3 Day Military Diet Shopping List: Effective Planning To Win The War Against Pounds

Military diet shopping
Angie Moore
Written by Angie Moore

If you’re interested in rapid weight loss, I’m sure you’ve heard about a number of ways to do exactly that. Most of them follow a predictable pattern, such as “Replace every meal with insert here (Subway sandwich/ cabbage soup/ lean protein)” and they all promise miraculous results.

However, relying on just one type of food or food group doesn’t always prove too advantageous, as you’re depriving your body of essential nutrients and vitamins. On the other hand, the Military Diet combines all food groups, using actual science to help you lose weight fast. But before going to combat with your very one 3 Day Military Diet shopping list, you’ll need to know more about it.

Who is this diet for?

Have you ever tried a diet? I bet you have, because according to a research conducted by Boston Medical Center, around 45 million Americans go on a diet every year. The problem is with those last two words: every year. That means people don’t know which diet to choose, if they keep returning to the same starting-point.

Diet magic word

It shouldn’t be enough to just set a weight-loss goal, depending on the time you have, and blindly going for it. Of course, we all experience those frustrating moments when we can’t fit in that sexy red dress we bought for Valentine’s and our dream date is in less than a week, so we need to slim down fast. But we also have to make sure we have the best plan in order to achieve our ideal weight.

To better understand if the Military Diet works for you, you’ll have to figure out first what your eating patterns are. In a recent Horizon documentary, three types of eaters are discussed:

  • Constant cravers
  • Emotional eaters
  • Feasters

So, if you are a craver, a person who doesn’t eat very large amounts of food at a meal, or maybe even skips a meal once in a while, but who just can’t say no to a delicious little snack, then maybe the Military Diet isn’t for you. The reason is that it doesn’t allow snacking, only three full meals every day.

On the other hand, if you are an emotional eater (someone who often soothes their negative emotions with food) or a feaster (someone who doesn’t know when they are full, because they can’t seem to ever feel full), then this structured diet plan can be very helpful.

What’s the strategy?

This unique strategy allows you to lose up to 10 pounds every week, by combining a few very simple principles:

  • Eat at a caloric deficit. People lose weight if they burn more calories than they consume. Consequently, the caloric intake of the Military Diet is rather low, around 1200 calories per day. The good thing about it is that you only have to eat like this for three days per week. The other four days should be up to you, depending on how much weight you want to lose. As such, you can eat to maintain, by consuming the calories that fit your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), which means about 2000 calories for women and 2400 for men. On the other hand, you can opt to continue losing weight at a steadier pace, by eating 20-25% less than your TDEE.
  • Intermittent fasting boosts your metabolism. Fasting reduces your insulin levels, which means that your body will burn more fat and you will lose more weight. Not to mention that a lower level of insulin can be quite beneficial to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart problems. A lot of diets present this issue of actually lowering the metabolism. As such, they help you lose weight in the short term, but you will constantly have to reduce the number of calories you eat, if you want to keep on losing or even maintaining. The intermittent fasting proposed by the Military Diet guarantees that you will not have to deal with weight-loss plateaus. You will also never be in the starvation mode, because you reach that when going below 1000 calories per day.
  • Correctly mixing different foods helps you burn more fat. Obviously, different foods have different chemical properties. That is why knowing what and how to eat can help you burn fat. So, eating 1200 empty calories per day from junk food is very different from eating 1200 calories packed with nutrients and vitamins. There is also an art in putting together the recommended foods. At a molecular level, certain chemical reactions occur, and the goal is to produce those exact reactions that burn fat faster. This is the main reason why a 3 Day Military Diet shopping list has to include mainly high-protein, high-fiber and high-calcium foods.
  • Drink a lot of water. No soda, no energy or sport drinks, no alcohol, no cream and sugar in your coffee and no other sweeteners. Water is the best helper you may think of when it comes to losing weight, because it is exactly what our cells need in order to thrive. In fact, a recent study done by scientists from Virginia Tech, USA shows that you can actually lose up to 5 pounds more weight if you drink two glasses of water before each meal. Check out the best drink for the military diet in our earlier article.

The actual shopping list

After reviewing the main principles that support the Military Diet strategy, you are able to come up with a more concise battle plan.

See also: 3 Day Military Diet Substitutes: Learning About Foods, Calories, & Dieting

The standard shopping list for the whole 3 days looks like this:

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Grapefruit – you’ll need about a half which means about 45 calories per serving;
  • 2 Bananas which is about 200 calories
  • 2 Small apples – about 150 calories
  • Broccoli – you’ll have about 35 calories per cup
  • Carrots – just 50 calories per cup

Meat and Beans:

  • Tuna – about 450 calories in total
  • 3 ounces from any type of meat – this sums up about 300 calories
  • 2 Hot Dogs – 350 calories (but no bread here)
  • Green Beans –  about 35 calories per cup
  • Peanut Butter – about 200 calories (you only need 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 Eggs –  summing up 225 calories


  • Vanilla Ice Cream – a delicious 450 calories
  • Cottage Cheese – 230 calories per cup
  • 1 ounce of Cheddar Cheese – about 120 calories

Bread products:

  • Toast – 480 calories (just 4 slices in 3 days)
  • Saltine Crackers – 140 calories per allowed quantity


  • Coffee and/or Tea – after your heart (about 10 calories)

The first thing to notice is how convenient and cheap the shopping list is. You probably eat most of these items daily, and nothing is very difficult to find. Furthermore, you only take in 3700 calories, which means an average of about 1200 per day.

Bananas and apples

The next thing to notice regards their nutritional properties. Take grapefruit – a fruit known for its antioxidant, fat-burning and cholesterol-lowering characteristics. Aside from this, it’s a great source of vitamin C, just like bananas. Bananas and apples have other nutritional benefits: they are rich in dietary fiber and facilitate your intestinal transit. The same can be said about carrots and broccoli, which are low in calories and have fewer carbohydrates than other vegetables. Moreover, apples are packed with pectin, a substance that limits the fat absorption in your body. Read our guidelines on how to choose the best fat-burning veggies for your diet.

Combine those with the high-protein foods from the “Meat and Beans” group, and you will get further benefits. Protein is harder to digest than fiber or fat, so the body has to use more resources in order to do that. This translates into burning more calories, used only for digestion. Not to mention that protein is an essential element for the development and repairing of muscle, hair and skin tissue.

Many people complain about losing muscle mass along with fat when they follow a diet, thinner hair or even itchy skin. On the other hand, the Military Diet doesn’t let that happen, because it provides the right amount of proteins for your body to function at optimal levels.

Chicken with Green Beans

Another plus is that these protein-rich foods are combined with the calcium-rich foods from the “Dairy products” category. Apparently, mixing them together facilitates weight-loss, leaving aside the great benefits for teeth and bone health. So, even if you aren’t currently on a diet plan, you should make sure you get enough calcium and proteins.

After discussing all this, the next question would be: Can you change your diet plan? The answer is yes, but you have to take into account the actual science that stands behind the Military Diet and remember to count your calories, not just the portion sizes.

For example, you cannot substitute orange for grapefruit, because it has the opposite effect. You can change it for a mix of baking soda and water, or add a bit of Stevia sweetener.  The other substitutions are a bit easier to grasp, since you can obviously substitute coffee with green tea, peanut butter with soy or almond butter, meat and dairy products with soy products or tofu, bananas and apples with other fruit, and bread products with cereals or seeds.

Does it really work?

Well, if you are really eating at a calorie deficit, according to your TDEE and BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), there is no reason why this diet wouldn’t work. Remember, all you need to lose weight is calories in – calories out!

Diet plan concept

Nevertheless, there are the few boons provided by this diet, like boosting your metabolic rate through intermittent fasting. You also have to take into account the one significant benefit of the simple shopping list needed for the Military Diet: it’s so easy to shop for, that you absolutely have no excuse not to do it.

Many of us want to lose weight, but we simply can’t find time in our busy schedules to go grocery shopping very often, or spend endless hours in the kitchen cooking. In fact, it’s so easy and inexpensive, that you could probably pull it off with the food you have right now in your fridge. Besides, it’s only for 3 days per week, so you could probably take a day off work and do it in a weekend.

Another good thing about it is that you won’t have to starve yourself. You don’t have to worry about medical complications, or lacking your body of the nutrients it needs. This is a simple and effective way to make sure that you are taking care of yourself, while also shedding fat.

Moreover, being a low-calorie diet, you won’t have to necessarily exercise in order to lose. Of course, exercising is highly recommended for a healthy lifestyle, but the point is that you won’t have to strain yourself. Just move around a bit more, and do what feels good; even taking a walk can make you feel relaxed and refreshed, while also burning some extra calories.

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages. Firstly, prepare yourself for a certain amount of hunger during these three days. The Military Diet suggests that high fat foods, in small quantities, paired with protein-rich foods (like vanilla ice-cream and tuna) will help you lose more weight by accelerating your metabolism. Unfortunately, that 1 cup of ice-cream isn’t very satiable, and you would probably feel less hungry if you ate a generous veggie salad instead, that also has 300 calories. But that salad wouldn’t help you as much.

Hungry woman

This diet requires some additional sacrifices, if you want to follow it for more than a week and if you get bored with the standard menu. You will have to do some calorie counting, to see which foods you can replace or how you can tweak you shopping list to best accommodate your needs. Do read our tips and guidelines on how to know portion sizes to help you.

The same goes for vegetarians and vegans, who will have to do some more research for themselves, if they don’t actually want to compromise their lifestyle.

And last but not least, for some people the worst is not being allowed to snack. Anyway, since there are no restrictions regarding actual meal times, you could save a meal item for later in the day, and then eat it at your usual snack time.

Military diet food options inforgaphic

All that being said, here are the pros and cons to help you decide easier:


  • Fast way to lose weight
  • Metabolism boosting
  • No starvation mode
  • Inexpensive
  • No elaborate cooking or food preparation
  • Just three days per week
  • No exercise or food supplements necessary


  • Feeling hungry(-ish) three days per week
  • A bit of calorie counting
  • Tweaking for vegetarians and vegans
  • No snacking

What happens after?

There are those who believe that fast and steady wins the race, and this also applies to weight loss. The truth is that using the Military Diet forever just isn’t realistic, but that’s why it has “3 days” in the name. You can use it for a few weeks, but it has to be succeeded by a change in lifestyle.

In fact, there is no “and they lived happily thinner ever after”, and even if you do follow this diet, remember that afterward you have to take charge of your life and apply the principles used in it: eat healthier, nourish yourself with nutritious foods and drink plenty of water each day.

About the author
Angie Moore
Angie Moore

Angie brings a mix of knowledge and experience in diet creation and fitness best practices. With Kansas State University‘s bachelor’s degree in dietetics and over 7 years of experience working with thousands of clients to better their life, Angie is passionate about your health and well-being. She is also a well-known foodie, having published a few books about diets that work. For most of the time, you can find her in the gym working out with friends and clients, pushing them for top results and fulfilled life.

  • Mary Ong

    What could you ask for? A detailed 3-day meal suggestions + a budget friendly shopping list = a great diet plan and a healthy body soon! Thank you Miss Angie!

    • You’re welcome Mary! I’m so glad this will help you achieve your weight/fitness goals. Feel free to include us in your wellness journey. You can always share your experience with the diet so everyone can benefit.

  • Albert Dorell

    Every day I bring my own food to work. Now, some of my officemates ended up bringing their own healthy food too. Be an inspiration to them.

    • That’s good to hear Albert! Preparing you own food to bring to work is not only practical, but you’ll be able to monitor what you eat. Most food sold commercially are laden with fat and sweets that aren’t beneficial to the body.

  • Steven Schick

    Meal planning saves me a lot of money. It prevents me from impulse buying. When I’m on a diet, I eat before shopping; it required me a lot of self-control to obey the list, though. Haha! It gets only harder if you need to shop foods for other members of your family at the same moment.

    • Indeed, when you’re on a diet everything is tempting and you must do some extra efforts to forget about food. Especially with a diet like this one!

  • Lorna Nars

    Aside from green tea, what other types of tea do you recommend? Thanks!

  • Green tea is the most popular among the tea variants. Other teas that you may try include black tea, oolong, white tea, pu-erh and yellow tea. These teas all came from the Camellia sinensis plants. The difference lies in the way they the tea leaves were processed after harvesting.
    You might also want to try Chamomile tea, which comes from the Chamomile flower.

  • Alison Lee

    I’ve tried creating my own diet meal plan before, but sometimes a friend or some relatives come to visit and want to go out for a dinner. Of course, I can’t resist and won’t be able to eat whatever I have planned for that night. Although I’m getting more determined to make healthy choices even when I go out.

  • Kaylee Gonzales

    I know just like other people out there, they also have this question in mind. Is following a specific meal plan better and more effective than just eating anything healthy?

  • Sophie Lewis

    Just one look at this shopping list and it makes me want to go to the market right now. Never thought a diet meal plan would be that convenient and easy to find. I always imagine that when you are dieting, the foods you eat are somewhat unique and hard to find. Thanks for this very detailed shopping list, Angie.

  • Chloe Walker

    This diet taught me something I’ve never done before – do some calorie counting. You may not find it absolutely necessary, but then again it wouldn’t hurt to do it. I guarantee that there will be surprises amongst the foods you think of as ‘healthy’ and counting calories is one excellent way to figure out these traps that we have all fallen for at some point.

  • Brandon Young

    You mentioned that one of the pros of this military diet, is no exercise or food supplements necessary. I just want to clarify the “no exercise” thing. I believe you’re going to lose weight when you combine diet with a good workout routine.

  • Xavier Wright

    I have some friends who eat really healthy foods but are still fat. So in a weird way, eating healthy isn’t really a requirement for losing weight and vice versa. What really matters for losing weight is just calories. But of course, we should all strive to be healthy for obvious reasons.

  • Good for you Allison! There’s an excellent section here that teaches everyone how to practice visualizing food portions. One good example is when your diet calls that you consume only 3oz of lean meat. What is 3 oz? Well, it should be as big as a matchbox. Awesome, right? Now, there’s no need to for guesswork – you know exactly how much you should be eating!

  • One of the many great things about the military diet plan is the food selection. Most are already in your fridge or pantry, isn’t that great? These foods are also inexpensive and can be easily found in your local grocery. You don’t have to waste your time looking for some exotic food that can break your budget. No fancy food here, just real, healthy stuff.

  • Glad you’re more aware of what you’re eating right now Chloe. In order to lose weight, there’s no shortcuts. We have to do portion control, count our calories, and exercise. We should also avoid food with high sodium and sugar content. Opting for fresh greens and fruits and saying no to processed food are what the military diet hopes to jump start on your way to fitness.

  • One of the pros of the 3 day military diet is that during this time, even without exercise, you’re going to lose weight. Remember that we are talking short term – a mere duration of 3 days.
    After which, you can go back to doing strenuous cardiovascular exercise or strength training.

  • Healthy foods also have calories, Xavier we can’t disregard that fact. So eating in moderation is still key to weight loss. Portion control and calorie counting even for veggies, lean meat and fruits, are still being practiced in the military diet for obvious reasons. Food have calories – eating more than the required amount is a diet no-no.

  • If you plan on going on a diet, a set meal plan is more effective. Why not look into the military diet and see the low carb/low cal selection of food included in its meal plan? You’ll be surprised the most of the food are palatable, inexpensive and easy to find in your local groceries. The right combination of good fats, carbs and protein can be found, all contributing to good health.

  • Daniel White

    I have known how high protein and high fiber contributes to weight loss but what is new to me from this article is how high-calcium dairy foods combined with a calorie restricted diet boosts weight loss. So I read up on it more and found that calcium does create small increases in the body’s temperature which may help boost metabolism.This also led me to another article about how also exposure to cold helps burn calories. I won’t go overboard on this but it’s interesting how adding the word ‘military’ to this diet makes you think more strategically. You do what you can to win a war.

  • Nancy Myers

    I regard ‘no snacking’ as an advantage about this diet. As a busy working mother, I can’t really make time to prepare and stop for snacks throughout the day. It also breaks my focus at work if I have to stop and snack from time to time. For my own body, I think my previous snacking habit also contributed to my weight gain. Another thing we need to consider is that snacking throughout the day can also be harmful because it can increase insulin production that could lead to diabetes.

    • Angie Moore

      Hi Nancy! That’s right, I think a lot of working people love this diet because it’s a no-fuss diet and there’s no need for any fancy preparation. You can also brown bag the set meal and eat at work, which is very convenient.
      Snacking on high calorie food and those with high saturated fat is a no-no. Opt for healthy fiber which includes veggies, fruits and nuts instead. This is a good regimen to follow after you’ve done with the military diet.

  • Angie Moore

    Thanks for that great input Daniel! We need all the help we need in order to win the war of the bulge. The diet will help you be more careful of the kinds of food you eat, practice portion control and love the hydrating power of water. The right combination of food makes this an excellent diet to try. I might add that calcium strengthens the bones so this can help when we do our exercises.