What Is the Vegan Military Diet, and Should You Try It? – Healthline

Despite its name, the vegan military diet has nothing to do with the military.
Rather, it’s a vegan version of the military diet, a restrictive fad diet that promises to help you lose up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in a single week through 3 days of calorie restriction.
The structure of the two diets is the same — the only major difference is that the vegan military diet uses vegan foods.
This article tells you all you need to know about the vegan military diet, including a list of suggested foods, its effect on weight loss, and whether it’s healthy.
The vegan military diet is a restrictive diet based on the original military diet, also known as the 3-day diet.
It involves a 3-day low calorie meal plan with 1,100–1,400 calories per day followed by 4 days off. Since it alternates between periods of restricted and unrestricted eating, it can be considered a form of intermittent fasting.
The diet encourages following this eating pattern for up to 4 weeks, or until you achieve your desired weight loss.
The main difference between the original and the vegan military diet is that the latter includes plant-based alternatives to typical menu items such as meat, dairy, and eggs.
Beyond this, the framework of the two diets is exactly the same.
The vegan military diet is a vegan alternative to the standard military diet. It involves a 3-day low calorie meal plan followed by 4 days off from the diet.
Similar to the traditional military diet, the vegan version involves 3 days of restricted eating followed by 4 days of less restrictive eating.
Breakfast:
Lunch:
Dinner:
The diet recommends gradually decreasing your calories each day. Therefore, you’re encouraged to eat the least amount of food on the third day. For example, lunch may include just one slice of whole wheat bread, 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of hummus, and half an avocado.
During the 4 days off from the diet, you’re allowed to eat more calories to give yourself a break from the strict guidelines. However, the diet recommends eating no more than 1,500 calories per day on these days, which is still restrictive.
The diet suggests selecting breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks from a list of recommended foods. For example:
Though the diet claims to offer more flexibility during these days, your food choices are still limited.
The vegan military diet is restrictive and provides only a few approved foods.
The vegan military diet is not healthy or sustainable.
The 3-day portion of the diet provides fewer than 1,400 calories per day, which is well below the recommended calorie intake for most people.
According to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women ages 18–60 should generally consume 1,600–2,400 calories per day, while men ages 18–60 should consume 2,200–3,200 calories per day (1).
Keep in mind, though, that the daily recommended calorie intake depends on activity level — for example, whether you’re sedentary, moderately active, or very active. Factors such as health conditions and personal goals may also play a role (1).
Further, if you stick to the suggested 1,500-calorie limit for the remaining 4 days of the diet, you’ll likely still be eating much less than your recommended calorie intake (1).
The diet doesn’t recommend any physical activity and instead relies on a large calorie deficit to support weight loss. If you choose to add exercise to your routine alongside the diet, your body will need more calories (1).
What’s more, though the diet offers vegan alternatives for those following a plant-based diet, they are limited, the portion sizes are small, and many options are highly processed. Overall, it’s not representative of what a healthy plant-based diet should look like.
A plant-based diet can be healthy if it includes a variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruit, complex carbs, healthy fats, and plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, and tofu (2).
Finally, overly restrictive diets like this one may worsen your relationship with food or contribute to disordered eating (3).
A healthy diet is one that is enjoyable, affordable, and sustainable. It should reflect other aspects of your life, such as culture, traditions, medical and nutritional needs, and preferences, while also providing enough calories and nutrients for good health (4, 5, 6).
The vegan military diet neglects many of these important parts of a healthy diet and is not recommended.
The vegan military diet is not safe or healthy. It’s too low in calories, may include highly processed foods, and is extremely restrictive.
Trying to “do it right” when it comes to nutrition may feel tempting, but it can backfire. If you are preoccupied with food or your weight, feel guilt surrounding your food choices, or routinely engage in restrictive diets, consider reaching out for support. These behaviors may indicate a disordered relationship with food or an eating disorder.
Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, age, socioeconomic status, or other identities.
They can be caused by any combination of biological, social, cultural, and environmental factors — not just by exposure to diet culture.
Feel empowered to talk with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, if you’re struggling.
You can also chat, call, or text anonymously with trained volunteers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline for free or explore the organization’s free and low cost resources.
The vegan military diet may lead to temporary weight loss, but you will likely regain any lost weight once you resume your usual diet.
Because the diet is low in calories, you’ll likely have a big enough calorie deficit to lose weight (6).
However, the initial loss — especially the promised 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in 1 week — is likely the result of losing water weight. When you restrict calories, your body begins to deplete its glycogen stores, which contain 3 grams of water per gram of glycogen (7, 8).
In other words, as your body depletes its glycogen stores, you also lose water, which can appear as weight loss. However, as soon as you start eating enough calories again, you’ll likely see the weight rebound (7, 8).
Over a longer time, you may lose some fat, but you’re also likely to lose muscle mass.
Muscle loss may occur because the diet is low in protein and doesn’t emphasize physical activity. To maintain muscle mass during weight loss, it’s important to eat enough protein and engage in physical activity (9).
Further, consuming so few calories will likely lead to increased hunger and won’t be enjoyable, making the eating pattern difficult to follow long-term (6).
Finally, the diet does not provide useful, sustainable healthy eating tips or skills — such as how to read nutrition labels, plan meals, and cook — that would help a person maintain weight loss after they stop the diet (5).
It’s better to follow a diet that creates a small calorie deficit but is sustainable in the long run. Ideally, it will include increased physical activity and a mostly minimally processed diet rich in protein, vegetables, fruits, fiber, and healthy fats.
Following the vegan military diet may help you lose weight in the short term. However, you’ll likely regain most of the weight once you resume your usual diet.
The vegan military diet is a plant-based version of a fad diet called the military diet. Both versions are restrictive and low in calories.
Though it promises to help you lose weight quickly, you’ll likely regain most of the weight once you resume your usual diet — especially because the diet is recommended for only up to 4 weeks.
This diet is overly restrictive and not safe to follow long-term. You’re much better off following a healthy, sustainable diet and exercise regimen that you enjoy and can maintain to help you achieve meaningful weight loss.
Try this today: If you’re looking to lose weight, try to reduce your intake of highly processed foods. This week, try to replace one processed meal with a homemade meal. For example, instead of ordering a pizza, make a homemade version.
Last medically reviewed on March 15, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Mar 15, 2022
By
Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD, CPT
Edited By
Daney Helgadóttir
Medically Reviewed By
Imashi Fernando, MS, RDN
Copy Edited By
Jill Campbell
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