The Mayo Clinic Diet

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 04, 2016

The Mayo Clinic Diet: What It Is

Losing weight and eating healthy food shouldn't be complicated. And the Mayo Clinic Diet book does a brilliant job of showing how easy it can be to eat right, get fit, and lose weight. This user-friendly book is full of pictures, graphics, tips, recipes, and artwork that make understanding weight management simple.

The Mayo Clinic Diet was created in part to counter a bogus version of the diet which was not developed by -- and has no connection to -- the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Donald Hensrud, MD, medical editor of The Mayo Clinic Diet, says the fad diet has been making the rounds for years, inspiring experts at the clinic to set the record straight with a healthy weight loss plan.

The phony "Mayo Clinic" diet is a low-carb, high-fat plan that attributes miraculous fat-burning powers to grapefruit. Dieters go on the plan for 12 days, then off for two days, and continue this cycle for 10 weeks with the promise of a 50- to 55-pound weight loss.

But the real Mayo Clinic Diet is a scientifically sound, healthy approach to long-term weight management.

"Our plan is about lifestyle changes and helping people lose weight the healthy way while developing habits for a lifetime," says Hensrud, associate professor and chair of preventive medicine and nutrition.

The keys to The Mayo Clinic Diet -- the real one -- are:

  • Eating according to the clinic's Healthy Weight Pyramid, which tells you how many servings from each food group you need to reach your calorie goal.
  • Being more physically active
  • Adopting healthy habits
  • Defining realistic goals
  • Staying motivated


The Mayo Clinic Diet: What You Can Eat

The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid -- which is similar to the U.S. government's Food Pyramid -- recommends eating a variety of nutritious foods.

Serving recommendations and portion sizes for each food group are included to help dieters plan their own menus. How much you eat depends on your calorie goal, which can range from 1,200-1,800 per day depending on your sex and starting weight.

Here's a sample of the foods on a 1,200-calorie menu:

  • 4 or more servings of vegetables
  • 3 or more servings of fruits
  • 4 servings of "smart" carbohydrates (whole grains and more)
  • 3 servings of lean protein or reduced-fat dairy
  • 3 servings of healthy fats

But these are just guidelines, the experts say. Because vegetables and fruits are the foundation of the plan, these are the foods you should turn to first.

Artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and sweets are not permitted during the initial, quick-start portion of the plan. After that, they are limited to an average of 75 calories per day.

The Mayo Clinic Diet: How It Works

The Mayo Clinic Diet begins with a two-week jump-start phase called "Lose It!" designed to help you safely lose 6-10 pounds in two weeks. "Losing weight with the quick-start program helps dieters become motivated when they see they can lose weight and keep it up as they progress on the program," says Hensrud.

This initial phase focuses on learning how to create healthy lifestyle habits. In this phase you will:

The second phase, called "Live It!" gives you the tools and techniques you need to sustain the healthy habits you learned in the first phase, including:

  • Setting weight loss goals
  • Eating according to the Mayo Healthy Weight Pyramid
  • Understanding portions
  • Being more physically active

Expect weight loss to slow to 1-2 pounds per week during the Live It! phase; it can also work as a maintenance plan.

The Mayo Clinic Diet: What the Experts Say

Most people know they need to eat less and exercise more, but they don't know how to go about it.

Ruth Frechman, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says she gives The Mayo Clinic Diet a thumbs-up because it gives dieters simple recommendations and tools and teaches them how to lose weight in a fun and encouraging way.

"It is a reliable approach for the entire family, whether you want to lose or maintain weight, because it is based on eating healthy food and becoming more active," she says.

However, she warns that it may be unrealistic to expect to lose 6-10 pounds during the initial "Lose It!" phase of the diet. "In my 20 years of experience helping patients lose weight, most people lose about 1% of their weight in a week," she says, "so a 200-pound person will average a 2-pound loss, and that includes initial fluid loss."

The Mayo Clinic Diet: Food for Thought

The Mayo Clinic Diet is more than a diet. It's a template to help dieters change their lifestyles to achieve real and lasting weight control. Based on the latest scientific research and delivered in an easy-to-understand and motivating style, The Mayo Clinic Diet is a standout among the diet plans on the market.


Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Show Sources


Donald Hensrud, MD, associate professor and chair of preventive medicine and nutrition, Mayo Clinic; medical editor, The Mayo Clinic Diet.

Ruth Frechman, MA, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association.

Hensrud, D. The Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat Well, Enjoy Life, Lose Weight, 2010, Good Books.

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