Have you heard of the cookie diet? Sounds good to us, but does it actually work? Body+Soul investigates.
Want to have your cake – or in this case, a batch of cookies – and eat it, too?
Well, that’s exactly what Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet makes you believe. The popular diet, which according to its website has been tried and tested by over half a million people, is based on the very alluring concept that you can eat a sh*t load of delicious cookies, lose weight and keep it off long term. But is it too good to be true?
Here’s my humble dietitian opinion…
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What is the Cookie Diet?
The Cookie Diet has been around for almost 50 years. It was created by an American doctor named Dr Sanford Siegal in the 70s and has garnered *a lot* of rave reviews since. Promising to help you lose five to seven kilograms a month, it’s easy to see why it’s piqued a lot of people’s interest.
The diet is split into two phases, the first being the ‘weight loss phase’. During this time, you’re recommended to eat nine of Dr. Siegal’s signature cookies a day (yes, nine!), spaced evenly throughout the day, every two hours. Clocking in at 60 calories each, those nine cookies provide just over 500 calories a day.
At dinner time, you supplement this with an additional 500-700 calories from a real food meal, consisting of a generous portion of protein and lots of lean vegetables. You’re also recommended to have eight glasses of water a day, take a daily multivitamin and do 20 to 30 minutes of walking two or three times a week.
During the second phase, you swap to three healthy meals a day, with a cookie or two between each meal. You’re also meant to bump up your exercise routine slightly to 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise two or three times a week.
The pros of the Cookie Diet
The Cookie Diet is convenient, given that the vast majority of the food you consume comes from pre-packaged cookies that you order online and get delivered to your door.
Offering just 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day, you will almost certainly lose weight on the Cookie Diet… but that’s not always a good thing.
The cons of the Cookie Diet
For context, the average person consumes around 2,000 calories a day. For weight loss, this should drop to about 1,500 calories. Any less than that, you will probably start to burn lean muscle mass because you’re simply not giving your body enough energy – and that’s obviously not ideal.
In the long run, maintaining such a low calorie intake could wreak havoc on your metabolism.
My next point is pretty self-explanatory: the diet is called the ‘cookie diet’, for goodness sake!
At the end of the day, a cookie is just that – a cookie. Read: a food that should be considered a ‘treat’ and not a key player in your diet. There is nothing special about Dr. Siegal’s signature cookies except a ‘special mix of protein powders’ that supposedly keep you feeling full.
Each cookie contains four grams of sugar, so if you’re eating nine cookies a day, you’re consuming a whopping 36 grams of added sugar. For context, the World Health Organisation recommends limiting your intake of added sugar to just 25 grams a day.
What’s more, by restricting your diet so drastically to just one meal of real food a day, you’re not giving your body enough opportunities to reach your macro and micronutrient needs.
A healthy diet – weight loss or otherwise – needs a balance of fruit, vegetables, protein, whole grains and dairy or alternatives… not a mountain of cookies.
The verdict on the Cookie Diet
You can probably already tell that I’m not in favour of the Cookie Diet. Sure, it might help you lose weight… but is it a long-term, nutritious way of eating?
Absolutely not, in my opinion. At the end of the day, if something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly will be. So, enjoy a cookie every now and then – but don’t expect to eat a bucket load of them and be the healthiest version of yourself.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.