4 Healthy Alternatives to the Mono Diet

Close up of bars of chocolate
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There's a dangerous diet trend that has gained popularity. It's called the mono diet and it has become one of the most heavily searched diets on the internet. If you've heard of it, you've probably read the claims that it can lead to quick and simple weight loss. But the claims are not based on scientific evidence and there are sound reasons to avoid this risky program.

What Is the Mono Diet?

When you follow a mono diet you eat only one food for several days or even weeks until you reach your goal weight.

There are different variations of the mono diet. There is a banana mono diet, a fruit mono diet, an egg mono diet, a potato mono diet, and the most popular: the chocolate mono diet.

While it might seem enticing to eat nothing but chocolate for days or even weeks, the diet has serious drawbacks. As you might imagine, there are significant health consequences when you don't eat a variety of foods to provide your body with important nutrients. Diet and nutrition experts in the United States and abroad have warned the diet's followers that they are likely to experience fatigue, a decreased metabolism, malnourishment, and muscle loss.

So why would anyone follow the mono diet? There are two primary factors that make the program appealing to some people:

Extreme Weight Loss

As you might imagine, when you eat only one food, your caloric intake plummets. Even if you eat a high-calorie food, like chocolate, you are likely to eat less of it and consume less energy throughout the day.

You will probably experience quick water loss and decreased bloating as a result. And the loss of muscle mass may make you feel thinner, as well.

But these weight loss results are likely to be short-lived. Even though fans of the diet say that the program helps to curb cravings, anyone who has tried to avoid eating certain foods knows that we generally desire the foods we can't have.

Nutrition researchers have known for years that cutting way back on calories can lead to compensatory behaviors, such as binge eating. While there have been recent studies showing that severe caloric restriction can curb binge eating, those studies were conducted on obese individuals in medically supervised programs where dieters were getting supplements to make sure that their nutritional needs were met.

The bottom line? Even if you see short-term weight loss results, the results aren't worth it. You're likely to gain the weight back and maybe even a few extra pounds.

Simplicity

The other factor that makes the mono diet appealing is its simplicity. Most traditional weight loss programs require you to count calories, balance macronutrients, follow a food plan, and monitor portion sizes. With the mono diet, shopping and meal planning is (seemingly) simple because you only eat one food.

But managing hunger is not easy. In fact, it can make your life more difficult. Both animal studies and human studies have shown that severely restricting your caloric intake increases stress. And in one study, researchers found that young women, in particular, are likely to experience dissatisfaction with their bodies as a result of severe dieting.

Lastly, your energy level is going to take a nose dive without proper nutrition. When you combine low energy, stress, and body dissatisfaction, going on a mono diet no longer seems simple or easy.

4 Healthy Alternatives to the Mono Diet

If you are considering the mono diet for weight loss, don't believe the hype you see online. There is no healthy version of the program that you see in blogs and videos. Your body needs a variety of food to function properly.

However, there are ways to promote a simple approach to weight loss by focusing on one food or food group. Try one of these healthy "mono" approaches to healthy eating:

  • The mono-elimination diet. Choose one unhealthy food and eliminate it from your diet. For example, if you usually eat ice cream after dinner, skip the treat for a week and see how you feel. Cutting out a bowl of ice cream can cut 300-500 calories per day, leading to a healthy weight loss of one-half to one pound per week.
  • The mono-meal diet. Eliminate sauces, dressings and other high-calorie, high-fat accompaniments from your plate so that each part of your plate is one simple food. So, instead of eating chicken with barbecue sauce, a baked potato with butter, and broccoli topped with cheese, you simply eat grilled chicken, a plain baked potato and steamed broccoli. This is a great way to retrain your taste buds to enjoy natural food flavors with fewer calories.
  • The mono-hydration diet. Cut out sugary drinks, alcohol, and high-calorie coffee beverages. Simply drink water for thirst. Your body needs a variety of foods for good health, but it does not need a variety of beverages. If you usually drink sodas, sweet tea, juice, and alcoholic beverages, you can cut 500-1000 calories per day with this trick to lose up to two pounds per week.
  • The mono-swap diet. Choose one unhealthy food and replace it with a healthier version. If you eat chips with your sandwich at lunchtime, grab carrot sticks instead. Do you start your day with a danish or bagel? Choose a single serving of whole grain cereal instead. If you like to spread butter on your toast, choose avocado, a healthier fat. By choosing foods that are high in nutrition, you may find that your body craves less junk food and feels fuller and satisfied for a longer period of time.

A Word From Verywell

The mono diet may seem like a quick and simple approach to weight loss, but when you deny your body the nutrition it needs, you create far more problems than you solve. Setting up a healthy weight loss program does take time and effort, but it is a worthwhile investment. You're much more likely to feel better, look better, and enjoy a boost of body confidence if you eat a nutritious diet and exercise to lose weight.

Sources:

Pankevich DE, Teegarden SL, Hedin AD, Jensen CL, Bale TL. Caloric restriction experience reprograms stress and orexegenic pathways and promotes binge-eating. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2010;30(48):16399-16407.

Redman LM, Ravussin E. Caloric Restriction in Humans: Impact on Physiological, Psychological, and Behavioral Outcomes. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. 2011;14(2):275-287.

Schaumberg Katherine, Anderson Drew. Dietary restraint and weight loss as risk factors for eating pathology . Eating Behaviors. Volume 23, December 2016, Pages 97-103

Schaumberg, K., Anderson, D. A., Anderson, L. M., Reilly, E. E. and Gorrell, S. (2016), Dietary restraint: what's the harm? A review of the relationship between dietary restraint, weight trajectory and the development of eating pathology. Clinical Obesity, 6: 89–100.

Tomiyama AJ, Mann T, Vinas D, Hunger JM, DeJager J, Taylor SE. Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol. Psychosomatic medicine. 2010;72(4):357-364. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d9523c.

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