What Is the Baby Food Diet?

In This Article
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 caloric 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 of it!) to replace two meals per day.

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 seven 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 three 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, or just a higher proportion of naturally occurring sugar (as in fruit purees).

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 if you want to lose weight. You'll also need to pack it with the fiber and other nutrients you didn't get from your baby 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.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy portion control

  • Low-fat

  • Relatively safe

Cons

  • Expensive

  • Generates waste

  • Restrictive

Pros

The idea of a built-in low-calorie diet is tempting. Here are a few reasons people have been interested in the diet:

  • Controlled portions: Baby food jars and packages are small, so they automatically help you control portions. You don't need to count calories or plan your meals (except for the one regular, adult meal you consume). Baby food may also be convenient to carry with you as opposed to bulkier, perishable fresh fruits and vegetables, or other healthier snacks.
  • Low in fat, high in nutrients: 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.
  • Generally safe: As long as you take in enough calories and nutrients, it's probably safe to follow the baby food diet, but not in the most extreme version. Eating jars of baby food as snacks as an occasional meal replacement or snack might be okay, but you still need to get a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your diet and it's tough to do that if you're not eating enough food.

Cons

While this diet may have a few benefits, it's important to be aware of its drawbacks.

  • Expensive: Eating this way is pricey because you're paying for each jar (up to as much as $2) unless you prepare all purees yourself.
  • Not environmentally friendly: Especially if you're consuming 14 servings a day, you will have a lot of little glass jars or plastic containers to throw out or recycle. Preparing your own baby food helps with this, although you might then need to invest in your own trays or containers.
  • Restrictive: Even with the regular adult meal, this diet just doesn't provide enough calories and nutrients to fuel your body. It's far easier to curb your appetite with fresh, high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Plus, a three-day plan doesn't help you make lifestyle changes that promote better health and sustainable weight loss.

What the USDA Says

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's guidelines suggest eating plenty of different foods in order to get all the nutrients your body needs, including fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, protein, and grains. While you can find baby foods made from all these foods, the portions are too small for an adult (and you may not like the taste of anything but the fruits).

In terms of calories, 2.5 ounces of baby food contains anywhere from 20 to 100 calories. Even multiplying that by 14 and adding a regular meal, you would struggle to get the 1,500 or so calories the USDA recommends consuming each day to lose weight. Use this calculator to determine the best calorie budget for you.

How It Compares to Similar Diets

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. See how the baby food diet stacks up:

Baby Food Diet

As discussed above, the attraction of this diet is built-in portion control, but keep in mind it's a short-term plan that serves more as a cleanse.

  • Duration: Three days
  • Practicality: It's fairly easy to follow this diet since baby food is easy to find and you don't have to manage your own portion control or calorie-counting. For best results, though, you should do so for the adult meals you consume.
  • Safety: Nutritionists don't recommend this eating plan because it's tough to get the nutrients and calories your body needs in this way. Baby food is best reserved for babies.
  • Effectiveness: You may lose a few pounds, but the process will be uncomfortable and it's likely you will regain those pounds quickly.

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.

  • Duration: Two weeks
  • 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 two 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 five or six pounds over the two 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.

  • Duration: Not specified
  • 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 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.

  • Duration: Two weeks
  • Practicality: Any kind of 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 caloric 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 unclear.

A Word From Verywell

The baby food diet is a short-term diet, and whatever weight you lose will probably come back when you return to your regular eating habits. The best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is by eating a balanced diet with the right amount of calories for you.

If you do decide to try the baby food diet, you should speak to your health care provider first. Then, while on the diet, be sure to read labels for calorie counts and nutritional content. Choose a variety of baby foods to get more fruits, vegetables, and protein, and eat at least one—preferably two—balanced adult meals each day.

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Article Sources
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