Should You Try the Starbucks Diet?

I love Starbucks coffee, but I wouldn’t recommend eating there exclusively (or at Taco Bell, Subway, or any single restaurant) as a savvy weight-loss strategy. As you may have seen in the news, that’s exactly what one Virginia woman did, and while she lost 85 pounds in two years, you don’t need to limit your meals to one establishment to get similar results.

The law librarian, who was featured on the Today Show and many other media outlets, eats all of her daily meals from Starbucks, generally oatmeal for breakfast, a "bistro box" for lunch, and a panini for dinner. All in all she takes in few calories, sometimes less than 1,000. She says it works for her and she feels better than ever, but as a health professional I wouldn’t recommend following her lead.

Related: Confused by what to eat? Discover which sneaky foods have more calories than you think!

Diets that reduce food intake to a narrow set of options and those that only include pre-portioned meals are popular because they are so limiting. Fewer choices means less thinking, and, let’s face it, having to decide what to eat and controlling your own portions can be a challenge when you’re tired from a long day, busy, or feeling triggered to eat emotionally.   

But there are downsides to restricting yourself to meals from only a single restaurant. First, it’s not practical for most of us (could you do this exclusively every day for two years? Talk about boring!). And we all know that following an approach you can’t stick with can lead to a yo-yoing on-off cycle that causes weight fluctuations, digestive problems, mood swings, and a strained relationship with food and your body.

I also want my clients to lose weight in a sustainable way that optimizes their health, which means an eating strategy or plan (not a temporary “diet”) that contains nutrient-rich, clean foods, including a minimum of five servings (think five tennis balls' worth) of fruits and vegetables (something 75 percent of Americans fall short on) and 100-percent whole grains rather than refined choices (only 1 in 10 of us hit this daily mark), along with lean proteins, heart-healthy plant-based fat, and natural seasonings like fresh herbs and spices at each meal.

Related: Think salad is always the best choice when eating out? Then you better say hello to the 12 salads worse than a Big Mac.

While Starbucks does have some healthy options, I think it would be difficult to hit the daily goal of five servings of produce, let alone meet all of your nutrient needs, especially on such a limited number of calories (390 for the oatmeal with the brown sugar, dried fruit, and nuts; 220 for the Goat Cheese & Garden Veggies Bistro Box; and 340 for the Ham & Swiss Panini adds up to just 950 calories).

In a recent post, I revealed new data that found that just 6 percent of those surveyed say they adhere to a strict diet, 42 percent strive for balance instead, and nearly 90 percent believe that moderation is the key to wellness. I was thrilled to see these stats because in my experience counseling many clients over the years, too-strict approaches to weight loss often backfire.

For more about how to lose weight without limiting nutrients or food choices—and how to keep it off for good—check out my other previous posts:
Beyond Calories In, Calories Out—A No-Hunger, No-Hassle Plan
3 Surefire Ways to Lose Weight
How to Keep the Weight Off

What’s your take on this topic? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine

Should You Try the Starbucks Diet?-2

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consu

ltant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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