What Is the Baby Food Diet?

Baby food diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your health care provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

The baby food diet is based on the idea that eating small jars of baby food to restrict calorie intake will lead to quick weight loss. The original baby food diet, which was never formally published despite anecdotal reports and weight-loss claims, called for eating baby food all day followed by a regular "adult" meal in the evening.

This fad diet first hit the internet around 2010 when rumors circulated that Jennifer Aniston went on a baby food diet to lose a quick seven pounds to shoot a movie, at the suggestion of her celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson. It wasn't long before the trend caught on and more people were trying the baby food diet for quick weight loss results.

Some people following the diet may eat a few jars of baby food each day as low-calorie snacks, while others might replace one or two meals a day with baby food and consume up to 14 jars a day. While there's a good chance you can lose weight quickly on this diet, you will also miss out on important nutrients from other food groups.

The baby food diet is meant to be a quick "cleanse" or reset, not a long-term style of eating. But much like other cleanse or detox diets, it's not backed by any science nor is it accepted by health experts.

What Experts Say

"By swapping meals for baby food, people are promised quick weight loss. It’s tough to meet nutrient needs while eating mostly purees, though. Experts agree it’s best to leave those for the babies and focus on smaller portions of normal meals for sustainable weight loss."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

What Can You Eat?

Baby food includes jars of pureed fruits, vegetables, grains, and even meats (but not the toddler meals you may also find in the baby aisle at the grocery store). Plain black coffee, tea, and water are also included.

According to proponents of the baby food diet and online reports, the original eating plan involves eating 14 jars of pureed baby food a day plus one regular "adult" meal a day for a total of three days. Over time, modifications emerged such as swapping a few jars of purees for just one meal or even just using them as low-calorie snacks.

Essentially, the baby food diet is a low-calorie diet. Because the portions are baby-sized, most jars have no more than 100 calories, and many will have much fewer than that. Although baby foods don't have added salt or much fat, some may contain added sugar. What's more, you're unlikely to get sufficient protein from baby food alone. This means the real, non-baby food meals you eat would need to emphasize protein.

What You Need to Know

Baby food is generally unseasoned, so adding herbs and spices will make them more palatable. For your single "adult" meal of the day, proponents of the diet advise keeping the calorie count to around 500, which is very low. It's important that you pack this meal with plenty of protein, fiber, whole grains, and healthy fats to account for the nutrients you're not getting from pureed baby food.

For those with food allergies or restrictions, the baby food diet is relatively easy to follow. Pre-portioned jars of baby food list all of their ingredients on the package, so you won't likely have any trouble identifying known triggers that may cause a reaction.

Depending on how strictly you follow the diet, you may start to feel lightheaded throughout the day since you're not getting enough calories. Transitioning from regular solid meals to pureed foods only is generally not considered safe unless you're under medical supervision. If you choose to follow the baby food diet, you should only do so for a short period of time to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

As with any low-calorie diet, it's often a good idea to take a multivitamin to make up for missing out on micronutrients.

What to Eat
  • Jars of pureed baby food of all types including fruits, vegetables, and meats

  • 1–2 nutrient-dense "adult" meals per day emphasizing protein and complex carbohydrates

  • Water, tea, coffee

What Not to Eat
  • All other foods

  • Limit or avoid alcohol

If you decide to try a baby food diet, consider replacing just one meal per day with pureed baby food instead of two to get more calories and nutrients. Still, this diet is not recommended since it could lead to nutrient deficiencies and create an unhealthy relationship with food.

If you are pregnant or have health conditions, like diabetes, you should not try the baby food diet. Some medications, like insulin, can be dangerous if not taken with the proper amount of food.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Easy portion control

  • Low in fat and calories

  • Quick results

  • Minimal prep or cooking

Cons
  • Unsustainable for long term

  • Severely restrictive

  • Not enough calories

  • Low on protein and other nutrients

  • More expensive than real, whole foods


There is some flexibility in the baby food diet. For instance, if you plan to meet up with friends for lunch, you could always switch your regular meal to lunchtime and have baby food as a dinner substitute instead. You could also choose how many meals (or snacks) to replace with baby food. If you're traveling or on the road, you'll need to pack baby food ahead of time. Otherwise, the plan is pretty straightforward.

Despite the convenience factor, the baby food diet is not a smart weight loss plan. Its restrictive nature creates a deprivation mindset around food. Additionally, short-term deprivation might promote a little weight loss, but you will likely regain the weight once you resume normal eating habits.

Additionally, if you're consuming 14 servings of baby food per day, you will have a lot of little glass jars or plastic containers to throw away or recycle. Preparing your own baby food would reduce the waste associated with this diet, but it's probably not realistic if you're short on time. Eating 14 jars of pre-portioned baby food every day is can also add up in terms of cost.

Even with one regular adult meal, the baby food diet doesn't provide enough calories and nutrients to properly fuel your body, especially if you're physically active.

Is the Baby Food Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods including all types of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, dairy products or lactose-free substitutes, fortified soy products, lean protein, eggs, seafood, nuts, and other healthy fats like oils.

The baby food diet doesn't measure up to expert guidelines on healthy eating for weight loss. The USDA suggests eating plenty of different foods in order to get all the nutrients your body needs. While you can find baby foods made from different food groups, the portions are too small for an adult.

In terms of calories, 2.5 ounces of baby food (a typical serving) contains anywhere from 20 to 100 calories. Having baby food twice per day, plus one 500-calorie meal falls short of the USDA's recommended intake of about 1,500 calories a day for weight loss. Use this calculator to determine the right amount of calories to meet your goals.

The baby food diet does not adhere to federal guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet, nor does it offer strategies to manage hunger or provide guidance for long term weight management.

Health Benefits

Some proponents of the baby food diet claim that baby foods are healthier because they don't always contain any food additives. Baby foods tend to be low in fat, and with the exception of pureed fruits and some vegetables, may also be low in sugar. Regardless, the baby food diet is not a sustainable weight loss plan.

It's much healthier to choose real "adult" foods over pureed foods meant for an infant. You're more likely to feel satisfied with fewer calories when you choose whole foods that are high in fiber and protein.

Health Risks

Though there are no rigorous studies on the risks associated with a baby food diet, following a very low-calorie diet for a prolonged period of time could lead to nutrient deficiencies. Though the baby food diet is designed to be short term, research on similar fad diets shows that quick weight loss is often not sustained and that eliminating entire food groups can create unhealthy eating habits.

Combined with regular exercise, a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best ways to lose weight and support overall health.

Similar Diets

There are several other diets (many of them are fad diets) that resemble the baby food diet. Each of these diets claims that a simple swap of one or two meals with a certain product will facilitate quick weight loss. But none of these eating plans offer guidance for long-term healthy habits to support weight management. Here's how they compare:

Special K Diet

On the Special K Diet, you replace two daily meals with Special K cereal (with skim milk) or Special K bars or shakes. These are readily available at grocery stores.

  • Practicality: As with the baby food diet, this diet promises to take the guesswork out of portion and calorie control.
  • Safety: The diet is too limited to follow for the long term, but following it for two weeks is not likely to be harmful. That said, the meals are all processed, packaged foods.
  • Effectiveness: The Special K diet claims you can lose up to 6 pounds in two weeks, depending on how carefully you follow the eating plan. However, it is not a long term solution for weight loss.

SlimFast

Rather than baby food or Special K products, if you're on a SlimFast diet, you will replace meals with SlimFast shakes or bars. These are available at grocery stores.

  • Practicality: This diet aims to simplify meal planning and offers portion and calorie control.
  • Safety: SlimFast products are fortified, so they have more nutrients, protein, and fiber than baby food. That makes this diet safer, although it is based on processed foods rather than whole foods.
  • Effectiveness: This diet can prove successful, but it doesn't provide a maintenance plan or a way to learn healthy habits (such as portion control) on your own.

Mushroom Diet

Known as the M-Plan, this diet involves replacing one meal per day with a mushroom-based entree. There's no other portion control or calorie tracking.

  • Practicality: Any kind of edible mushrooms are game, but they should be prepared with very little (or no) fat. That likely means cooking them at home.
  • Safety: This diet is healthier than the others because mushrooms have plenty of vitamins and minerals and very few calories. Substituting them for meat is a good way to reduce your saturated fat intake.
  • Effectiveness: You may lose weight on this diet because you're reducing your calorie intake. However, the diet's claims that it will reduce fat from certain areas of the body (hips and thighs) and not others (breasts) is unfounded.

A Word From Verywell

The baby food diet is a short-term weight loss plan that doesn't teach balanced eating habits. While reducing calorie intake is an effective strategy for weight loss, you don't have to resort to bland baby food. Learning to read labels for calorie counts and nutritional content can help you develop a more sustainable and satisfying weight-loss plan with delicious foods fit for adults.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, and budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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Article Sources
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