The Dukan Diet is an eating plan that gained worldwide popularity in 2010 with its promise of helping dieters to lose up to half a kilogram a day. Designed by French nutritionist and dietitian Pierre Dukan, the diet based on a protein-based style of eating that is guided by the types of foods primitive man ate as hunter-gatherers. There are only 100 foods allowed within the diet – 72 of these are animal-based and 28 are plant-based.
Carbohydrates are severely restricted – including fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Dieters are required to stick to one of four programs that let’s them eat up 1600 calories a day. The diet includes four phases which gradually introduce the foods that form the basis of a diet that aims to encourage good eating and regular exercise habits that remain for life.
While weight loss does occur, experts say any diet that severely restricts major food groups is not advisable and can result in health problems.
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The Dukan summer diet kick-starts with a short, sharp Attack phase, detailed below, during which you eat unlimited quantities of meat, fish and fat-free dairy products for one to 10 days depending on how much weight you have to lose.
Dr Dukan says this initial stage of the diet is so effective because it restricts the body to protein-only foods.
Proteins pass slowly through the digestive system. Eating protein-only foods makes you feel full, so you’re less likely to have the cravings that jeopardise your weight loss.
Proteins are low in calories compared with fats and carbohydrates, and their complex structure means you burn more calories processing them than you do other foods.
The rules of the Attack phase are simple. Drink two litres of water a day, walk for 20 minutes each day and avoid butter and oil. Eat as much as you want, whenever you want, of any foods on the following list. Anything not listed is forbidden.
Dr Schenker says it’s important to include fish. “Try to include oily fish (up to two portions a week for women of childbearing age, up to four portions for men and post-menopausal women) to ensure a good intake of essential fats and fat-soluble vitamins.”
What you can eat
- Lean beef, veal or rabbit, trimmed of all fat
- Chicken and turkey (skin removed)
- Low-fat ham (cut any rind off) and dried beef (bresaola)
- Liver (beef or chicken)
- All fish – white, oily, fresh, frozen, dried, smoked or canned (in water or brine)
- All shellfish
- Up to two eggs a day. Stick to three to four yolks per week if you have high cholesterol. The white can be eaten without restriction
- Fat-free dairy products, such as yoghurt, cottage cheese and skim milk. Plain and flavoured yoghurts are allowed without restriction, but fruit yoghurts (which contain fruit puree) should be restricted to two per day
- Sweeteners, vinegar, spices, herbs, garlic, onion, gherkins and pickled onions as condiments, lemon juice, mustard and salt in moderation, sugar-free chewing gum
The four rules of the Cruise Phase are as follows:
1. Have one to five pure protein days (with no-fat dairy products) interspersed with one to five days when vegetables can be eaten too.
2. Eat two tablespoons of oat bran per day.
3. Take a 30-minute brisk walk daily.
4. Drink 1.5 litres of water each day.
You should be aware the weight loss you enjoyed in the Attack phase will likely plateau when you introduce salad and vegetables, but don’t panic.
The protein-only diet has a powerful water-loss effect. A diet rich in meat and dairy products raises the levels of uric acid and urea in the blood. These are toxic by-products of protein breakdown, which the body tries to eliminate by sucking water out of the tissues and pumping it into the kidneys and urinary tract to help it flush out.
When you start eating vegetables again, your body will naturally start to retain a little water. As soon as you switch to a pure protein day, the water expulsion will return.
Dr Dukan says you can expect to lose 900 grams for every week you’re on the Cruise phase.
- EAT as often as you like. Don’t go hungry.
- NEVER skip meals.
- EXPERIMENT with agar agar (from health shops). This marine gelatine reduces the speed at which sugar is assimilated by the body, cuts cholesterol and reduces the amount of calories absorbed.
- MAKE Dukan-friendly sauces and dressings. For a simple yoghurt dressing, beat a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a dash of vinegar, pepper, salt and herbs into non-fat yoghurt. Delicious!
- WEIGH yourself daily. Weight loss, no matter how tiny, is the best incentive.
- DRINK a large glass of cold water before your meal, one during, and a third afterwards. This makes you feel full and disrupts the absorption of food, allowing messages of satisfaction more time to reach the brain.
When you reach your target weight, it’s time to embark on the Consolidation phase to ensure your body settles at its new weight.
Fat is a way of storing surplus calories and we became good at storing it so we wouldn’t starve when food was scarce.
So calorie restriction triggers a series of chemical reactions that intensify hunger pangs, reduce energy consumption and take you into a kind of hibernation.
Your body can also become ruthlessly efficient at assimilating calories. If you normally glean 100 calories from a slice of bread, you could now glean 120 to 130 calories from the same slice. Your body is now a calorie sponge, so you are vulnerable to weight gain.
Dr Dukan’s Consolidation stage is designed to control your body’s excessive reactions and prevent any weight rebound. It provides a crucial period of transition between hard-line dieting and a return to normal eating.
Clinical evidence shows the high-risk period for regaining weight after a diet is about five days for every half-kilo lost, so Dr Dukan believes that’s how long you should safely stick with the Consolidation phase. So if you have lost five kilos, you should stay in the phase for 50 days.
You can introduce small quantities of carbohydrates during this stage, but they should never be the bedrock of your diet.
- Stay in the phase for 5 days for every half-kilo lost in the previous phases.
- Eat as much protein and vegetables as you want.
- Add 1 serve of fruit a day (no bananas, grapes or cherries).
- Eat 2 slices of wholemeal bread a day.
- Eat 1 serve (40g) of hard cheese a day.
- Enjoy 1 serve of “starchy foods” a week in the first half; increase to 2 a week in second half. Includes pasta, couscous or polenta (225g), lentils, beans, chickpeas, brown rice, potatoes.
- Add lamb and pork once or twice a week.
- Enjoy 1 “celebration meal” a week in the first half; increase to 2 in the second half.
- Keep 1 pure protein day per week.
- Eat 2 tablespoons of oat bran a day.
- Walk at least 25 minutes a day.
- Drink lots of water.
It may have been a challenge at times but you’ve made it through the Dukan Diet and now we hope you’re reaping rewards of your structured eating plan in the form of a new svelte figure. From here it’s all about eating for life and committing to a few relatively simple rules to keep your weight under control.
This fourth and final phase of the Dukan Diet is called the Stabilisation phase and offers permanent slenderness in return for four commandments…
1. Eat what you want, but use the Consolidation rules as a safety net (eat unlimited protein and veggies, one piece of fruit, two slices of wholemeal bread and a portion of cheese a day, and two starchy foods and celebration meals a week).
2. Pick one day a week for the rest of your life when you eat nothing but protein. You can eat normally for the other six days.
3. Drink at least two litres of water a day.
4. Walk briskly for at least 20 minutes a day.
During your protein only day, stick to the purest protein foods, such as salmon, quark and chicken.
If you are in the Attack phase of the Dukan Diet, avoid salad and vegetables. Unlimited amounts of these can be added in Cruise.
Breakfast: scrambled eggs with smoked salmon (serves 1)
Whisk 2 eggs in a bowl. Add a splash of skim milk. Add as much chopped smoked salmon as you like. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds and serve.
Lunch: ham rolls (serves 4)
- 175g extra-lean ham, finely chopped
- 225g fat-free quark
- Finely chopped chives and marjoram, to taste
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- Tabasco, to taste
Mix all ingredients and roll into small balls.
Dinner: Vietnamese beef (serves 2)
- 400g sirloin steak, cut into 1cm cubes
- 2 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs oyster sauce
- 1 big piece ginger, grated
- 3 drops vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- Coriander leaves, to serve
Combine beef, sauces, ginger and a little black pepper. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. Brown garlic in a pan (oiled and wiped with kitchen paper). Add beef and stir over high heat for 10-15 seconds for medium-rare. Top with coriander.
Breakfast: yoghurt (serves 1)
200g fat-free yoghurt sprinkled with oat bran, 1 drop of vanilla essence and sweetener.
Lunch: oat bran pancake (serves 1)
- 1½ tbsp oat bran
- 1½ tbsp fat-free quark
- Dried herbs, optional
- 175g flaked tuna, smoked salmon, ham or chicken
- 2 eggs, separated
- Oil, for cooking
Stir oat bran into quark with herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, fish, meat or chicken and egg yolks. Beat eggwhites until stiff peaks form, then fold into oat bran mixture. Pour into a non-stick pan that has been oiled and wiped with kitchen paper and a few drops of oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side.
Dinner: baked fish with herbs (serves 4)
- 800g white fish fillets
- 300g fat-free fromage frais
- 4 eggs
- 5 tbsp chopped herbs
- 3 drops vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 220ºC. Season fish fillets and wrap in greaseproof paper. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180ºC. Remove fish from oven. Put cooked fillets into a blender with fromage frais, eggs and herbs and blend well. Pour mixture into a baking dish (oiled and wiped with kitchen paper). Place dish into a bigger dish. Half fill bigger dish with cold water. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through.
Dessert: lemon cheesecake
- 2 eggs
- 4 tbsp fromage frais
- 4 tbsp quark
- 200g cottage cheese
- 300g fat-free cream cheese
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 8 tbsp sweetener
- grated lemon zest
Heat oven to 160ºC. Mix ingredients except egg whites and cornflour and beat until smooth and thick. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then add the cornflour. Fold this mixture into the first bowl. In a dish, bake for 40 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Cool, then serve garnished with grated lemon zest.
Breakfast: oat bran porridge (serves 1)
Combine 2 tbsp of oat bran and a little wheat bran (optional) with skim milk and sweetener. Microwave for 2 minutes.
Lunch: rosemary beef burgers (serves 3)
- 750g minced beef
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbsp plum sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
- 1-2 tbsp finely chopped mint or basil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Salad to serve, optional
Combine all ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste and shape into patties. Grill until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Drain on paper towel.
Dinner: fishcake (serves 1)
- 3 eggs, separated
- 6 tbsp fat-free quark
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Chopped herbs, to taste
- 1 white fish fillet, chopped
- 3 crabsticks, thinly sliced
Beat egg whites until stiff. Add other ingredients and bake in a lined tin at 180ºC for 45 minutes.
Dessert: chocolate coffee meringues
- 3 egg whites
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 6 tbsp sweetener
- 2 tsp very strong coffee
Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Beat the egg whites until very stiff. Add the cocoa to the sweetener, then sprinkle this over the egg whites. Add the coffee and continue beating for about 30 seconds. Spoon into small mounds on a baking tray and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
Breakfast: oat bran muffins (serves 4)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 8 tbsp oat bran
- 4 tbsp fromage frais
- 1/2 tsp sweetener
- Lemon zest or cinnamon
Heat oven to 180ºC. Beat egg whites until stiff. Mix other ingredients. Fold in egg whites. Pour into cases. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
Lunch: prawn and egg salad (serves 2)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 4 tsp cider vinegar
- 600g lettuce
- A few sprigs tarragon
- 200g prawns, cooked and shelled
- 4 eggs
Make a vinaigrette with oil and vinegar and some salt and pepper. Mix lettuce, tarragon leaves and prawns in a bowl.
Soft-boil eggs for 5-6 minutes. Shell carefully as yolks will still be runny. Serve eggs, while still very hot, on top of dressed lettuce and prawns.
Dinner: salmon escalopes and mustard dill sauce (serves 4)
- 4 thick (about 200g each) pieces salmon
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 tbs mild mustard
- 6 tsp fat-free fromage frais
- Finely chopped dill, to taste
- Steamed asparagus, optional
Put salmon in the freezer for a few minutes so you can cut it into thin (about 50g) slices. Gently fry slices in a non-stick pan for 1 minute each side. Set aside and keep warm. Brown shallots. Reduce heat. Add mustard and fromage frais. Simmer for 5 minutes. Return salmon to pan. Add dill. Season. Cook until heated through. Serve with asparagus.
Dessert: chocolate panna cotta (serves 1)
- 2 gelatine leaves
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp of cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp protein powder
- 100ml skimmed milk
- 5 tbsp fat-free fromage frais
Place the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, cocoa powder and protein powder, set aside. Bring the milk to the boil in a small saucepan, gently pour over the egg mixture and stir to combine.
Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine and drop into the hot mixture, then stir until fully dissolved. Allow to cool, then add the fromage frais.
Breakfast: muesli and skim milk (serves 2)
- 6 tbsp oat bran
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp liquid sweetener
- Almond essence
Preheat oven to 160ºC. Mix all ingredients and spread on tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 30 minutes. Crumble when cool. Store in an air-tight container.
Lunch: salmon pancakes (serves 2)
- 300g fat-free fromage frais
- 60g fat-free quark
- 1 small jar salmon roe
- 4 slices smoked salmon
- 2 oat bran pancakes (see Day 2 lunch recipe)
Mix fromage frais, quark and roe in a bowl. Season. Divide mixture among pancakes. Top with salmon.
Dinner: chicken kebabs (serves 4)
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 20g ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 100g fat-free plain yoghurt
- 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbs finely chopped coriander
- 800g chicken breasts, cut into 2cm chunks
- Fat-free tzatziki, to serve
Purée onion and garlic in a blender. Stir in ginger, lemon juice, yoghurt, spices and coriander. Mix chicken and marinade in a bowl. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Heat a grill on high.
Thread chicken on skewers. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Serve with fat-free tzatziki.
Dessert: orange yogurt cake
- 3 eggs
- 150g fat-free natural yogurt
- ½ tsp artificial sweetener
- 1tsp orange extract
- 4 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tsp yeast
- 3 drops of vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Beat eggs with yogurt, then add sweetener, orange extract, corn flour and yeast. Pour into a cake tin (oiled and lined with kitchen paper) and bake for 45 minutes.
- Low-fat yogurt sprinkled with oat bran a drop of vanilla flavouring and sweetener
- Sugar-free jelly
- Hard Boiled egg
- Cold chicken
- Carrot sticks with low-fat cheese or yoghurt