What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet?

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

What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet

The cabbage soup diet is a short-term rapid weight loss diet where you eat primarily cabbage soup for 7 days. Supporters claim you can expect to lose 7 to 10 pounds of body weight over the course of the diet. Unfortunately it comes at a price requiring drastic calorie restriction and limited food sources.

What Experts Say

"The cabbage soup diet promises quick weight loss, but experts agree it's not a sustainable option. Protein and vegetables are a focus, but any weight lost is likely to be gained back. Plus, cutting food groups can lead to nutrient imbalances."

Leyla Shamayeva, MS, RD

The 7-Day Diet Plan

The concept of this diet is to eat cabbage soup for the majority of your meals throughout the day—at least 2 to 3 meals—with some other foods allowed on specific days. There are many different versions of the cabbage soup recipe, but for the most part, it's fat-free and consists of cabbage, other vegetables, herbs, spices, and broth.

There are no timing rules for the cabbage soup diet, and certain beverages are restricted including alcohol and any drinks that are not zero calories. Here is one example of the cabbage soup diet.

  • Day 1: Cabbage soup and unlimited fruit (except bananas)
  • Day 2: Cabbage soup and unlimited fresh, raw, or cooked vegetables (except for dry beans, peas, and corn); large baked potato with butter for dinner
  • Day 3: Cabbage soup and unlimited fruit (except bananas) and vegetables
  • Day 4: Cabbage soup and up to eight bananas and unlimited skim milk
  • Day 5: Cabbage soup and between 10 ounces and 20 ounces of beef or poultry and up to six fresh tomatoes
  • Day 6: Cabbage soup and unlimited beef and vegetables
  • Day 7: Cabbage soup and unlimited brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice, and vegetables

What You Can Eat

You'll be eating homemade cabbage soup every day for 7 days. You're also allowed to eat an additional food or group of foods and beverages on specific days that are mostly low in calories, but somewhat nutrient-dense.

Homemade Cabbage Soup

There are different versions of the cabbage soup recipe. Most of them contain the same basic ingredients including a head of cabbage, canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, broth, vegetables, and bouillon. Those following this diet will eat cabbage soup for all 7 days and should plan to make large batches in advance.

Additional Foods and Beverages

The cabbage soup diet allows for unlimited zero calorie beverages like water and unsweetened tea. Some versions also allow specific fruits and vegetables on certain days including vegetables, baked potato with butter, nonfat milk, fruits, beef, fish, poultry, brown rice, and unsweetened fruit juice.

What You Cannot Eat

You cannot eat (or drink) any food or beverage that is not on the 7-day cabbage soup meal plan. This includes alcohol, most grains and bread products, sugary drinks and fruit juices, and high-fat foods.

How to Prepare the Cabbage Soup Diet & Tips

Keep in mind that the cabbage soup diet is not recommended because it is restrictive and could be harmful for people who have certain medical conditions. If you are considering the cabbage soup diet, you should talk to a healthcare provider first for feedback.

People who have experienced short-term weight loss on the cabbage soup diet, often prepare large batches of cabbage soup in advance and buy vegetables that are pre-cut like pre-shredded bags of cabbage or coleslaw mix and fresh sliced vegetables.

Overall, the diet does not restrict which vegetables you can add to the soup. Some people add cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, and carrots to their cabbage soup. But the diet suggests refraining from adding beans or starchy vegetables like potatoes as this goes against the meal plan. The diet also does not restrict spices like curry, cumin, cardamom, cloves, ginger, or sriracha, so any choice of spices is permitted.

Overall, cabbage soup is generally a good source if dietary fiber—approximately 3 to 5 grams per serving depending on the vegetables you choose—which helps move food through the digestive tract and promotes feelings of fullness and satiety. In addition, cabbage soup contains a small amount of protein (about 5 grams), roughly 13 grams of carbohydrates, and only about 1 gram of fat. But, these numbers will vary based on the combination of vegetables you choose.

Pros of the Cabbage Soup Diet

Very restrictive, short-term diets like the cabbage soup diet may provide initial weight loss. However, it's not sustainable and can lead to unhealthy eating patterns. That said, proponents of the diet note some of the pros of the diet. These include:

  • Easy to Remember: With few foods on the "allowed" list, it's easy to remember what you can or cannot eat. Plus, you can eat unlimited cabbage soup helping to ward off hunger pangs.
  • Short Commitment: The cabbage soup diet is only recommended for 7 days making it easier for some people to commit to. Restricting foods much longer can feel like a big task and often leads to stopping a diet early.
  • Quick Weight Loss: The idea of rapid weight loss is appealing to most people. It's purported you can lose up to 10 pounds in 1 week while following the cabbage soup diet, but there is no evidence to support that claim. Researchers have not yet studied the effects specifically of the cabbage soup diet, but because it's a very low calorie diet, research on that subject is applicable. Research has shown that reduced-calorie diets can help promote weight loss.

While the plan may provide quick weight loss results, it is not a long-term solution for managing your weight.

Cons of the Cabbage Soup Diet

The cabbage soup diet has a number of cons including the fact that it is restrictive and the quick weight loss is not likely to be sustained. Here is a closer look at some of the cons of the cabbage soup diet.

  • Lack of Versatility: Because the cabbage soup diet is so strict and rigid, there's really no room for variety. People often feel bored on the cabbage soup diet, especially after eating cabbage soup for 7 days.
  • Severe Calorie Restriction: Effective weight loss lies in eating a nutritious, balanced diet without severe restrictions or nutritional exaggerations. The cabbage soup diet restricts calories to fewer than 1,200 calories per day, which is the minimum recommended for healthy weight loss, and restricts several foods and food groups. Eating fewer than 1,200 calories a day is considered severely restricted, which could lead to disordered eating behaviors and malnutrition.
  • Not Based on Scientific Evidence: Regardless of anecdotal evidence, the cabbage soup diet does not have any scientific evidence backing up its claims. Nor does cabbage or cabbage soup offer any extravagant fat-burning properties it's purported to have.
  • Not a Long-Term Solution: The cabbage soup diet is not a long-term solution for weight loss or weight management and does not offer advice for how to best stop using the diet. That means when you stop the diet, you're likely to go back to your old habits and gain the weight back. It also lacks discussion or direction for emotional eating.

In general, no one should follow a diet plan under 1,200 calories without guidance from a healthcare provider. Any diet plan providing so few calories should be avoided. Doing so could lead to serious health issues and nutrient deficiencies, and at the very least, will likely cause your weight to rebound when the diet is complete. The diet is also unsafe for anyone with a history of disordered eating.

Is the Cabbage Soup Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

A short-term severe calorie restriction from the cabbage soup diet may help you lose weight quickly, however, it may not be body fat you're losing. Because there's no instruction on how to transition off the cabbage soup diet, at the conclusion you are likely to return to old habits and gain the weight back.

While you may lose weight initially, it's not a long-term weight loss solution or a healthy eating plan. The cabbage soup diet lacks dietary fat and protein which are essential for optimal health and a healthy body weight. Plus, the cabbage soup diet does not teach skills like meal planning, proper portion sizes, or how to make healthy food choices and navigate emotional eating, which are essential for healthy weight loss.

Successful weight loss and maintenance is best achieved at a range between 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day, but this varies depending upon age, sex, weight, and activity level and could be much higher for some people. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines recommends the following nutrient-dense foods as part of a healthy diet:

  • Vegetables (such as green beans, broccoli, carrots)
  • Dark, leafy greens (such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard) 
  • Fruits (such as apples, berries, melon)
  • Grains (such as quinoa, brown rice, oats)
  • Lean meats (such as chicken breast, fish, turkey breast)
  • Beans and legumes (all beans, lentils, peas)
  • Nuts and seeds (such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
  • Dairy (such as reduced-fat milk, cheese, yogurt) 
  • Oils (such as olive oil, avocado oil

Because the cabbage soup diet recipes vary, there isn't one standard set of nutrition facts for cabbage soup, but on average, a bowl has about 50 to 100 calories. Use this calculator to determine the right number of calories for you and your weight loss goals.

While the cabbage soup diet is high in vegetables, the overall diet does not adhere to USDA guidelines. The diet is highly restrictive and does not provide a wide variety of nutrients or calories. It is not considered a healthy eating plan.

A Word From Verywell

There's no quick fix for lasting weight loss. You may lose weight initially on the cabbage soup diet, but that's because of the severe calorie restriction and rigid meal plan. Cabbage soup does not boost weight loss more than any other food or meal plan available today.

Following a strict 7-day meal plan like the cabbage soup diet does not teach you how to make healthy choices or maintain your weight loss. As soon as you stop following the diet you'll most likely gain the weight back, and then some. The best diet is one that does not interrupt your lifestyle and you can see yourself following for the long haul. A registered dietitian can help you determine the best meal plan for your goals.

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.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Koliaki C, Spinos T, Spinou Μ, Brinia ΜE, Mitsopoulou D, Katsilambros N. Defining the optimal dietary approach for safe, effective and sustainable weight loss in overweight and obese adultsHealthcare (Basel). 2018;6(3):73. Published 2018 Jun 28. doi:10.3390/healthcare6030073

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025

  4. Kellingray L, Tapp HS, Saha S, Doleman JF, Narbad A, Mithen RF. Consumption of a diet rich in Brassica vegetables is associated with a reduced abundance of sulphate-reducing bacteria: A randomised crossover study. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017;61(9) doi:10.1002/mnfr.201600992

By Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN
Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN is a sports and pediatric dietitian, the owner of Nutrition by Shoshana, and is the author of "Carb Cycling for Weight Loss." Shoshana received her B.S in dietetics and nutrition from Florida International University. She's been writing and creating content in the health, nutrition, and fitness space for over 15 years and is regularly featured in Oxygen Magazine, JennyCraig.com, and more.