What Is the 3-Day Military Diet?

In This Article

The three-day military diet, also called the three-day diet, is a quick weight-loss program that includes three days of a very specific eating plan followed by four days of a less restrictive, low-calorie plan.

Proponents of the plan claim you can lose up to 10 pounds a week or 30 pounds in a month while eating foods like vanilla ice cream and hot dogs. The diet claims to combine specific foods in a way that boosts metabolism and burns fat, however, there is no scientific evidence to support this.

What Experts Say

"This diet cycles on for three days and then off for four days with the 'on' days only providing about 1,100 to 1,400 calories and then the four 'off' days still only allowing 1,500 calories. This is extremely restrictive and not enough energy for most people."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

Background

The origin of the three-day military diet is unclear. According to some sources, the diet was created by nutritionists working for the United States military as a fast way to help soldiers slim down. It widely speculated, however, that the diet was created by a marketing specialist and not a dietitian.

How It Works

The military diet is a “combination of low-calorie, chemically compatible foods designed to work together and jump-start your weight loss,” according to the Military Diet website. However, there is no science to back up these claims.

The program requires you to eat a very strict list of food for three days (these are referred to as your "on" days). Then you take four days off from the strict diet.

What to Eat

On the three-day military diet, you will follow a specific plan for three days, then have four days off. The off days are limited to 1,500 calories of preferably healthy food. Here's a closer look at the three-day plan:

Day One (1,400 calories)

  • Breakfast: one slice of toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, half of a grapefruit, and black coffee or tea
  • Lunch: one slice of bread or toast, a half cup of tuna fish, and black coffee or tea
  • Dinner: 3 ounces of meat, one cup of green beans, half of a banana, one small apple, and 1 cup vanilla ice cream

Day Two (1,200 calories)

  • Breakfast: one slice of toast, half of a banana, and one cooked egg
  • Lunch: 1 cup cottage cheese, one hard-boiled egg, and five saltine crackers
  • Dinner: Two (bunless) hot dogs, 1 cup broccoli, half of a banana, and 1 cup vanilla ice cream

Day Three (1,100 calories)

  • Breakfast: one slice of cheddar, one small apple, and five saltine crackers
  • Lunch: one slice of bread or toast and one cooked egg
  • Dinner: 1 cup of tuna, half of a banana, and 1 cup vanilla ice cream

Limited substitutions are allowed on the plan as long as you stay within the calorie guidelines. On your "off" days, you are advised to consume 1,500 calories per day of a less restrictive diet. Suggested off-day meals and are listed on the diet's website and include items such as a yogurt parfait, a protein salad, and shrimp and zucchini pasta.

Compliant Foods

  • Black coffee

  • Vanilla ice cream

  • Bananas

  • Hot dogs

  • Eggs

  • Saltines

  • Cottage and cheddar cheese

  • Bread or toast

  • Broccoli

  • Apple

  • Tuna

  • Grapefruit

  • Green beans

  • Meat

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Alcohol

  • Milk or cream (in coffee)

  • Sugar

Recommended Timing

The Military Diet consists of a three-day meal plan of three meals a day with no snacks, followed by four days of less restricted eating for three meals and two snacks.

The cycle can be repeated until you reach your goal weight. Once at goal, the plan recommends sticking to the guidelines outlined in the four-day plan.

Resources and Tips

The Military Diet outlines and guidance can be found on TheMilitaryDiet.com website and in books including:

  • Military Diet: A Step by Step Guide for Beginners: Top Military Diet Recipes Included by Bruce Ackerberg (2018)
  • The Military Diet: Lose 10 Pounds In A Week by Pamela Adams (2016)
  • Military Diet: Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Days by John Salzar (2014)

Pros and Cons

Like most fad diets, the three-day military diet has benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Promise of quick weight loss

  • Structured plan takes the guesswork out of dieting

Cons

  • Not scientifically sound

  • Contains many low quality foods including hot dogs and saltines

Pros

The three-day military diet promises quick weight loss and provides a structured plan to achieve that, which helps to take the guesswork out of dieting.

However, the diet is highly restrictive, includes unhealthy processed foods, and may not provide enough calories to sustain energy throughout the day. It is not considered a healthy diet plan.

Cons

The military diet claims to be one of the best natural diets, however, this is not rooted in scientific evidence. The diet includes many heavily processed foods (like hot dogs) and foods that contain ingredients associated with an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

Even if you lose a few pounds at first, you may end up gaining more weight later because the diet encourages you to eat foods that high in fat and calories.

Eating too many hot dogs and too much ice cream is not only unhealthy but can easily cause weight gain in the long run.

The Diet Is Calorie Counting in Disguise

The military diet strongly encourages portion control. On the three "on" days, the calories are counted for you unless you make substitutions, which must be measured and calorie counted. On the four "off" days, it is recommended to keep a food log and count calories.

You Will Lose Water Weight

In general, when you lose weight quickly, it's water weight. In fact, experts say you can lose 5 pounds of water weight in a day. The diet's website claims that when a dieter loses weight on the diet, it “is not just water weight.” But there is no further documentation provided to support that statement.

How It Compares

For short-term weight loss, the three-day military diet is reportedly effective, but weight lost on the plan is likely to be regained once you resume a normal diet. However, it isn't a long-term weight loss solution or a healthy eating plan, nor does it teach skills, like healthy meal planning and preparing, needed for sustained weight loss.

USDA Recommendations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations and tips for a healthy, balanced diet which should include a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and oil.

The three-day military diet does not adhere to USDA guidelines and it is not considered a healthy eating plan.

The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1,500 calories per day for weight loss, but this number varies based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. Use this calculator to determine the right number of calories for you.

Similar Diets

Much like the three-day military diet, these other fad diets limit the foods you eat to specific days. While each plan promises you’ll drop pounds quickly, they are unlikely to provide long-term, sustained weight loss.

  • Cabbage Soup Diet: The main focus of the cabbage soup diet is a homemade soup that is eaten several times a day. The diet also includes other foods that can be eaten on specific days.
  • The Sacred Heart Diet: Swap out cabbage soup for a different vegetable soup recipe and you have the Sacred Heart diet. In fact, the weeklong meal plan is almost identical to the cabbage soup diet.
  • Juice Cleanse: A three-day fast, the juice cleanse recommends drinking raw, organic juice made from fruits and vegetables several times a day. Food, other than that which is juiced, is not allowed.
  • Grapefruit Diet: Another diet with a promise of quick weight loss, the grapefruit diet is a 10-day plan that encourages eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice with every meal.
  • The M-Plan: On this diet, the M stands for mushroom, and you replace one meal a day for two weeks with a low-fat or fat-free mushroom-based dish. It doesn’t otherwise limit calories or other food groups, but by swapping out meat for mushrooms reduces daily caloric intake to help you lose weight. 

    A Word From Verywell

    If you've got more than a few pounds to lose, consider meeting with a registered dietitian or making small changes to your daily habits to lose weight and keep it off. Remember, your health is too important to trust it to a nameless, faceless fad on the internet.

    Find the right diet for you and invest a little time and effort into putting a reasonable healthy plan in place. It takes more work in the beginning, but you're far more likely to achieve sustainable results.

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