What Is the Baby Food Diet?

Studio shot of baby food in jars
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The baby food diet centers around the idea of eating small jars of baby food as a way to control calorie intake. Some people eat a few jars of baby food each day as low-calorie snacks, and others use baby food (up to 14 jars a week) to replace two meals per day. While there's a good chance you can lose weight quickly on this diet, it may cause you to get bored quickly and miss out on important nutrients.

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

Background

The baby food diet hit the Internet in 2010. The rumor was that actor Jennifer Aniston had used the diet to drop a quick 7 pounds, at the suggestion of her trainer. Other celebrities followed suit and soon more people were trying the trend. The diet is meant to be a quick "cleanse" or reset, not a long-term style of eating.

How It Works

The original baby food diet, according to rumor, was to eat 14 jars of baby food, plus one regular meal, per day for 3 days. Over time, some people began to follow a modified version of swapping a few jars of purees for just one meal, or even just using them as snacks instead of regular, adult food.

Essentially, the baby food diet is a low-calorie diet. Most jars have no more than 100 calories (many much fewer) and of course, the portions are baby-sized. Although baby foods don't have added salt or much fat, some may have added sugar. You're unlikely to get sufficient protein from baby food, so be sure to focus on this in the real meals you eat.

What to Eat

Stock up on those tiny containers 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). These foods don't have any seasonings, so you might find them more palatable if you add a little flavor in the form of zero-calorie herbs and spices.

For your single "adult" meal of the day, keep it to 500 or so calories for weight loss. You'll also need to pack it with the fiber, protein, and other nutrients that are missing in baby food purees.

Recommended Timing

The original diet (which was never formally published or described by Aniston's trainer) called for baby food all day and a regular meal in the evening. Plain coffee, tea, and water are also included.

Modifications

Depending on how strictly you follow the diet, you may start to feel lightheaded during the day. Going from eating regular solid meals and snacks to just baby food for hours on end can be a major adjustment. If you choose to follow the baby food diet, it's best to do so for a short period of time. Consider replacing just one meal per day with baby food instead of two, especially if you start feeling weak.

If you are a pregnant or have health conditions, like diabetes, you should not try the baby food diet. 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

  • Relatively safe

  • Quick results

  • Minimal prep or cooking

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Generates food packaging waste

  • Low in protein

  • Promotes hunger

  • Unsustainable for long term

Pros

General Nutrition

It's possible to obtain complete nutrition from the baby food diet, depending on your needs and which products you choose. With any low-calorie diet, it's not a bad idea to take a multivitamin to make up for missing micronutrients. Including high-quality protein in your adult-sized meal is imperative to maintain adequate overall nutrition.

Baby foods tend to be low in fat and may be low in sugar. Some followers of the baby food diet believe that baby foods are healthier because they don't contain food additives. However, while certain baby foods are organic—which some studies show means higher antioxidants —many do contain additives.

Dietary Restrictions

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 have trouble identifying known triggers that may cause a reaction.

Flexibility

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. If you're traveling or on the road, you'll need to pack baby food ahead of time. Otherwise, the plan is pretty straightforward to stick to.

Despite these baby food diet "pros" it's not necessarily the best plan for long-term weight loss. The baby food diet is likely to leave you feeling deprived and can be tough to stick with for a long enough time to get real results. It also doesn't do much in the way of building healthy habits.

Cons

Expensive

Eating pre-portioned baby food is pricey because you're paying for individual jars (up to as much as $2 each) unless you prepare all of the purees yourself.

Not Environmentally-Friendly

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 reduces waste associated with the diet, although you might then need to invest in your own trays or containers.

Restrictive

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. You're more likely to feel full on less calories when you choose whole foods that are high in fiber and protein. Because the baby food diet doesn't offer strategies to manage hunger, most people will quit before losing much weight.

How It Compares

There are several other diets that might remind you of the baby food diet because they promise that a simple swap of one or two meals will help you lose weight quickly. By comparison, a healthy balanced diet from the USDA advises fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and protein at every meal.

USDA Recommendations

Like other "replace your meals with this one food" diets, 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 recommended intake of about 1500 calories a day for weight loss. Use this calculator to determine the best calorie budget for you.

Similar Diets

Special K Diet

On the Special K Challenge, you'll replace two daily meals with Special K cereal (with skim milk) or Special K bars or shakes. These are readily available at grocery stores and not too expensive.

  • 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 experts say following it for 2 weeks is not likely to be harmful. That said, the meals are all processed, packaged foods.
  • Effectiveness: The Special K diet may help you lose as many as 5 or 6 pounds over 2 weeks, depending on how carefully you follow it and what else you eat. However, it is a short-term solution to 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: Like the others, this diet aims to simplify portion and offers calorie control and meal planning.
  • 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

Called 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 gets the nutritionist stamp of approval because mushrooms have plenty of vitamins and minerals but few calories. Substituting them for meat is a good way to reduce your saturated fat intake.
  • Effectiveness: You may lose weight on this diet thanks to old-fashioned calorie reduction. 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 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.

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Article Sources
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