The Twinkie Diet: What Is it, Is It Safe and Is It Effective?

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OK, take a minute to consider the food that you think is least likely to be part of any diet plan. Got one in mind? Chances are you picked something like bacon, potato chips, brownies, fudge, chocolate chip cookies or cheesecake. Perhaps even the creamed-filled snack cake known as the Twinkie? Yes, it is true that none of these foods, including the Twinkie, are generally thought of as staples of a healthy diet, but would it surprise you to learn that Mark Haub, a human nutrition professor at Kansas State University, lost a whopping 27 pounds, and reduced his body fat from 33.4 to 24.9 percent, in about two months’ time after following a diet in which he ate at least one Twinkie (or similar “junk” food product) at every meal?

It’s true. Dr. Haub carried out his daring dieting plan in 2010 after coming to the realization that it is how much you eat (and, more specifically, how many calories you take in), and not what you eat, that influences weight gain and loss. Although referred to as “the Twinkie diet”, in keeping with his thesis, Dr. Haub has advocated that other “junk” foods can be substituted for, or consumed in addition to, Twinkies. For example, Dr. Haub also ate Oreo cookies, various Little Debbie brand snack foods and Dorito chips during the course of his dieting.

According to Dr. Haub’s specific plan, he reduced his daily caloric intake from 2,600 calories to 1,800 calories while following his diet. As mentioned, a portion, and roughly two-thirds, of these 1,800 calories were from the snack food product that he consumed at every meal. His remaining calories were obtained by eating vegetables, such as green beans and celery, and by drinking protein shakes. He also took multivitamin pills on a daily basis. Dr. Haub clearly recognized that snack foods alone could not provide his body with all that it needed to function normally. It is important to recognize that the pursuit of weight loss should always be balanced by the need to sufficiently provide the body with essential nutrients.

If you are still intrigued by this diet, read on as the following section provides some tips for would-be followers.

Tips to Consider when Following the Diet

The decision to follow the Twinkie diet should not be made lightly or without careful consideration. If are considering this diet, please be sure to first consult your family doctor and with a nutritionist by providing them with a specific dieting plan. They may advise you against trying it or may suggest modifications to your plan. If you do elect to follow the diet, please be sure to heed the following tips:

  • Decide which daily calorie intake amount is right for you. The average adult should consume about 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day, but the ideal amount depends largely on factors such as weight, sex, age and general level of physical activity, among others.
  • Make a plan and strictly follow it. If you try the diet, you will need to decide which foods you will consume, and I am not talking about only the junk food portion of the diet. You should, more importantly, determine which “good” foods that you will consume and then make sure that you eat a sufficient amount of them. To help you decide the variety of good foods that you will eat, it may be helpful to refer to the many food resource publications offered by the USDA, such as, for example, the guide found at:
  • Drink plenty of water. It is recommended that the average adult consume eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. A person following the this diet should consume at least this many. Water helps our bodies to break down stored fat and to perform many essential biophysical functions within our cells, tissues and organs. Water also helps to eliminate harmful or needless compounds, such as preservatives, that are found in many foods, and especially “junk” foods.
  • Get sufficient exercise. Weight loss can be achieved solely through reduction in caloric intake, but this is clearly doing it “the hard way”. The combination of reduced caloric intake and routine exercise, which directly leads to fat break down in the body, is a more effective and sensible way of reducing body fat. Regular exercise also provides the benefits of helping to strengthen heart function and ward off depression, among others.
  • Pay careful attention to any body changes, both physical and mental. Any substantial change in diet, and especially a radical one, may cause the body to undergo a transformation that involves more than just loss of body fat. For example, dieting has been known to cause headaches (including severe migraine headaches), constipation, diarrhea, general malaise (that is, feeling “run down”), depression, anxiety and other moodiness such as unexplained anger, jubilation and/or apathy. If you experience such symptoms, you should end your dieting practices and consult a medical professional, especially if your symptoms are severe or otherwise debilitating.

If you try the Twinkie diet, good luck! I wish you well in your pursuit of your chosen ideal weight.

This article is only meant to provide some basic background information on a controversial new diet that is commonly referred to as “the Twinkie diet”. It is not meant to contradict or otherwise substitute the good advice of you family doctor and nutritionist.


C. Hutchison, ABC News, Nutritionist Does Twinkie and Steak Diet, Loses Weight:

CNN, Twinkie diet helps professor lose 27 pounds:

CTV News, Nutrition professor losing weight on Twinkie diet:

J. Deardorff, Chicago Tribune, Twinkie Diet: The next great weight loss plan?: