What Is the Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet?

dr. oz 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.

In early 2017, celebrity doctor Dr. Mehmet Oz introduced the Dr. Oz 21-Day Weight-Loss Breakthrough Diet. This three-week diet plan recommends eating plant proteins, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats to promote weight loss.

The three-week program is intended to "jump-start" weight loss is intended to be followed by a balanced, low-calorie diet for long-term weight management. Like most weight loss diets, initial weight loss will be water weight and people who resume their previous way of eating after the 21-day plan will quickly regain the weight that was lost.

Some medical professionals have raised questions about Dr. Oz's advice, particularly, his recommendation of using green tea extract for weight loss. Though, this diet specifically recommends drinking oolong tea, which research has found to have an "anti-obesity effect."

What Experts Say

"Dr. Oz’s diet emphasizes nutrient-dense plant-based foods. However, the diet is quite restrictive, limiting meat, dairy, and grains, as well as eliminating any sugar or processed foods. While OK for a short-term 'jumpstart,' it is unnecessarily strict for lifelong eating."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

What Can You Eat?

On the 21-Day Diet, it's recommended you cut out sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods and get most of your calories from nutrient-dense vegetables and plant-based proteins.

What You Need to Know

The 21-Day Diet requires three meals and two snacks per day (composed of specific foods), along with lots of water and two daily cups of oolong tea. Dr. Oz says skipping the snacks to cut calories could backfire: "With snacks built into the diet, there is less temptation to cheat."

Dr. Oz's website provides a printable plan that outlines the diet's do's, don'ts, and timing, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

If you're considering the 21-Day Diet, be aware that medical experts determined that roughly half of the tips Dr. Oz shared on his TV programs had no solid research to support them—and that medically established research contradicted the advice provided on his programs.

What to Eat
  • Non-starchy vegetables

  • Plant-based proteins

  • Healthy fats

  • Fruit, nuts, and nut butters (in small amounts)

  • Whole grains (in small amounts)

  • Oolong tea

What Not to Eat
  • Processed foods

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners

  • Animal protein and dairy (in excess)

Vegetables

The 21-Day Diet allows unlimited non-starchy vegetables for lunch, dinner, and snacks. The list of 42 permitted veggies does include a few root vegetables (beets and turnips), but not potatoes, sweet potatoes, or popular picks like carrots and green beans.

Plant-Based Proteins

The diet suggests three servings of these proteins per day:

Healthy Fats

On this diet, Dr. Oz recommends eating half an avocado every day (he suggests it for breakfast). He also says a total of 2 tablespoons of olive oil to be eaten at lunch and/or dinner.

Fruit, Nuts, and Nut Butters

This diet limits fruit to two servings a day. Dr. Oz also suggests adding 1 ounce of nuts or 1 tablespoon of nut butter to one of those fruit servings as a snack.

Whole Grains

The diet allows for just one serving of whole grains per day. The meal plan suggests a slice of Ezekiel bread at breakfast time.

Oolong Tea

Dr. Oz's diet asks that you swap your morning coffee for a cup of oolong tea and have a second cup mid-afternoon. Dr. Oz wants people on the 21-Day Diet to have two cups of this tea every day because he says it will boost metabolism and "increase mental alertness."

Processed Foods

All processed foods (which could be anything from granola bars to jarred spaghetti sauce) are off-limits.

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

The same goes for sugar and artificial sweeteners; the diet calls for cutting them out entirely.

Animal Protein and Dairy Products

These are permitted, but no more than two times per week. A serving of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs can replace a plant-based protein serving.

Sample Shopping List

Dr. Oz's 21-Day Diet includes non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, legumes, fruit, whole grains, and healthy fats. The following shopping list includes suggestions for getting started on this eating plan. Note that this is not a definitive shopping list and you may find other foods that work better for you.

  • Vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, bell peppers)
  • Lean protein (tofu, tempeh, salmon, canned tuna)
  • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans)
  • Fruit (avocado, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, grapefruit)
  • Nuts and nut butter (walnuts, almonds, cashews)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats)
  • Olive oil
  • Oolong tea

Sample Meal Plan

The 21-Day Diet is mostly plant-based with some fairly strict rules and restrictions around what you can eat each day. But with a little planning, there are still options for healthy, delicious meals you can enjoy such as those included in the sample meal plan below.

Note that if you do choose to follow Dr. Oz's plan, there may be other meals that are more appropriate to suit your tastes and preferences. Just remember to emphasize plant-based protein and keep servings of fruit, whole grains, and lean animal protein to a minimum. You'll also want to consume two cups of oolong tea, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and half an avocado every day.

Day 1

Day 2

  • Breakfast: 1 cup cooked oatmeal topped with 1/2 cup fruit and nuts; 1 cup oolong tea
  • Morning snack: 1 banana with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Lunch: 1 curried tuna salad avocado boat (use 1 tablespoon olive oil)
  • Afternoon snack: 1 single-serving bag (28 ounces) kale chips; 1 cup oolong tea
  • Dinner: 1 serving vegan tempeh chili; 3-ounce side spring mix greens with 1 tablespoon olive oil

Day 3

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Features nutrient-dense whole foods

  • Satisfies hunger

  • No calorie counting

  • No supplements

Cons
  • Restrictive

  • Time-consuming

  • Short-term only

  • Lack of flexibility


Thanks to these aspects of the diet, it is reasonably nutritious and it could help you lose weight. However, there are some drawbacks. Review the pros and cons to inform your decision about whether the Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet is right for you.

Pros

  • Nutritious ingredients: This diet emphasizes plant-based whole foods that are nutrient-rich but low-calorie and focuses on unsaturated fats (mono- and poly-) that may offer heart-healthy benefits.
  • Satisfying: With three meals and two snacks per day, people on the Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet have lots of opportunities to curb hunger (although portion sizes are small, there are no limits on helpings of non-starchy vegetables).
  • No counting: There is no need to count calories or carbs with this diet. Just stick with the suggested foods and portion sizes.
  • No supplements: This diet does not require any supplements or even any special ingredients, except for oolong tea.

Cons

  • Restrictive: This diet cuts out all processed foods and added sugar and sharply limits whole grains and animal proteins including dairy. Many people find this level of restriction to be difficult to stick with.
  • Time-consuming: No convenience foods are allowed on the 21-Day Diet, which means you might spend a lot of time planning and preparing compliant meals.
  • Short-term only: The 21-Day Diet is designed to last for three weeks, which means that it's not a long-term solution for continued weight loss or weight management.
  • Lack of flexibility: There isn't much flexibility in this diet, which is perhaps why it's only meant to last 21 days. Those following this plan need to stick to the approved list of foods and the accompanying number of servings and portion sizes.

Is the Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet uses some traditional strategies to promote weight loss, but it has a few twists to distinguish it from other diets and federal guidelines.

For optimum health and nutrition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests a daily diet that's a balanced combination of grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The 21-Day Diet restricts dairy and animal protein while limiting grains to one serving a day versus the USDA's recommendation of 5–9 ounces per day (one slice of bread or 1 cup of cereal is 1 ounce).

The diet does not suggest a daily calorie intake and does not include calorie counting (but it's mostly made up of low-calorie foods). The USDA doesn't focus on this number either, indicating that it can vary a lot based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. If you're interested in determining your own calorie guidelines, you can use this calculator.

The Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet can support a healthy lifestyle by emphasizing whole foods, healthy fats, and plant-based protein. However, the restrictive nature of this diet limits nutritious food groups like dairy, animal protein, and grains. Therefore, the 21-Day Diet does not closely adhere to USDA dietary guidelines and is not recommended as a balanced diet plan for the long term.

Health Benefits

The 21-Day Diet encourages nutrient-rich, plant-based whole foods low in calories which can support healthy weight loss. The diet also emphasizes unsaturated fats (mono- and poly-), which may provide benefits for heart health.

Health Risks

There are no known health risks associated with the Dr. Oz 21-Day Diet since cutting out unhealthy processed foods and refined sugars can support overall health and help reduce the risk for obesity and chronic diseases.

However, strictly limiting whole grains, starchy vegetables, animal protein, and dairy can make it difficult to meet essential nutrient needs, which may impact overall health. Vitamins and minerals like calcium and B-vitamins are important for bone and cellular health.

A Word From Verywell

Dr. Oz's diet tips can be helpful, but it's important to remember that TV weight loss advice is not personalized. The 21-Day Diet and other suggestions may work for some viewers, but may not be the healthiest suggestion for you.

If the weight loss advice you see on TV contradicts the personalized advice you’ve received from your own healthcare team, be cautious. Ask your doctor about the specific benefits, potential harms, and real cost or inconvenience of the 21-Day Diet before you decide to try it.

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.

Was this page helpful?
10 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. Yang Y, Qiao L, Zhang X, Wu Z, Weng P. Effect of methylated tea catechins from Chinese oolong tea on the proliferation and differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocyte. Fitoterapia. 2015;104:45-9. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2015.05.007

  2. Dr. Oz. The 21-day weight loss breakthrough diet: FAQ.

  3. Korownyk C, Kolber MR, Mccormack J, et al. Televised medical talk shows--what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: A prospective observational studyBMJ. 2014;349:g7346. doi:10.1136/bmj.g7346

  4. Dr. Oz.com. The 21-day weight loss breakthrough diet instructions.

  5. Kandel S. An evidence-based look at the effects of diet on health. Cureus. 2019;11(5):e4715.  doi:10.7759/cureus.4715

  6. Gibson AA, Sainsbury A. Strategies to improve adherence to dietary weight loss interventions in research and real-world settings. Behav Sci (Basel). 2017;(7)3. doi:10.3390/bs7030044

  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition. December 2020.

  9. Martínez Steele E, Baraldi LG, Louzada ML da C, Moubarac J-C, Mozaffarian D, Monteiro CA. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: Evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional studyBMJ Open. 2016;6(3):e009892. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009892

  10. Cormick G, Belizán JM. Calcium intake and healthNutrients. 2019;11(7). doi:10.3390/nu11071606

Additional Reading