Food & Drink Magazine

What IS a Mary’s Mini?

By Chuck Underwood @brandnewvegan

For those of you who follow me, you may have seen a thing pop up from time to time, either on my page or another, talking about a “Mary’s Mini“.  

So what exactly IS this Mary’s Mini you ask?  I wrote this post to not only answer that question, but to also give you reasons you might want to do it yourself, and more importantly – HOW to do it if you choose. 

marys mini
Photo by Alexis Lamster | Flickr

WHAT Is A Mary’s Mini ?

Many of us who are plant-based, follow the teachings and guidance of Dr. John McDougall.  And while his program is more of a lifestyle change than a diet – many people over the years have asked specifically for a short-term diet – just to lose a little weight healthily – but quickly.  

So the good Doc, along with his wife Mary came up with this temporary 10-day diet they call –  Mary’s Mini.

It’s a diet where you choose a starch, and then focus each and every meal for 10 straight days around that specific starch.  You can choose potatoes, sweet potatoes, or even a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, but once you choose – that is the starch you’re stuck with for the duration.   You then add green & yellow non-starchy vegetables as side dishes, and eat until you are comfortable full.  

The idea is to make the next 10 days SO boring and monotonous, that we only eat when we are actually hungry.  So if you choose potatoes as your starch, I hope you really like potatoes .

WHY Would You Choose A Mary’s Mini?

marys mini

I know, you’re thinking “Chuck, that’s the nuttiest thing I’ve ever heard“.  WHY on earth would anyone want to do this?

Well let’s look at it for a minute.  Whole, starchy foods, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc actually have all the macro and micronutrients you need.  So you could theoretically live on just those alone and be perfectly fine for 10 days. 

I know it doesn’t sound very appealing.  In fact it sounds downright monotonous and boring as hell.  But that’s the whole point! 

So often we eat because we’re bored, or we eat because we’re stressed, or we eat to feel accepted while hanging out with our friends.    But are we really hungry?  While doing this mini diet, if you think you’re hungry –  and the only thing available is another potato –  you might just realize you’re not THAT hungry after all! 

So you naturally eat less, and you lose weight.  As a bonus, you might just lose some cravings you’ve had,  AND retrain your taste buds to eat healthier foods.   

HOW To Do a Mary’s Mini

So now that we’ve covered the WHAT and the WHY, let’s talk about the HOW. 

Dr. McDougall introduced this diet in his June 2006 Newsletter, and then provided a follow-up in his July 2006 Newsletter.

Naturally, the rules have been tweaked a little over the years, and so the most recent information from John and Mary themselves come from this Webinar that was held in 2016.  

Below I will post all the notes I have to date which were graciously provided by the good folks at the Mary’s Mini for McDougall Followers Facebook Group (another excellent resource)

Rules for Mary’s Mini

 1.  Pick a Starch

  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • any other root veggie (except carrots, beets, turnip, daikon, and salsify)
  • corn
  • winter squash like acorn
  • whole grains

2.  One starch ONLY is used for the next 10 days

  • (potatoes OR sweet potatoes OR rice OR quinoa OR any starch – except beans)
  • No switching back and forth
  • There is no limit on portion size. 
  • Eat to satiation, not stuffed.
  • If your starch is potato and you want a snack, have a potato!

2.  Add some SIMPLE non-starchy veggies

  • green beans, salad greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, asparagus, peas, onions, garlic, etc.
  • but nothing fancy like artichoke hearts
  • If your chosen starch is a grain: 
    • you absolutely NEED to add some non-starchy veggies for Vitamin A & C.

3.  Allowed condiments:

  • veggie broth
  • salsa
  • mustard
  • ketchup
  • sriracha
  • hot sauce
  • nutritional yeast
  • soy sauce

4.  Foods NOT allowed 

  • any fruit (Dr. McDougall says “fruit is not your best friend for weight loss” because it tastes good and leads to overeating)
  • processed sugar or substitutes
  • processed grains like bread/crackers
  • gravies/sauces with flour (one exception to ‘no flour’ is if you are doing a corn Mini, in which case polenta and corn tortillas are OK)
  • beans/lentils
  • nuts
  • avocado
  • coconut
  • chocolate
  • alcohol
  • tofu

That is the Mary’s Mini – in a nutshell.  I encourage you to read the newsletters and watch the webinar  to fully understand the hows and whys of this program. And by all means also join the Facebook Group I mentioned as they will also have a ton of information for you. 

Does it work?  

I’m on Day 5 and have already lost 5 pounds – so yes it does work.  My cravings are slowly going away, my clothes fit better, and I am actually excited to go down a size in jeans for the first time in a VERY long time. 

It is boring?  Yes, but that’s the point.  

Still, I have many potato recipes that can be adapted, so it’s not TOO bad. 

Questions?  Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them. 

Good luck!


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