The 3-Day Military Diet (Meal Plan and Menu for Weight Loss)

Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022

What is the 3-day military diet?

Picture of a man eating an apple looking at his phone.
The 3-day military diet plan has very strict guidelines for the menu plan.

Surprisingly surviving the test of time, the 3-day military diet is another fad diet, dating back to 1985. Copies of the "3-day diet" continue to float around cyberspace, promising quick weight loss, cleansing, lower cholesterol, and increased energy. However, there is no evidence to substantiate the science behind the claims of a "unique metabolic reaction."

Those who follow this plan consume the suggested diet for 3 days (hence, the name of the diet) and 4 days off when you can eat normally. The diet plan generally advises between 800-1100 calories daily for the "on" days and suggests that for best results dieters stick to between 1,300-1,500 calories on their "off" days.

Can you really lose 10 pounds in 3 days on the 3-day military diet?

The 3-day military diet meal plan promises that you can lose up to 10 pounds in three days. On day 1 of the 3-day military diet meal plan you consume around 1,400 calories, on day 2 around 1,200 calories, and on day 3 around 1,000 calories, although realistically, most of that weight is likely due to fluid loss and not the desired fat loss. Additionally, to achieve the proposed loss, exercise is only suggested but not required in the 3-day military diet meal plan -- a key factor in sustained and successful weight loss plans.

A diet plan that restricts your caloric intake to eating less than 1,000 calories each day has the potential to lower metabolism so when you resume a normal diet you gain the weight back even faster.

Can you substitute items on the 3-day military diet plan?

The 3-day military diet is a very specific food plan that must be followed precisely. Portions must be eaten exactly as specified and dieters are warned not to overeat -- otherwise the promised 10-pound weight loss may not be achieved. Likewise, dieters should not under-eat, even if they are not hungry. However, there are a few substitutions that may be allowed for vegetarians and vegans, and those with dietary allergies or strong preferences. Substitutions must have the same number of calories as the original item. Aside from listed substitutions, there are no alternatives permitted.

In addition to its strict daily food prescription, dieters drink plenty of water or drinks that do not have any calories before and after each meal. Dieters can also drink as much caffeine free herbal tea as they desire, but they may only use stevia as a sweetener.

Snacking is not permitted, unless you save an item from one meal and eat it in between, but you may not add anything to the diet plan.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Day 1 menu of the 3-day military diet plan


  • 1 cup black coffee or tea, with caffeine (with stevia if desired -- this is the only acceptable sweetener) (substitutions: green tea, sugar-free hot chocolate, sugar-free Red Bull – these are all sources of caffeine).
  • ½ grapefruit.
  • 1 slice toast (substitutions: 1/8 cup of sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal, 1/2 high protein bar, 1/4 cup of yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon of flax seeds. You can also substitute one tortilla or two rice cakes instead of bread).
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (substitutions: the same amount of almond butter, cashew butter, pumpkin butter, soy butter, sunflower seed butter, hummus or bean dip, or 2 tablespoons of plain sunflower seeds).


  • ½ cup tuna (substitutions: any very lean meat, cottage cheese, chicken, tofu, or almonds, or 1/2 an avocado plus 2 tablespoons of hummus.
  • 1 piece toast
  • 1 cup black coffee or tea, with caffeine and stevia if desired


  • 3 ounces of any type of meat (substitutions: vegetarians or vegans can use lentils, beans, tofu, or Portobello mushrooms as meat alternatives).
  • 1 cup green beans (substitutions: the same CALORIE amount of lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, or any other green vegetable).
  • 1/2 banana (substitutions: 2 kiwis, 1 cup of papaya, or 2 apricots. Plums, grapes, and apple sauce also work as long as it’s the same number of calories).
  • 1 small apple (substitutions: plums, peaches, grapes, zucchini, pears, or dried apricots).
  • 1 cup regular vanilla ice cream (substitutions: 1 cup of fruit-flavored yogurt or apple juice. Strawberry, vanilla, or banana flavored almond milk. (Do not substitute chocolate almond milk. Vegans can use dairy-free ice cream. Do not substitute low-fat ice cream.)

Day 2 menu of the 3-day military diet plan


  • 1 egg - substitutions: one cup of milk, one chicken wing, 1/4 cup of seeds or nuts, 2 slices of bacon, or 1/2 cup of baked beans for vegetarians and vegans.
  • ½ banana.
  • 1 slice of toast.


  • 1 cup cottage cheese (substitutions: PLAIN Greek yogurt, ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, eggs, or ham. For vegans and vegetarians, tofu, or 1 cup unsweetened soy/hemp/almond milk and 2 tablespoons hummus).
  • 1 hard-boiled egg (substitution: 1/2 avocado).
  • 5 saltine crackers (substitutions: rice cakes or the same calorie amount of quinoa or couscous).


  • 2 hot dogs (without bun) (substitutions: turkey dogs, soy dogs, tofu dogs, bratwurst, luncheon meat, deli meat, or baloney. Vegetarians and vegans can substitute beans, lentils, Portobello mushrooms, or plain tofu. Make sure it’s 300 calories worth.).
  • 1 cup broccoli (substitutions: green or greenish vegetables like cauliflower, spinach, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus).
  • ½ cup carrots (substitutions: squash, parsnip, beets, celery, and bell pepper).
  • ½ banana.
  • ½ cup regular vanilla ice cream.

Day 3 menu of the 3-day military diet plan


  • 5 saltine crackers.
  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese (substitutions: egg, cottage cheese or ham, or non-dairy, vegetarian cheese substitutes with calcium such as soy cheese, soy milk, cabbage, and tofu).
  • 1 small apple.


  • 1 hard-boiled egg (or cooked however you like), (substitutions: 1 cup of milk, one chicken wing, 1/4 cup of seeds or nuts, or 2 slices of bacon. Vegans and vegetarians, 1/2 avocado or 20 almonds).
  • 1 slice of toast.


  • 1 cup tuna (substitution: 1/2 cup canned chickpeas)
  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream

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Does the 3-day military diet work? Is it safe?

The 3-day military diet plan may be dangerous or at least, harmful to your metabolism. According to Cindy Moore, former director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic, "The only reason it causes weight loss is because it is so low in calories, not because of any food combinations or metabolic reactions."

Following a plan with fewer than 1,000 calories, a day concerns Moore. "The plan yields about 1,000 calories a day which has the ability to lower metabolism so when you revert back to normal eating, you regain weight even quicker."

Moore adds that the diet, "sets up a vicious cycle of being hungry during the restrictive three days and most likely overeating on the off days."

Additionally, because the 3-day diet is so low in carbohydrates, it's likely the initial weight loss is primarily water weight, as carbohydrates encourage your body to retain water. As soon as the dieter goes back to consuming a normal amount of carbohydrates, the water weight comes back.

Weight loss is possible on the 3-day diet, but only because it is very low in calories. Going back to so-called "normal eating" does little to promote a healthier lifestyle; instead, the pattern promotes undesirable yo-yo dieting or an on-again-off-again approach to weight management that is not successful long term. Bottom line? Keep looking for a well-balanced weight loss plan that controls calories every day, such as Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, or low-fat diets.

Can exercise help you lose more weight on the 3-day military diet?

While the 3-day military diet does not specifically require exercise, they recommend walking 20-30 minutes every day while you’re on the diet. If you already participate in an exercise program before you start the diet, you can keep doing it. But because the calorie counts are so low on the 3-day military diet, you may feel dizzy or weak during exercise and should stop any activity if this occurs.

Getting more exercise allows you to eat a wide variety of healthy foods rather than restricting your dietary intake as required by the 3-day military diet plan. My Plate is a good place to start. Print out a list of nutritious foods you should eat and put it on your refrigerator so the whole family can remember to eat healthy foods. Fad diets promise you will lose weight fast, however; you just don't get enough calories, electrolytes, and minerals.

Who does the 3-day military diet?

The name of the diet makes it sound as if it were created for the military, but the diet is not associated with any branch of the military. It is called the 3-day military diet because of the discipline it takes to follow.

The diet may appeal to people who need to lose a few pounds in a short time, and are not interested in counting calories or preparing meals. According to the 3-day military diet website, they state their diet may be considered a "fad diet" because it’s meant to be followed for a short time, like a fad. It seems to be intended for last-minute weight loss, such as before a wedding or vacation. Because it is so strict and limited, it takes out the guesswork so dieters do not have to weigh or measure foods, count calories, or spend a lot of time on food preparation.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
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