The Dukan Diet – A Complete Guide

Dukan Diet is a low-carb, high-protein weight loss plan created in the 1970s by Dr. Pierre Dukan. It was designed to help obese patients lose weight

Diet summary

The Dukan Diet is based on the premise that you don’t lose weight by starving yourself. 

Dr. Dukan provides specific lists of foods that are allowed in different phases with a focus on boosting satiety with lean proteins and fat-free dairy. 

The Dukan Diet plan includes four phases: 

  • Attack
  • Cruise
  • Consolidation
  • Stabilization

The first two phases, Attack, and Cruise focus on weight loss, and the other two, Consolidation and Stabilization focus on maintaining weight.

How much weight can you lose on the Dukan Diet?

According to experts, you can lose up to 4 to 6 pounds in the first week during the Attack Phase, and 2 pounds a week during the Cruise Phase. During the Consolidation and Stabilization phases, you will focus on weight management.

Criticism of the Diet

The Dukan Diet has been widely criticized as a fad diet, with many health professionals saying it increases the risk of chronic kidney disease and may worsen cardiovascular health. Dr. Dukan actually stopped practicing medicine in 2014, following formal complaints that were filed against him by the French National Order of Doctors.

What you can eat on the Dukan Diet

The Dukan Diet gives you a list of 68 protein-rich, low-fat foods in the first phase as well as 32 non-starchy vegetables that can be added during the second phase of the plan.

Here’s a link to the list of proteins and vegetables.

On the Dukan Diet, where do the calories and nutrients come?

The calories and nutrients on the Dukan Diet come from the approved proteins. They tend to be more filling than carbs with fewer calories than fat. Like most diet plans, in addition to eating, Dr. Dukan includes physical activity, particularly walking and taking the stairs as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Dukan diet vs. other low-carb diets

The Dukan Diet is unlike other low carbohydrate diets. It is also very low in fat. Dr. Dukan stated in his book, the foods with fat s are “the overweight person’s most deadly enemy.” This is unsubstantiated by research since studies show that a balanced diet including healthy fats not only promotes weight loss but is important to overall health. (See the Ketogenic Diet)

Dukan Diet Basics

The Dukan Diet doesn’t require intermittent fasting, meal timing, or carb cycling, but it does restrict foods to certain days. Here are the four phases of the Dukan Diet.

Dukan Diet Phase 1: Attack

The first phase of the Dukan Diet can range from two to seven days, depending on how much weight you need to lose. 

During this phase, you can eat unlimited lean protein:

  • Lean beef
  • Skinless poultry
  • Seafood
  • Eggs

You can also eat a limited amount of low-fat dairy, a small amount of olive oil for greasing pans, and 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran a day.

These are known as “Pure Protein” days. You should also drink 6-8  glasses of water a day.

Dukan Diet Phase 2: Cruise 

This phase can begin as early as day 2 or as late as day 8 (under medical supervision for people who need to lose 40 pounds or more) and can last up to a year or more.

During this phase, you continue to eat the Attack Phase foods, but add the following specific vegetables:

  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Mushrooms

Dukan Diet Phase 3: Consolidation

Once you reach what Dr. Dukan calls your “true weight,” is when the consolidation phase begins. This period also depends on the amount of weight you’ve lost, with five days of consolidation for every pound dropped.

During this phase, you will continue to eat the foods from the Attack and Cruise phases and add:

  • Small servings of fruit
  • Bread
  • Starches
  • Cheeses
  • Other cuts of meat
  • Wine

Dukan Diet Phase 4: Stabilization

The final phase is the weight maintenance part and is intended to last forever. During the Stabilization Phase, you will follow the Consolidation Phase guidelines but loosen the rules as long as your weight stays the same.

Here’s a list of what to eat and not to eat during Stabilization:

  • Lean beef, pork, veal, venison, bison, and other game
  • Skinless poultry
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Non-fat dairy including milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta (in limited amounts)
  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan
  • Liver, kidney, and tongue
  • Oat bran
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Shirataki noodles
  • Diet gelatin
  • Lemon juice
  • Pickles
  • Olive oil
  • Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and lettuce
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Asparagus, artichokes, cucumbers, and celery
  • Eggplant, tomatoes, and mushrooms
  • Onions, leeks, and shallots
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Green beans
  • Turnips
  • Carrots and beets (in limited quantities)

Do Not Eat

  • Bread, pasta, and rice
  • Legumes
  • High-fat meats, like bacon
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Fruit
  • Non-skim dairy
  • Butter
  • Nuts
  • Cheese
  • Fried foods
  • Salad dressing, mayonnaise, and sweetened condiments
  • Potatoes
  • Avocados

Any foods not on this list are considered non-compliant foods and are added back in during the Consolidation and Stabilization Phases.

During the Cruise Phase, you will alternate between days of eating just protein (“Only Protein” days) and eating protein and vegetables (“Protein/Vegetable” days). This is called “alternation” and used to jump-start weight loss and boost metabolism. 

Benefits and Downsides of the Dukan Diet

Like any diet, there are upsides and downsides. The Dukan Diet is no different. Below we have listed some of the good things about the Dukan Diet and some of the negatives.

Benefits of the Diet

The Dukan Diet is effective for quick weight loss and sets realistic expectations for sustained weight loss. The plan allows for unlimited lean protein, which is filling and means you won’t feel hungry.

It has a long consolidation phase, which helps with the transition from weight loss to weight management.

  • All-you-can-eat of certain foods
  • Filling and satisfying foods
  • Quick weight loss
  • Focused on weight maintenance

Health Benefits

Proponents claim the diet to be an effective weight-loss plan, although some may find it too restrictive and difficult to follow. High protein, low in carbohydrates and fats, can be an effective weight-loss method for some.

Diet Downsides

  • Very strict rules
  • Lack of certain nutrients
  • May negatively impact kidney and cardiovascular health
  • Animal protein leaves a substantial carbon footprint
  • Makes unsubstantiated claims

The main criticism of the Dukan Diet is the restriction of several foods, which may make it difficult to get certain nutrients.  About 50% of the diet in the weight-loss phase is pure protein, with no vegetables allowed. So this means many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are omitted.

Supplements are allowed, but not prescribed for the nutrient imbalance. Salt is restricted, which can make eating a chore.

Also, there is increasing concern from environmental experts about the effect of high-protein diets on the environment. Plant-based diets produce fewer gas emissions and have less of an impact than animal farming.

Health Risks of the Diet

One of the main concerns with the Dukan Diet is its high protein consumption. It causes the liver and kidneys to work harder to process the byproducts of protein metabolism. Dr. Dukan prescribes drinking a lot of water to take care of this issue, but he doesn’t provide any scientific references to back this up.

Additionally, there are some statements that are highly questionable.

  1. Dr. Dukan refers to the carbs in root vegetables and whole grains as “slow sugars,” which means they break down into sugar slower than refined grains and sugars, however, this is misleading. Blood sugar spikes depend on a number of different variables.
  2. Another non science-backed claim is that the combination of water and pure proteins can cut down cellulite.
  3. Also, research shows that high protein diet plans may lead to certain nutrient deficiencies and health complications including cardiovascular and kidney disease.

Contradiction in the Dukan Diet

The diet also introduces a big contradiction. Low-starch vegetables are restricted, but fat-free dairy, which tends to be higher in sugar and carbs, is allowed? How does that make sense?

 Dr. Dukan downplays milk sugars in these products, saying “the number of sugars is too small to worry about.” 

Dukan Diet Grocery Buying List

If you try the Dukan Diet you will spend most of your time in the Cruise Phase. Here’s an example shopping list that includes the basics for what you’ll need during the Cruise Phase. 

Cruise Phase shopping list

  • Lean protein (beef, pork, veal, venison, bison, skinless poultry, fish, shellfish)
  • Non-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese)
  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan
  • Organ meats (liver, kidney, tongue)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts)
  • Other veggies (bell peppers, eggplant, turnips, green beans, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, cucumbers, celery)
  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuces)
  • Onions, leeks, and shallots
  • Eggs
  • Oat bran

Meal plan ideas on the Dukan Diet

During the Cruise Phase, you will alternate between “Pure Protein” and “Protein/Vegetable” days. The following three-day meal plan offers suggestions for a few days on the Cruise Phase. 

*Note. Some of the Pure Protein meals contain a serving of a high-protein vegetable for balance. You don’t need to follow this eating plan. There may be some meals that are more in line with your tastes and preferences.

Day 1: “Pure Protein”

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs; 3 strips turkey bacon; 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • Lunch: 1 cup tempeh stir fry; 1 cup cauliflower rice
  • Dinner: 3 oz. grilled chicken breast; 1 cup steamed Brussels sprouts

Day 2: “Protein/Vegetable”

  • Breakfast: Baked Eggs with Kale and Tomatoes; 8-ounce serving celery juice
  • Lunch: 1 serving Warm Spinach Salad With Bacon Dressing
  • Dinner: 4 oz. oven-baked salmon; 1 serving Asparagus

Day 3: “Pure Protein”

  • Breakfast: 1 medium size breakfast sausage; 2 eggs scrambled
  • Lunch: 1 serving Sticky Baked Tofu Bowl with shirataki noodles (no brown sugar)
  • Dinner: 4 oz. serving beef liver and onions; 1 cup steamed broccoli

Is the Dukan Diet a healthy choice for you?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include calorie recommendations and tips for a healthy, balanced diet. The Dukan Diet is a high-protein diet that restricts certain important food groups like carbs and essential healthy fats. It does not meet USDA dietary guidelines.

For a 2,000 calorie diet, the USDA recommends 3 cups of protein foods per day. However, the Dukan Diet prescribes an entire week of only protein followed by alternating days of protein only.

Final thoughts on the Dukan Diet

The Dukan Diet has been widely criticized by some health experts as an unhealthy eating plan for weight loss, but many people have had success losing weight following this program. It is effective for certain individuals who can be consistent with the diet and follow it. For those with environmental concerns, it may not be the right diet for you. 

As with any diet, talk to your doctor before you start any diet program. Your doctor may have other considerations based on your health history that could give you further insight as to whether this is the diet for you.