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.
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 comfortably 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?
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
- sweet potatoes
- any other root veggie (except carrots, beets, turnip, daikon, and salsify)
- 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, mushrooms, 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
- 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)
- nuts or nut butters
- oil of any kind (coconut, avocado, olive, canola, etc)
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. You can read about all our successes in my own Brand New Vegan Community Group.
Is it 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.
I cooked a half a large cabbage and about 5 cut up yukon gold potatoes in my instant pot with a cup of water. I added some garkic salt and pepper. Cooked for 3 minutes. So good.
Thank you. Will try this for lunch or dinner!
I’m about to start a Mary’s Mini (going for a month) and I’m thinking potatoes will be the easiest. How long did you cook the potatoes with cabbage?
Great article!! I think it would be good to add 'oil' on your quick list of prohibited foods, just to reinforce that rule to people who may not be entirely up to speed on the McDougall plan. Thanks, Chuck! Very helpful!
It is there
Eating a diet based around potatoes sounds wonderful. I'd give it a try, if only to prove to people that potatoes don't make you gain weight... unless you slather them in butter and cream!
I like the sound of Mary’s Mini but can I drink coffee or tea (black of course) whilst on this?
I would day it's probably frowned on - but I did have my 1 cup of coffee every day.
And I have to have cream---but that's just me. Some rules we get to make.
What about mushrooms? Onions? And I’m guessing aquafaba is a no...?
What do you suggest for salad dressings?
Aquafaba is a no. Onions, mushrooms, sure - just make potatoes the main meal. As for dressings - I use Maple Grove Farms Fat-Free Dressings, or you can use Esselstyn's 321 Dressing.
Try Waldenfarms dressings/creamers. They have no fat, no calories and no sugar.
Ew... no. Walden Farms dressings are loaded with processed material and worse, sucrolose.
I thought you could only eat "green" vegetables with the starch.
He says green and yellow..... it's my understanding that means any vegetable that is not already a starch, with the exception of the fattier fruits and veggies like Avocado.
I was looking at the McDougal site on Mary's Mini. It says that a person can choose more than one starch, presumably not at the same time, in the same meal. But, I was curious why you, and others, limit themselves to just one starch? "Which starches are your favorites? Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, corn, beans, rice? Choose one or several to form the centerpiece of your diet.",
I think you're mixing up the regular McDougall Plan with the Mary's Mini. Watch the webinar and read the 2 newsletters carefully, one starch for the duration of the mini.
The 321 dressing has maple syrup, though; I thought that was off the list? Or is maple syrup not considered a processed sugar?
How is it processed? 100% organic maple syrup...it’s 1 ingredient.
Maple syrup is boiled tree sap. It's processed via concentration, just like cane sugar is concentrated (dried) juice of the sugar cane plant.
I still use maple syrup, though. It's tasty. 🙂
it has to be processed as you can’t eat it straight from the tree also most contain water and other additives that don’t always have to be on the label, as with all food, it’s allowed under FDA guidelines. Dates are the whole food choice.
Salsa makes a good salad dressing.
Oil and vinegar are my go to for dressings
Raspberry Balsamic vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard is a very good salad dressing and Mary's Mini friendly.
what about breakfast? Same thing as lunch and dinner??
Hashbrown for breakfast, baked for lunch, mashed for dinner - whatever you like!
Pam in Sacramento
Hi Chuck. Thanks for your good explanation of the MM. I'm doing a 17 day run of the potato version, and I'm on Day 5 and down 4 lbs (yay!). Question: Would your Hatch Green Chile sauce be compliant? I want to put some on my taters. Isn't it kind of like NM's version of salsa?
I see salsa on the list, so does that mean that tomatoes are allowed? Also, what did you use to mash with your potatoes?
Tomatoes are allowed yes. I used a little potato water to mash my potatoes, with garlic.
Where do you get protein
All plant foods have all the Amino Acids we need. Our bodies will then assemble them into all the protein we need. There is no such thing as protein deficiency. How many people have you ever known to be treated in the hospital for protein deficiency? It's more like we have too MUCH protein. I recommend a very good book by Dr Garth Davis called Proteinaholic.
So what about basic spices during a Mary's mini? For example, I make a mean channa masala. So I just replace the chickpeas with potato cubes and add cauliflower and thinly chopped cabbage. Make a gravy using spices, tomato and water. Seems in like with these "rules". I don't see why the diet has to be boring if you're eating what is required. Your insight would be appreciated.
Quick question.. without having read more about the weight loss program, I’m wondering if you do it for multiple weeks but switch up the starch. So if I did let’s say potatoes for the first 10 days, then quinoa the next 10. Or would that not work? I’m also wondering how the transition works going back to normal plant based diet, and if the pounds stay off. I will read and check out all ththe links you post, I guess I’m just looking for a quick answer for now.
If you want to follow Dr. McDougall and his Starch Solution, it goes like this. The 10 day 'diet' (Mary's Mini) is just ONE starch for 10 days. He also has a "Maximum Weight Loss" (MWL) program that is good to transition to afterwards, if you want to continue losing weight (although much slower) and this is where you would add in other starches. The original McDougall Plan would then be used for maintenance, and this is where you would add in higher fat foods like an occasional avocado, handful of nuts, etc. Hope this helps.
Would you mind posting exactly what you ate each day? Like, Day 1: Breakfast: Hash browns Lunch: Baked potato, etc... This would just help me out tremendously when I'm hungry and trying to figure out what to eat, lol 🙂 I'd greatly appreciate it! And congrats on your weight loss, that is awesome!!
I I would love to see what your daily meals were. Looking for a quick fix also.
Ok-- didn't finish my full comment previously but-- we started a potato MM and fell off about 3-4 days in. ? I am thinking a bit more forethought and planning may increase our odds of success, so I think I will put together a 10day Meal Plan; batch as much as possible, and TRY to keep "grab it quick" junk out of the house. SO, I trolling recipes to KISS, and will let you know how it goes! I think I'll shoot for starting tomorrow, September 20, 2019.
Oh, and the MM was not a failure. .. four pounds down.
I see red wine vinegar is not listed on the condiments list. Is it allowed?
I have an entire section dedicated to Mary's Mini - look under Recipes.
All of your information is so helpful! Thanks Chuck!!
Can you use wild rice for the starch as I just cooked a bunch
Hi, where do chick peas fall into this?
They are a legume - so not allowed
AaCan u use aged balsamic vinegar.?
I know that fruit isn't allowed but can I squeeze a little lemon juice on my sweet potatoes?
I really do not see the harm. Sure.
Well, after seeing your email about Mary's Mini, I was mildly curious as my weight loss has stalled. I've been thinking about it for a couple of weeks now, reading and researching, and think I'm ready to give it a try. So even though I've had my morning berry bowl, I will start with lunch today. Perhaps a baked or steamed potato with some homemade marinara sauce on it. For supper, I'll try mashed potatoes and a gravy made with some onions, mushrooms, spices and some mashed potatoes to thicken. Wish me luck. I still need to lose 20 more pounds.
Have you lost weight?! How long did you do it for?
What can you use for salad dressing. I mixed balsamic and mustard and left out the maple syrup as per mary’s 321 recipe
What about fresh herbs, lemon/lime juice?
If you choose potatoes for your starch, can you use potato flour/starch?
Just remember when you remove the water, you are increasing a foods calorie density. And, it is now highly processed. Be careful.
are bell (red/yellow/green) peppers allowed on the Mini ?
Is water the only allowed beverage?
What about herbal tea?
Yes, herbal tea is fine too.
Hello! I read both newsletters and didn't see anywhere that beans are not allowed. She states that if you use beans as your starch you HAVE to add some fruit and/or green and yellow vegetables. So I'm wondering why you list that beans/legumes are off limits? Did I miss something? Where is this information listed that beans aren't allowed? Thank you for your time in this. Have a wonderful day!
Realize both newsletters are pretty old - which is why I also included the newer video. The video is where Dr. McD says no beans - as you would get way too much protein.
What ketchup are you referring too?? There is so much sugar and bad stuff in ketchup that I can't image that is allowed. Normally I eat Organicsville ketchup made with Agave syrup. would that work? Everything else was very clear for me. Thanks
All I know is that it is approved by the McDs. Sounds like you picked a healthy one to use.
Where are you finding Maple Grove locally? Safeway just discontinued them over by me. Thanks
How do I search your recipes for the Mary’s Mini compliant ones?
Go to my Recipe Index in the Menu on top. Look for Marys Mini Recipes..... or use the search box across the very top of the page.
Can the starch vegetable be plantains?
You really want to eat those 3x a day for 10 days in a row? I'm not really sure, to be honest. Since it's so closely related to a fruit I'm inclined to say no.
I am excited to give this a try. I am German and to loose weight on potatoes? Wonderful!!! This is such good news.
Can this be adapted for non vegans?
I really don't think so. The idea is to reset your taste buds and sustain yourself on mostly starch.
Can you have miso with the potato's, for a sauce/btot/gravy?
Since miso is soybean-based, which has a fair amount of fat - I would think not.
1. Can I use gravy if I make it with potato flour/starch?
2. Can I use the above to make your Crispy Oven Baked Fries?
My cheese sauce I consider legal because it's made with just potatoes and carrots. But the gravy I don't know, as I have been told even potato starch is not allowed. I know some people do it anyway, so I would ay it's up to you. If you do and your weight loss stalls - then maybe try again without it.
I’m starting today with acorn squash!!What about ginger and pickle ginger?
This is my first day of my MM. Quite frankly, I feel awful. I had hashbrown for breakfast, baby Yukons and broccoli for lunch. I am nauseated and sick to my stomach. I'm definitely not hungry, I just feel horrible. If this doesn't pass, I won't make it. 🙁
I am curious as to what drinks are aloud?
I’m 3 days in on my Mary’s Mini and my scale hasn’t budged a single ounce. Very frustrating because I eat until full (potatoes and some form of greens) 3 meals a day. Snacks (rare) are just cold, boiled potatoes with a little salt or ketchup. Any advice? I’m hungry all the time!
Put away the scales until the end of the 10 days. Everyone's gut biome is different and it takes time for the body to adjust.
Thanks Chuck. Been WFPB for almost two years. I should be adjusted already. LOL
But , I’ll give it time and see.
Is saurkraut allowed on Mary's Mini?
It's just cabbage, so I don't know why not. Sure.
I'm day 9 with potatoes as my chosen starch, didn't think I could face another potato come day 4 but now it's become so much of my routine, I am stressing about what to do post 10 day...just resume normal WFPB routine? Could one look at doing a 10 day once a month? Thanks for any input in this regard
Dr McDougall also has a Maximum Weight Loss Diet - which is similar to a Mary's Mini but a lot less restrictive. I would look into this for maintenance.
Why is bread not allowed?
Because it is processed, usually contains oil, and can defeat the purpose of a Mini - which is to reset your taste buds.
Are you certain that green peas are allowed? They are so much higher in carbs and calories? Also, is salsa is allowed, then what about fat free marinara? Great article thanks for explaining and posting the updated version.
Yes - peas are allowed. Mary McDougall said so herself in the Webinar I linked to in the post.
Should read IF salsa .
I was wondering if it’s okay on Mary’s Mini to use almond milk in mashed potatoes. I see no nuts or nut butters, but didn’t specify about nut milks.
Nut milks are also to be avoided.
A carton of Almond milk only has 4 almond total in the carton...so wonder if it would really hurt...only 1 almond per 8 oz cup
Can you choose oatmeal as my starch.
You can.... but do you really want to eat oats? 3x a day for 10 days straight?
Yes - I love oatmeal! However I just started this with sweet potatoes.
What about raw honey
Sorry, but no.
Is chewing gum allowed? It is sugarfree. I tend to get a piece of gum and chew it for hours. Chewing helps me with the ringing in my ears. Basically it helps me ignore it. I could chew one piece of gum all day long.
Curios as to why you use Panko crumbs in this recipe. I thought bread was off limits in the MM. Please explain. These crinkle potatoes look delicious! thanks. Sheryl
Leave them out for a MM
Would eggplant and tomatoes be acceptable?
I thought peas were a “bean” and therefore considered a starch??? Are they allowed and if so, how about edamame? Thanks!
Peas - yes. Soybeans - or any soy - no.
Can I use nutritional yeast
Chuck, thank you for posting this. I have been frustrated with slow weight gain and found it very difficult to lose any weight. I went on the potato MM for 4 days and lost 4 pounds. Eating potatoes are very satisfying and filling for me. Perhaps if others don't have success with them another starch may be better. Thanks again.
Mary says you can eat peas. Does that also mean you can eat splits
Spit peas are a legume - and I think the answer is no legumes or beans during the 10 day Mini.
Can season salt be used?
Are peas considered a green vegetable and corn a starch? If so, is it acceptable to eat corn and peas for 10 days? I can certainly eat corn and green peas all day, so 3x 10 days should not be a problem at all. Otherwise my preferred grain is oats, but I like it sweet with fruit or with nut or soy milk and that's off-limit.for MM.
Peas are fine.
Do I have to stick with one type of potato if I am not using sweet Potatoes, or can I alternate between them? (i.e. russet, yellow, red, purple)
You can alternate.
great info...thanks...can I eat polenta as well if I choose to eat corn on the cob for the 10 days?
Yes! You can also have corn tortillas on a corn mini.
Can you eat sauerkraut on a Mary’s mini? What about red peppers? Thanks!
Thank you for all the information!!! Since stevia is a green plant, is that acceptable to use?
Is miso allowed? I’m wondering if your sweet potato soup with miso would be mini compliant
Can I Use Pam or other cooking spray on my potatoes?
No - absolutely not.
After completing the Marys mini for ten days - how long do you wait to start over again please?
Some people have stayed on longer than 10 days. Some do it once a month. It's really up to you. Or you can simply ease into his Maximum Weight Loss program, which allows a few more foods than the mini
Hi Chuck. I was only on day two of the Mary's Mini, but I really wanted mushroom gravy on my mashed potatoes. So I improvised and came up with a way to make it compliant. I wanted to share this with you since you are the recipe creator and you might be able to use the idea to come up with something much better than what I threw together! I water sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and onions, added veggie broth and of the liquid from boiling the potatoes to make mashed potatoes, seasoned with herbs, soy sauce and pepper, then I thickened it with some of the mashed potatoes themselves. I had overcooked the potatoes, so they were pretty smooth, but next time I'll blend them up a bit first. I added the mashed potatoes spoonful by spoonful until the sauce got thick (probably about 3/4 cup of potatoes), and then I decided to puree about a third of the gravy in my vitamix, and added it back in. The result was a thick, rich, almost creamy gravy with no flour, no nut milk, nothing not allowed! I enjoyed it on mashed potatoes that night, and on baked potatoes the following day!
So I guess Edamame it’s probably not good and Mary’s mini diet
You are such a sweet soul Chuck! I follow your receipes because of my health condition and it works very well. And now you even share your receipes for MM to make it all that easy for us? And they all sound delicious?! I will try itvout. Not to lose weight but just to see how 10 days of potatos work. Im german so you know we love our Kartoffelsalat haha thank you!
Hi Brand New Vegan!
I am a 350+ pound man who has had great success with the Mary's Mini Diet, and I want to thank you for your simple and concise explanation!
I remember searching the web and getting confused on the various aspects of the diet until I came upon your site.
I credit your great explanation with helping me to get started.
Thanks so much!
Thank you for all of this information!!! If corn is the starch I choose, does that mean I can have corn starch (in extreme moderation, like, to thicken a mushroom gravy) and popcorn? I would think yes but I figured best to clarify because I could eat popcorn all day.
Can we have pickles?
Can I do this diet more than 10 days ?