinic's food pyramid. We believe that you should eat slightly more vegetables than fruits since they usually contain less sugar. We also believe a personalized mix of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean protein is better than ranking them incrementally. In the past, eating foods with a large percentage of fat was frowned upon. The debate has changed recently. It's now believed that many high-fat foods are good for you. In particular, certain foods like olive oil, avocados, and walnuts are considered to be healthy fats. We also believe whole grains like oats or rice would be a better visual than pasta, which is rarely a healthy choice. A whole grain is simply a grain like rice in its original intact form versus eating a processed derivative like rice flour. Eating whole grains instead of refined grains has a variety of benefits including more nutrients, more fiber, and better satiety.

Does the Mayo Clinic Diet work?

If you can stick with it, the Mayo Clinic Diet should help you lose weight and develop better, long-term, sustainable habits. The biggest challenge associated with it would be not quitting during the "Lose It!" phase and not having a rebound weight gain after it's over.

Is the Mayo Clinic Diet safe? Is it unhealthy?

We always recommend discussing any diet changes with a doctor or licensed professional. With that said, we believe the Mayo Clinic Diet is one of the safer fad diets as there are no extreme restrictions or fasting and many of its recommendations are sound.

Mayo Clinic Diet Shopping List, Meal Plans, and Menu

Since the Mayo Clinic Diet doesn’t require you to count calories, what you eat is pretty open-ended. If you're looking for inspiration, check out the recipes, books, and apps below. Other useful resources include the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid and Mayo Clinic Superfoods List.

Mayo Clinic Diet Books

Mayo Clinic Diet Recipes

Here are a few samples from Mayo Clinic's Official Recipes:

Mayo Clinic Diet Apps

The Mayo Clinic has several official mobile apps including:

Looking for more diet ideas?

Try our free Diet Optimizer Quiz and get quick, unique, customized ideas like:

  • Healthier options than soda that taste better than water.
  • Alternatives to french fries, potato chips, or other fried foods.
  • How to get your chocolate fix without the junk ingredients in candy bars.
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