One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) Diet: Benefits & Foods To Eat And Avoid

This popular fasting method benefits your weight loss goals, but beware of its risks.

Medically reviewed by Merlin Annie Raj, RD (Registered Dietitian) Merlin Annie Raj Merlin Annie RajRD (Registered Dietitian) facebook_iconlinkedin_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist linkedin_icon Experience: 6 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , BTech (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Sindhu Koganti BTech (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 6 years
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The one meal a day diet or OMAD is quickly gaining popularity. It is a form of intermittent fasting that allows you to consume only one meal per day (and not 5 or 6 meals a day). If you want to lose weight, you must give OMAD diet a try. Here, you will have a one-hour window to eat anything you want without any restrictions. However, you will fast for the next 23 hours. The scientists from the University of California found that fasting helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol, improves metabolism, and increases the number of good gut bacteria (1).

Clearly, alternate-day fasting or fasting twice a week will help you lose weight as well as improve your wellbeing. Here’s your ultimate guide to the OMAD diet, how it will work for you, what to eat, what foods to avoid, and the dos and don’ts. Take a look!

protip_icon At A Glance: One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) Diet
  • Principle: A diet based on calorie restriction and consuming just one nutritious meal during a one-hour window in a day.
  • Purpose: To boost fat loss and improve digestion.
  • Who It Is For: Anyone who wants to lose weight quickly and with minimum meal planning.
  • Duration: Short-term
  • Who Should Avoid: People with (a history of) eating disorders or diabetes, pregnant and lactating individuals, older adults, and children.
  • Cons: May cause weakness, dizziness, restlessness, brain fog, difficulty in concentrating, and slow metabolism.

What Is The One Meal A Day Diet?

One meal a day diet
Image: Shutterstock

The one meal a day or OMAD diet, as the name suggests, requires the dieters to consume one meal per day instead of three meals and two-three snacks in a day. This, in turn, restricts the calories you consume throughout the day. As a result, you will lose weight, won’t feel bogged down, and your digestion improves. All you are required to do is consume nutritious foods during the one hour window and fast the other 23 hours.

Most dieters eat during dinner time, but you can eat according to your convenience and preference. In some cases, dieters may be allowed to drink green tea (0 cals) or black coffee (3 cals) and have a few solid foods like an egg or an apple during the day. This is done for the satiety and safety of the dieter since each body responds differently to the same diet plan.

So, why do we recommend this seemingly extreme diet? Find out next.

How Does The One Meal A Day Diet Work?

The one meal a day diet works on the principle of calorie restriction and consuming nutritious and low-calorie food one time of the day (or night) to induce autophagy. When you fast for 23 hours, your body will use the energy reserve (fat) as fuel. Taking the readily available energy in the form of carbs, fruit sugar, etc. aids fat mobilization. It also prevents constipation and improves digestion and absorption, thereby positively influencing fat loss.

However, the one hour window that you get can become your enemy if you don’t watch what you eat. Here’s a list of foods that you can consume.

Foods To Eat On OMAD Diet

Foods to eat during omad diet
Image: Shutterstock
  • Veggies – Carrot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot, turnip, scallions, purple cabbage, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, bell peppers, sweet potato, white potato with peel, spinach, and kale.
  • Fruits High GI fruits like grapes, watermelon, mangoes, and pineapple, and canned fruits should be consumed in limited amounts.
  • Protein Chicken breast, lean cuts of pork and beef, fish, mushroom, beans and legumes, tofu, and eggs.
  • Dairy Full-fat milk, full-fat yogurt, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, buttermilk, homemade ricotta cheese, and cottage cheese.
  • Whole Grains Brown rice, black rice, broken wheat, millet, quinoa, barley, and sorghum.
  • Fats & Oils Olive oil, rice bran oil, sunflower butter, peanut butter, edible grade coconut oil, and almond butter.
  • Nuts & Seeds Almond, walnut, pecan, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamia, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and melon seeds.
  • Herbs & Spices Cilantro, mint, dill, fennel, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic, ginger, onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, white pepper, chili flakes, allspice, star anise, cardamom, garlic powder, and clove.
  • Beverages Water, homemade lemonade, homemade electrolyte, coconut water, freshly pressed fruit juice, and cold pressed juices.

So, you see, you have a lot of options to choose from and make delicious food at home with minimum fuss. However, you should be aware of what you should avoid and get started on meal planning to meal prep accordingly and maintain a healthy dose of nutrition. Here’s a list of foods you must avoid.

Foods To Avoid On OMAD Diet

Foods to avoid during omad diet
Image: Shutterstock

Fruits – High GI fruits like grapes, jackfruit, mangoes, and pineapple should be consumed in limited amounts.

Protein Fatty cuts of pork and beef and bacon.

Dairy – Low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, flavored yogurt, and cream cheese.

Whole Grains White rice. Consume in limited quantities and include at least five types of veggies with it to balance out the GI.

Fats & Oils Hemp seed oil, dalda, lard, vegetable oil, butter, margarine, and mayonnaise.

Nuts & Seeds Cashew nuts

Processed Foods Salami, sausages, fries, ranch dip, bottled jams, and jellies.

Beverages – Packaged fruit and vegetable juices, soda, diet soda, and energy drinks.

Now that you know what you should eat and avoid, let me tell you how to design your meal so that you don’t lose focus while on the OMAD diet. Scroll down.

What To Include In Your One Meal A Day Diet 

  • Include at least five types of veggies.
  • Consume three types of fruits.
  • Include lean protein sources in your diet. However, once in a while, you can consume a controlled portion of red meat.
  • If you are a vegetarian, consume a good amount of plant protein such as nuts, seeds, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and whole pulses.
  • Consume half a bowl of curd or a cup of buttermilk to aid digestion.
  • Have a few unsalted nuts. Make sure not to go overboard with them.
  • You can consume a piece of 80% dark chocolate.
  • For other sweet treats, choose fruits and sour cream or yogurt. Or bake and store brownies that contain healthy ingredients and, of course, less sugar.
  • Keep yourself hydrated throughout the fasting phase.
  • You can drink 3-4 cups of green tea during the fasting phase.
  • If you workout, make sure you consume an egg before working out and replenish your electrolyte reserve by drinking coconut water post-workout.

Jonathan Bao, a blogger, shared his experience of eating only 1 meal a day for 15 months. He elaborated on the different foods he ate to gain healthy weight and leg muscle. He said, “I really don’t need to eat that much protein (i.e. meat). You don’t need a lot to build muscle. I’m looking for quality fats, complex carbs that won’t expand too much in my stomach, and a load of vitamins in dark leafy greens and in every color of vegetable and fruit (i).”

protip_icon Quick Tip
In addition to green tea, you may also drink unsweetened black coffee during your fasting period. Adding a pinch of salt to your black coffee may make it more palatable if you are not used to the taste.

The following recipe is bound to add a flavorful twist to your diet. Check it out!

OMAD Diet Recipe

Grilled Salmon Bowl With Quinoa And Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. of salmon filet
  • 1 cup of quinoa (cooked)
  • 1 cup of broccoli (steamed)
  • 1/2 cup of roasted bell peppers (sliced)
  • 1/2 avocado (sliced)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

  1. Season the fresh salmon filets with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil to enhance the natural flavors.
  2. Grill until cooked through, which should take approximately 3-4 minutes per side.
  3. Mix the quinoa, broccoli, and bell peppers in a bowl.
  4. Lay the grilled salmon filets on top of the prepared quinoa salad and top them with the avocado slices.
  5. Drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice and a bit more olive oil all over the dish.
  6. Toss lightly and serve.

Besides fasting, do you need to work out while you are on the OMAD diet? Find out in the next section.

Should You Workout While On The OMAD Diet? 

  • Initially, when you fast for such a long duration, you will not have the energy to workout. Plus, mental fatigue will not allow you to put in the effort required for your workout. Do stretching exercises or yoga to keep your muscles active.
  • When you get used to this intermittent fasting, you can slowly include muscle toning workouts to prevent sagging of your skin.
  • However, always consult your trainer to design a workout that works for you, keeping your medical condition and body type in mind.
  • Whether you are on the OMAD diet or not, practice meditation every day. You can do it the traditional way or while taking a walk or running.

Jonathan Boa further added, “That way I start the day with maximum food and use it up as I go. In the late afternoon after food has emptied out of my stomach is my energy peak, and I can work out as hard as I want.”

Why should you even choose OMAD diet over any other diet? Let’s find out.

Benefits Of The One Meal A Day Diet

Healthy woman after the one meal a day diet
Image: Shutterstock
  • Aids Weight Loss

Scientists believe that modified versions of intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by improving sleep patterns and aiding proper digestion (2).

  • Improves Health Markers Of Type II Diabetes

Obesity, genetics, and an unhealthy lifestyle are the main causes of type II diabetes. Researchers found that patients with type II diabetes who followed intermittent fasting were able to lose weight, had reduced calorie intake, and lower glucose and insulin levels post meals (3).

As intermittent fasting has shown to improve insulin sensitivity, people with a BMI over 25, type 2 diabetes, or prediabetes (who are not on medications for lowering blood sugar) may try it.

protip_icon Quick Tip
If you have type II diabetes and take prescribed medication to manage it, you should consult your healthcare professional before starting your OMAD journey.
  • Helps Protect The Heart

The best part of intermittent fasting is that it helps reduce visceral fati  Fat that wraps around abdominal organs deep inside the body and can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, which, in turn, improves heart health (4).

  • Prevents Weight Regain

This is what sets intermittent fasting and the OMAD diet apart from every other diet. Of course, weight loss is a journey with a lot of ups and downs. But if you manage to go on the OMAD diet twice a week, you will be less likely to regain the lost weight (5).

  • Energizes You

Intermittent fasting will keep you energized throughout the day and improve mindfulness. The main reason for this is that as you get rid of the inflammation-inducing fat deposits, your body starts working better. This, in turn, helps keep your cells active and lowers your fatigue levels.

  • Does Not Deprive You

When you are on the OMAD diet, you will not feel deprived. You will have a filling, nutritious, and delicious meal that will keep your junk food addiction at bay. Of course, you have to follow a “foods to avoid” list so that you don’t put your heart, liver, and kidneys at risk.

It is clear that the OMAD diet can actually work for you if you practice discipline. However, before you start, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

Risks Of Following The One Meal A Day Diet

Weakness on the initial days may be a risks of following the one meal a day diet
Image: Shutterstock
  • Sustainability because it is not easy for a first timer. You will feel hungry and restless.
  • You might feel weak.
  • You might feel dizzy and experience brain fog.
  • You will not be able to concentrate properly.
  • Metabolismi  Chemical reactions occurring in an organism or a cell in order to generate energy to sustain life. in menopausal women may slow down.

Caution

Since our bodies respond differently to diets, you must talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before you start following the OMAD diet. Moreover, pregnant and lactating women should not try this diet.

Infographic: Healthy Weight Loss Options

Even if a meal-a-day diet may show you quick short-term results, it may not be good for your health in the long run. In that case, you can also opt for other diets, such as a keto diet which induces ketosis to burn fat for energy. Managing your weight needs consistent effort over a certain period. Staying fit and active with a healthy, nutritious diet helps you achieve your ideal weight. Learn from the infographic below about the right lifestyle changes that can help you lose weight in a sustainable, healthy way.

healthy weight loss options (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

The one meal a day diet, often known as OMAD, is a type of intermittent fasting in which you eat only one meal per day for increased longevity in healthy adults. It is based on the principles of calorie restriction and eating nutritious, low-calorie meals at a specific time of day. OMAD helps in weight loss by preventing constipation and improving digestion and absorption. It protects the heart. However, before beginning the diet, consult your doctor. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid this diet. If done correctly, the OMAD diet can be a revitalizing and successful diet to promote weight loss and prevent weight gain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why am I gaining weight eating one meal a day?

It could be because of you opting for high-calorie food options for that one meal every day. Since you are fasting for 23 hours, you might be tempted to load up on heavy, filling, empty calories.

How much weight can I lose on OMAD?

You can lose upto 15 pounds in a month on the OMAD diet. However, it also depends on your age, metabolism, and fitness levels.

Is OMAD better than Keto?

OMAD is better than Keto as it doesn’t have any restrictions with respect to macronutrientsi  Nutrients used in the most considerable amounts in foods, such as carbohydrates, fat, and protein. or portion control.

How hard is OMAD?

It is tough to begin with, since you would need to eat just one major meal per day followed by a fasting of 23 hours.

Key Takeaways

  • A diet where you have one meal per day and fast for the rest 23 hours.
  • This diet may aid in weight loss, and protect heart health.
  • There are a few risks like feeling weak, dizzy and having less metabolism in menopausal women.
  • Include vegetables, fruits, lean protein, dairy, nuts, seeds, and beverages.
  • Avoid fruits with high GI, proteins like fatty cuts of beef and pork, bacon, diet soda, and energy drinks.
one meal a day diet

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team


Discover the amazing benefits of intermittent fasting and the OMAD diet. Learn how to improve your health and wellbeing with these simple lifestyle changes shown in video.

Personal Experience: Source

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Merlin Annie Raj
Merlin Annie RajRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist
Merlin Annie Raj is a Registered Dietitian based out of Hyderabad, India. She has 14 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition as well as teaching Nutrition and Dietetics to undergraduate and postgraduate students. She was awarded the ‘President’s Award’ at the 47th Annual National Conference of the Indian Dietetic Association, 2014.

Read full bio of Merlin Annie Raj
Charushila Biswas
Charushila BiswasHealth & Wellness Writer
Charushila is an ISSA certified Fitness Nutritionist and a Physical Exercise Therapist. Over a span of 6 years, she has authored more than 400 articles on diet, lifestyle, exercises, healthy food, and fitness equipment. She strives to inform, educate, and motivate her readers via authentic, straightforward, and fact-checked information.

Read full bio of Charushila Biswas
Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Ravi Teja TadimallaSenior Editor
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a senior editor and a published author. He has been in the digital media field for over eight years. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University.

Read full bio of Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Sindhu Koganti
Sindhu KogantiSenior Health & Wellness Writer
Sindhu Koganti is a Certified Health and Nutrition Life Coach and has over 6 years of experience in writing on health and wellness topics. She has a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from Acharya Nagarjuna University, Guntur, and a diploma in nutrition from Fab Academy.

Read full bio of Sindhu Koganti