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What Is the 20/21 Diet?

Updated: Aug 6, 2021


What's the best diet plan for weight loss? Not all popular plans give safe, long-term results. Knowing what a sustainable plan is can help you choose a good one.

The 20/21 Diet is an interesting diet based on the concept of “power foods” that purportedly take a lot of energy to digest. It’s meant to help people lose weight, but it could wind up backfiring. In this article, learn everything there is to know about the 20/21 Diet, from pros and cons to everything you can & can’t eat, and a healthy diet plan for weight loss.

Through this blog, we'll make you aware of easy diet plans to lose weight.

How It Works

The 20/21 diet is based on the concept of thermogenic. When something is thermogenic, it means it has a tendency to produce heat. In regard to weight loss, this concept suggests that certain foods make your body work extra hard to digest them and that energy is released as heat (also known as the thermic effect of food) The more energy your body burns while digesting food, the fewer net calories you absorb from that food.

To that end, the 20/21 diet emphasizes 20 “power foods” that supposedly take up a lot of energy to digest. Those foods are coconut oil, green tea, mustard, olive oil, almonds, apples, chickpeas, dried plums, prunes, leafy greens, lentils, peanut butter, pistachios, raisins, yogurt, eggs, cod, rye, tofu, and whey powder.

This theory sounds nice, but there isn’t any conclusive scientific evidence to support the assertion that all 20 foods require more energy to digest than other foods. The green powder seems to be the only food on the list with any conclusive thermogenic data behind it. Some research has, in fact, found green tea to be a metabolism booster,1 but other research contradicts those findings.2

Some of these foods, such as apples and leafy greens, might help you lose weight because they pack a lot of nutrition with few calories. Other foods on the list are high in calories (e.g., peanut butter, dried fruit, pistachios) and can contribute to weight gain if you aren’t careful about portions.

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • 20/21 “power foods”

  • Animal proteins

  • Dairy products

  • Starchy and non-starchy vegetables

  • Fruit and dried fruit

  • Fish and seafood

  • Healthy fats

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Refined carbohydrates and sugars

  • “Junk” food

  • Fast food

20/21 “power foods”: This group includes the core foods on the 20/21 diet, which are thought to burn a lot of energy during digestion, according to McGraw.

Animal proteins: You can add proteins such as chicken breasts and lean ground beef into your diet after the first phase.

Dairy products: Yogurt is one of the 20/21 power foods, and you can also eat cheese and drink milk later in the program if you want to.

Starchy and non-starchy vegetables: Some veggies are included in the 20/21 power foods, and you can eat all the vegetables you like in the later phases of the plan.

Fruit and dried fruit: The 20/21 power food group includes some fruit and dried fruit, and you can include additional varieties after phase one of the diet.

Fish and seafood: McGraw encourages consuming fish and seafood throughout the entire diet plan. Cod is one of the 20/21 power foods. Fish and seafood provide ample vitamins, minerals, and healthy fatty acids.

Healthy fats: Nuts and seeds, avocados, olives, and cooking oils are encouraged on the 20/21 diet.

Refined carbohydrates and sugars: While not completely off-limits in the later phases of the diet plan, McGraw recommends avoiding foods with simple carbs and sugars.

“Junk” food: McGraw advises refraining from foods that trigger “free-for-all eating,” such as processed snacks that come in wrappers, bags, and boxes.

Fast food: Part of McGraw’s philosophy with the 20/21 diet is avoiding old habits that caused you to gain weight, such as frequenting your favorite fast-food restaurants.

Recommended Timing

The 20/21 diet consists of four distinct phases. During all phases, you’re supposed to eat four meals, four hours apart.

Phase 1: The Five-Day Boost

During phase one of the 20/21 diet, you only eat the 20 foods designated as power foods.

Phase 2: The Five-Day Sustain

During phase two of the 20/21 diet, you start adding in foods outside of the 20 power foods, but each meal or snack must contain at least two of the 20 power foods.

Phase 3: The 20-Day Attain

Phase three is significantly longer than phases one and two, and things become more structured. Each meal must contain at least one of the 20 power foods. You’re also allowed two “sensible splurges” of any food you enjoy per week, but only if they stay under 100 calories.