The Rice Diet

What is the Rice Diet?

The Rice Diet started in 1939 as a residential program for weight loss as well as the prevention, treatment, and reversal of heart disease, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. The program is connected with Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The Rice Diet program at Duke includes daily medical supervision, nutrition education, support, and instruction in topics such as emotional eating, dining in restaurants, stress reduction, accepting your body, and exercise. Most people stay for four to eight weeks.

The Rice Diet strictly limits salt, sugar, fat, and processed foods. It is a very low calorie diet that emphasizes complex carbohydrates and includes some protein. You don’t just eat rice, but your food choices are very limited and strictly controlled. You can eat whole-grain carbohydrates, low sodium beans, very lean protein, nonfat dairy, and fruits and vegetables.

Weight loss is rapid; how much you will lose depends on your age, gender, initial weight, and how much you exercise. The average weight loss is 204 pounds for women and 260 pounds for men. During the first week weight loss for women averages 9 pounds, 13 pounds for men. In four weeks women average a weight loss of 19 pounds and men 29 pounds. After the first month most people lose about 2 1/2 to 3 2/3 pounds per week.

Cost of the Rice Diet

The diet is presented in recently published books such as The Rice Diet Solution, The Rice Diet Cookbook, and The Rice Diet Renewal, which sell for under $20.00. The books instruct readers on how to follow the Rice Diet on their own.

A Rice Diet starter kit costs $375.00.  The kit includes food for one month, a pedometer, four books and a variety of other educational materials, and a journal. You can find out the cost of the program in North Carolina by contacting a representative through the website.

The Rice Diet store sells over 200 low sodium foods. These are whole foods from various companies that are mostly available in stores, not prepackaged Rice Brand foods. You do not have to purchase these foods to participate in the Rice Diet. However, the diet does recommend certain products that you may not be able to buy locally and may have to order.

How the Rice Diet Works

The Rice Diet has three phases and includes three different types of Rice Diets: the Basic Rice Diet, the Lacto Vegetarian Rice Diet, and the Vegetarian Plus Rice Diet.

Phase 1 lasts one week. On the first day you eat the Basic Rice Diet of 800 calories and 50 mg sodium: 2 starches and 2 fruits at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

For the next six days of Phase 1 you eat according to the Lacto-Vegetarian Rice Diet, which allows 1,000 calories per day and 300 mg sodium. For breakfast you have one starch, one dairy, and one fruit. For lunch you have three starches, three veggies, and one fruit. Dinner is the same as lunch.

Phase 2 also lasts one week. The first day of Phase 2 you eat the Basic Rice Diet. For the next four days you eat the Lacto Vegetarian Rice Diet. For the last two days you eat a Vegetarian Plus Rice Diet. The Vegetarian Plus Diet has 1,200 calories and 500 mg sodium a day. You eat two starches and one fruit for breakfast. For lunch you have three starches, three vegetables, and one fruit. Dinner is three starches, three protein or two dairy, three vegetables and one fruit.

Phase 3 is the maintenance phase. You start out with 1,200 calories per day and 500 mg sodium. Then you increase your intake by approximately 200 additional calories a week until your weight loss stops. On the first day you eat the Basic Rice Diet. The second, third, and fourth days you eat the Lacto Vegetarian Rice Diet. The next two days you eat the Vegetarian Plus Rice Diet. Then you repeat this series. 

Serving sizes are as follows:

  • 1 starch: 1 slice of bread, 1/3 cup cooked rice or beans, or 1/2 cup cooked pasta.
  • 1 Fruit: 1 medium piece of fruit other than banana, 1/2 banana, or 1 cup cut up fruit.
  • 1 Vegetable: 1 cup uncooked or 1/2 cup cooked.
  • 1 Dairy: 1 cup milk, 1 cup yogurt, or 1/2 cup cottage cheese.

Benefits of the Rice Diet

Exercise, lifestyle changes, whole foods, stress reduction, and nutrition education are aspects of the program that support weight loss and good health.

The Rice Diet emphasizes healthy living, not just weight loss. For many, following the Rice Diet results in lower blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Some are able to reduce or go off medication.

Medical supervision, such as provided at the Rice Diet clinic, is essential for a very low calorie diet.

The Rice Diet is suitable for vegetarians.

Concerns about the Rice Diet

The Rice Diet is not a good choice for anyone who has had a colon resection or who has a kidney condition.

This is a rigid and highly controlled diet. It may be difficult to follow the Rice Diet on your own without the intense, daily support of the clinic.

The diet does not provide enough calcium and vitamin D. The protein allowance is less than half the recommended daily allowance, which could lead to a decrease in muscle mass.

With very low calorie diets like the Rice Diet the metabolism can slow down, which is counter to long-term weight loss. Very low calorie diets have other risks and so require medical supervision. People who follow the Rice Diet on their own may not get the necessary medical monitoring.

Is the Rice Diet for You?

The Rice Diet may not be a good choice if you want to lose less than 50 pounds. If you have a lot of weight to lose, you may be a good candidate for this diet.

Very low calorie diets such as the Rice Diet can have serious medical complications. If you follow the diet on your own rather than at the North Carolina clinic it is very important that you have ongoing medical supervision.


John Craig is someone that has had a life long interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He has studied just about every "diet program" available and wants to pass on his knowledge and understanding of what actually works and what doesn't.

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