The HCG diet is a very low-calorie diet that aims to help people lose a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. This diet involves drastic calorie restriction along with injections, drops, or supplements containing the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).
Overview of the HCG Diet
The HCG diet was originally developed by British endocrinologist Dr. A.T.W. Simeons in the 1950s. His diet protocol involved taking HCG supplements or injections along with consuming just 500 calories per day for several weeks. The premise is that the HCG will prompt the body to pull calories from stored fat when calorie intake is very low, leading to rapid weight loss. However, there is no scientific evidence that HCG has this metabolic effect.
Today, there are many variations of the HCG diet. Most versions still involve severe calorie restriction (often just 500-800 calories per day) along with HCG supplementation. The diet is typically divided into three phases:
- Loading phase: You begin taking HCG while eating plenty of high-fat, high-calorie foods for a few days.
- Weight loss phase: You drastically restrict calories to about 500 per day while taking HCG for 3-6 weeks. Certain foods are allowed while others should be avoided.
- Maintenance phase: You stop taking HCG and slowly increase calorie intake while avoiding sugar and starch for 3 weeks.
Proponents claim the HCG diet leads to rapid weight loss of up to 1-2 pounds per day, but there is no scientific proof that the HCG hormone itself causes weight loss. Very low calorie intake alone is likely responsible for the large, quick weight reduction associated with this diet.
Allowed Foods on 500 Calorie HCG Diet
During the very low-calorie weight loss phase of the HCG diet (Phase 2), followers can only eat 500 calories per day. The diet has extremely strict rules about which foods are “allowed” and “not allowed” during this phase.
Here are the foods you can eat during the 500 calorie daily phase of the HCG diet:
You can eat unlimited amounts of most non-starchy vegetables on the HCG diet. Vegetables provide valuable vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidant compounds with few calories. They also contain water and help provide satiety. Just be sure to avoid starchy veggies like potatoes, yams, corn, and peas.
Some non-starchy veggies allowed on the 500 calorie HCG diet include:
- Green beans
Lean beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and other protein foods are allowed on the 500 calorie HCG diet in limited amounts. Protein foods help preserve muscle mass when calories are very low. Most versions of the diet allow 3.5 ounces of lean protein twice per day.
Some examples of allowed lean proteins include:
- Chicken breast
- White fish like cod or tilapia
- Shellfish like shrimp, crab, or lobster
- 95% lean ground beef
- Nonfat Greek yogurt
The HCG diet has strict rules about which fruits are allowed and in what portions. Typically, you can have up to two servings of fruit per day, ideally berries. Each serving is around 1/2 cup or 80-100 grams.
Some fruits you may eat include:
- Apples (1 small)
- Berries (1/2 cup)
- Grapefruit (1/2 medium)
- Melon (1 cup cubed)
- Peaches (1 small)
- Strawberries (1 cup whole)
One or two servings of nonfat dairy foods like milk or yogurt are usually allowed on the 500 calorie HCG diet. To reduce calories, always opt for nonfat or low-fat versions. Measure out a single serving size.
Nonfat dairy options may include:
- Nonfat milk (1 cup)
- Nonfat plain Greek yogurt (6 oz)
- Sugar-free pudding made with nonfat milk (1 pre-portioned snack pack)
- Nonfat cottage cheese (1/2 cup)
Often, a single portion of bread may be included in the 500 calorie HCG diet meal plan. One slice of bread, toast, or Melba toast provides around 80 calories.
Tea and black coffee are allowed on the 500 calorie HCG diet. Limit cream to 1 tablespoon per day and avoid caloric sweeteners. Stevia and Splenda may be used in moderation.
Foods to Avoid on 500 Calorie HCG Diet
While the above foods are permitted, many other foods are off-limits during the 500 calorie phase of the HCG diet. Avoiding the following foods may be challenging but is required to stay within the strict calorie limit.
All high-fat foods are prohibited on the 500 calorie HCG diet, including:
- Butter and margarine
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty meat cuts
- Whole milk dairy
- Fried foods
- Fatty sauces and dressings
Sugar and Sweets
Foods high in sugar provide empty calories and spikes in blood sugar. Avoid all sweets, including:
- Table sugar
- Brown sugar
- Maple syrup
- Jams and jellies
- Ice cream
- Frozen yogurt
- Sweet sauces
Starchy vegetables and grain products are not allowed on the strict 500 calorie HCG diet. Avoid all:
- Grains like bread, pasta, rice, and oats
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas
- Legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Crackers and pretzels
Heavily processed convenience foods are restricted on the HCG diet and should not be part of the 500 daily calorie intake. Avoid:
- Fast food
- Frozen meals
- Boxed meal mixes
- Canned soups
- Jarred sauces
- Deli meats
- Hot dogs
- Frozen veggie products with additives
Limit beverages to water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee on the 500 calorie HCG diet phase. Avoid all other drinks including:
- Soda and sweetened beverages
- Sweetened iced tea or coffee drinks
- Energy and sports drinks
- Flavored waters with artificial sweeteners
- Smoothies or milkshakes
Sample 500 Calorie HCG Diet Meal Plan
Planning very low calorie meals and snacks to stay within the 500 calorie limit every day requires care and precision. Here is a sample meal plan for one day on the 500 calorie HCG diet:
|Breakfast||1 hardboiled egg
1 slice whole wheat toast
1 tsp margarine
1 cup coffee with 1 tbsp cream
|Lunch||3 oz grilled chicken breast
1 cup spinach salad with 1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup broccoli
Water to drink
|Snack||1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese
|Dinner||3 oz baked cod
1 cup roasted asparagus
1 small apple
Water to drink
As you can see, very small portions of lean protein and non-starchy veggies make up most of the day’s calories, along with one fruit serving and one single slice of bread. An entire day’s food intake is less than most people would consume at one meal!
Modifications for 800-1000 Calorie HCG Diet
Some versions of the HCG diet allow a few hundred extra calories, generally between 800-1000 calories per day instead of 500. This makes the diet a bit more sustainable and easier to stick to.
On an 800-1000 calorie HCG diet, you can include more portions of the following foods:
- Lean protein like chicken, fish, shrimp, eggs, lean beef (up to 6 ounces per day)
- Low-fat dairy like nonfat yogurt and milk (up to 2 servings daily)
- Vegetables (at least 2-3 cups per day)
- Fruits like berries and apples (up to 2-3 servings per day)
- Good whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice (in moderation 1-2 servings weekly)
- Legumes like beans and lentils (no more than 1 serving on some days)
While still very low calorie, an 800-1000 calorie diet with HCG provides a bit more flexibility and calories to work with. However, the same rules apply in avoiding sugars, sweets, processed foods, fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and caloric beverages.
Adding Exercise to Increase Calorie Intake
To allow for more calories on the HCG diet, some dieters will add exercise and include extra calories burned through activity. For example, if you burn 300 calories through a brisk walk, you could then consume 800 calories that day instead of 500.
Light exercise like walking, swimming, or cycling can be added to burn extra calories and increase your daily limit. However, intense workouts are not recommended given the very low calorie intake on this diet.
Transitioning to Phase 3 Maintenance
After the very low calorie HCG diet phase, the next step is maintenance. This involves slowly increasing calorie intake while keeping some diet restrictions.
Here are some tips for Phase 3 maintenance after finishing the 500-1000 calorie HCG diet:
- Gradually increase calories by 100-200 per day, avoiding large spikes in intake
- Aim for a modest calorie deficit to continue losing weight at a slow, steady rate
- Keep weighing yourself to ensure you are not regaining weight
- Do not add back in sugar, sweets, starches, or fatty foods initially
- Focus on lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Increase exercise to burn more calories and support weight maintenance
- Drink plenty of water and watch portion sizes of calorie-dense foods
With a gradual transition focused on healthy low-calorie foods, you can keep the weight off after finishing the intense 500-1000 calorie HCG diet.
The HCG diet involves severe calorie restriction down to just 500-1000 calories per day. Only certain fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and nonfat dairy foods are allowed during the very low-calorie weight loss phase. All sugars, sweets, oils, fatty meats, starchy foods, and caloric beverages must be avoided to stay within calorie limits and maximize weight loss.
Careful meal planning is required to meet all nutritional needs on so few daily calories. An 800-1000 calorie version may be slightly easier to follow while still promoting rapid weight loss. Moving from the very low calorie HCG diet to maintenance requires slowly increasing calories and avoiding former dietary pitfalls.