What Is the Sacred Heart Diet?

sacred heart 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 health care provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

The Sacred Heart diet is a popular diet plan based around a soup recipe that some say will help you lose 10 to 17 pounds in one week. Allegedly, the diet was developed by a medical center called Sacred Heart to help overweight and obese patients lose weight to prepare for surgery.

However, there is no evidence that any hospital, weight-loss specialists, or physicians developed this diet. Nor is there evidence to suggest that the Sacred Heart diet is effective for weight loss. It is unclear who came up with the Sacred Heart eating plan, but it is highly unlikely that it was developed by medical professionals.

There is no verifiable record of Sacred Heart hospital affiliation and no legitimate source at any medical center with that name (or any medical facility) has claimed responsibility for the diet. So where did it come from?

It's possible the plan and its many variations were developed as a marketing scheme to generate revenue through online advertising. There are many diets, like fake versions of a Mayo Clinic Diet, that claim to be affiliated with a reputable source to attract people who want to lose weight. In fact, many of these programs make false claims and are often promoted through the media to generate income.

What Experts Say

"By following a restrictive diet that includes special soup recipes, the Sacred Heart diet promises quick weight loss. While you may lose a few pounds, experts agree this is an unsustainable fad diet. The limited daily food intake is also likely to lead to nutrient imbalances."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

What Can You Eat?

There are many different variations of the Sacred Heart diet, but most require you to prepare a special soup that becomes the basis of your week-long eating plan. Every day, you'll eat at least one bowl of Sacred Heart soup. Then you will eat a few additional foods along with the soup, usually in unlimited amounts.

Though the recipes may vary, the Sacred Heart soup generally includes:

  • Canned beef broth or canned chicken broth
  • Chicken soup mix (dry) or canned chicken soup 
  • Stewed tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Yellow or green onions
  • Celery
  • Green peppers

What You Need to Know

To lose weight, the plan says you must follow a very restrictive and specific day-by-day eating plan. People who follow this diet plan are only allowed to eat the foods prescribed for that day.

It is important to keep in mind this is a fad diet and not recommended by health professionals or backed by scientific research.

What to Eat
  • Sacred Heart soup

  • Most fruits

  • Most vegetables

  • Beef

  • Brown rice

  • Unsweetened fruit juice

  • Coffee and tea

  • Nonfat milk

What Not to Eat
  • Bananas on certain days

  • Avoid all other foods

  • Sweetened beverages

Beverages including coffee, tea, water, and sometimes nonfat milk (but not sweetened drinks) are allowed. The diet restricts certain foods each day but doesn't make suggestions on when you should eat them.

One version of this weekly plan is as follows:

  • Day 1: Soup and any fruit except bananas
  • Day 2: Soup, vegetables, and one potato with butter at dinnertime
  • Day 3: Soup, fruits, and vegetables 
  • Day 4: Soup, bananas (at least three), and as much milk as possible
  • Day 5: Soup, beef (as much as possible), and up to six tomatoes
  • Day 6: Soup, beef, and vegetables
  • Day 7: Soup, brown rice, unsweetened fruit juice, and vegetables

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Simple to follow

  • Foods are readily available and inexpensive

Cons
  • Rapid weight loss can be dangerous

  • Not nutritionally balanced, may lead to nutrient deficiencies

  • Long-term success is very unlikely

  • Not recommended by doctors or nutritionists

The plan does have some benefits, as it's fairly easy to follow and accessible. But there are several downsides to the diet, including safety concerns, inadequate nutrition, and its sustainability over time. Review the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about whether you should try the Sacred Heart diet.

Pros

Simplicity: With this diet plan, the foods you must eat are clearly defined. There are few decisions to make and beyond the soup itself (which is easy to prepare), there is little cooking or prep for meals.

Accessibility: All of the foods you need for this diet are easily found at any supermarket (or already in your pantry) and are generally inexpensive. There are no special foods or supplements to purchase.

Still, that does not mean this diet is recommended. It is far too limited in its nutrients and calories.

Cons

Possible weight regain: Losing weight at this rate, and especially gaining it right back afterward (which is very likely) can lead to health problems.

Eating disorder risk: This is a fad diet, and following fad diets may increase a person's risk of developing or exacerbating an eating disorder.

If you follow this diet exactly, you are likely to lose some weight. But that doesn't mean that the diet is healthy or safe since it is likely to lead to deficiencies in vital nutrients. It also does not mean this is a sustainable plan for long-term weight management.

Is the Sacred Heart Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

This eating program does not follow the accepted nutritional guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The current USDA guidelines suggest eating a daily variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and lean protein. On the Sacred Heart diet, you are getting only vegetables, chicken broth, and certain fruits on many of the days. While these are all healthy options, they are not enough on their own.

On some days, you are not likely to consume enough calories to fuel your body. And on many of the days, you may not get the important nutrients that your body needs. Daily calorie needs vary based on age, sex, current weight, and activity level, but 2,000 calories a day is typically used as an average or starting point. Cutting back on the number of calories you consume every day is a safe and effective way to lose weight.

But the Sacred Heart diet restricts calories far too much on some days and encourages binging on others ("as much beef as possible"). A better option is to use this calculator to determine your ideal daily calorie intake for weight loss.

The Sacred Heart diet does not meet the recommended guidelines for healthy eating as defined by the USDA. It lacks a healthy amount of daily calories, is not nutritionally balanced, and could lead to unhealthy post-diet binge eating.

Health Benefits

While proponents of the Sacred Heart diet claim that rapid short-term weight loss is possible on this 7-day plan, there is no evidence that would suggest this plan is a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight. What research does show is that similar fad diets do not promote weight management. What's more, fad diets often result in unhealthy eating habits.

Health Risks

The Sacred Heart diet includes almost no starch and limited carbohydrates. The calorie and carb restriction will result in significant water loss that will look like a fat loss on the scale. But your body needs carbohydrates for energy and optimal brain function. So eating in this manner is not recommended.

Very restrictive diet plans often backfire and can result in an unhealthy post-diet binge that causes weight gain.

Similar Diets

The Sacred Heart diet is similar to several other diets that have dubious medical sources, severely restrict certain foods and food groups, and promise quick, easy, and significant weight loss. They may be a quick fix, but they are not a long-term answer to reaching a healthy weight. Here's how they compare:

The Sacred Heart Diet

  • Types of food: Along with the Sacred Heart vegetable soup, this diet limits the rest of your intake to a few other foods, including fruits, potatoes, beef, and milk.
  • Accessibility and cost: Foods needed for this diet are readily available and you don't need to buy any expensive supplements or ingredients.
  • Duration: Most versions of the diet suggest following it for one week.
  • Safety: If you follow this diet, you will miss out on a lot of necessary nutrients and food groups, as well as limit your calories too severely.

The Cabbage Soup Diet

  • Types of food: Swap the Sacred Heart soup for a slightly different one made with cabbage and you have the cabbage soup diet. Like the Sacred Heart plan, this one requires you to eat the soup daily, along with a very limited number of other foods (fruits, vegetables, beef, and nonfat milk).
  • Accessibility and cost: Foods are readily available; no special, expensive ingredients or supplements are required.
  • Duration: One week is recommended if you can last that long.
  • Safety: The restrictions in calorie intake and food groups mean this plan doesn't meet general nutrition recommendations. Plus, doctors advise against losing weight so quickly.

The M-Plan

  • Types of food: The M stands for "mushroom." This diet recommends replacing one meal a day with a mushroom-based dish that uses little or no fat in preparation. Other than that, there are no restrictions.
  • Accessibility and cost: You can pick up mushrooms at any supermarket, and you might even save money if you are eating less meat in favor of mushrooms.
  • Duration: The M-Plan diet calls for two weeks of mushroom-based meals.
  • Safety: Because this diet only restricts one meal a day, it doesn't limit calories or other food groups in a dangerous way. Mushrooms contain many vitamins and minerals. While you will lower your daily calorie intake if you swap meat for mushrooms, whether you lose weight will depend a lot on the choices you make for your non-mushroom meals.

The 3-Day Military Diet

  • Types of food: For the three "on" days of the 3-day military diet, there is a specific list of foods to be consumed. These include puzzling choices such as "2 hot dogs without buns," "5 saltine crackers," and "1 cup of vanilla ice cream." On the "off" days, no foods are restricted—but calories are, to no more than 1500.
  • Accessibility and cost: None of the foods is difficult to find or expensive. No supplements are required.
  • Duration: This is not really a three-day diet. Calories are restricted all seven days. The original plan does not have a target end date.
  • Safety: Eating two hot dogs a week is not the best choice, but this diet generally includes most food groups. Its calorie levels, however, are quite low (1,100 to 1,400 daily calories during the "on" days), which could be challenging to comply with and may not be safe for everyone.

A Word From Verywell

The Sacred Heart diet is not an effective method for weight loss. You may slim down after a few days, but you are likely to gain back any weight that was lost. It's a healthier idea to find a program that fits your needs, allows you to eat your favorite foods in moderation, and provides your body with important nutrients that support your overall health.

Talk to your doctor or meet with a registered dietitian if you have a significant amount of weight to lose. Your health care team can provide you with tools that will make your weight loss journey successful. If you have just a few pounds to lose, aim for a safe and healthy rate of one to two per week.

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, and 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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Article 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.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Fad Diets. Updated August 4, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. 

  3. Joshi S, Mohan V. Pros & cons of some popular extreme weight-loss dietsIndian J Med Res. 2018;148(5):642-647. doi:10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_1793_18

  4. Hawkins MAW, Keirns NG, Helms Z. Carbohydrates and cognitive functionCurr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2018;21(4):302-307. doi:10.1097/MCO.0000000000000471

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