Mayo Clinic Diet Guide: How To Follow It + What You Should Eat

We dissect the clinically-backed weight loss approach.

Many people in the United States are aware that the Mayo Clinic is one of the preeminent facilities for medical research and treatment of various acute and chronic diseases and health conditions.

Therefore, the concept of the Mayo Clinic Diet for weight loss and healthy way of life intuitively makes sense.

After all, an organization on the cutting edge of medical research, healing sickness, and promoting health is likely going to create one of the best diets for weight loss, disease prevention, and health.

This diet guide will discuss the Mayo Clinic Diet plan, how to follow it, what foods you can eat, and its health benefits for weight loss and general wellness.

Let’s jump in!

Healthy diets written in blocks with healthy foods surrounding it.

What Is the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan?

The Mayo Clinic Diet has recently been updated so that it is now called the New Mayo Clinic Diet.1Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Lose weight for life with the official Mayo Clinic Diet. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/mayo-clinic-diet/art-20045460

Therefore, for this Mayo Clinic Diet guide, we will be referring to the New Mayo Clinic Diet rather than the outdated original Mayo Clinic Diet plan.

The New Mayo Clinic Diet Is marketed as a “weight loss program for life” such that it is not a short-term, crash, or fad diet designed to be followed until you reach your goal weight and then abandoned entirely.

Rather, the New Mayo Clinic Diet plan is a well-balanced, lifelong approach to healthy weight management where you will adopt healthy new habits.

As the name describes, the New Mayo Clinic Diet eating plan was developed by obesity and weight management experts at the Mayo Clinic based on their research and clinical experience working with patients suffering from obesity and obesity-related medical conditions.

A person showing weight loss by pulling out the waistband of his pants.

The New Mayo Clinic Diet plan aims to help individuals create sustainable, healthy habits for life that will make reaching and then maintaining a healthy body weight tenable in the long term.

One important point of note is that there are several fake Mayo Clinic Diets or other weight loss diets that use the Mayo Clinic name, yet they have zero association with the actual Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA.

Watch out for these phony Mayo Clinic weight loss diets that are simply capitalizing on the reputation that the Mayo Clinic has earned.

For example, a popular “Mayo Clinic weight loss diet” promoted eating a ton of grapefruit and eggs for weight loss. This diet had no affiliation with the Mayo Clinic and does not use the healthy, balanced approach to weight management seen in the genuine diet plan.

A scale.

How Do You Follow the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan?

You do not need to count calories or measure portion sizes on the New Mayo Clinic Diet Program.

The distinguishing feature of this program is that it centers around the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid.

This is somewhat like the traditional USDA food pyramid, but it is a five-tier system that encourages the consumption of nutrient-dense foods that are not calorically dense so that you can feel full and meet your nutritional needs without consuming too many calories.2How Can I Eat More Nutrient-Dense Foods? (n.d.). Www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/how-can-i-eat-more-nutrient-dense-foods#:~:text=Nutrient%20density%20is%20the%20amount

However, in addition to having the meal plan or food choices as a central tenant to the this weight loss program, there are also facets related to increasing physical activity and stepwise behavioral modifications to help you adapt to a healthier lifestyle.3Clark, J. E. (2015). Diet, exercise or diet with exercise: comparing the effectiveness of treatment options for weight-loss and changes in fitness for adults (18–65 years old) who are overfat, or obese; systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40200-015-0154-1

‌The New Mayo Clinic Diet plan has two phases.

Phase 1: Lose It

This is a two-week kickoff to the New Mayo Clinic weight loss diet plan.

It helps you start establishing some healthy behaviors. Only during this two-week phase of the New Mayo Clinic Diet plan are there any specific restrictions on foods and beverages.

You are not supposed to have any foods with added sugars or drink alcohol on the New Mayo Clinic Diet phase 1 meal plan.

Phase 2: Live It

This is the ongoing phase of the New Mayo Clinic Diet program, where you implement the healthy lifestyle changes you started in Phase 1.

To help you follow this program, there are various Mayo Clinic Diet cookbooks with recipes.

There is also a subscription-based online Mayo Clinic Diet program that offers Mayo Clinic Diet meal ideas, recipes, food and exercise trackers, sample workouts, virtual support groups, and video educational resources for $5 per week.4Stubbs, R. J., Morris, L., Pallister, C., Horgan, G., & Lavin, J. H. (2015). Weight outcomes audit in 1.3 million adults during their first 3 months’ attendance in a commercial weight management programme. BMC Public Health15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-2225-0

Fruits and vegetables.

What Can You Eat On the Mayo Clinic Meal Plan?

Like the traditional USDA food pyramid, when following the New Mayo Clinic Diet program, you want to focus on foods at the base of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid or in the first of the five tiers.

As you work up the pyramid, you should reduce your portions and servings because the foods become less nutrient-dense and more calorically dense.

Here are the different levels of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid. These food groups are used to make this meal plan:

Bottom Tier

Fruits and vegetables.

These are the most nutrient-dense yet low-calorie foods so that you can have unlimited fruits and vegetables for weight loss or weight management.

The New Mayo Clinic Diet food list recommends having fruits and vegetables as snacks between meals in addition to having servings at meals.

Filling up on lots of fruits and vegetables will help you keep your total caloric intake lower while controlling appetite and providing essential nutrients.5Vadiveloo, M., Parker, H., & Raynor, H. (2017). Increasing low-energy-dense foods and decreasing high-energy-dense foods differently influence weight loss trial outcomes. International Journal of Obesity42(3), 479–486. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2017.303

Whole grains.

Second Tier

Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat, barley, and bulgur.

Third Tier

Lean protein, such as fish, chicken, tofu, beans, lentils, and low-fat dairy foods such as cottage cheese, unsweetened Greek yogurt, and low-fat milk.

Fourth Tier

Healthy fats like nuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive oil and avocados.

The plan recommends prioritizing unsaturated fats, as these have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and promote heart health.6Li, Y., Hruby, A., Bernstein, A. M., Ley, S. H., Wang, D. D., Chiuve, S. E., Sampson, L., Rexrode, K. M., Rimm, E. B., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2015). Saturated Fats Compared With Unsaturated Fats and Sources of Carbohydrates in Relation to Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology66(14), 1538–1548. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2015.07.055

Unsaturated fats are found in plant-based foods such as avocados, almonds, peanut butter, Chia seeds, flax seeds, and other nuts. You can also have omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna.

Colorful cookies.

Fifth Tier

Sweets and treats.

While no foods are technically off the table or completely banned from the New Mayo Clinic Diet meal plan, these foods should be limited as much as possible and only enjoyed occasionally.

In order, you should try to fill up on foods from the lower tiers. The recommendation is to have no more than 75 calories from sweets daily. However, having a built-in allowance for sweets can improve adherence to the diet so that you don’t feel deprived.7Mathes, W. F., Brownley, K. A., Mo, X., & Bulik, C. M. (2009). The biology of binge eating. Appetite52(3), 545–553. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2009.03.005

It is important to note that if you have diabetes or blood sugar regulation issues, you may need to modify the New Mayo Clinic Diet recipes and food plan somewhat by selecting low-sugar fruits or cutting out fruit.

Or, rather than having fruit in the bottom tier, treat it like a fourth- or fifth-tier food as an occasional treat or smaller constituent component of your New Mayo Clinic Diet meals and snacks.

Examples of low-sugar fruits include raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemons, and melons such as cantaloupe.

A person on a scale.

Overall, the New Mayo Clinic Diet is considered one of the best diets for weight loss and health.

In fact, the New Mayo Clinic Diet was ranked number one in the 2022 U.S. News & World Report rankings for the Best Diet Program category and was awarded one of the Best Diets Overall and one of the Best Diets for Diabetes specifically.8Mayo Clinic Diet. (2013). Usnews.com. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mayo-clinic-diet

‌Weight-management experts and medical professionals have designed the New Mayo Clinic Diet using evidence-based research and clinical experience. 

This improves the safety and efficacy of the New Mayo Clinic Diet vs. weight loss diets created by everyday individuals or not vigorously studied in their development.

If you are looking to change your unhealthy habits and would like to look at some of our other healthy diets, we have provided guides to the Mediterranean diet and a Vegetarian diet here.

Healthy fats.

References

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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