The potato diet — or potato hack — is a short-term fad diet that promises rapid weight loss. However, its purported benefits are not supported by clinical research.

Though many variations exist, the most basic version claims to help you lose up to one pound (0.45 kg) a day by eating nothing but plain potatoes.

This article reviews the pros and cons of the potato diet and whether it can help you lose weight.


  • Overall score: 1.08
  • Weight loss: 1.0
  • Healthy eating: 0.0
  • Sustainability: 2.0
  • Whole body health: 0.0
  • Nutrition quality: 2.5
  • Evidence based: 1.0

BOTTOM LINE: The potato diet lasts 3–5 days and only allows you to eat plain potatoes. It may help you lose weight but is extremely restrictive, lacks certain nutrients, and may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors.

The concept dates back to 1849 but was made popular again by Tim Steele, who published “Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified” in 2016.

In his book, Steele suggests that potatoes are the “best diet pill ever invented.” He alleges they strengthen your immune system, improve gut health, and provide plenty of nutrients to keep you energized while losing weight.

Others have taken the diet to new extremes — further boosting its popularity.

One example is Penn Jillette, a magician who published “Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear.Jillette’s diet consisted of only plain potatoes for the first 2 weeks, during which he dropped 18 pounds (8 kgs).

Though many allege that the diet has helped them lose significant weight, no scientific studies support these claims.

Tim Steele outlines seven fundamental rules in his book:

  1. Eat only plain potatoes for 3–5 days.
  2. Aim to eat 2–5 pounds (0.9–2.3 kg) of potatoes daily.
  3. Avoid other foods, including condiments and toppings like ketchup, butter, sour cream, and cheese.
  4. It’s okay to use salt, but try to avoid it if possible.
  5. Only drink water, plain tea, or black coffee.
  6. Heavy exercise is not recommended. Instead, stick to light exercise and walking.
  7. Take your usual medications as directed by your physician, but refrain from using unprescribed dietary supplements.

In Steele’s version of the diet, only white potatoes are allowed. Other variations of the diet are more lenient.

For example, sweet potatoes are permitted on the Spud Fit Challenge — a popular variation created by Andrew Taylor. In this version, minimal herbs, spices, and fat-free condiments are also allowed.

Keep in mind that the cooking method matters. Fried or overly processed potato products, such as traditional French fries or potato chips, aren’t on the menu.

Studies on the potato diet specifically are unavailable, but it may help you lose weight simply because it’s very low in calories.

Research shows that diets restricting calories likely lead to weight loss — as long as you can adhere to them.

Though 2–5 pounds (0.9–2.3 kgs) of potatoes daily seems like a lot, it amounts to only 530–1,300 calories. This is far less than the average adult’s recommended daily intake.

Interestingly, potatoes contain the compound proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2), which may help decrease hunger by slowing digestion.

One 2016 study found that mice treated with this potato compound ate significantly less food and lost more weight than untreated mice. However, these effects have not yet been studied in humans.

The potato diet may be effective for short-term weight loss, but it’s not a long-term solution. Potatoes are nutritious but don’t contain all the nutrients you need for optimal health.

Furthermore, very low calorie diets have been shown to slow metabolism and decrease muscle mass. You’ll likely regain any weight lost and potentially more when you return to your usual diet.

Though there are many reasons to criticize the potato diet, it does have some potential benefits:

  • Potatoes are highly nutritious. Potatoes are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium, folate, and iron.
  • It’s not complicated. Though restrictive, the potato diet is fairly easy to comprehend. Simply eat plain potatoes for 3–5 days.
  • It’s affordable. Potatoes are typically one of the cheapest types of fresh produce, making this diet relatively inexpensive.
  • It’s high in fiber. Studies show that high fiber diets promote gut health and may play a role in preventing obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Despite these benefits, potatoes don’t provide all the necessary nutrients — no single food can.

Following a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein is better for your health and promotes sustainable weight loss.

There are significant downsides to relying on potatoes as your sole food source.

Extremely restrictive

The potato diet may be one of the most restrictive diets out there. This makes it very difficult to follow. Even more concerning, this strict dieting may lead you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

Restrictive dieting is a form of disordered eating that may lead to other unhealthy behaviors, such as binge eating.

What’s more, other restrictive behaviors are encouraged on this diet — including skipping meals and fasting. This is highly unnecessary, as the diet is already very low in calories.

Shockingly, the author of “Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified” suggests that dieters should “learn to embrace the hunger and only give in if you must.”

Lacks protein, fat, and other essential nutrients

Potatoes can undoubtedly be a nutritious component of an overall balanced diet. However, they cannot meet all your nutrient needs.

They lack two major nutrients — protein and fat. One medium-sized potato contains about 4 grams of protein and virtually no fat.

Though potatoes are high in certain vitamins and minerals — such as potassium, vitamin C, and iron — they’re low in several others, including calcium, vitamin A, and certain B vitamins.

Since the potato diet is only intended to be followed for 3–5 days, nutrient deficiency is unlikely.

Still, you could put yourself at risk for several nutrient deficiencies if you choose to follow the diet long-term or in frequent bouts.

May cause muscle loss

Fad diets like the potato diet are popular because they promise rapid weight loss. However, muscle loss usually accompanies fat loss while dieting — especially when calories are drastically reduced.

For example, one 2016 study found that 18% of the weight lost by participants on a very low calorie diet with only 500 calories per day was from lean body mass.

In comparison, those on a low calorie diet with 1,250 calories per day only lost 8% of the weight from lean body mass.

Studies show that eating extra protein may help reduce muscle loss during calorie restriction, but the potato diet lacks a high quality protein source.

May result in unintended weight gain

When following a very low calorie diet — such as the potato diet — your body may adapt by slowing down its metabolism and burning fewer calories.

Studies suggest this slowdown may persist for many years, long after ending a calorie-restricted diet.

This is called “adaptive thermogenesis” and can make maintaining weight loss extremely difficult in the long term.

In fact, it’s a major reason why researchers estimate that over 80% of dieters return to their previous weight over time.

Unless you’re participating in the Spud Fit Challenge or another more lenient diet variation, only plain white potatoes are permitted.

You might enjoy:

  • baked potatoes
  • boiled potatoes
  • steamed potatoes
  • raw potatoes
  • oven-baked, oil-free hash browns
  • oven-baked, oil-free home fries
  • oven-baked, oil-free French fries

Salt is the only seasoning permitted on the most basic version of the diet. However, other variations allow spices and fat-free condiments.

Additionally, some dieters use chicken or vegetable broth to make mashed potatoes or mash the potatoes plain.

For beverages, you’re advised to stick to water, plain tea, and black coffee

The list of foods to avoid on the potato diet is endless, as it restricts anything besides potatoes.

Certain types of potatoes, such as sweet potatoes and yams, should also be avoided.

Potatoes fried in oil or overly processed are also off-limits. This includes traditional preparations of:

  • French fries
  • tater tots
  • potato chips

This sample meal plan uses 9–15 medium-sized potatoes per day. These may be boiled, steamed, baked, or eaten raw and provide roughly 780–1,300 calories daily.

Day 1

This sample meal plan for day 1 consists of 9 medium-sized potatoes (3 pounds or 1.4 kg).

  • Breakfast: 2 boiled potatoes with a cup of black coffee
  • Snack: 1 boiled potato, served cold
  • Lunch: 2 boiled potatoes, served mashed
  • Snack: 1 raw potato, sliced
  • Dinner: Oven-baked, oil-free French fries with a dash of salt

Day 2

This sample meal plan for day 2 uses 12 medium-sized potatoes (4 pounds or 1.8 kgs).

  • Breakfast: baked hash browns with a cup of black coffee
  • Snack: 2 boiled potatoes, served cold
  • Lunch: 2 steamed potatoes seasoned with a pinch of salt
  • Snack: 2 boiled potatoes, served cold
  • Dinner: 2 plain, baked potatoes

Day 3

This sample meal plan for day 3 uses 15 medium-sized potatoes (5 pounds or 2.3 kgs).

  • Breakfast: baked home fries with a cup of plain tea
  • Snack: 3 boiled potatoes, served cold
  • Lunch: 3 plain baked potatoes
  • Snack: 3 boiled potatoes, served cold
  • Dinner: 3 steamed potatoes with a dash of salt

On the potato diet, you eat only plain potatoes for 3–5 days. It’s claimed to aid weight loss, restore gut health, and boost immunity.

Though it may help you lose weight, it hasn’t been studied, is extremely restrictive, lacks certain nutrients, and may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors.

The potato diet isn’t a good choice for healthy, sustainable weight loss.