Celebrities may give this diet fad more credit than it's due, but adults should steer clear of a baby food diet for several reasons.
Celebrities have quite the knack for causing a stir when they release their "diet secrets," and this week is no different. Today, Girls writer and star Lena Dunham posted on Instagram her "Trump Diet." Dunham, a liberal stalwart, was facetiously remarking on how difficult she's found eating since the November election. Her tone is clearly joking, but tucked in the third entry is a shout out to baby food, an infamous celebrity diet trend.
Indeed, several celebrities tout baby food as their secret elixir for shedding pounds. Last summer, Camila Alves credited her flat stomach to two meals of baby food each day. She eats a more sensible dinner—a protein, black beans, and vegetables —but the actress and co-founder of baby food company Yummy Spoonfuls says she supplements her nutritional needs all day with pouches of squeezable food. Designer Hedi Slimane admitted to living on a diet of baby food to keep his super-slim physique, too.
What is the baby food diet? Why is it popular?
The idea is simple: replace two meals each day with several jars (or pouches) of baby food. A jar of baby food contains between 20 and 90 calories, so sticking to a low-calorie diet will still require downing several jars of pureed goo.
Celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson gets a lot of the internet-(in)famous credit for this fad, but research reveals it's been around since the 1980s. Some advocates suggest eating about 14 jars of baby food throughout the day, then a dinner at night. Other "plans" suggest you only eat baby food. Truthfully, you won't find any hard and fast rules for the baby food diet because it's more of a myth than a medical regimen.
Can you lose weight with the baby food diet?
Absolutely. You can lose weight with just about any "diet" though, so don't give the baby food diet too much credit. In fact, it's easy to understand why the baby food diet would be successful. You will need to eat a lot of baby food to maintain a normal calorie count each day, so if you can't keep up, you may miss your daily calorie goal. Eating fewer calories than needed for weight maintenance means you will start seeing pounds slip off. Each jar is small, so portion control isn't very difficult. And if you can stomach all the flavors (turkey and "gravy," anyone?), you also get a wide variety of flavorful options.
But with those "benefits" come a few harsh realities. You'll have to train your palate to find baby food tolerable. Many brands don't season their foods at all. A more mature palate is accustomed to salt, sugar, and fat, so removing those entirely will be quite a shock to your tongue. Likewise, adults are made to eat real food. Unlike babies, we have teeth and digestive systems that can handle chewable food.
A balance of fiber, protein, fat, and carbohydrates is essential to keeping your body running at optimal levels. If you exercise too, a diet of pureed produce is unlikely to meet your body's needs. You could soon find yourself feeling weak or worse, hangry. Meeting your daily nutritional requirements while eating two meals of pureed fruits and vegetables will be difficult, if not nearly impossible. If you use it for quick slim down prior to a big day (like a wedding or a party), know that you'll likely gain back all the weight you lost quickly once you return to solid food.
"Baby food is lacking adequate amounts of fiber, fat, and protein to sustain a healthy adult. This puréed, and often strained, food is created for babies with underdeveloped digestive systems," says Cooking Light assistant nutrition editor Jamie Vespa, MS, RD. "Keeping our digestive systems active by eating whole, nutrient-dense food is healthy for both our gut and our immune system. The 'baby food diet' is a gimmicky, unsustainable diet that should not be utilized by adults wishing for long-term results."
Bottom line: Like Dunham's advice to not follow her Trump Diet, we do not recommend you try the baby food diet. "It's nutritionally inadequate. I can't think of a single pro for an adult to eat baby food, unless their jaws are wired shut," Vespa says. Healthy adults should instead look to fill their plates with fiber, protein, fat, and carbohydrates and leave the jars of colorful glop to the young ones.