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The Promise

Eat cookies -- instead of meals -- and watch the pounds melt away. That's the premise of the various cookie diets on the market, such as Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet, The Hollywood Cookie Diet, and the Smart for Life Cookie Diet.

Of course, you don't get to eat just any cookies. These are specially made for each of the plans. You eat them instead of breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

You're on your own for dinner, though some plans advise you to limit your evening meal to a certain number of calories. Others simply suggest a "sensible" dinner.

What You Can Eat

Cookies, cookies, and more cookies. Some companies, such as Smart for Life, also offer muffins, shakes, and soups. The plans claim that their cookies aid in weight loss. Their ingredients vary, but their high protein or fiber content is meant to keep hunger at bay.

Level of Effort: Medium

If you don't like the taste of the cookies -- or the idea of eating diet cookies for most meals -- this diet could be tough to follow.

Limitations: Some people won't feel satisfied on such low-calorie diets. Eating the same foods over and over may also get boring. Either rule can make the diets hard to sustain.

Cooking and shopping: Buying breakfast, lunch, or snacks is easy -- just order the cookies with a click of your mouse. You can pretty much cook whatever you'd like for dinner, though some plans give sample dinners or calorie limits.

Packaged food or meals: Required. Except for dinner, you'll eat only packaged foods.

In-person meetings: Not required on most of the cookie diets.

Exercise: Most of the plans encourage it but are vague on specifics. Some advise a certain amount of exercise.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

The cookies on these diets come in various flavors and tend to be vegetarian-friendly. But you should check the label to find out what's in the cookies you're buying. They may not be gluten-free.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: These cookies don't come cheap, though they may cost less than the foods they're replacing. The Hollywood Cookie Diet runs about $100 for a 21-day supply. Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet offers a 4-week pack for $250, and Smart for Life's 5-week supply runs about $209.

Support:The Hollywood Cookie Diet has a free diet advice hotline. Smart for Life provides weekly in-person weigh-ins in California, Florida, and New Jersey.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

Does It Work?

You are likely to lose weight on any of these cookie diets because you will be eating fewer calories.

Many plans give you free rein for dinner, however, so you will have to be careful not to overeat during your “real” meal.

Most of the cookie diets don’t teach you a healthy style of eating, so it’s unlikely that any weight loss will stick around for the long term.

Even in the short term, though, low-calorie diets can be very hard to follow. Some plans may offer a variety of cookies or other meal replacements, but you’re still likely to find yourself hungry and bored. You will need a lot of willpower to reach your weight loss goals on this plan.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

If you’re overweight, shedding some pounds can cut your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

But if you have diabetes, eating the bulk of your calories at one meal can throw your blood sugar out of whack, especially if you take medicines or insulin. Don’t start a diet like this one unless your doctor or dietitian approves.

You will have to be sure that your meal, as well as the cookies, fits into any other dietary restrictions you may have -- such as low cholesterol, low salt, or low protein. It would be pretty easy to go over your limit with even one fast-food feast.

Exercise needs to be part of any healthy lifestyle, and only some of the cookie diets address this. Before beginning any exercise plan, make sure it’s right for you. Check with your doctor first if you have been inactive for a while or if you have any medical issues.

The Final Word

If you’re super-busy, the simplicity of this diet might appeal to you: Just buy your cookies or meal replacements, and then shop for and cook one main meal a day.

Eating out is easy, and the cookies are portable enough to take for work or travel.

Be sure to read the ingredients of the cookies carefully to be sure you get a balanced diet. And remember: A cookie diet does not represent a permanent lifestyle change. So, even if you use it to jump-start your weight loss, you will still need to work on creating a healthy diet that you can live with.

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