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The Starch Solution by John McDougall and Mary McDougall (2012): What to eat and foods to avoid

The Starch Solution - diet & healthy eating book by John McDougall and Mary McDougallThe Starch Solution (2012) is a weight loss and healthy eating diet that advises a starch-centered diet

  • Vegan
  • High-starch, very-low-fat, low protein
  • Low processed foods

Below is a description of the food recommendations in the diet.  What to eat  |  Foods to avoid  |  To achieve maximum weight loss.   There’s a lot more in the book.

Get a copy of The Starch Solution for more information on the scientific studies behind the recommendations and also recipes

The reasoning behind The Starch Solution

This book argues that humans are naturally “starchivores” who thrive on a starch-centered diet. Protein (in excess), fat, dietary cholesterol, methionine (in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and cheese), and dietary acid (in animal foods) are toxic, and starch is the path to detoxification and spontaneous healing. Animal-based diets are leading to environmental devastation so we should follow a plant-based diet.

The Starch Solution diet plan – food list

What to eat  |  Foods to avoid  |  To achieve maximum weight loss

Foods to eat in The Starch Solution

Center your plate around starches, adding color and flavor with nonstarchy vegetables and fruits

  • Starches
    • Eat as much as you want, the least processed you can find
    • Grains (whole grains): barley, buckwheat, corn, farro, millet, oats (preferably rolled oats or steel-cut oats), rice (preferably brown rice), rye, sorghum, spelt, triticale, wheat, wild rice. Also products made with these grains, such as breads, tortillas, flatbreads, pasta, couscous, and whole grain cereals
    • Legumes: beans, lentils, peas (treat peanuts as nuts/seeds, below)
    • Starchy vegetables: carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, sweet potatoes, winter squashes (acorn, banana, butternut, Hubbard), yams
  • Nonstarchy vegetables
    • Green, yellow, and orange (nonstarchy) vegetables
    • Eat plenty
    • Bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chives, collard greens, eggplant, garlic, green beans, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, okra, onions, peppers, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, summer squashes, tomatoes, turnips, zucchini
  • Mushrooms
  • Fruits
    • Eat plenty
    • Apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cherries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, loquats, mangoes, melons, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, persimmons, pineapples, plums, tangerines, watermelons
  • Other foods for flavoring
    • Bean spreads, jellies and jams, tempeh, tofu, tofu mayonnaise, soy-based yogurts, fat-free cocoa powder, noncaffeinated herbal teas, coffee substitutes, club soda or unsweetened seltzer (flavored or plain), Ener-G Egg Replacer, nutritional yeast, whole grain flours, soy milk, rice milk, nut milk, fruit juice, brown sugar, agave nectar, pure maple syrup, soy sauce, miso paste, herbs and spices
  • Packaged meals
    • Packaged Dr. McDougall’s Right Food soups, cereals, and cup meals
  • Snack foods
    • Corn thins, crackers (rice or wheat, fat free), hummus or other spreads (fat free), popcorn (just corn; avoid instant popcorn with added fat)
  • Eat 30-80 grams of protein a day, using plant proteins (whole grains, legumes, tofu and tempeh, nuts and seeds, soy milk and nut milks). You don’t need to consciously combine these foods (“complementary proteins”) within a given meal
  • Most people can enjoy small amounts of refined flours and simple sugars without adverse effects

Foods to avoid or limit with The Starch Solution

Stay away from these foods altogether, all of the time, for the rest of your life.

  • Meat
    • E.g. beef, pork, lamb
  • Poultry
    • E.g. chicken, turkey, duck
  • Dairy  foods
    • E.g. milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream
  • Eggs
  • Seafood
  • Animal fats
    • E.g. lard and butter
  • Vegetable oils
    • Including olive, corn, flaxseed, canola, and safflower oils
  • Processed foods
    • Refined and sugar coated cereals, cookies, cakes, desserts, chocolate, ice cream
    • White rice, white flour
    • Margarine, mayonnaise
    • Colas and other sodas
    • Processed meats
    • Packaged foods
    • Highly processed meat equivalents made from soy and other plant-based foods
  • Isolated soy protein
  • Choose foods with the fewest artificial ingredients
  • Low alcohol is implied but not stated in the book
  • Low caffeine is implied but not stated in the book
  • Foods that are too high calorie or rich for every day – either avoid completely or eat occasionally in very small amounts as occasional treats, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or have a chronic illness
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Peanuts and peanut butter
    • Olives and avocado
    • Dried fruits
    • Flours (whole grain, white, all-purpose)
    • Fruit and vegetable juices
    • Simple sugars – table sugar, maple syrup, molasses, agave

Don’t worry about restricting sodium too much, unless you’re very salt-sensitive e.g. if you have severely damaged heart or kidneys.

To achieve maximum weight loss

Eat more:

  • Nonstarchy green, yellow, and orange vegetables – increase to about 1/3 to ½ of the food on your plate. Fill the remainder of your plate with starch

Eat many small meals a day rather than one or two large ones

Eat a simple meal plan – greater variety results in more food consumed

Eat less:

  • Fruit – fresh fruits only one or two a day


  • Simple sugars, including dried fruit and juices
  • Flour and flour products, including breads, bagels, and pastas
  • High-fat plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and soy-based foods
  • Eating at restaurants

Health benefits claimed in The Starch Solution

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks or symptoms of: acne, aging, anemia, ankylosing spondylitis, arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, autism, bad breath, body odor, cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma, prostate cancer, canker sores, Crohn’s disease, chronic constipation, depression, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, diarrhea, ear infections, eczema, fatigue, gallbladder disease, gangrene, headache, hearing loss, heart attacks, heart disease, heartburn/GERD, high blood pressure / hypertension, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, hives, hyperactivity, impotence, indigestion, inflammatory diseases, kidney disease, kidney failure, lupus, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis MS, muscle pain, osteoporosis, overweight/obesity, Parkinson’s disease, peptic ulcers, rashes, schizophrenia, scleroderma, sinus infections, stroke, ulcerative colitis, vitiligo

As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, not endorsing it.

Get a copy of The Starch Solution for more information on the scientific studies behind the recommendations and also recipes

Buy now from Amazon
The McDougalls’ website is https://www.drmcdougall.com/. John McDougall is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DrJohnMcDougall and Twitter at https://twitter.com/johnmcdougallmd.

How has this diet helped you? Please add a comment below.

{ 100 comments… add one }

  • Lisa October 27, 2013, 12:16 am

    Hi. I read the book and I quite enjoyed reading it. I have one question though. I love popcorn, and sometimes I have it in the evening to snack on. I made some tonight with coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, and split it with my husband. I could not find anywhere if popcorn is permitted following this plan. I know that he said to use low fats, which, this was about the first fat I have had other than from plant sources.

    Is it okay to have popcorn once in a while? This is one of the things that I grew up on, and would hate to give up. I can give up meat, eggs and almost all dairy. I am very content eating veggies and starches!

    If anyone has any insight into this, I would love to hear it. Thanks so much!!

    • Penny Hammond October 27, 2013, 8:08 am

      You can have corn on this plan, and popcorn is a type of corn. You’re supposed to eat the least processed forms of starches, and I don’t imagine that popping popcorn is considered processing! Start with popcorn kernels (no added anything) and air-pop them.

      The authors want you to avoid any added fats, so coconut oil would be out as well. Try other ways to flavor the popcorn – perhaps herbs and spices for savory popcorn or brown sugar and cinnamon for sweet popcorn. Be inventive within the guidelines of the diet!

    • Ana-Maria Stefania April 1, 2017, 1:53 am

      U can have popcorn minus the oil. U can make popcorn just plain with no oil.Try it is even better then the one with oil.
      Good luck.

      • Penny Hammond June 20, 2017, 7:25 pm

        Yes, you can have dry-cooked popcorn on this diet.

    • Tenzin Nyidon April 30, 2017, 12:30 am

      Hi i was wondering if adding nutrional yeast to my foods on this diet is bad? Is nurtitional yeast okay to use while on the strach solution?

      • Penny Hammond June 20, 2017, 7:27 pm

        Yes, a number of the recipes include nutritional yeast.

  • Goldie March 27, 2014, 8:08 am

    Have read all the does and donts with your plant diet and am very confused regarding bread pasta etc. surely proving it is whole meal it would be ok? I cannot manage a diet that disallows sandwiches and pasta. And also fish provided it is not oily why not? Please explain.

    • Penny Hammond March 30, 2014, 9:03 pm

      The authors encourage you to eat as much as you want of whole grains. It’s only for maximum weight loss that they suggest you avoid flour and flour products, including breads, bagels, and pastas.

      This is essentially a vegan diet, and the authors believe that any animal foods are bad for you and for the environment.

  • Ronda March 31, 2014, 4:20 pm

    Hi, I was also wondering about eating popcorn on the program. I sprayed air popped popcorn with spray balsamic vinegar and sprinkled it with brewers yeast and salt. It was decent.

    • Penny Hammond April 6, 2014, 1:52 pm

      Popcorn is okay on this diet, as long as it’s not made using fat and all the ingredients you use follow the guidelines given.

    • KATHRYN VILLAVICENCIO March 27, 2017, 11:31 am

      Balsimic vinegar has added sugar. I would recommend using Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (great for many health issues) and using Nutritional Yeast (nutty cheese flavor sold in many grocery stores and health stores) in place of Brewer’s Yeast. I occasionally use Walton Farm’s dressing (very little) on my potatoes (no calories, no sugar, no nothing!) and sometimes when mashing potatoes I use salt-free, organic vegetable broth (just a few tablespoons – otherwise mashed potatoes are too dry for me). I think since almond milk is Ok in small amounts, that could also be used for mashing potatoes. I also used different varieties of quinoa, rice pasta, quinoa pasta, any pasta made with vegetable flour – not white flour. I have only been on this diet for a few weeks and am just now getting the hang of it. For me, too many potatoes made me sick and too little starch left me feeling hungry. You have to discover what’s right for you… GOOD LUCK! [PS – don’t forget to add the vegetables and occasional fruit. I have only tried one of the recipes in his book, but see a few I plan to try] It seems people who have been successful have lost tons of weight – I’ll be delighted if I can reach -40 lbs!!! Also, this is not a calorie-based diet… You can eat as much starch as you feel comfortable with (the total opposition of the multiple diets I have tried over the years. I sure hope this works because it is really easy for people without much time to cook too often..

  • Janet April 28, 2014, 7:24 pm

    I believe the recommendation for popcorn on this diet is, pop in air popper (no oil)lightly spray with a salt water solution and then spread on a baking sheet and bake 5 to 10 mins till crisp. I like the idea given by Rhonda of the Balsamic vinegar and nutritional yeast. I will have to try that as I love popcorn.

  • Murray McEwan April 28, 2014, 10:10 pm

    While it may sound like a good idea to not eat meat in order to try to reduce the number of animals being raised for food, I question the assumption that any less greenhouse gas will be produced by allowing a field of grass to just go wild. Decaying vegetation still emits greenhouse gas, as it should, since it is part of the carbon cycle. Whether an animal eats that grass first, then excretes it, makes no difference in net emissions. The world will not lie fallow just because we stop farm animal production.

    Farm animal flesh is actually a very good way to concentrate low food value sources into high food value resource that doesn’t require refrigeration, so long as it is alive. It’s totally sensible to be an omnivore.

    Instead, we would be better off to stop recycling forest products. Take that old paper and bury it to prevent decay. Burial is the effective way to reduce the carbon footprint (besides ceasing to dig up and burn old carbon).

    • claud August 26, 2014, 7:33 pm

      There’s a great new documentary which has just been released on this topic called Cowspiracy. Would highly recommend a watch!

    • sara February 11, 2015, 11:39 am


      “The efficiency with which various animals convert grain into protein varies widely. With cattle in feedlots, it takes roughly 7 kilograms of grain to produce a 1-kilogram gain in live weight. For pork, the figure is close to 4 kilograms of grain per kilogram of weight gain, for poultry it is just over 2, and for herbivorous species of farmed fish (such as carp, tilapia, and catfish), it is less than 2. As the market shifts production to the more grain-efficient products, it raises the productivity of both land and water. 33”

      “Livestock, especially cattle, produce methane (CH4) as part of their digestion. This process is called enteric fermentation, and it represents almost one third of the emissions from the Agriculture sector.
      The way in which manure from livestock is managed also contributes to CH4 and N2O emissions. Manure storage methods and the amount of exposure to oxygen and moisture can affect how these greenhouse gases are produced. Manure management accounts for about 13% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the Agriculture sector in the United States”

      It is not the decaying plants that set of a SIGNIFICANT amount of CO2 or N2O in the atmosphere, it’s the factory level of manure, tilling, irrigation, and machine plowing that do it. I think you forget that plants of all kind actually breath CO2 out of the air and N2O out of the ground for growth? If you use your argument that “decaying vegetables” cause that much harmful greenhouse gas, then what of forests? What about wild grasses that decay? How come the world’s atmosphere and CO2 levels were fairly stable up until 1950?


  • Irina September 19, 2014, 7:46 am

    Hey i was just wondering, I’m extremely interested on the starch solution, but what is the recommended calories for this lifestyle?

    • Penny Hammond September 19, 2014, 8:06 am

      The McDougalls talk a lot about calories in this book, but don’t tell you how many calories to eat.
      They say that fats are very calorie-intense, which is part of the reason to restrict them.
      They also say that on average, moderately active women consume about 2,000 calories per day and men 2,500 calories.

    • sara February 11, 2015, 11:41 am

      Dr McDougall says in most of his lectures that you can eat unlimited calories/as much as you want until you’re full.

  • Redmint November 20, 2014, 4:57 pm

    Coconut oil is a miracle and should be the ONLY oil used.

    • Sawyer June 6, 2015, 4:41 pm

      No oil is permitted on the McDougall diet. All oils cause heart disease and disrupt the body’s use of insulin.

  • Judith Megesi December 1, 2014, 1:37 pm

    My boyfriend is buying this book as an early Christmas presènt. I am so excited to get started. I have fibro, lupus and now diverticulitus..

    • Penny Hammond December 1, 2014, 6:49 pm

      Good luck, I hope the diet makes you feel better!

    • Toni April 28, 2015, 1:51 am

      So how is it working so far?

  • Catherine December 13, 2014, 3:01 pm

    Hi I was wondering if its ok to eat white rice? I dont like brown rice.

    • Penny Hammond December 14, 2014, 9:47 am

      The authors appear to prefer foods with a glycemic index of greater than 80. They list jasmine rice with a GI or 109, and brown rice with a GI of 87 (chapter 12). However in chapter 13, Avoid and Enjoy table, they say to avoid white rice.
      It appears that they prefer brown rice, as it’s mentioned frequently in the book. But maybe you can have (white) jasmine rice or basmati rice, which are less processed than instant white rices.

      • Brian Mullins February 6, 2015, 6:20 am

        While Dr. McDougall encourages brown rice consumption over white rice, he does not say not to ever eat white rice. Notice that in chapter 12 when it lists foods not to eat (besides in this table) it does not list white rice as one of the banned foods (like it does mention white flour many times.) Here is a video of him speaking about it. He would prefer you eat white rice than not to eat rice at all.


        • LaMesha Hale November 6, 2015, 8:36 am

          Ahhh thank you Brian!! This just changed my life. I JUST developed an intolerance for brown rice otherwise I could eat it daily. But I thought I wasn’t a good candidate for this plan because of it. Thanx for sharing! I Am Happy lol

    • Elisheba Bridgebuilder July 25, 2015, 9:51 am

      Mix the brown rice with white rice to become accustomed to it,…also ..the best tasting brown rice is short grain brown .

  • Yatoya January 5, 2015, 9:47 am

    Hello everyone! I plan to start the starch solution programme and wonder whether products such as udon noodles, white rice, plain porridge (no sugar added), baked beans (low sodium and sugar), bulghur, durum semolina pasta are allowed on this diet or not. Many thanks!

    • Penny Hammond January 5, 2015, 3:07 pm

      The authors say you can eat unlimited amounts of foods made with grains and their flours, so udon noodles and durum semolina pasta and other wheat or rice noodles or pasta would be fine, as would bulgur. [NOTE – edited 6/27/16 – you’re supposed to avoid white flour foods at all times on this diet for the rest of your life, so non-whole-grain noodles and pasta should probably avoided].
      They suggest that you limit white rice.
      You can have unlimited oats, so plain porridge would work (just watch out for what else you put in there).
      Legumes/pulses are allowed in unlimited amounts, and tomatoes are fine, so baked beans should be allowed – just check for any other ingredients that are supposed to be avoided on the diet.
      Hope that helps.

  • Sherry January 24, 2015, 11:10 pm

    Hi What about those with low thyroid autoimmune disorders like Hashimotos THyroiditis?
    We are supposed to avoid spinach brocoli and other ‘goitergen’ foods …. and our metabolisms arent working
    up to par so will this food change of starch etc help us?

    • Penny Hammond February 2, 2015, 7:49 pm

      There are varying opinions as to whether a high unprocessed starch and/or very low fat diet can help thyroid disorders. It’s possible that the very low levels of fat in this diet may be more harmful to you than the high carbohydrate levels.

      Plenty of vegetables aren’t goitrogenic, and cooking cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli) can reduce or eliminate the goitrogenic effect.

  • Nino February 17, 2015, 12:44 pm

    Hello I need some guidance please on this diet, I am using it to combat acne.
    What can I use as a sweetner in my tea please ?

    • Penny Hammond February 19, 2015, 8:46 am

      The dessert recipes include sugar, sucanat, maple syrup, and agave nectar, which implies that sugars are okay for this diet. The authors say “We often enjoy a simple piece of fresh fruit for dessert, but so long as you stick with sweets that have little or no fat, there’s no harm for most people in occasionally indulging in a dessert that leaves you feeling satisfied.”

      They’re not clear on using sugars and sweeteners for other purposes, or whether artificial sweeteners are okay for this diet.

      As you’re trying to get rid of acne, you might want to be careful about using refined sugars, which often trigger acne.

  • maria trimboli March 4, 2015, 5:29 am

    Hi how does all these high carb food not be stored as fat like we keep getting told .so confused

    • Penny Hammond March 4, 2015, 6:18 pm

      You’re right, different “experts” say different things.
      It’s possible that some people don’t do well on high-fat diets, and other people don’t do well on high-carb diets.

    • Orion Harmon May 15, 2015, 12:32 pm

      Insulin resistance from high fat diet will cause carbs to more likely be stored as fat.
      De novo lipogensis is a process that happens when you dramatically overfeed on refined carbohydrates (dextrose, pure sucrose, pure fructose) and takes 30% of the amount you intentionally overfeed to store about 10-30g (90-270 calories) as fat. Say you take about 600g of dextrose at once on an empty stomach, no fiber, no vitamins, and no water. The body doesn’t like going into de novo lipogensis as it much rather store the carbs are glycogen in the muscles and liver or burn them off during dietary thermogenesis.

  • vanessa March 7, 2015, 6:37 pm

    We only have white rice here. Can I not eat it? Should I eat brown rice instead?

    • Penny Hammond March 8, 2015, 11:50 am

      If you can get brown rice, the McDougalls say that’s the best type of rice to eat.
      If you can’t get brown rice, see if you can get an unprocessed white rice, such as basmati rice or jasmine rice, or any type of rice that isn’t “quick cook”
      If you can’t get that, then white rice is okay to eat.

  • Roxana March 8, 2015, 11:34 am

    This may sounds like a silly question given that any form of healthy diet/lifestyle recommends exercise, however does this lifestyle in particular REQUIRE working out? Does eating “unlimited” amounts of starches/carbs really not affect your weight if no/little exercise is involved? This question would obviously apply to someone who is happy with their current weight and would like to maintain it whilst on this diet. (PS: I have not read the book)

    • Penny Hammond March 8, 2015, 12:05 pm

      The book says that some people have achieved amazing health improvements by adopting a starch-based diet, along with a little exercise and some sunshine.
      It says that if you want to lose more weight, exercise more frequently to burn more calories and to tame an overactive appetite.

  • Rayne April 5, 2015, 10:24 pm

    I have rheumatoid arthritis, does it say anything about avoiding nightshade or gluten?

    • Penny Hammond April 10, 2015, 9:52 am

      The book doesn’t mention anything about avoiding nightshades or gluten.
      Try eliminating and then reintroducing each of them separately to see whether they’re triggers for you personally – it’s not such a good idea to exclude everything that might be a trigger for you, especially if you’re already on a limited diet.

    • Mary February 14, 2017, 5:49 am

      Hey Rayne,
      I also have RA. I am on my forth week of the elimination diet. I am still having inflammation. I was just wondering how you got along? Thanks

  • Allison April 27, 2015, 8:10 am

    I’m wondering about protein powders that are whey-based, for smoothies with fruit. Is this allowed?

    • Penny Hammond April 27, 2015, 2:32 pm

      This is a plant-based/vegan diet, so whey-based protein powders wouldn’t be allowed.
      There are an increasing number of plant-based protein powders available.

      The book says that you don’t need a lot of protein – could you focus on “real” plant foods that contain proteins, rather than adding protein powder?

  • yunjung pak May 6, 2015, 7:08 pm

    Is there any chance the starch solution translated in korean?? I am extremly interested in this book!!!

    • Penny Hammond May 7, 2015, 7:15 am

      You could try asking the authors – the website is https://www.drmcdougall.com/ and there’s contact information at the bottom of the page.

  • Jaylene Hogan June 14, 2015, 4:59 am

    I have a question as I’ve not read this book yet. For Maximum weight loss, is there a restriction
    of the amount of beans, legumes or peas one can eat during the day to get the best results? I want to do the 1/2 plate of yellow-green vegies and 1/2 plate rice or potatoes or corn plan and just want to know about the beans. Thanks, Jaylene

    • Penny Hammond June 15, 2015, 12:39 pm

      The book says that to achieve maximum weight loss, you should eat more nonstarchy vegetables, limit fruit, and avoid simple sugars, flour and flour products, and fatty plant foods such as nuts and avocados.
      It doesn’t say anything about limiting legumes or starchy vegetables for weight loss – they should just be a smaller part of your plate as nonstarchy vegetables are a bigger part of your plate.

      • jaylenehogan July 10, 2015, 3:00 am

        thanks for your answer and one more question please. Along with the maximum weight loss
        programme, is it ok to include prepared organic mustard and beetroot chutneys. These have no
        oils but abit of sugar. Is that within the guidelines along with the use of Braggs Liquid Aminos
        or Gluten free soy sauce or tamari and lemon juice as a dressing or seasoning for rice, vegies and beans? Thanks, jaylene

        • Penny Hammond July 10, 2015, 6:41 pm

          Do the organic mustard and beetroot chutney have sugar in the ingredient list? Beetroot has natural sugars, just wondering whether any “simple sugars” have been added. If yes, the maximum weight loss diet says you should avoid. However, you should be able to find mustard without added sugar.

          Braggs Liquid Aminos, soy sauce (doesn’t need to be gluten-free for this diet), tamari, and lemon juice should all be fine for this diet.

  • Hamta June 15, 2015, 9:22 am

    hi … i have some question
    somebody say we cant eat white rice some says if it’s nproccesd that will be okey…
    for fruit how much we can use?? can i use them just for breakfeast??? or we shoud eat just for snak….if for snack so what if not says we have not eat fruit after cooked foot at all?? food combonation??

    • Penny Hammond June 15, 2015, 12:43 pm

      Look at the meal plans in Chapter 14 – “The 7-Day Sure-Start Plan” – fruit is included in the breakfasts for most days, and also listed as a snack to eat freely if you’re hungry between meals.
      There aren’t any food combining guidelines/limitations on this diet; it doesn’t say you have to eat fruit separately or not after cooked food.

  • Erin July 15, 2015, 6:36 am

    What would be a really simple meal plan that i could use on a daily basis for weightloss, im not concerned with variety and dont want anything complicated.

    • Penny Hammond July 19, 2015, 12:15 pm

      That sounds like a simple question but it’s not that easy to answer! Different people react differently to different foods, and there are many theories about what works for weight loss. There are also different opinions of the value of eating the same thing day in day out – a few diets say that’s the best way to lose weight, but many say that you should have some variety so your body gets all the nutrients it needs.
      A lot of diets have meal plans – you could try following one of them.

  • Sarah July 28, 2015, 1:17 pm

    I want to try this diet because of my acne, but I dont need to loose weigt. So what are the main things I need to focus on? I have been vegan for 1 year. And can I use oils ON my skin for moisturizing? I think that works just as fine as normal face creams, I also have dry skin with my acne, and this is a much cheaper then facial creams 🙂

    • Penny Hammond August 7, 2015, 3:47 pm


      To achieve maximum weight loss, the book says to eat more green/yellow/orange nonstarchy vegetables, eat many small meals, limit fruit juice, and avoid simple sugars, flour and flour products, high-fat plant foods, and eating at restaurants.
      So to maintain weight, you don’t need to follow that set of principles – you can eat more high-fat plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and soy-based foods.
      It’s possible that simple sugars and white flour might contribute to acne, so you might want to still keep an eye on them.

      I don’t see anything in the book about avoiding oils for external use.

  • munazza tallat August 8, 2015, 9:18 am

    plz tell me whr I got this book the starch solution nd I confuse in many thing bcz I suffering this diseasse any one help me m belong to pakistan

  • steven cruz August 24, 2015, 8:49 pm

    I have been on this diet since July 5,2015 and let me tell you it has help me very much. On July 5
    My weight 380 lb. now I went on the scale August 23 and I weigh 324. I lost 56 lb. I only eat brown rice and black,red and pink beans I eat kale and I do use olive oil but not too much.I eat natures promise chipotle black bean vegetable burgers with whole wheat bun with sautéed onions and a slice of tomatoes and I drink seltzer and water I E-Mail them about white rice and they say I can have white rice I make myself smoothies fruit or vegetable and for the first two weeks I have been working out in the gym and it works I eat his oatmeal and have his soup and I mix it with stir fry vegetables I put it in the microwave and its great.It has help and my goal is being 200 lb. so I am getting there.Its been very positive with this diet. Its a sure life style change and I feel much better about my self. So give it a shot and good luck its been a positive change in my life. Thank you.

    • CASS October 6, 2015, 3:25 pm

      GREAT JOB!!!! SO AWESOME!!!!

  • Giny September 5, 2015, 11:10 am

    Hi! I wa te to start this lifestyle tomorrow Right nos I am vegetarian, and I am acaread to gain weight on the first weeks … Alzo I hace colitis and I cant est beans, peas and lentils how can I replace them?

    • Penny Hammond September 6, 2015, 1:21 pm

      If you can’t eat legumes, this diet would be difficult to follow because of the limited proteins on offer in different foods. You could try sprouting them (soaking whole dried legumes water until shoots appear, changing the water regularly) to see if you can digest them more easily / without flare-ups that way. Or you could try tofu and ferments such as tempeh.

  • Jessica stone September 8, 2015, 3:45 pm

    Hi my husband was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. We are trying this diet, which I am sure will help. I noticed this was also for people who are trying to lose weight. He has already lost weight and is trying to gain it back. Is there anything that is recommended to do differently then what is said here to not lose any more weight? Thank you

    • Penny Hammond September 11, 2015, 6:57 pm

      The diet isn’t specifically for weight loss, although it does give guidance for people who want to achieve maximum weight loss. If you have that goal, the book says that you should limit fruits to only 1-2 per day, and avoid simple sugars, including dried fruit and juices; flour and flour products, including breads, bagels, and pastas; high-fat plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and soy-based foods; and eating at restaurants.

      So to gain weight, I’d assume that you’re free to eat more of those items (but not ignore nonstarchy vegetables)

  • Liz September 13, 2015, 12:16 pm

    I have been on this diet since June 25, 2015. I am hypothyroid, pre-diabetic, 42 years old and starting weight 168. I went vegan, gluten free, starch-based, almost no added oil (I will use small amounts of coconut oil and walnut oil) and no added sugar. I start the day with oatmeal loaded with fresh berries, fruit such as apples or bananas for snack, lunch is usually brown rice or quinoa with mixed veggies and salsa, afternoon snack is fruit or veggies such as carrots, dinner is a baked potato or sweet potato seasoned with sea salt and mixed veggies. Snack before bed will be more fruit. If I am hungry between meals I will bake another potato or eat any fruit I want. I make large salads loaded with spinach, kale, tomato, mushrooms, sweet peppers, carrot, peas, black beans, corn and use balsamic, red wine, or apple cider vinegar as a dressing. I add an avocado or walnuts for healthy fats. Also, I purchased a juicer and have been making fresh juices with fruits & veggies. I don’t count calories. I have low thyroid but my doctor has been able to reduce my thyroid medicine. I was on my way to Type 2 diabetes but my last A1C was normal. To date I have lost 25 lbs and can eat anytime I want as long as it is a fruit, vegetable or starch. I feel like I am getting younger everyday (not so many aches & pains) and have seen improved energy levels. This way of eating really works and has changed my life. The only problem I have is no one I know eats like this so going to dinner with friends or trying to eat with family who eat a standard diet can be very upsetting. But, I want to be healthy because my Mom only made it to 59 years old. Graves disease, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease caused her to become ill before her time. I have two children and want to see them grow into healthy adults. I know this way of eating will get me there. I started this journey by watching Dr. McDougal, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and Dr. Esseletyn on YouTube. They are all healthy and over 70 years old.

    • Barbara Sena October 16, 2015, 1:41 pm

      Hi Liz. My name is Barbara. I am seriously considering this lifestyle change beginning next week. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Hypothyroid in March 2015. I am finding it very difficult to lose weight. The doctor is still trying to regulate my numbers; however, they are much better than they were…a little ways to go. Did your doctor agree with this lifestyle change? I had inquired in July about cutting out dairy and/or gluten and was told it probably would make much difference in my numbers or weight loss. I am very frustrated and feeling powerless in losing the weight I have gained.

  • NKY September 24, 2015, 8:24 am

    I have been reading a lot from your website, to arrive to a conclusion, and need your Guidance.

    My mother (Age-55) is having Rheumatoid Arthritis from 6+years. (Country – India)
    We have tried Allopathy (NSAID) treatments for 4 years but results were good only until she was taking the pills, also she had a lot of side effects.

    Then for 2 years we tried Ayurvedic Medicines, to which she responded well, but then the pain again relapsed after few months when she was travelling out of station and could not follow medicines and diet to the T.
    Though her bowel movement is fine, but she has gained 10kgs (22 pounds) of weight in last 2 years and have constant pain in all her joints, small and large from ankles to leg. every morning the first 1 hour is a real struggle for her, as joints are stiff and takes time to normalize.
    Also she is stressed because of all this and feels this is not curable now.

    Whenever she has strong dose of Ayurvedic medicines then she stays fit for 3-4 months in year. but during Rainly/Cold season the joint pain reaches its limits and its hard for her to move. Also whenever she travels to other places, her health is always affected.

    Please suggest what should she do be completely pain free.

    1.She has never been tested positive for RA, but all doctors have said that it is RA as per the symptoms.
    2. All ayurvedic doctors said the same (Sandhivaat in Indian language)
    3. Has been prescribed to avoid sour food/fruits.
    4. As of today (Sep29), she is on Day4, of her Juice fasting.

    Present Juice diet:
    Everyday she is taking 3 Litres juice made of below items:
    Cucumber, Coriander leaves, Carrot, Bitter/Bottle Gourd, Rocksalt, Turmeric, Ginger, Sweet potato, Beetroot, Almond milk.

    Additionaly she is taking :
    2 spoon of Flax seeds (Grounded) , 2 small piece of raw garlic.

    30 minutes of Yoga + Deep Breating .

    Ongoing Medication:
    Ayurvedic Medicine
    1.T.Dairical ( Vit D3 + Ca + Mg + Potassium, Phosphorous)
    2.Flex Imac Capsules

    My Ask:
    Can you please tell me how should we go about treating this once and for all.
    We do not mind Juice fasting , adding/deleting food items from present diet.
    I will be grateful to you if you can provide help.
    Also do you have any book specially written for RA Treatment Naturally by diet ??
    Video or Book/PDF is specific for treating RA with diet ?
    I need to have an idea as to what should be ideal combination for a Breakfast (How much quantity of Protein + Carbs + Minerals etc..)
    A Day by Day program for RA Cure is what i am looking for.
    I am looking forward for Perfect solution from you, and positively hope this will cure my Mother.

    Warm Regards

    • Penny Hammond October 5, 2015, 2:07 pm

      Hi NKY,
      I don’t have any writeups of books specifically for rheumatoid arthritis. What I generally hear is that there are trigger foods, which may vary by person.
      Your mother could try an elimination/reintroduction diet to see which foods might be triggers for her pain. However, most of these are not specifically designed for vegetarians.
      You could try building a plan from Food Allergies and Food Intolerance by Jonathan Brostoff.

  • Maria October 15, 2015, 4:37 pm


    What about someone who wants to gain weight? I am underweight and I want to gain weight, this diet will work for me?
    You said avoid dried fruits, but general or for people who try to loose weight?

    Thanks a lot

    • Penny Hammond October 25, 2015, 4:41 pm

      Only if you have a goal to achieve maximum weight loss, the book says that you should limit fruits to only 1-2 per day, and avoid simple sugars, including dried fruit and juices; flour and flour products, including breads, bagels, and pastas; high-fat plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and soy-based foods; and eating at restaurants.

      So to gain weight, I’d assume that you’re free to eat more of those items.

  • Rubí November 15, 2015, 9:30 am

    Hey, I’ve been trying to eat starch-based, but I’m a bit confused about calories.. How much calories should I eat? How much food should I eat? Is there any portion size?

    • Penny Hammond November 18, 2015, 8:18 pm

      The McDougalls talk a lot about calories in this book, but don’t tell you how many calories to eat.
      They say that fats are very calorie-intense, which is part of the reason to restrict them.
      They also say that on average, moderately active women consume about 2,000 calories per day and men 2,500 calories.

      Portion sizes aren’t really included in the book.
      Unprocessed starches – “eat as much as you want”
      Nonstarchy vegetables – “eat plenty”
      Fruits – “eat plenty”
      Eat 30-80 grams of protein a day, using plant proteins
      Not much more guidance than that, sorry I can’t help more.

  • Ashley Hagen December 22, 2015, 2:26 am

    I’ve been eating 80-10-10 for nearly three months now and I’m almost down 25 pounds. I use chia seeds and flax seeds In my oatmeal is this allowed on the program??

    • Penny Hammond December 26, 2015, 1:51 pm

      This is a fairly extreme version of a plant-based, high-carb very-low-fat diet. The book says “Nuts and seeds are too rich for every day” (Chapter 10 – The Fat Vegan). Nuts and seeds aren’t allowed because “approximately 80% of their calories are from fat, and 10% from carbohydrates.”
      However, it sounds like you’ve been doing okay having seeds with your oatmeal – do what works for you and makes you feel healthy!

  • CC February 6, 2016, 5:35 pm

    Whole wheat pasta is approved.

    • Penny Hammond February 15, 2016, 2:41 pm

      You’re right.
      Here’s what’s listed above: Grains: barley, buckwheat, corn, farro, millet, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, spelt, triticale, wheat, wild rice. Also products made with these grains, such as breads, tortillas, flatbreads, pasta, couscous, and whole grain cereals.
      So you can have whole grain pasta, whole wheat pasta, pasta made from any of these grains (as long as it’s not too refined) – it would take a lot of space to list all the possibilities!

  • CC February 6, 2016, 5:42 pm

    Try Mary’s mini-mcdougal diet. You eat one type of grain or say potato and add greens and beans to it. Not a lot of variety but people like it for its simplicity.


  • Susanelizabeth Turner March 23, 2016, 12:10 pm

    I hope someone(maybe a moderator?) will reply as this is an older article above. My question is for those of us with Hashimotos. I am plant based and have been for a while, doing mostly raw. However, I’ve been listening more and more to those eating more cooked veggies, etc. My concern is with Hashi’s I have heard for all specialists(of all types) that I need to cut out all nightshades, gluten, grains, legumes(which leave you basically with squat on starch solution and other plant based plans). I have ckd Mc Dougall’s site and he only has one article dated by in 2005 for Hypo thyroid, but not Hashi’s and doesn’t address this at all, just the meds. Can someone pls speak(write to this?)

    • Penny Hammond March 24, 2016, 1:41 pm

      There are varying opinions as to whether a high unprocessed starch and/or very low fat diet can help thyroid disorders. No single source of truth, I’m afraid!
      It’s possible that the very low levels of fat and the low levels of protein in this diet may be harmful to you.

  • William C Driscoll April 8, 2016, 12:46 am

    On nutritionfacts.org , there was video http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-spillover-effect-links-obesity-to-diabetes/ talking about spillover effect and fat leaking out of our fat cells of obese individuals, my concern is that if I am eating a starch solution diet, and I, an obese individual, am leaking fat from my fat cells, will that not have the same effect as if I were eating fat? I know if you are eating a high carb diet, you do not want to eat fats because it will create ceramides that block your ability to absorb the sugar out of your blood stream and gum up the mitochondria.

    • Penny Hammond April 17, 2016, 10:02 pm

      There are so many scientific theories and studies, and many of them contradict each other.
      Try the diet and see how it makes you feel – do you feel healthier?

  • Jaime April 26, 2016, 11:10 pm

    would quick cooking oats be okay or would steel cut oats be preferred..it doesn’t say..it just says “oats”

    • Penny Hammond May 4, 2016, 11:37 am

      Whole grains are preferred on this diet, and it’s not always clear whether quick cooking oats (the ones that are ready in a minute or so) are whole.
      Rolled oats and steel cut oats are both suggested in the book.

  • Kin May 15, 2016, 5:28 am

    From what I have researched and experienced alot of the McDougall diet foods aloud are foods you can’t have when you have diverticulitis. Nuts seeds vegetables with skin no rice or stringy vegetables or cabbage

  • Gail May 21, 2016, 10:15 am

    Hi my experience with the starch solution has been very positive and I’ve managed to lose 36 pounds in weight even though I take a lot of meds it was the only thing that worked and the diet has a calming effect. And I think it’s great even though I haven’t followed it to the letter I do allow for an occasional treat or a meal out hope it works for you

    • Penny Hammond May 22, 2016, 5:25 pm

      Glad to hear it’s worked so well for you.

  • Andrew June 20, 2016, 2:51 am

    I can’t really stand oatmeal and such but i enjoy grits is that ok? and are you sure about unlimited on the durum semolina? I could legit eat like a whole loaf of bread and a pound of pasta. I don’t think that would help me to maintain or lose weight.

    • Penny Hammond June 27, 2016, 4:36 pm

      Corn is listed as okay to eat, so grits (which are cut-up corn) should be fine.
      I’ve updated my comment on (refined) durum semolina – all foods containing white flour should be avoided on this diet. Thanks for spotting that!

  • Heidi June 21, 2016, 7:22 pm

    Curious…I drink Coconut Almond milk…I have looked everywhere and saw he allows almond milk but coconut/almond milk he sais nothing about (its new (gmo free too) I was hoping that it would be ok as at least it has a lil creaminess to it…I don’t like almond milk but the coconut milk makes it more palatable. I know McDougal said coconut oil sparingly is ok, so hoping coconut milk is ok. Just looking into doing this diet with my husband…starting this weekend. The naturapath has him on protein/low carb, but I don’t feel very well on it. He found McDougals site. He is pre-diabetic, I am not but want to lose some weight myself as some day I could be though I am very active and work out a lot. Hope to hear from someone here soon 🙂

    • Penny Hammond June 27, 2016, 4:31 pm

      The book says “Coconut extract mixed into rice milk or almond milk makes a flavorful substitution in recipes calling for coconut milk” (Thai Green Curry Rice recipe). The book contains recipes with rice milk or almond milk, not in large quantities. Have a look at the ingredients of the coconut/almond milk to make sure it doesn’t contain anything the diet says you shouldn’t eat. As the diet says you should use nuts and seeds in small amounts as a treat, this might not be an everyday food for this diet.

  • Kirra July 7, 2016, 8:29 pm

    Dr. McDougall has his own version of an elimination diet with very clear instructions.
    This next link explains more about the elimination diet, and has many cases of managed Rheumatoid Arthritis:

    • Penny Hammond August 21, 2016, 3:38 pm

      Thanks for suggesting these webpages!

  • Gwen McFarlane September 6, 2016, 12:23 am

    Avoid fats. So air popped popcorn only.

  • Muhoo September 30, 2016, 5:36 pm

    Are people so thickle that they need some clever clog to tell them what to eat I love starchy foods they probably make up 50 percent of my diet by I also acknowledge that I can eat a couple handfuls of unsalted peanuts,or an poch egg on toast and still lose weight,just frontload your calories 3 times a week eat your 2500 calories but just stop eating before 6 pm,do this every other day ,

  • Bridget October 6, 2016, 10:41 pm

    Hi! I was curious about what the plant-based proteins are and where to get them. Thanks!

    • Penny Hammond November 8, 2016, 7:15 pm

      The plant proteins listed in the book as okay to eat are whole grains, legumes, tofu and tempeh, nuts and seeds, soy milk and nut milks.
      You can get many of these at regular supermarkets, or from health food stores or online e.g. Amazon.

  • Zal March 18, 2017, 11:44 am

    I can’t believe Coconut Oil is not what it was marketed for the last 20 yrs or so. Beginning with Fife’s book. I was eating it ever since, mostly on bread. But no cooking, since we almost don’t cook, except some vegetarian soups.
    Another thing is Avocado. how come avocado in blacklisted ??? This is unbelievable!!!
    Can someone explain in more details the real reason ?
    I know somebody whose diet is based on avocado. I myself eat one avocado a day, sometimes two.

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