What Is the Mono Diet and Why Should You Avoid It?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
They say variety is the spice of life, but most of us are creatures of habit. When we find a food we enjoy, we tend to stick with it. SparkPeople member ROSEWAND eats the same thing for breakfast every day: steel-cut oats with blueberries, half an English muffin with a little jam and tea. And for lunch, WAN2BHIKING always has a big salad with veggies, craisins and pine nuts topped with leftover chicken or tofu.
There are plenty of reasons why someone might want to cook, eat and repeat the same meals over and over. Of course, there's the obvious: It tastes good. And then there's the convenience factor—when you are practiced at preparing a certain food, it becomes quicker and easier to whip up, and you don't need to have dozens of ingredients on hand for multiple meals. But for followers of the so-called mono diet, eating the same foods is purportedly a way to boost weight loss.

What Is the Mono Diet?

Just as it sounds, people on the mono diet eat only one food for several weeks in order to shed pounds faster. There are many different types of mono diets, depending on the food of choice. Some might follow an egg mono diet, a banana mono diet or even a potato mono diet.
Why does it speed up weight loss? Limiting a diet to only one food will inherently cut down on the total amount of calories consumed. It can also trigger a loss of water weight and reduced bloating. But as experts agree, extreme, immediate weight loss isn't likely to last.
Becky Hand, registered dietitian with SparkPeople, has had a few clients who have requested her services regarding the mono diet. She always starts by asking what interests them most about the diet. "I've discovered that clients are intrigued with the diet because of its ease and simplicity—just eat the same few foods over and over again," she says. "Digging deeper, I usually discover that the client is also interested in overall health, but doesn’t know how to combine the two concepts of easy and healthy."
That's when Hand helps her client to brainstorm ideas. By the end of the session, they have designed at least 10 meals that meet the client’s food preferences, can be prepared in five minutes or less and are much more likely to meet their nutritional needs.

Why Avoid the Mono Diet?

At first, eating one thing seems like a super simple way to kick-start weight loss without the hassle. We get it: There's no need to select a variety of meals, make long grocery lists or spend hours cooking each week. But the reality is that over time, it becomes tiresome for most people to sit down to identical meals, day in and day out. And if you consistently deprive yourself of the other foods you enjoy, you may be more likely to crave them in abundance.
More importantly, when you deprive your body of the calories it needs to function at full capacity, you'll become more likely to succumb to overindulging and maybe even binge-eating, which can lead to regaining any lost weight. As if that’s not bad enough, studies have shown that low-calorie diets can cause stress levels to skyrocket.
It's also impossible to get all of the nutrients you need from a single food. A nutritious, well-rounded diet consists of the three key macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates. You simply cannot get that if you're eating only bananas, sweet potatoes or carrots for every meal.

In the case of comedian and magician Penn Jillette, he kicked off his weight loss with a mono diet that consisted of only potatoes for two weeks. As NBC News health and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom told "Today,” while Jillette may have lost weight quickly due to his extremely limited intake of 600 to 700 calories per day, he was also depriving himself of protein, which can impact everything from energy levels to muscle strength to brain function.
Registered dietitians and nutritionists agree that the mono diet is a bad idea. "Yes, this diet can produce weight loss,” Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietitian and author of "Eating in Color," told The New York Post.  “But the weight loss is a result of caloric restriction—not because any particular food is magically producing weight loss. It’s an incredibly restrictive and unbalanced diet and I do not recommend that anyone follow it.”
Experts also caution that the mono diet can lead to a loss of muscle, sluggish metabolism, fatigue and perhaps even malnourishment. In most cases, any weight that is lost initially will be regained after returning to a normal diet.

Healthy Alternatives to the Mono Diet

  • Look for smart substitutions. Instead of swearing off every food but one, try to gradually reduce the foods that aren't helping you along the path to your goals. Look for healthier alternatives to foods that are high in sugar and fat and are lacking in nutrients.
  • Follow a mono beverage diet. Sugary sodas, sweetened coffee drinks, high-calorie juices and occasional alcoholic beverages can quickly spike your calorie and sugar intake. Instead, commit to drinking only water for a few weeks and see how you feel.
  • Try mono elimination. Pinpoint one unhealthy food that regularly appears in your diet and eliminate it. For example, if you have a bag of salty chips with your sandwich every day for lunch, skip it for a few days or weeks and gauge the results.
  • Shake it up. If you're set on sticking to a single food to get a weight-loss boost, consider making healthy shakes that are high in protein as well as all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis.
It can be tempting to jump on a diet trend bandwagon, especially when celebrities and Instagrammers are touting their incredible results. But despite its seemingly simple approach, the mono diet can create some complex and potentially dangerous problems with your body. For steady weight loss that leads to a long-term lifestyle change, it's best to skip the fads and stick to a nutritious, well-rounded meal plan composed of clean, whole foods paired with regular exercise.

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ANHELIC 4/1/2019
Thanks Report
I eat boring diet plan - same thing several nights in a row. It does have protein, fat and carbs, but they are the same ones over and over again. Report
MSROZZIE 9/26/2018
This is new information. Interesting article. Report
It's interesting that Penn Jillette's weight loss is mentioned. He is an intelligent and skeptical person. I am sure he did his research before starting the potatoes. (And last I checked he hasn't gained the weight back.)

Give me a break. Following a mono diet, while not for everyone, is not going to hurt you for a week or 2. In fact, it can break a stall.

Following it long term is not the best choice, of course, but it works. And going back to a reasonable food plan will keep you on track.

I do an egg fast every few months, a 7-day version, and it helps me feel more in control, taking the focus off of food. Nearly 200 pounds dumped can attest to no damage done, with all of my numbers reading tons better.

KEELYME 9/26/2018
I am sincerely not a morning person, so I don't have the tome, energy, or inclination to plan breakfast. I eat the exact same thing for breakfast Monday through Friday, all year, and don't have much variation on Sat and Sun either. Lunch and dinner may have more variation as I'm out and about. Report
HEDSTS58 9/26/2018
I would get so bored eating the same foods every day. Thanks for the info Report
KATHYJO56 9/6/2018
I tend to do this without even thinking about it. Thank you. Report
GABY1948 9/5/2018
Thanks Report
EVIE4NOW 8/30/2018
thanks Report
GABY1948 8/30/2018
Great Report
Thank you for the information Report
EVIE4NOW 8/29/2018
Thank you Report
SPINECCO 8/28/2018
Thanks! Report
PEGJW111 8/28/2018
I've tried Mono Diets in the past. After one or two weeks, my body was screaming for the foods from which I was restricted. For me...common sense works! Report
SUNSET09 8/27/2018
I can understand a temporary fix or to get your confidence to try and lose some weigh, however, as soon as you go back to eating normal, even if t's the required amount, you will gain. Everything in moderation, SparkFriend as it's a lifestyle change, not a lose weight quick result option. Report
BKNOCK 8/27/2018
Don't think I could do this! Report
LOSER05 8/26/2018
thanks. Report
ARTJAC 8/23/2018
LOSER05 8/23/2018
Thanks. Report
I wasn't familiar with this. Report
1SUZIQ11 8/22/2018
Couldnt handle that for too long.... Report
NANCYANNE55 8/22/2018
Mono diet= malnutrition= weight loss= Not good.
Love the idea of "mono elimination". That's what I did with sugar. :-)
Great article! Report
PWILLOW1 8/21/2018
I would never be able to follow a mono diet even if I wanted to. I enjoy the variety of many differet low calorie foods Report
FISHGUT3 8/21/2018
thanks Report
AQUAGIRL08 8/21/2018
Great article! Rather than eating the same foods all the time, I've learned to eat the same food formula all the time. The formula is somewhat boring but I can change the foods within the formula - protein, some carbs and fruits/ veggies. It's getting creative about how you prepare the protein that is key! Report
How interesting! I don’t have a mono diet but I do have a lot of repetition, especially at breakfast. I’ll watch it now that I know better. Report
JEWELZEE- 8/21/2018
I would only make it through two meals. Good Lord. Report
MILTONS_MAMA 8/21/2018
Excellent advice, thank you! It's surprising that people would try that diet, with all that we now know about healthy nutrition. Did they skip going to Health classes?

No single food will contain all the vitamins and minerals that we need, as well as protein, carbs and fat in the right quantities. That's why we need to have variety. Report
2DAWN4 8/20/2018
Great article! Report
I remember a mono diet that I went on in the '60's...It was hard boiled eggs and tomatoes. I lost my 10 pounds quickly, then gained it back shortly after the event I wanted to lose the weight for.
I still will eat that once a day when fresh tomatoes are in season, but not for dieting, just because the combo is tasty. :) Report
LEANJEAN6 8/20/2018
I think it sounds terrible--One Food? Report
MSROZZIE 8/20/2018
Variety is the spice of life! Report
AJB121299 8/20/2018
nice Report
RAPUNZEL53 8/20/2018
Great. Report
ALUKOWSKY 8/20/2018
Sometimes I'm too LAZY to eat more than one type of food for a few meals in a row, and sometimes I go for stretches where I eat the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner for maybe a week or so, but it had never occurred to me to think of that as a DIET. Report
Interesting...thanks.... Report
MAMAWALKER69 8/20/2018
I love variety, but this helped me keep from falling into a bad habit. Thanks for the great info. Report
USMAWIFE 8/20/2018
great information Report
AZMOMXTWO 8/20/2018
thank you Report
SABLENESS 8/20/2018
Ugh, no thanks. My body craves variety. Report
I truly don't understand why so many diets out there, i am addicted to food, and currently I'm working on my emotional and complusive eating habits, I count my sugar, sodium, syrup when reading ingredients if I see more than two I don't buy. I leave meat, high fructose corn syrup, soda, alone. Mostly I buy organic and I'm also a pescatarian. Report
PATRICIA-CR 8/20/2018
Thanks for the warning! Hate all those diet trends. Report
MARTHA324 8/20/2018
For me, a mono diet would get pretty boring pretty quickly. That said, I do have about 4 breakfasts that I rotate throughout the week. Makes it easy to get breakfast together in the morning and I'm always sure to have something healthy. Report
JANET552 8/20/2018
This would not be for me. Report
NEPTUNE1939 8/20/2018
TY Report
AMYRCMK 8/20/2018
Thank you Report
KRISZTA11 8/20/2018
I like repetition, but for me it means eating the same combinations over and over again, same breakfast every day and same lunch every working day.
Breakfast is milk, oats, seeds, nuts and fruit.
Lunch is whole wheat rye bread, butter, cheese, cucumbers and a banana.
I have the simplicity and the variety at the same time : ) Report
PAMBROWN62 8/20/2018
Again, deprivation has never worked for me. I had never heard of this diet but, even if I had, I would never consider doing it. I do tend to eat the same foods but that is because I enjoy them. Report
LIS193 8/20/2018
Thank you Report