Food Network Staffer Diary: I Did The Baby Food Diet for Three Days
This is a no-tricks, no-nonsense eating plan. The baby food diet is exactly what it sounds like: three or more days of eating pureed baby food and trying your absolute best not to complain (or vomit).
I first read about this diet in 2013 when my girl Jennifer Aniston was rumored to have shed quite a bit of weight from eating like a baby for a while. (This was a confusing moment for me, as it was the first time I questioned anything Jennifer Aniston did.) Started by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, the diet quickly became an internet phenomenon as a way to cut cals and drop pounds, fast.
Here are the rules:
For the first two meals of the day, you can only eat baby food. You can drink water, black tea and black coffee, but no alcohol. Basically, if it’s zero-cal, you’re good to go.
You have to eat 14 jars of baby food a day, which totals about 1,000 calories, depending on which purees you buy. Fruit blends such as Apples tend to be less caloric (50 to 60 calories per jar), whereas starchier blends such as Summer Vegetable Dinner are more caloric (70 to 90 calories per jar). Yes, Summer Vegetable Dinner is actually a thing.
The good news: You’re allowed to have a chewable meal for dinner, as long as you’re eating only a small portion of protein and vegetables.
I compared results from three calorie-counting calculators to see exactly how many calories I should be consuming to lose weight. (This is a diet, after all.) The calculators compute your age, height, weight, gender and activity level, leaving you with a specific number of calories to consume each day. If I wanted to lose 2 pounds in one week, I’d need to consume no more than 1,322 calories each day. That leaves me 322 calories for dinner.
Now for the good stuff.
The night before my diet begins, I venture to a grocery store two blocks away from my apartment. I struggle to find the baby food and walk down every aisle twice before I can muster enough courage to ask an employee for help. I notice that my voice has gone up approximately eight octaves from pure embarrassment and for fear of being judged.
When I finally find the goods, the lack of options is overwhelming. Apples and Pears seem doable, but I’m extremely unsure about Spinach Potato. I know I can’t survive off of pureed fruit alone, so I swallow my pride and put at least one of each puree in my cart.
I draw the line at Chicken and Gravy though. I will not eat pureed meat, which honestly, is something I’m very proud of. I place 42 jars in my cart, 14 jars for each day.
I spend the rest of the night binge-watching Stranger Things, attempting to convince myself that things could be worse. I shut my eyes around 11 p.m., as mentally prepared for the morning as I’ll ever be. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know it won’t taste good.
8:30 a.m. I choose Apples for my first jar of the day. It tastes exactly like applesauce, most likely because it is. Nonetheless, after the first “bite” I’m feeling at ease. This diet is going to be a piece of cake...and I would kill for cake right now.
Considering that this jar contains only 60 calories, I figure I should down another one of these bad boys before I hit the road. I sift through my refrigerator for a flavor that might be slightly more filling with a bit of breakfast charm. Peach Oatmeal Banana seems like a solid fit.
Immediately after breaking the seal, I notice the consistency is much thicker than that of Apples. After a lot of hesitation, I try a single bite. I am absolutely revolted. I like peaches, oatmeal and bananas, but this I do not like. I manage to swallow three spoonfuls before I throw the jar in the trash, where it rightfully belongs.
I now understand why babies are always crying.
One hour in, I cave and grab a Starbucks iced coffee with soy milk on my way to work. This is not going to be easy.
11:13 a.m. It’s time for more fuel, which unfortunately means it’s time for more “food.” I feel a little uneasy about the whole “whipping out baby food jars at work” thing, so I explain the situation to my co-worker next to me before I crack open a jar. He says he’s seen weirder things. I’m concerned.
I can’t stomach the idea of another Peach Oatmeal Banana fiasco so I decide to go with another fruit option: Pears. Thankfully, I’m not tempted to vomit and easily down the whole jar. Things seem to be looking up.
12:20 p.m. My morning goes by quickly and I don’t feel hungry until 12:20 p.m., which is surprising since I’ve only consumed 120 calories of “food” this morning. Now that my stomach is starting to grumble, I know it’s time to toughen up. I’ve officially been awake for over six hours and I’m ready to get my hands dirty. Putting Apples and Pears in the backseat, I decide to have a heartier lunch: Sweet Potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes doesn’t taste as weird as I expect. I eat a lot of sweet potatoes in my normal diet, so the flavor is very familiar. The baby food version is super sweet and reminds me of a sweet potato casserole my Aunt Sandy makes during the holidays. It has a thick, creamy consistency, but not in the creepy, lumpy way of Peach Oatmeal Banana.
I follow up with Rice and Lentil, but just looking at the stuff makes me nauseous. It’s the nastiest shade of brown, nearly impossible to mix, and horribly lumpy even after I’ve thoroughly stirred it. There's water residue chilling on the surface of the jar. I take a bite. It’s bad. It’s so, so bad. It doesn’t taste like rice and it doesn’t taste like lentils. It's what I would imagine prison food tastes like.
1:36 p.m. I’m hesitant to reach for anything even remotely adventurous after tasting Rice and Lentil, but I’m running out of options and a girl’s got to eat. I unenthusiastically decide to try Plum Banana Brown Rice, fearing it will be another Peach Oatmeal Banana episode. To my surprise, it’s not awful. It has a smooth consistency and a tangy, slightly tart flavor. All in all, it’s relatively easy to eat. I’m not satisfied, but I am relieved.
2:33 p.m. I’m hungry again, but I figure that’s to be expected. I should be consuming 14 jars of mush before dinnertime and two of them are sitting in my trash bin untouched. I open Corn and Butternut Squash and am overcome by an absolutely heinous smell. My first thought is “nope,” but I know I have to try it.
Corn and Butternut Squash tastes like how it smells — your worst nightmare. Think rotten, cold butternut squash soup meets day-old puke. By the way, it’s extremely watery.
I decide to start a list of things I should never feed my future child.
The smell of Corn and Butternut Squash is so intensely disgusting that I actually remove the jar from my trash bin and dump the remaining puree into the bathroom sink. It’s the responsible thing to do, for the sake of everyone in this office.
Feeling weak, I reach for another fruit-flavored jar. Even if Apple and Blueberries isn’t the tastiest, I know it’ll be at least 700 times more delicious than the squash vomit I've just ingested. I devour it in a matter of seconds and realize I will have to go back to the grocery store after work to exchange all my nasty jars for more semi-tolerable ones. I would set this diet on fire if I could.
3:35 p.m. It’s time for my second serving of Sweet Potatoes, and this time I’m having a tough time keeping it down. It’s creamier and sweeter than I remember. If I eat it at a snail’s pace and think hard enough about pizza, I can at least refrain from vomiting.
4:00 p.m. I wolf down my second serving of Pears and my palate feels slight relief. I am desperate to chew on something, though, and I realize a pack of gum has been sitting in my purse all day. I aggressively shove a piece into my mouth.
5:11 p.m. Only three lonely jars remain, and they could not sound less appetizing.
I take a single whiff of Summer Vegetable Dinner and honestly think this might be the end for me. I pull it together and take another whiff of Spinach Potato. I have the same volatile reaction. I absolutely cannot and will not eat either of them.
At this point, I’m starving. I started my day with 14 jars of baby food and have managed to eat only eight of them. I’m trying to stay positive, despite the fact that I am a natural-born pessimist.
I take more notes.
5:32 p.m. When it's time to leave the office, I feel lightheaded upon standing. It dawns on me that I'd neglected to fill my water bottle up even once while at work. Thinking back, I’m not sure I left my desk at all, other than to use the bathroom.
Thankfully, despite almost falling on a couple of strangers on the subway, I make my way home. My usual after-work routine is to go for a quick run before indulging in the delicious dinner I’ve been dreaming about since after lunch. My daydreams were less riveting today, but I still cannot wait for real food.
I throw on my workout attire and off I go … for about five seconds. I’m hit with some seriously powerful stomach cramps. Part of me feels sad, but mostly I’m relieved. I’ve never run on a belly full of applesauce and I don’t need to start today. I decide this would be the best time to exchange my inedible mush for slightly tolerable mush at the grocery store.
7:03 p.m. I return from the grocery store and am beyond ecstatic about dinner. I haven’t had vegetables all day (besides sweet potatoes) and my body is begging for some. I saute a quick vegetable stir-fry, adding one-quarter cup of teriyaki sauce and one-third cup of couscous. I figure a small portion of grains won’t hurt, considering I’ve consumed fewer than 600 calories today.
Just looking at my dinner makes me smile.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The rest of my night consists of complaining to my roommate and watching two more episodes of Stranger Things. I hit the hay at 11:30 p.m., terrified of faceless monsters but surprisingly not that hungry.
8:30 a.m. Physically, I'm...fine. Emotionally...traumatized. I do find comfort in knowing I won’t have to smell Corn and Butternut Squash today. Breakfast is Plum Banana Brown Rice followed by Apples, followed by sadness, followed by potential defeat. Staying positive, though!
11:48 a.m. I’m having a productive morning and manage to distract myself from the fact that I’m eating like a literal baby for the next 48 hours. I settle for Apples and Blueberries and Sweet Potatoes, hoping that two servings will hold me over for the next hour or two. I’m feeling very lethargic today and the tiny jars of mush aren’t exactly giving me the boost I need.
I cave and grab a coffee with milk, again, and I’m not sorry.
1:00 p.m. I’m almost 100 percent sure my co-worker who sits behind me has just pulled out a fresh, perfectly toasted Buffalo chicken panini, and I genuinely might scream. I fear I may be going slightly insane.
And then there was my lunch.
1:32 p.m. I’m starting to grow very fond of Pears. In fact, I may go so far as to call it my favorite baby food puree. It has a similar consistency to Apples and to Apples and Blueberries, but I feel like less of a weirdo when I eat it. I’m not completely opposed to snacking on it once I go back to living like the 5’10” human that I am.
3:06 p.m. I’m going to have to pick up the pace to meet my 14-jar quota before dinnertime so I toss back three jars as quickly as I can. The amount of sugar I'm ingesting is on another level. I am a diehard sweets fan, but I couldn’t be craving salt more. On the bright side, I’m not starving like I was on Day 1.
3:14 p.m. My co-worker and dear friend Julia kindly announces that there are tacos in the kitchen. Thank you, Julia, for your consideration. I’m glad to know they’re there.
4:00 p.m. I have to leave the office at 4:15 p.m. for an event, so I shove two more jars of mush down my throat and prepare for my departure. I know I won’t be able to “eat” once I’m there, and I have no choice but to BF ‘n’ W (baby food and walk). People are staring. I’m not even using a spoon. At this point, I’m forgetting what being a fully grown human actually feels like.
7:15 p.m. It’s already time for my one real meal, and I still have to eat four more jars of baby food to complete my daily quota. My brain is protesting at the thought of ingesting any more sugar so I decide to ditch the last four jars. All I want is protein and vegetables. Dinner consists of sauteed chicken sausage and zucchini, and I’m salivating just looking at it.
11:46 p.m. It’s been over three hours since my last meal, and I haven’t been tempted to snack at all. This is a very new feeling for me. I usually stuff myself until I’m physically ill and then eat more about 10 minutes later, because I can. It’s a simpler, less caloric life as a baby.
8:00 a.m. I wake up significantly hungrier than I have been the past two days and am thrilled to know that this will be my last Apples and Plum Oatmeal Banana breakfast. Though this diet may be making me slightly insane, I think it’s paying off physically. I definitely feel like I’ve lost weight, but I’m not stepping on the scale until I complete Day 3.
10:57 a.m. I’m desperately wishing I could fast-forward through the day like Adam Sandler does in Click, without the awful repercussions, though; just the cool parts. The salt and starch cravings are setting in again.
11:13 p.m. I’m officially in six jars deep today and am going through baby food much faster than usual. I can see the finish line from a distance, and each empty jar brings me one step closer.
12:48 p.m. I realize how stupid I’ve been for not microwaving Sweet Potatoes since Day 1 and decide to pursue my genius idea for lunch. I heat two servings up and am disappointed when I take the first bite. The puree may be warm this time, but it still tastes like baby food. On the bright side, I’m two jars closer to victory.
It’s going to be so weird eating lunch tomorrow.
2:27 p.m. I devour three more jars and am still starving. The last of Pears is officially gone, and I’m left with three jars to hold me over until dinner. Unlike yesterday, I’m having no trouble whatsoever finishing all 14 servings.
4:21 p.m. THE DEED IS DONE. Fourteen servings of baby food are currently sitting in my stomach, and despite some pretty severe stomach pains, I’ve never felt more alive.
7:35 p.m. The last supper. I treat myself to a big ol’ salad stuffed with sauteed chicken sausage, chickpeas, tomatoes and avocado, topped with hummus, balsamic vinegar and good old-fashioned salt ‘n’ pepper.
Physical status: I lost 2.4 pounds in three days, which is definitely substantial. My jeans don’t have quite the same hug that they did last week, and I find myself significantly less tempted to indulge in greasy, processed foods. It’s kind of exciting but a little bizarre. Let’s be honest, though: If you put a cheeseburger in front of my face, I’m going to eat it.
Mental status: Unwell.
While this diet may have “worked,” the 2.4 pounds I lost were not worth three days of mental torture and constant cramps. Plus, from my experience, this type of extreme, “quick-fix” diet does not bode well for long-term results. Thankfully, there are many ways to lose weight without having to eat like a baby. Opt for a side salad instead of french fries. Eat one cookie instead of 12. Skip the late-night pizza once in a while — or don’t, because who cares?
The point is, there is a reason why people don’t BF ‘n’ W. It’s because fully grown humans are not supposed to eat like infants.
P.S. If you’re ever in the presence of Corn and Butternut Squash, drop everything you’re doing and run.
Photos: iStock and Lianna Hursh