Pros & Cons
- Convenient—grab and go
- Minimal meal prep
- Lacks variety—not much “real” food
- Nutritionally deficient
Do's & Don'ts
You’ll lose 10 to 15 pounds per month, without hunger pangs.
Snacking throughout the day on low-calorie cookies made with a secret “hunger- controlling” formula keeps your appetite at bay and your calorie count in check. The addition of a small, homemade dinner each night rounds out the menu and (hopefully) helps alleviate potential monotony.
This diet has not been ranked by U.S. News.
How does the Cookie Diet work?
Order the cookies, initially developed in 1975 (and still prepared) by Sanford Siegal, a Florida-based bariatric physician who specializes in treating overweight patients. Eat them on a plan-dictated schedule. Have a 500- to 700-calorie dinner. Repeat for as long as you want—be it two months or two years. Expand this section for more on two of the program’s tracks.
On the “10X” plan, unveiled in 2011, you’ll have either one or two cookies—cinnamon oatmeal, chocolate brownie, or maple granola—every two hours—a total of nine a day. For dinner (or lunch or breakfast, if you prefer) dig into something homemade—chicken pot pie, moo shu pork, even lasagna. Just make sure your non-cookie meal doesn’t exceed 500 to 700 calories.
Option two is the “classic” plan, based on cookies with more calories—you eat six rather than nine a day, and only when hunger strikes. They come in chocolate, blueberry, banana, coconut, and oatmeal raisin. You’ll still supplement the cookies with a homemade meal.
With either plan, you can substitute two cookies for one of Siegal’s appetite-blunting shakes—vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, even crème brulée and piña colada.
There’s not much more to it. Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet website tells you all you need to know about when and what to eat. If you prefer a guide you can hold in your hands, Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet Book ($25) explains the approach—and the history of dieting—in detail. There’s also a cookbook ($20) featuring recipes between 100 to 500 calories.
Will you lose weight?
Almost certainly. Short term, it seems impossible not to shed pounds; you’re eating roughly half the calories most adults consume. How fast you keep pounds off and whether you can keep them off over the long term is unknown. No studies have evaluated the Cookie Diet.
Does it have cardiovascular benefits?
Unknown. As a general rule, losing weight has cardiovascular benefits, but the Cookie Diet has not been studied to see if it conforms to that principle.
Can it prevent or control diabetes?
Prevention: Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Provided this diet helps you lose weight and keep it off, you’ll almost certainly tilt the diabetes odds in your favor.
Control: The diet doesn’t much resemble the American Diabetes Association’s healthy-eating recommendations, which emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before trying the plan.
Are there health risks?
How well does it conform to accepted dietary guidelines?
Fat. You’ll meet the government’s recommendation that no more than 35 percent of your day’s calories come from fats.
Protein. At 15 percent of your day’s calories, you’ll stay at the low end of the government’s 10 to 35 percent recommended range.
Carbohydrates. It’s within the recommendation that 45 to 65 percent of daily calories come from carbs.
Salt. The majority of Americans eat too much salt. The recommended daily maximum is 2,300 milligrams, but if you’re 51 or older, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, that limit is 1,500 mg. The cookies are low-sodium (roughly 100 mg. each), so as long as your prepared meal isn’t packed with salt, you shouldn’t have trouble staying under either target. The sample menu provided just 1,151 mg.
Other key nutrients. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines call these “nutrients of concern” because many Americans get too little of one or more of them:
- Fiber. Getting the recommended daily amount of 22 to 34 grams for adults helps you feel full and promotes good digestion. At about 10 g., the Cookie Diet doesn’t cut it. Such a low amount could lead to constipation.
- Potassium. A sufficient amount of this important nutrient, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, counters salt’s ability to raise blood pressure, decreases bone loss, and reduces the risk of developing kidney stones. It’s not that easy to get the recommended daily 4,700 mg. from food. (Bananas are high in potassium, yet you’d have to eat 11 a day.) Even with a company-provided multivitamin, the sample menu supplied only 843 mg.
- Calcium. It’s essential not only to build and maintain bones but to make blood vessels and muscles function properly. Many Americans don’t get enough. Women and anyone older than 50 should try especially hard to meet the government’s recommendation of 1,000 to 1,300 mg. per day. Even with the multivitamin, you’ll still only get around 620 mg. on this diet.
- Vitamin B-12. Adults should shoot for a daily 2.4 micrograms of this nutrient, which is critical for proper cell metabolism. With the multivitamin, you’ll meet the recommendation.
- Vitamin D. Adults who don’t get enough sunlight need to meet the government’s 15 microgram recommendation with food or a supplement to lower the risk of bone fractures. Your main source on this diet is the multivitamin, which provides around 11.5 mcg.—still short of the target.
Supplement recommended? Yes, a multivitamin. The company provides one. Or you can opt for your preferred brand.
How easy is it to follow?
Unless you’re Cookie Monster, you may yearn to stray from the limited menu. On the upside, you get to eat every couple of hours and don’t have to track much of anything. The “real” meal you prepare once a day is your chance to break the possible monotony.
What’s more convenient than grabbing a cookie and eating? And you can get by without ever lighting the stove if the “homemade” meal you’re allowed each day is a TV dinner that conforms, calorie-wise. Eating out will be difficult, though, and alcohol is discouraged.
Recipes. Find your own for free online, as long as you know how many calories are in a serving. Or purchase Siegal’s guide or cookbook for recipes organized by calorie level.
Eating out. Allowed, as long as your meal stays between 500 and 700 calories. While that’s not an easy feat at most restaurants, a chicken breast, steamed veggies, and a whole-wheat roll will likely do the trick. Just beware the hidden fats and added sugars that often lurk in restaurant entrees, bumping up calorie counts.
Alcohol. Discouraged. But the occasional drink, if your doctor approves, won’t derail your weight loss.
Timesavers. With its prepackaged cookies, the diet itself is a timesaver.
Extras. Siegal also sells energy shots. (Sluggishness is common on such a low-calorie diet.)
Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough. Siegal’s cookies are claimed to curb hunger through a proprietary blend of amino acids—the building blocks of protein—known only to the 83-year-old Siegal and his wife. (Siegal’s son, president and CEO of the Cookie Diet company, says even he doesn’t know the exact recipe.) No studies have evaluated the mixture’s hunger-controlling claim. Siegal settled on his formula after trial and error with his overweight patients.
The cookies aren’t exactly Oreos, but they’re not inedible, either; 10X cookies are sweet (sugar is the first ingredient), firm, and crumbly, with a shortbread-like texture.
How much does it cost?
Cookies are available both on the Cookie Diet website and at more than 1,000 GNC stores across the country.
A box of 10X cookies, which lasts a week, costs $49.95. A box of “classic” cookies is $59.95.
A starter kit, with a month’s worth of 10X cookies and multivitamins, a guide, and cookbook is $219.80. A kit with four weeks of “classic” cookies and the guide is $239.80.
A week’s worth of shakes is $59.95.
Does the diet allow for restrictions and preferences?
The Cookie Diet isn’t suitable for all dieters—choose your preference for more information.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians, but not vegans, can eat the cookies; they contain milk and eggs.
No. The cookies aren’t gluten-free, but a company official says a gluten-free line is in the works. Shakes are gluten-free.
Yes. The cookies will provide around 900 mg. of sodium each day. As long as your prepared meal isn’t salt-heavy, you should come in under the 1,500 mg. or 2,300 mg. caps.
10X cookies are certified kosher but “classic” ones aren’t.
No. The cookies are not certified as halal.
What is the role of exercise?
Not required, but Siegal recommends daily moderate exercise, like 30 minutes of brisk walking. Vigorous exercise, like jogging or running, is discouraged, since the diet provides too few calories to support it, according to Siegal.
Last updated by Kurtis Hiatt | January 02, 2013
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