The chicken diet is a simple way of eating that involves eating only chicken for each meal throughout the day.
Proponents of the diet claim it can promote rapid fat loss with a minimal focus on meal planning, in theory helping people stick to the diet.
That said, most health professionals warn against such diets, as they eliminate major food groups, leaving you at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
This article reviews the chicken diet, including its potential benefits and downsides, to help you decide whether the diet is right for you.
Diet review scorecard
- Overall score: 1
- Weight loss: 1
- Healthy eating: 0.5
- Sustainability: 1.5
- Whole body health: 0
- Nutrition quality: 2
- Evidence-based: 1
BOTTOM LINE: While some people claim the chicken diet can promote rapid weight loss, research doesn’t support this. Moreover, it’s unhealthy, unsustainable, and likely to lead to nutritional deficiencies over the long term.
The chicken diet became popular during Matt Damon’s preparation for his role in the film “Courage Under Fire” in 1996, during which he ate solely chicken breasts to lose about 60 pounds (27.2 kg).
Damon himself has said that this isn’t the healthiest way of eating, and he was just doing what he had to for the role.
Since then, others have adopted the chicken diet as a method of losing large amounts of body fat quickly without having to follow the extensive guidelines of typical diets.
This diet belongs to a category of dieting referred to as mono dieting. This is when you eat just one type of food for all your meals every day.
Followers of this version stick to eating only chicken, mostly breast meat, to achieve a calorie deficit. This is a state in which you eat fewer calories than you burn, leading to weight loss.
The chicken diet is a diet in which you consume only chicken for all your meals to promote a calorie deficit and lose weight.
The chicken diet is quite simple to follow because it consists of only one food item. There are no portion-size restrictions.
That said, some people choose to follow less strict versions of the diet, which may include vegetables and some fruits.
They may be able to sustain these variations of the diet for longer periods, as they include important nutrients that are missing from the chicken-only version.
In its most rigid form, the chicken diet includes only chicken breast meat.
However, some dieters include other cuts of chicken, including legs, thighs, and wings.
These cuts are higher in fat than breast meat. Therefore, they provide more calories.
People on the chicken diet use several cooking methods for their meals:
- Grilling: This is one of the more common cooking methods, as it tends to require less added fat.
- Baking or roasting: These other common methods are sufficient when you don’t have access to a grill.
- Broiling: This is similar to grilling, but you usually do it in a standard oven or toaster oven.
- Braising: Lightly panfry the chicken and then cook it covered, submerged in liquid, for an extended time at a lower temperature.
- Fried: The chicken is submerged in hot cooking oil in either a pan or deep fryer. This creates a crisp outer coating but adds quite a bit of fat.
- Boiling: You submerge the meat in boiling water and cook it until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF (74ºC). This is the leanest method, as it doesn’t require added fats. Still, some may find the texture lacking.
If you’re following the chicken diet, you may want to change your cooking methods from time to time to give the diet more variety.
You can season the chicken however you’d like, which also helps add interest.
There’s no specific guideline regarding how long to follow the chicken diet, though most people go on it for 1–2 weeks in an effort to lose weight quickly.
You can follow the chicken diet by eating chicken, usually baked or grilled, in unrestricted portion sizes for all of your meals for 1–2 weeks.
It’s important to note that scientists have not researched the all-chicken diet and its effects on weight loss.
To lose weight, you need to maintain a consistent calorie deficit, meaning you consume fewer calories than you burn (1).
While you can achieve this in numerous ways, some people take extreme measures, such as an all-chicken diet.
Considering that chicken is a low calorie food and mostly made up of protein, this diet can promote weight loss. However, it comes with some severe side effects.
In addition, a proper exercise program is an important component of a weight loss regimen.
The chicken diet promotes a calorie deficit by providing significantly fewer calories than a traditional diet. This leads to short-term weight loss. That said, you may regain the weight you lost once you resume your regular diet.
One significant benefit of the all-chicken diet is its simplicity.
The diet doesn’t require you to eat set amounts of protein, carbs, or fats, nor do you have to track the food you eat.
The diet doesn’t require its followers to measure their portion sizes either.
Studies have shown that consuming protein can help reduce your appetite. This may help you eat less on the chicken diet (3).
Thus, the diet may help some people jump-start their weight loss for a short period of time, after which they should transition to a more balanced diet.
Nevertheless, this diet has many downsides and is not the best diet for weight loss.
While the benefits of eating only chicken are limited, the chicken diet requires minimal planning, allows you to eat any portion size, and is quite simple to follow. The high protein content may help reduce your appetite.
The all-chicken diet is very restrictive and eliminates several important food groups. As such, it may come as no surprise that it has numerous potentially serious downsides.
One of the major concerns when following a mono diet, such as the chicken diet, is the possibility you will develop a nutrient deficiency.
Having a well-varied diet is an important part of ensuring you get all of the major nutrients your body requires to function.
Chicken is a good source of vitamin B6 and phosphorous, as well as a rich source of protein, niacin, and selenium. However, it lacks several other critical nutrients, such as vitamin C and folate (4).
Many nutrient deficiencies can develop quickly. Therefore, subscribing to the chicken diet for even a short period of time puts you at a considerable risk of developing one.
That said, if you choose to follow the diet, consider taking a daily multivitamin to help prevent major nutrient deficiencies.
Unhealthy eating habits
Another potentially serious side effect of following an all-chicken diet is the possibility that it contributes to the development of unhealthy eating habits.
Eliminating whole food groups may have lasting psychological effects for some individuals.
For example, upon returning to eating a traditional diet, you may feel a sense of guilt or anxiety when eating foods other than chicken.
Overly restricting your calorie intake, eating a limited range of foods, avoiding high calorie foods, and having reduced food flexibility are considered disordered eating behaviors and may increase your risk of developing an eating disorder (7).
To maintain a healthy relationship with food, it’s best to avoid highly restrictive diets like the chicken diet altogether. Instead, choose a well-balanced dietary pattern that fuels your body in a healthy way.
Unsustainable and restrictive
For many people, the chicken diet may be unsustainable and boring. You’re limited to consuming solely chicken while following the diet, which may become monotonous.
While there are seemingly endless ways to season chicken, after several days of sticking to one single food item, even the most dedicated people may develop diet fatigue.
Plus, this diet is extremely restrictive and cuts out foods that your body needs to function optimally, including high fiber vegetables and fruits, other sources of protein, healthy fats, and more.
Although this diet isn’t meant to be followed long term, many people will have a difficult time adhering to it for even a few days.
Fried food intake
While most followers of the all-chicken diet choose to bake or grill their meat, others may prefer to fry it.
Including fried foods occasionally as a part of an overall nutritious diet is unlikely to have negative health effects.
Therefore, if you choose to follow an all-chicken diet, which is not recommended, it’s best to avoid frying your meat. Try selecting another cooking method instead, such as broiling or baking.
The chicken diet comes with several potentially serious downsides, including the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies and unhealthy eating habits, its overall unsustainability, and an increase in fried food intake.
The all-chicken diet is an eating pattern in which you consume only chicken for all of your meals.
While the diet can aid weight loss, it comes with some potentially serious downsides, including nutrient deficiencies, unhealthy eating habits, and overall unsustainability.
Weighing the benefits against the major downsides shows that the chicken diet is not an ideal approach to dieting.
If you’re looking to achieve weight loss, you’ll get the most healthy, long-term results by following a well-balanced diet with a moderate, consistent calorie deficit.