What Is the Potato Diet, and How Does It Work?
The potato diet is a fad diet in which you strictly consume plain potatoes only, including:
- Mashed potatoes
- Boiled potatoes
- Baked potatoes
People can follow this diet for days, weeks, or even months. However, it’s recommended to stick with it for 3 to 5 days.
The idea of the potato diet originated back in 1849. Since then, it was brought back by Tim Steele and his book “Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified.”
Many people have tried this diet and its variations for reducing body fat and improving their overall health. For instance, a magician, Penn Jillette, ate around five potatoes a day for 24 days and shed almost 14 pounds without any additional exercise.
As the guidelines state, by following the potato diet, you’ll eat 2-5 pounds of potatoes daily, which equals 530-1,300 calories. This way, the potato diet claims to aid in weight loss by making you lose up to one pound daily.
Additionally, this diet claims to make you feel fuller, offer essential nutrients, and improve your gut microbiome. However, the potato diet lacks scientific evidence and isn’t supported by research.
If you still want to try it out, follow a few guidelines.
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How To Carry Out the Potato Diet?
According to the book written by Tim Steele, these are the essential potato diet rules you need to follow:
- You can only consume plain, cooked potatoes for three to five days (boiled potatoes, oven-roasted potatoes).
- Only white potatoes are allowed (no sweet potatoes).
- You should eat 2-5 pounds of potatoes each day.
- Any other foods, condiments, or toppings are strictly forbidden.
- Only use salt if you must.
- You can drink water, black coffee without any additives, and plain tea.
- Do some light exercise like walking or cycling.
- Don’t take any unprescribed dietary supplements.
- You can continue taking the medication prescribed by your doctor.
- No highly-processed potato products are allowed (potato chips, French fries).
Other variations of this diet are less strict and include sweet potatoes, spices, and fat-free condiments.
As mentioned above, you should stick with 530-1,300 calories a day, which is way less than the daily recommended calorie intake for an adult. On top of that, this diet lacks most essential nutrients our bodies need, which is why it should not be followed for prolonged periods.
For you to understand the deficiencies this regime can lead to, take a look at the nutritional information of one potato:
- Calories: 22
- Total fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 4 mg
- Carbohydrates: 5 g
- Dietary Fiber: 1 g
- Sugar: 0 g
- Protein 1 g
Multiply these values by the number of potatoes you would eat in one day of this diet. The resulting number will likely be far below the recommended amounts of macronutrients.
What To Eat on the Potato Diet
Even though the guidelines dictate that you should eat just plain potatoes, let’s go over other options offered by different potato diets.
Plain white potatoes
Plain white potatoes are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, which play an essential role in helping your body function properly.
This is the only food you can eat if you’re following the strict potato diet. You can prepare mashed potatoes, oven-roasted potatoes, baked potatoes, air-fried potatoes, or boiled potatoes.
You can add a bit of salt if needed, but that’s about it. No spices, herbs, ketchup, sour cream hot sauce, or any other additives when cooking potatoes. Also, you’re not allowed to fry them or use oil in any way, and, as mentioned above—stay away from processed potato products.
In the more flexible version of the potato diet, you can actually use broth. There are various types you can choose from, including:
- Chicken broth
- Beef broth
- Fish broth
- Bone broth
- Vegetable broth
- Calories: 15
- Total fat: 1 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 928 mg
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 1 g
Chicken broth can be consumed on its own or as part of a potato dish. It provides vital fatty acids and lean protein, which aid in rebuilding healthy muscle, bone, skin, and blood cells in your body. This broth has very few calories and can aid in weight loss.
Moreover, it also contains selenium, which is important for managing cardiovascular diseases. You can use potatoes and broth to prepare potato soup, for example. You can also try boiling potatoes in broth or steaming them in broth.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are allowed if you’re following the more flexible version of the potato diet. They are a good source of vitamins (vitamin C, folate, and potassium), minerals, and dietary fiber.
Eating enough fruits and vegetables can promote healthy digestion and contribute to a balanced diet. Some specific examples of fruits that are lower in sugar and you can consume during the potato diet include:
Additionally, you can consume certain vegetables during the potato diet:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green peas
- Starchy vegetables
You can add vegetables and fruits and create salads, soups, or stews.
Legumes and grains
Legumes and grains are rich in amino acids, protein, fiber, and several micronutrients, including iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin B.
Legumes can help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Moreover, they prevent digestive issues with fiber, resistant starches, and non-digestible carbohydrates.
Whole grains, for example, have a similar effect in preventing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer while promoting digestive health. Some specific examples of meals you can prepare using potatoes, legumes, and grains include:
- Baked potatoes with bean and grain toppings
- Potato and lentil soup
- Roasted potato and black bean bowl
- Various salads
Keep in mind that these foods are only allowed in the more flexible version of the potato diet.
Low-fat condiments and spices
Condiments naturally low in fat include:
- Pesto — a good source of zinc.
- Salsa — a very low-calorie condiment.
- Tahini — rich in protein.
- Mustard — low in calories and has anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Kimchi — a good source of probiotics.
Low-fat spices include:
- Basil — rich in antioxidants.
- Bay leaves — a good source of vitamins A, C, B6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
- Chili powder — a good source of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
- Rosemary — high in magnesium.
- Parsley — rich in vitamins K and A.
- Cumin — has an antibacterial effect.
You can use these condiments and spices to prepare delicious, low-calorie potato meals such as salads, soups, and stews. However, you can only do this if you follow the flexible version of the potato diet.
You can consume calorie-free drinks like black coffee or plain tea on the strict version of the potato diet. Nonetheless, on the flexible version, you can also have:
- Diet soda
- Flavored water
- Water with lemon
Before getting any of these beverages, double-check the label to make sure that they are, in fact, calorie-free.
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Foods To Avoid on the Potato Diet
The food groups that should be avoided on the potato diet are:
- Animal products — this diet is vegan; therefore, you can’t consume meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, fish, or poultry on any occasion.
- Processed foods — processed foods are high in fat and sodium, contain too many calories, and are low in nutrients. Therefore, you should avoid potato chips and french fries. You should also stay away from pasta, bread, muffins, cereal, crackers, and similar foods.
- Added fats — the potato diet is a low-fat diet. Hence, these added fats such as butter, nuts and seeds, vegetable oil, and avocado are forbidden.
Is the Potato Diet Safe? What the Research Has To Say
While some argue that a potato diet is safe when followed appropriately, there are other arguments for believing the contrary.
Firstly, this diet hasn’t been studied. There is only research on the benefits of potatoes to the human diet and health. Potatoes have antioxidants, vitamins C and B6, proteins, and dietary fiber, which may lead some to believe that it would be okay to consume just potatoes for some time.
However, one medium size potato provides only 4 grams of protein and no fat at all. It also lacks calcium, vitamin A, and other vitamins B. Therefore, a long-term intake could lead to a lot of nutrient deficiencies.
To make matters worse, we know that certain types of potatoes may even contribute to weight gain.
The potato diet is also very restrictive, which can trigger certain eating disorders. If you feel your relationship with food worsens during this or any other diet, seek medical or psychological assistance as soon as possible.
All in all, there isn’t enough research to make any definite conclusions about the safety of the diet. The lack of research, its highly-restrictive nature, and nutrient deficiencies indicate that this method shouldn’t be considered a safe way to lose weight and improve overall health.
How Does the Potato Diet Affect Weight Loss?
The majority of people opt to follow fad diets simply for the purpose of losing weight. Eating only potatoes (or a specific group of foods) for three to five days certainly does have effects on weight loss.
Diets that restrict calories, such as the potato diet, in which you only consume 530-1,300 calories daily, can make you lose weight. However, you must really stick with them to achieve results.
Luckily for this meal plan, potatoes help you feel satisfied for a more extended time, which can help with hunger management. This is because they contain a protein called proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2), which is known to suppress appetite.
The potato diet does show some promising results in weight management. However, it’s only a short-term solution, as diets that are extremely low in calories like this one can slow down your metabolism and decrease muscle mass.
Additionally, you’ll likely regain the weight you lost once you retake your regular eating habits.
Whether or not the potato diet can help people lose weight safely can only be determined with proper research, which currently needs to be determined. Nonetheless, the method can have other possible benefits.
Other Possible Benefits of the Potato Diet
- Promotes gut health — the potato diet is a high-fiber diet that is shown to be able to promote gut health.
- Affordable — you’ll only need potatoes, which are one of the cheapest vegetables out there.
- Easy to understand — there are no detailed rules to follow. Simply restrict yourself to potatoes for three to five days.
- Suppresses appetite — proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2) is a protein present in potatoes that have been shown to reduce hunger.
Consider These Risks and Drawbacks Before You Try It
- Lacks essential nutrients — proteins and fats are necessary for providing energy and supporting the functioning of your body. One medium-sized potato only has 4 grams of protein and no fat. The diet also lacks calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin B. Therefore, you need more nutrient-dense foods in your diet.
- Very restrictive — eating only plain potatoes for several days can be extremely difficult.
- You might gain the weight back — Low-calorie diets slow down your metabolism and cause you to burn fewer calories. Even if you get back to your usual diet, your metabolism will remain slow, resulting in weight gain and leading to your previous weight.
- You might experience muscle loss — when you lose weight quickly, you also lose muscle. Moreover, the diet lacks protein, which is necessary for preventing muscle loss.
- You might develop an unhealthy relationship with food — extremely restrictive diets posses a risk of developing an eating disorder.
If you’d prefer a healthy weight loss alternative, you may want to consider intermittent fasting. By following this time-restricted eating pattern, you would effectively cycle between fasting and eating periods. And what’s best: you can eat whatever you want within your eating window without confining yourself to a certain food group or restricting calories.
Intermittent fasting is easier to follow than a potato diet, and it has science-backed research that confirms its weight loss benefits.
Moreover, there are several types of fasts, ranging from 12:12 to a 36-hour fast. The DoFasting app will assist you in choosing the right plan and provide you with a fasting timer, a progress tracker, and a variety of other fasting-related features.
4 Important Tips for Preparing for the Potato Diet
Preparation is essential if you want to have the best experience with your potato diet. Here’s how to do it correctly.
Make sure you eat enough calories throughout the day
Getting enough calories is important to make sure that the body has enough energy, which could make it easier for you to stick with the diet and avoid hunger pangs or fatigue.
Therefore, make sure to use different cooking methods for your potato meals and have at least three main meals daily.
Consume whole plant-based foods
Whole plant-based foods are only allowed on the less strict variation of the diet, which is a safer and healthier option. Whole plant-based meals include important minerals, proteins, and vitamins that potatoes do not.
If the diet of your choice allows it, incorporate fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains into it.
Do only light exercises
Low-calorie diets, such as the potato diet, provide little energy to your body. While following these plans, the body might need more power to support high activity levels.
Exercise can help improve your overall health, and mood, and enhance your weight loss results. It can even help reduce the risk of certain diseases. If you gather enough energy, try some light exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, or yoga alongside your diet.
Do not consider the diet as a long-term solution
Potatoes are not a complete source of the nutrients your body needs to function properly. Additionally, it is a restrictive diet that can be difficult to adhere to over time, and any weight loss might be regained.
Consider other less restrictive, healthier weight-loss options you can stick to long-term. And if you still want to try the potato diet, you can try intermittent fasting once you finish to maintain your new weight. Begin with the 12/12 option and slowly work your way up to more advanced fasting routines.
and discover how much weight you can lose with DoFasting!
The Potato Diet: Key Takeaways
The potato diet is a regime in which one has to eat plain potatoes for 3 to 5 days. It’s a low-calorie diet that promises fast and rapid weight loss results.
While it does have a limited number of benefits, the diet is highly restrictive and lacks scientific research to draw accurate conclusions on its effectiveness and safety. Consult your doctor before starting this regime or consider safer alternatives like intermittent fasting.
This is an evidence-based article that includes scientific citations. DoFasting’s professional writers and editors prepared the content, which a team of medical experts verified to be accurate.