The 3 Day Military Diet Explainer + Sample Meal Plan

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If you are unfamiliar with the 3 Day Military Diet, hearing the term for the first time probably conjures up a mental picture of a diet that closely replicates the meal plan or dietary pattern of people serving the country in the armed services. However, the military diet is actually not associated with the armed services in any way, so the name is a bit of a red herring. 

Instead, the 3 day military diet is a fad diet that is intended to be a “quick fix” for rapid weight loss. For this reason, the 3 day military diet is often criticized by nutrition professionals due to concerns about the safety and sustainability of the military diet program.

With that said, there has been a bevy of viral posts that have circulated social media sites with fanatic adherence to the 3 day military diet touting their impressive weight loss success, so depending on where you stand on your opinions of crash diets or extreme weight loss diets, you still might be interested in trying the 3 day military diet.

In this article, we will discuss all of the basics of the military diet, including how to follow the military diet, what you can and cannot eat on the 3 day military diet, and a sample military diet plan.

We will cover: 

  • What Is the 3 Day Military Diet?
  • How to Follow the 3 Day Military Diet
  • What Foods Can You Eat on the Military Diet?
  • 3 Day Military Diet Meal Plan
  • Does the Military Diet Work?
  • Is the Military Diet Healthy?

Let’s get started!

The word diet in wooden blocks and a measuring tape.

What Is the 3 Day Military Diet?

The 3 day military diet, often just referred to as the military diet, is a fad diet purported to cause rapid weight loss—up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in one week and 30 pounds in one month.

The diet involves restricting calories and includes specific foods that the creators of the diet say “rev your metabolism,” thus promoting weight loss.

In terms of the composition of the diet, the military diet is low in total calories, fat, and complex carbohydrates, and it is relatively high in protein.

The proposed “metabolic boost” induced by the diet is thought to occur because of specific combinations and pairings of foods in the prescribed military diet plan.

One of the benefits of the 3 day military diet, unlike many popular fad diets, is that it does not require purchasing any sort of branded or generic supplements; following the diet only involves modifying the regular foods and drinks that you consume.

A person cutting the word calories.

How to Follow the 3 Day Military Diet

Perhaps owing to the “military” component of the so-named military diet, it is quite regimented. 

It involves following a calorie-restricted diet for three days followed by four days of “free eating,” but the “off” days of free eating are still regimented. The only real difference between the 3-day restricted diet and the “off days” is that off days are less restrictive than the first three days.

Dieters are encouraged to follow this weekly pattern (3 days of restricted eating followed by 4 days off) for a full month.

During the 3-day restricted phases of the military diet, your food intake is limited to three square meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) with no snacks in between. 

During the 3-day restriction, the total daily calorie intake works out to approximately 1,100–1,400 calories (1,400 calories on day 1, 1,200 calories on day 2, and 1,100 calories on day 3), which classifies the 3 day military diet as a low-calorie diet (defined as any dietary pattern that limits daily caloric intake to 800–1,200 calories per day).

The recommended meal plan for the off days still only provides 1,500 calories per day.

Whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

What Foods Can You Eat On the Military Diet?

The military diet involves two phases: a 3-day restricted eating meal plan followed by four days of less restrictive but still regimented eating.

During the three days of restrictive eating, there are only 16 potential foods to choose from, meaning that all the foods you can eat for your three daily meals are confined to the same choices of 16 permissible foods.

You can build your meals only by selecting foods from this limited military diet menu. 

The foods you can eat on the 3 day military diet include:

Whole wheat breadApplesCheddar cheesePeanut butter
Saltine crackersGrapefruitCottage cheeseHot dogs (no bun)
BroccoliBananasEggsSmall amount of vanilla ice cream
CarrotsGreen beansCanned tunaSmall piece of meat

Dieters following the military diet are encouraged to drink water or herbal tea as much as desired and are permitted to drink caffeinated tea or coffee up to twice per day. However, you cannot add creamers, sugars, or other sweeteners to your drinks.

Canned tuna in a bowl.

3 Day Military Diet Meal Plan

Because you can choose how you consume any of the foods on the meal plan, there aren’t set meals you have to eat when following the 3 day military diet, but if you follow the recommendations in terms of daily calorie goals and optimal food pairings, this is what the meal plan looks like:

Day 1


  • 1 slice of whole wheat toast
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted peanut butter with no added sugars
  • 1/2 grapefruit, no sugar
  • 1 cup of caffeinated black coffee or tea


  • 1 slice of whole wheat toast
  • 1/2 cup of canned tuna in water
  • 1 cup of caffeinated black coffee or tea


  • 3 ounces of meat
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • 1 small apple
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream
A scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Day 2


  • 1 slice of whole wheat toast
  • 1 egg, poached, hard-boiled, or scrambled with nothing added
  • 1/2 banana


  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 5 saltine crackers


  • 2 hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • 1/2 cup of carrots
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream
Saltine crackers.

Day 3


  • 1-ounce slice of cheddar cheese
  • 5 saltine crackers
  • 1 small apple


  • 1 slice of whole wheat toast
  • 1 hard-boiled egg


  • 1 cup of canned tuna in water
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream

The military diet also has modifications for dieters who are simultaneously following a plant-based diet (vegans and vegetarians, for example). Hummus, avocado, chickpeas, and baked beans are permitted.

Once you have finished the 3-day restricted phase on either the omnivorous or plant-based version of the military diet, you enter the open phase. During that phase, you can theoretically eat whatever you want as long as you are following a healthy eating plan

Some people keep eating the same foods on the limited list, but there are other suggested foods as well, and you are only supposed to be eating 1,500 calories per day. Keep in mind that for most people, this is still well below total daily energy expenditure.

Check out our TDEE Daily Calorie Calculator to better understand your own daily caloric needs.

Broccoli in a steamer bowl.

Does the Military Diet Work?

Although many people rave about the effectiveness of the military diet on various social media channels, this anecdotal evidence is not coupled with any research studies demonstrating the efficacy of the military diet. 

However, the military diet should lead to weight loss for anyone whose caloric needs exceed the number of calories consumed on the diet (1,100-1,500 per day during all phases of the diet). 

Because the typical total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) of most adults is between 1800-2800 calories a day (and more for athletic or larger individuals), the restricted caloric intake on the military diet will put most people in least at a moderate caloric deficit, and a caloric deficit should theoretically lead to weight loss.

Where the military diet loses its credibility is that it purports that participants can lose up to 10 pounds in a week. This amount of weight is neither healthy nor true fat loss.

Some people might lose 10 pounds according to the scale, but a lot of this “weight” is just water weight rather than fat loss. 

Because the military diet is a low-carbohydrate diet, the body sheds some amount of water when you switch to the diet. 

A boiled egg, a food allowed on the 3 day military diet.

For every gram of glycogen (stored carbohydrates) the body stores, the body also stores an extra 3-4 grams of water, so as your glycogen stores become depleted, your body weight will drop, but again, a lot of this will be water.

Additionally, there is also water weight loss on the military diet due to the decrease in sodium, processed foods, and alcohol, all of which cause water retention.

A caloric deficit is required to lose fat, at the rate of 3,500 calories, to lose one pound of body fat. Therefore, in order to lose the purported 10 pounds of fat in a week, you have to create a 35,000-calorie deficit over the week. 

This equates to a deficit of 5,000 calories per day, which is nearly impossible for most people. 

In order to actually burn 5,000 calories more than you need in a day, you would have to be exercising intensely for the majority of the day and consuming next to nothing, a dangerous recipe that would not be sustainable, advisable, or at all healthy. 

Thus, while you can lose weight and some fat on the military diet, much of the weight decrease you see on the scale is a loss of water from consuming less salt, carbohydrates/sugar, alcohol, processed food, and overall food mass.

Notes of foods and calories.

Is the Military Diet Healthy?

It is very important to note that while the 3 day military diet can be an effective way to lose weight, particularly if you practice it for the recommended full-month course, it is not considered a very healthy diet.

Because it restricts the caloric intake to around 1,200 calories per day, the restricted phase of the 3 day military diet is a low-calorie diet. This intake falls well below the recommended daily caloric intake for adults according to the 2020-2025 United States Dietary Guidelines.

According to these recommendations, adult men should consume a minimum of 2,200–2,400 calories, while adult females should consume at least 1,600–1,800 calories per day.

Most importantly, the military diet includes some highly-processed foods like hot dogs and foods with very low nutritional value, like saltines and vanilla ice cream, and it is very low in fiber.

Overall, while you might lose weight on the military diet, there are safer and healthier diets. Check out some of the better popular diets here.

A variety of healthy foods for a balanced diet.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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