What Is The Potato Diet?

hands holding and peeling a potato

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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 healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

Potatoes are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even protein, but are these complex-carbohydrate-rich root veggies good for weight loss? Proponents of the potato diet believe so with claims that you can lose about a pound per week.

The potato diet is a short-term rapid weight loss solution. You guessed it—the main source of calories on this diet is potatoes. There are many variations of the potato diet, but in its most simple form, followers eat nothing but plain potatoes for several days. Since this diet is restrictive, it is not meant to be followed long-term.

Potatoes are naturally low in fat and high in fiber and carbs, which help you feel fuller for longer, so the potato diet may help you shed a few pounds. However, it’s likely not a sustainable solution since it’s not a varied and balanced diet.

Here is what to expect on the potato diet: pros, cons, foods to eat, and foods to avoid.

Background

People have been eating a variation of the potato diet since 1849 when potatoes were prescribed to help people living a luxurious lifestyle become leaner. Potatoes are also a staple in many cultures worldwide, though eating potatoes as part of a healthy diet and eating a potato-only diet are much different.

In 2016, the potato diet (aka the potato hack diet) regained its popularity partly due to Tim Steele’s book, The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified, which was inspired by the 1849 version of the potato diet. Steele’s version of the potato hack diet claims that followers can expect to lose around 1 pound per day. In addition to weight loss, the 3 to 5-day intervention claims to promote a stronger immune system, increased energy levels, improved sleep, and more. 

This plan is also thought to improve digestion. According to the creator of the potato hack diet, high-fiber foods like potatoes create a diverse intestinal microbiome that may help with conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and small intestinal bacterial overgrowths (SIBO).

Other diets, such as The Starch Solution, heavily rely on potatoes as part of their programs. The Starch Solution is based on a book by John A. McDougall, a physician who advocates for a plant-based lifestyle predominantly powered by starches. While potatoes aren’t the only compliant starch on The Starch Solution, they are a go-to food on this high-starch diet.

Other forms of the potato diet have since emerged since its rising popularity in 2016, including those that are less strict. Instead of a diet based entirely on potatoes, some looser variations allow other whole, plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Less restrictive versions of the potato diet may be more sustainable long-term.

What Experts Say

"Like the cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet, and so many others before it, the potato diet promotes focusing on weight rather than health, at the expense of health. The restrictive diet not only poses a risk for not meeting nutrient needs, but it also promotes fear of certain foods, cutting out large groups of foods, and eating based on a list of "approved" foods rather than honoring your body's cues, all of which can contribute to disordered eating."

Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

What Can You Eat?

The potato diet is designed to be followed short-term for quick weight loss. Generally, followers of this diet will participate for 2-5 days in a row, though some follow the diet for up to a week at a time. 

There have even been cases where people have followed a diet consisting of only potatoes for longer periods of time. This includes a man named Andrew Taylor, founder of SpudFit, who lost 121 pounds in a year by eating nothing but potatoes.

While there are different variations, all potato diets share that they are vegan, low in dietary fat, and encourage eating until satiated. Instead of weighing portions or counting calories, followers of the potato diet are encouraged to eat until they are full.

What You Need to Know

There is no set schedule for meals on the potato diet. Since followers can eat until they are full, main meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as snacks are allowed. 

To make the potato diet more balanced and sustainable, you can include whole plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. These foods are naturally lower in fat while being rich sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Though dietary fat is not recommended on the short-term potato diet, it is an important part of any balanced diet. A very low fat or fat-free diet is not sustainable. If you plan on following a diet that is loosely inspired by the potato diet, consider adding healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado.

The potato diet is already a cost-effective plan since potatoes are affordable. Conventionally grown potatoes are even more cost-effective than organic. Eating all organic potatoes is not required on this diet, though it is optional for those who want to limit their exposure to pesticides used during farming.

What to Eat

What to Eat
  • All varieties of potatoes

  • Whole plant-based foods (optional)

  • Minimal condiments and seasonings (optional)

  • Coffee, tea, and water

What Not to Eat
  • Animal products like meat, fish, dairy, or eggs

  • Added fats like butter or vegetable oils

  • Processed and refined foods

Plain Potatoes

In the strictest form of the potato diet, you will eat nothing but plain potatoes for several days at a time. Designed for maximum weight loss over a short period of time, the diet forbids added fats like butter, vegetable oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado. It's important to note that these types of healthy fats can help to promote the absorption of key nutrients in potatoes.

The variety of potatoes allowed depends on the version of the potato diet you follow. If you follow Steele’s potato hack diet, stick to plain white potatoes. If you follow a more lenient version, other varieties, such as yellow, red, and sweet potatoes, are also allowed.

The method of preparing the potatoes is just as important as the type of potatoes themselves. Cooking methods that require added fat are not encouraged, such as frying. Stick to cooking methods that do not require added fat like boiling, steaming, baking, and roasting.

Knowing how many potatoes to eat in a day depends on each individual. Nearly all versions of the potato diet recommend eating until satisfied, so the amount varies per person. A general recommendation is to eat approximately two to five pounds of potatoes per day. It is important to consume enough calories on this diet since it is restrictive and followers may not get enough nutrients if they eat too few calories.

Whole Plant-Based Foods

The potato diet in its purest form does not allow for any additional food besides potatoes, even nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables. 

However, looser forms of the potato diet are designed to be more sustainable long-term. Depending on the version of the potato diet that you follow, you may be able to consume unprocessed foods in their whole forms alongside potatoes. This includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains that are naturally lower in fat. Plant-based foods that are naturally higher in fat, like nuts, seeds, and avocado, may be limited or not recommended. 

Even when other plant-based foods are permitted, potatoes should make up the bulk of your plate. These additional foods should be seen as a supplement to potatoes for their nutritional content.

Condiments and Seasonings

Condiments, sauces, and seasonings are also limited on the strict potato diet. In less strict versions, low-fat condiments like mustard and homemade ketchup are allowed in small quantities.

Salt is also allowed to season the potatoes, but it is not encouraged.

Generally, condiments and seasonings should be made with fat-free ingredients and kept to a minimum.

Drinks

Water, plain coffee, and plain tea are the only beverages allowed on the potato diet. It is important to stay hydrated, so plenty of water is encouraged while on and off the potato diet.

Animal Products

All variations of the potato diet are vegan. This does not mean that the potato diet is meant only for vegans. Since it is a short-term diet, vegans and non-vegans alike can partake in the potato diet. 

While following the diet, all animal products are prohibited. The potato diet is a low-fat diet, so high-fat, animal-derived foods like butter, cheese, eggs, fatty meat, fatty fish, and processed meat should be avoided.

Added Fats

Like animal products, overt fats such as vegetable oils are strictly prohibited on the potato diet. Since the potato diet is a low-fat diet, it is clear to see why added fats are not allowed. Fats are a dense source of calories, so even small amounts of added fats add up quickly. 

Instead, the potato diet encourages volume eating. This is when you fill up on foods that are naturally lower in calories. Though you eat fewer calories throughout the day, eating a large volume leaves you feeling full and satiated.

Processed and Refined Foods

The potato diet encourages you to eat whole unprocessed foods during the duration of the plan. Naturally, processed foods do not fit into this category since they may be high in calories, fat, and sodium. They also tend to be lower in nutrients than whole foods. For example, a baked potato is more nutritious than French fries, potato chips, and tater tots even though they are all made with potatoes. 

Even processed foods that are vegan-friendly, such as pasta, bread, and chips, should be avoided. Refined foods like donuts, muffins, and cereals are not permitted since they may be high in sugar and fat.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • May promote weight loss

  • Short-term

  • May improve digestion

  • Easy to follow

Cons
  • Unsustainable

  • Not a balanced or varied diet

  • Weight loss may be short-term

Pros

May Promote Weight Loss

The potato diet is specifically designed for weight loss. When it was introduced in 1849 and when it made a comeback in 2016, the potato diet has always been a weight loss solution. It is an effective form of weight loss because it is naturally low in fat and lower in calories. However, the weight loss may not be sustainable since the diet is only followed for three to five days at a time.

Short-Term

If you prefer shorter diets for quick results, you may appreciate that the potato diet only lasts for 3-5 days. While the potato hack diet founder claims you can lose up to 1 pound per day, this is not a realistic goal for everyone.

May Improve Digestion

Some people are drawn to the potato diet not only for the weight loss benefits but also the digestive benefits. Potatoes are easy-to-digest foods, making this diet gentle on the gastrointestinal tract. Potatoes are also a rich source of fiber, which keeps food moving along in the digestive system.

Easy to Follow

Mono diets like the potato diet have one advantage over nearly any other diet—they are the most simple to follow. It is easy to understand what is allowed on the diet and what to avoid. People who struggle to follow diets with complicated rules will appreciate the simplicity of the potato diet.

Cons

Unsustainable

Eating only one food, even root vegetables, is not sustainable long-term. Though the potato diet is labeled a short-term fad diet, there have been some followers who have stuck to just potatoes for long periods of time—up to one year. For the average person, this diet is not sustainable because it does not meet the recommendations for a balanced diet.

Not a Balanced or Varied Diet

Many foods that are rich in nutrients are not allowed on the potato diet. Though potatoes themselves are quite nutritious, they do lack some key nutrients. The potato diet may result in nutritional deficiencies if followed long-term.

Weight Loss May Be Short-Term

Any weight lost during very short fad diets may not be kept off long-term. This may be water weight, which is different from losing body fat. Once you return to your normal lifestyle, you may regain some of the weight you lost during the potato diet.

Is The Potato Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The potato diet is most similar to The Starch Solution, but it is significantly more restrictive. While The Starch Solution encourages a starch-based diet that includes potatoes, the potato diet advocates for a potato-only diet. However, the potato diet is designed to be a short-term rapid weight loss solution, and diets like The Starch Solution can be followed long-term as they are more balanced and sustainable.

Compared to the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the potato diet does not meet the nutritional recommendations. The guidelines list potatoes as a healthy source of starchy vegetables, though it encourages a diet full of foods from the main food groups and a variety of them. Here are a few ways that the potato diet does not meet the USDA recommendations.

Not Nutritionally Balanced

In the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fiber is listed as a cause for concern due to underconsumption. Put simply, Americans do not get enough fiber in their diet. 

The potato diet is a fiber-rich diet. It is also known for its digestive benefits. The USDA recommends between 28 and 34 grams of fiber per day for adults.

However, the potato diet may lack other nutrients since it does not contain foods from the various food groups. The recommendations for daily protein intake are between 46 and 56 grams for adults. This may be possible on the potato diet if you consume an extremely large volume of potatoes, but some people may not get enough protein on the potato diet.

Very Low in Sodium

In addition to being low in fat, the potato diet is low in sodium. While salt is allowed on the potato diet, it is not encouraged. Since potatoes are naturally low in sodium and users may add little to no salt for taste, the potato diet is very low in sodium.

The USDA recommends approximately 2,300mg of sodium per day. Without added salt, sodium intake on the potato diet is significantly less than this amount. While excessive sodium can be detrimental to optimal health, some sodium is an essential nutrient required to promote fluid balance and muscle and nerve function.

Lacks Variety

One area of concern on the potato diet is the lack of variety. The USDA separates food into six main groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, protein foods, and oils. Potatoes, the main food on the potato diet, only account for one of those food groups: vegetables. People following the potato diet are missing five of the six recommended food groups.

Variable in Calories

There is a misconception that in order to lose weight, you must reduce your calorie intake to 1,200 calories per day. This is much lower than the USDA recommendations for 1,600-2,000 calories daily for adult women and 2,000-2,400 calories daily for adult men. 

There is no set calorie requirement on the potato diet. Followers are encouraged to eat until they are full, so they may consume more or less than recommended.

Though mono diets, such as the potato diet, may result in short-term weight loss, this diet is not sustainable and may result in nutritional deficiencies.

Health Benefits

The potato diet may result in short-term weight loss and reduce your fat and sodium intake; however, there are very few health benefits associated with this diet. In general, potatoes are a nutritious food, but they should be considered as part of a varied diet rich in fruits, other vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats.

Health Risks

Discourages Healthy Eating Habits

As noted, the potato diet is not nutritionally balanced and discourages healthy eating habits. A nutrient-dense diet is rich in a variety of foods, whereas the potato diet generally allows only potatoes. Consuming only one food may promote disordered eating habits.

High in Complex Carbohydrates

People who have certain medical conditions or dietary requirements should also speak with a doctor before starting this diet. Though potatoes are a rich source of complex carbohydrates, which are associated with many health benefits, the potato diet is still a carb-heavy diet. People who follow low-carb diets for medical reasons, such as diabetes, should seek the advice of a health professional before committing to this diet.

Not Appropriate for Those with Potato Allergies

Potato allergies are rare and potatoes are seldom exposed to dietary allergens, so people with allergies should be able to follow this diet without experiencing allergic reactions. However, if you are concerned about dietary allergens associated with a potato-heavy diet, you should consult with a health care professional.

Similar Diets

There are many versions of the potato out there, which may make it confusing to know which will work best for you. Some fad diets are just that—fads that are not sustainable. However, similar diets may be easier to incorporate into your lifestyle long-term.

The Starch Solution

If you like potatoes but don’t want them to make up the bulk of your diet, you may be interested in The Starch Solution. It was created by a plant-based doctor who believes that scientific evidence supports a starch-based diet for humans. Like the potato diet, followers consume plenty of starchy foods, but non-starchy foods are allowed. This diet is also low-fat and plant-based.

The Mono Diet

Like the plant-based diet, the potato diet is also an example of a mono diet. This is when you eat nothing but one type of food for a short-term period. Coincidentally, the founder chose potatoes for his 2-week sprint. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and is not recommended.

Plant-Based Diet

The potato diet is an example of a plant-based diet, but it is not the best representation of it since it is so limited in variety. A balanced plant-based diet includes not only potatoes, but other plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, non-dairy milk, soy protein, and so on. This is the foundation of the vegan lifestyle and is suitable to follow long-term.

A Word From Verywell

Potatoes are a delicious and popular source of resistant starch, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, too much of one thing can sometimes be a bad thing. Eating a healthy balanced diet allows you to consume a variety of nutrient-rich foods as well as some more indulgent foods. However, the potato diet does not allow for eating in moderation. Instead, followers simply consume one food—potatoes—in large quantities.

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, 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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  1. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Published December 2020.