June 18, 2024

Mar 21, 2024

Fact Checked

The Mayo Clinic Diet promotes meal planning and healthy habits to help you on your weight loss journey.


The Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet is based on whole-food meal plans focusing on lean meats, lots of fruit and veggies, legumes, and nuts. There’s no calorie counting, and unlike other diets on the market, this one is designed to be both sustainable and educational.

Our Mayo Clinic Diet experience

Pros


Program is customizable


The diet is adaptable for people with diabetes


Focus is on whole foods, not calorie counting

Cons


May be expensive for some


Snack options are plain veggies and fruit


May be challenging to give up sugar and alcohol

Our Reviews Team tested the Mayo Clinic Diet for two weeks. During testing, we used the app, tracked our progress (weight, food, hydration, and activity), interacted with customer support and Mayo Clinic doctors, and prepared meals from the recipe database like any other dieter. 

“Overall, the app is very intuitive and accessible. I liked how I didn’t have to log meals ingredient-by-ingredient and how it automatically logged meals in their entirety when I checked them off. I also liked the grocery list feature—handy. ”

Our tester

Using the app

Our tester found the app easier to use than the website. The plan breaks out your weight loss journey into three different stages: “Lose It,” “Live It,” and “Love It.” The first two weeks of the program is the “Lose It” stage. In this period, you kick start the diet by adopting healthy habits, making food swaps, and trying the exercises. During weeks three through 12, you’re in the “Live It” portion of the program. As you “Live It,” you will use the app to track weight, exercise, water intake, and other activities. The app helps you see your progress over days and weeks. 

The “Love It” part of the program is considered the maintenance phase. Here, you will adopt your new healthy habits and incorporate them into your weekly routine going forward. If you’ve met your weight loss goals and want to quit the program, you’re still encouraged to take these lessons with you. You can continue to work toward your goals and stay connected with the Mayo Clinic Diet community on social media. 

Community support

In the community section of the app, you can find webinars, group coaching sessions, and access to a private Facebook group. Webinar topics include “The Mayo Clinic Diet and Emotional Eating” and “Learn How Healthy Weight Loss Is Attainable in 2024.” Topics for group coaching sessions include “Meal Planning for Success” and “Exercise: Can You Outrun a Bad Diet?” They’re available Monday through Friday at 12 p.m. or 5 p.m. EST. 

“The Mayo Clinic Diet is great for beginners! If you know nothing about healthy eating and weight loss, this is a fantastic place to start. They really do break down everything.

Our tester

Customer service

One thing our tester found to be strange was how customer service communicates via the chat feature on the Mayo Clinic Diet website rather than offering a phone number to call. We reached out to ask a question about whether a free trial is available (it is not), and the inquiry link required us to give our phone number to submit our question. The person or chatbot responded to us via text message instead of directly in the chat. The response was swift, though, and our tester appreciated the quick turnaround.

Mayo Clinic Diet information

Doctors and other experts at the Mayo Clinic developed the Mayo Clinic Diet from clinical research to create a weight loss program focused on science-based health education, well-rounded meal plans, and extra support from trained health coaches. The Mayo Clinic Diet emphasizes nutrition education and sustainable weight loss over calorie restriction. 

The Mayo Clinic Diet promotes steady, sustainable weight loss through the following:

  • An exchange of calorie or fat-dense foods for whole, fiber-rich, nutritious foods 
  • An increase in physical activity
  • The establishment of healthy habits while breaking unhealthy ones

There’s no calorie counting, but if you want to track certain information, the app has a journal for you to enter calorie data. Unlike other diets on the market, this one is designed to be sustainable and educational.

“Fad diets often seem very flashy and promise rapid weight loss, but it’s all a gimmick,” said Lipton. “Most of this weight loss is water weight due to the lack of carbs, and sometimes muscle mass due to the severe restriction. However, healthy weight loss plans should aim for one to two pounds of weight loss per week; this is the best way to ensure fat loss without losing muscle or decreasing energy.” 

Losing weight too fast can lead to nutritional deficiencies and muscle loss. It’s best to lose weight gradually to ensure you don’t gain it back once you stop your weight loss program. 

Once you sign up, you can select from several different meal plans:

  • The Original Mayo Clinic Diet
  • Simple
  • Higher protein
  • Healthy keto (high-fat, low-carb)
  • Vegetarian
  • Mediterranean 

From there, you will officially start your weight loss journey. 

Mayo Clinic Diet cost

You can choose to pay for the entire subscription plan upfront or pay monthly.

There are three different month-to-month plans to choose from:

  • 12-month plan: $19.99 per month
  • Three-month plan: $39.99 per month
  • Monthly plan: $49.99 per month

Or you can choose to pay upfront for additional savings:

  • 12-month plan: $199.99 ($40 less than the month-to-month plan) 
  • Three-month plan: $99.99 ($20 less than the month-to-month plan)

You may be able to use your HSA/FSA funds to pay for the program. 

If the program is not a good fit, you can cancel your contract within five days of making a purchase and receive a refund, but Mayo Clinic will not honor a refund after the five-day window. Refunds are not available for pay-per-month plans. If you decide within the first five days of purchasing that the program isn’t right for you, you’re asked to contact Mayo Clinic Diet via its Help Center.

Mayo Clinic Diet features

What we like best about the Mayo Clinic Diet is the customizable meal planning and the focus on whole foods rather than counting calories. And users have access to Mayo Clinic doctors for coaching and a supportive Facebook community for accountability.

Customized meal planning

The Mayo Clinic Diet’s customizable meal plan automatically populates a grocery list in the app. Our tester really liked this feature because it offers flexibility and choice. The diet avoids common pitfalls of many weight loss plans, which label certain foods “good” and “bad.” 

If you have a dietary preference like vegetarian or Keto, you can easily swap out recipes and ingredients to find an option better suiting your health and budget. One of our testers can only eat gluten-free meals; while it was a bit time-consuming, she said she was able to substitute gluten-free ingredients on her grocery list. Meal planning can be tedious, but the time lost during this phase is given back while grocery shopping since the pre-built list can save significant time. 

Focus on nutrient-dense foods, not calories

Diets rich in fruits and veggies are good for heart health, disease prevention, and weight loss

.The Mayo Clinic Diet philosophy is simple: fill up on whole, fiber-rich foods, and move a little more every day.

Plate of strawberries, blueberries, and cauliflower
People on the Mayo Clinic Diet are encouraged to snack on fruits and plain veggies.

Supportive coaches and community

In the Mayo Clinic Diet app’s community section, there are webinars, group coaching sessions, and access to a private Facebook group. Our tester found it easy to access the Facebook group since many places on the Mayo Clinic Diet website direct you to it. She loved the group, which has approximately 19,000 members, and found it supportive and positive rather than triggering or competitive. 

Mayo Clinic Facebook community.
People on the Mayo Clinic Diet can support each other on the Facebook community.

How to sign up for the Mayo Clinic Diet

The first step to signing up is to enter your current weight and goal weight into a weight loss calculator. Our tester noticed when she entered an unhealthy weight loss goal, the app flagged it and suggested she maintain, not lose weight. From there, you choose your subscription plan, enter payment information, and create your personalized account. 

After initial setup, the next step is to read through the 15 habits featured in Mayo Clinic Diet’s Habit Optimizer. 

The Habit Optimizer names five habits to make and break, plus five bonus habits:

  • Five to make: Eat a healthy breakfast, eat vegetables and fruit, eat whole grains, eat healthy fats, and move for 30 minutes each day. 
  • Five to break: No TV watching while eating, no sugar or alcohol, healthy snacks of plain vegetables and fruits, limited amounts of meat and dairy, and no restaurant meals unless they fit in the program. 
  • Five bonus habits: Track food and activity, move for 60 minutes daily, and write down your daily goals. 

Our tester watched a “What’s Next After Joining?” video to figure out where she should go and what she should do next. The footage offered her helpful guidance. Additionally, our tester liked the accessible information on the diet, and advice on how to eat and live well.

She clicked through to “The Diet” to learn more about the program. There’s access to eBooks: The Mayo Clinic Diet Third Edition by Donald D. Hensrud, MD, and Cook Smart, Eat Well by Jennifer A. Welper, Wellness Executive Chef. 

“I loved the book full of recipes, Cook Smart, Eat Well. The only downside was they made the assumption I have a grill for some recipes (I don’t!).”

Our tester

How we research and evaluate weight loss platforms

Based on our expert consultations, research, and testing, we determined the following factors to be essential for our readers when signing up for a weight loss platform:

  • Education in nutrition and weight management
  • Accountability through progress tracking
  • Recommendations and tips for physical activity
  • Access to clinical support
  • Availability of mental health resources
  • Ease of use of the app or website

We had all of our reviews medically reviewed by an expert in the field to ensure the information is appropriate for NCOA readers’ needs.

Special considerations of weight loss for older adults

To ensure you stay safe and healthy, check with your health care provider before starting a new diet plan and exercise routine. Older adults should consider adding resistance training to their exercise routine to increase muscle mass and improve bone density

“What puts older adults at risk for bone and muscle loss is lack of resistance training,” said Melissa Hendrix Wogahn, an exercise physiologist and owner of Joy of Active Living, a company offering coaching programs on fitness, strength training, and fall prevention for older adults. “While it is important for the older adult to simply move, adding an external load [light weights] significantly increases both muscle mass and bone density.”

Chris Pruitt, certified personal trainer and CEO at WorkoutHealthy.com, recommends using resistance bands to enhance flexibility, or weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging, or stair climbing.

“These exercises help strengthen bones, increase muscle mass, and improve overall health. It’s important for these exercises to be tailored to individual capabilities and performed regularly for the best results,” Pruitt said. 

The Mayo Clinic Diet recommends people engage in 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Research shows physical activity can promote healthy aging by improving balance and heart health and influencing weight loss in older adults

. These health benefits may delay disability, which is important because falls result in more than 3 million emergency department visits annually, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths

.

The CDC offers the following recommendations to prevent falls

:

  • Talk with your health care provider about fall risks and prevention
  • Exercise to improve your balance and strength
  • Have your eyes and feet examined annually
  • Make your home safer by removing things you can trip over, improving lighting along staircases, and installing grab bars in the bathroom

Although the Mayo Clinic Diet encourages exercise, it does not suggest alternatives for people unable to do certain movements, one person from the Facebook community noted. If you have back pain or are recovering from an injury, make sure to only exercise at your own pace and capacity. 

Bottom line

Of the various weight loss plans available, the Mayo Clinic Diet is one of the most sustainable and effective programs we can recommend. The plan offers realistic goals and tangible recommendations, and users can connect with Mayo Clinic doctors for ongoing coaching. For this reason, our Reviews Team named the Mayo Clinic Diet the best weight loss program for seniors.

The developers of this diet suggest people move about 30 minutes per day to maintain or improve heart health, balance, flexibility, mobility, and overall wellness. Consistency with the Mayo Clinic Diet’s nutrition plan is shown to lead to long-term weight loss and weight maintenance. If you’re still not sure which program is right for you, read our reviews of Noom and Weight Watchers (WW).

Frequently asked questions

The Mayo Clinic Diet is an educational tool developed by doctors to help people lose weight. The plan recommends reducing added sugars and alcohol and limiting dairy and meat intake. The app helps you track meals, water intake, and exercise. Meal plan options include Healthy Keto, Higher Protein, Vegetarian, and Mediterranean. Users have access to coaching sessions and a Facebook community.

People needing structured step-by-step guidance may not be successful on the Mayo Clinic Diet. Some may find it restrictive since it requires users to limit dairy and meat, and reduce–or eliminate–alcohol and sugar from their diet, which may be difficult to maintain. People with an eating disorder or nursing mothers may want to skip this diet.

The menus vary depending on which plan you select, but generally, the diet includes lean meat, fish, nuts, beans, legumes, and unlimited vegetables and fruits. You can also select gluten-free versions of three meal plans—Original, Simple, and Mediterranean.

Have questions about this review? Email us at [email protected].

Sources

  1. Zhu R., et al. Adherence to a Plant-Based Diet and Consumption of Specific Plant Foods-Associations with 3-Year Weight-Loss Maintenance and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: A Secondary Analysis of the PREVIEW Intervention Study. Nutrients. Nov. 1, 2021. Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618731/
  2. O’Bryan S.J., et al. Progressive Resistance Training for Concomitant Increases in Muscle Strength and Bone Mineral Density in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. August 2022. Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9325860/
  3. Rekant J., et al. Weekly Minutes of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity Is Associated with Movement Quality in Overweight and Obese Older Adults. Research Square [Preprint]. July 25, 2023. Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10402264/
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls. Reviewed: March 24, 2023. Found on the internet at https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What You Can Do to Prevent Falls. Found on the internet at https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/STEADI-Brochure-WhatYouCanDo-508.pdf

Lauren Evoy Davis is a health journalist with expertise in cancer and other chronic conditions. Lauren holds an MA in Journalism from American University and a BA in English from Elon University. Her work has been published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Legacy, Health Central, WebMD, Verywell Health, Patient Power, and Verizon.

Amy Beney is a Registered Dietitian in private practice outside Buffalo, New York. Amy has a BS and MS in Nutrition. After working with many people who have blood sugar issues and were diagnosed with diabetes, she pursued and received an advanced certification as a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES). She enjoys breaking down complex medical information into smaller pieces that people can apply daily.

Gretchen Dueñas-Tanbonliong, MS, MPH, RDN, is passionate about using her multifaceted background working in nonprofit, international organization, and industry settings


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