The engine 2 diet predominantly focuses on unprocessed plant-based foods. Besides excluding animal products such as meat, it’s free of vegetable oils and low fat. Users of the engine 2 diet eat whole foods such as seeds, nuts, vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Although the engine 2 diet might help lose weight, it isn’t explicitly designed to be a weight-loss eating plan. Instead, the diet’s prime goal is to support overall health.
Rip Esselstyn, a former firefighter, and professional athlete, designed the engine 2 diet. Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, the creator’s father, is an American surgeon and physician who recommends plant-based diets to help prevent and treat heart disease.
After Esselstyn choose to become a firefighter, he introduced the plant-based diet to his colleagues to help improve their health with an eating plan based on whole food, low in fat. After helping his colleagues get on the path to better health, he wanted to help other Americans facing the same health problems.[i]
Esselstyn became a top-selling author after sharing his knowledge and dieting journey in his book titled “The Engine Diet.” Although this diet plan doesn’t focus on weight loss, the engine 2 diet largely focuses on becoming a “plant-strong” individual, preventing heart disease and reducing cholesterol levels.
The U.S. News & World Report ranked the engine 2 diet #19 in the best diets and gave it a score of 3.2 out of 5[ii]. Keep reading to learn more about the engine 2 diet and its possible health benefits.
What Can You Eat?
Engine 2 diet comes with clear guidelines. Consumers are expected to remove all vegetable oils and animal products. The diet comprises low-fat meals, which are predominantly made with unprocessed plant-based foods.
This eating plan calls for three main meals: dinner, lunch, and breakfast. However, this diet doesn’t have any dedicated snacks. Followers can eat snacks as long as they comply with the same rules that this meal follows. For those who don’t have enough time to cook fresh meals, Esselstyn recommends this engine 2 diet exclusively sold at the Whole Foods Market.
However, the engine 2 diet is not free of allergens. It’s naturally free of shellfish, eggs, and dairy, but the diet has common allergens, including tree nuts, gluten, and soy. In case you have allergies to such foods, you can choose to omit these from this diet. It’s also important to make sure you carefully read labels to avoid cross-contamination.
Following are some of the foods you should include in your meal plan:
Delicious meals on the engine 2 diet often include legumes such as lentils and beans. Users are encouraged to ensure these legumes are low sodium and oil-free. You should stock up on split peas, brown lentils, red lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, and black beans.
Engine 2 isn’t a low-carb diet, which means you can enjoy brown rice with your dinner or lunch. Other allowed grains include amaranth, quinoa, and oats. Also, you can have bread, pasta, and cereal.
Fruits are compliant with the engine 2 diet, but there are a few ground rules. The fruit must be frozen or fresh. This means you cannot eat dried banana chips, raisins, or dried mango. This is because dried fruit usually has added sugar, calories, and fat.
Also, the diet calls for the consumption of fruits in their whole form (no juicing or blending). The diet recommends using fruits as toppings on your meal, like adding blueberries and strawberries to your breakfast oatmeal.
Vegetables, Nuts, And Seeds
Since this diet recommends low-calorie foods, veggies are an essential staple. This includes leafy greens and starchy vegetables. Also, instead of snacking on seeds and nuts, this diet utilizes them as condiments. For instance, you can add almonds to a salad and chia seeds to the oatmeal. We’ve also included other foods you can eat on the table below.
What Can You Not Eat?
Following are some of the foods you cannot eat.
The engine 2 diet shares many similarities with the vegan diet. You’ll have to cut back on all byproducts and animal products. This means removing two food groups: dairy and animal protein.
Removing oils from your diet minimizes the number of calories you are ingesting. The engine 2 diet removes oils and does not make any exceptions for coconut oil, olive oil, and other oils linked to healthy fats.
Plant milk is permitted on this engine 2 diet. Choose from oat milk, rice milk, coconut milk, soymilk, and almond milk. Always ensure it’s not sweetened since most non-dairy milk products contain added sugar.
Does The Engine 2 Diet Aid Weight Loss?
While weight loss isn’t the prime goal of this engine 2 diet[iii], studies show that following the plant-based diet might be beneficial for those looking to lose weight. In reference to a review of 12 studies, vegans lost about 4.5 pounds more than non-vegans over four months.
In another study, participants following the low-fat vegetarian diet for four months lost more weight (about 14.3 pounds) – and fat mass (about 9.5 pounds) than the control group.[iv]
Another study involving about 61,000 people showed that vegetarians tend to have a low body mass index, the measure utilized to determine body fat than non-vegetarians, pescatarian, and vegetarians.[v]
This might be associated with different factors. Plant foods are higher in fiber and lower in calories than animal products. Plant-based diets might also enhance the growth of the stomach microbiome and improve insulin sensitivity, ultimately helping to lose weight.[vi]
Essentially, it’s highly likely you’ll lose weight while following the engine 2 diet. Like other plant-based diets, this eating program is high in fiber and low in fat, which helps keep a consumer feeling full for longer. You’ll also be removing vegetable oil, which means you’ll be taking fewer calories.
What Are The Rules Of The Engine 2 Diet?
Unlike other fad diets, the engine 2 diet does not require followers to track their nutrients or count calories. Nonetheless, the diet requires you to switch foods that you consume and follow the low-fat, plant-based foods.
Following are the rules you should adhere to while on this diet:
- Legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are all allowed on this diet plan. You can also consume small amounts of plant-based milk alternatives, baked foods, smoothies, seitan, tempeh, and tofu, and nut butter.
- You should altogether avoid processed foods, refined foods, vegetable oils, and animal products.
- High sugar and high-fat foods such as dried fruit, seeds, nuts, and avocados should be limited as part of this eating plan.
- If you must drink, limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Throw away all processed foods and animal products in your pantry.
- Clear your refrigerator of any food with over 2 ½ grams of fat
Potential Health Benefits
People looking to lose weight can achieve their goals while on the engine 2 diet because it comprises low-calorie foods such as vegetables, beans, and leafy greens. Also, there are essential physical health benefits such as digestive and heart health to take into consideration.
Benefits Of Fiber
This diet is high in fiber, and eating a high fiber diet has many health benefits, including improved digestion.
Decreased Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
The main heart health benefits people get from eating plant-based foods is well documented. Several studies have shown that plant-based diets high in nutrients emphasize nuts, vegetables, grains, and whole grains associated with the reduced risks of heart disease.[vii]
Prevention And Control Of Diabetes
The engine 2 diet is an excellent plan for both the prevention and control of diabetes. Being overweight and obese is one of the most significant risk factors for type II diabetes. As mentioned earlier, if you’re looking to lose weight, this diet is right for you. A 2017 study published in the “Journal of Geriatric Cardiology analyzed the impact of the plant-based diet on type II diabetes.
It was found that plant-based diets incorporate whole foods, like whole grains and legumes, while restricting animal products and refined foods. These foods are highly beneficial for the prevention and treatment of type II diabetes – even if followers do not experience weight loss.
Sample Shopping List
The engine 2 diet largely emphasizes plant-based protein, vegetables, and whole fruits. The shopping list below provides suggestions to get started on this diet. Keep in mind that this is not an exclusive shopping list, and you might find other types of food that suit your budget, tastes, and preferences.
Read on to find some of the products you should include on your cart the next time you go shopping.
- Whole fruits (avocados, apples, bananas, berries, oranges, grapefruit)
- Vegetables (carrots, eggplant, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli)
- Dark leafy greens (arugula, bok Choy, Swiss chard, kale, spinach)
- Whole grains (brown rice, amaranth, barley, quinoa, oats)
- Dried legumes (mung beans, chickpeas, lentils, black beans)
- Tempeh and tofu
- Non-dairy milk (soy, almond, oat)
- Seeds and nuts (flax seeds, chia seeds, cashews, almonds, walnuts)
- Optional – engine 2 items (plant milk, pasta, burritos, hummus, vegetable burgers)
- Sweeteners – pure maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, and agave
- Starchy vegetables – butternut squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc.
- Healthy fats – unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados
- Seasonings, herbs, and spices – salt, black pepper, curry, turmeric, rosemary, basil, etc.
- Condiment –lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, mustard, and salsa
- Beverages – sparkling water, tea, and coffee, etc.
Sample Meal Plan
If you cannot access the whole foods market to purchase engine 2 diet foods, there are many options for preparing plant-based meals from home. Keep in mind that this eating program removes oils, which means you will have to do most of your preparation and cooking in the nonstick pan with a vegetable broth or splash of water. For roasting, you can add extra flavor to your veggies with dried herbs rather than olive oil.
The following seven-day sample meal plan will help you get started on this engine 2 diet. Keep in mind that this meal plan is not exclusive, and if you choose to follow the plan, there might be other meals that are more ideal for your budget, preferences, and tastes.
- Breakfast – oatmeal prepared with coconut milk topped with walnuts, coconut, and berries.
- Lunch – large salad with goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, avocado, chickpeas, and vegetables
- Dinner – eat butternut squash curry
- Breakfast – eat full-fat yogurt topped with pumpkin seeds, unsweetened coconut, and sliced strawberries
- Lunch – meatless chili
- Dinner – black bean tacos and sweet potato
- Breakfast – unsweetened plant-based protein powder, peanut butter, and a freshly made smoothie with coconut milk (unsweetened)
- Lunch – vegetable and hummus wrap
- Dinner – zucchini noodles tossed in peso and chicken meatballs
- Breakfast – savory oatmeal with black beans, salsa, and avocado
- Lunch – feta salad, vegetable, and quinoa
- Dinner – grilled fish and broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes
- Breakfast – vegetable frittata and tofu
- Lunch – a big salad with grilled shrimp
- Dinner – eat roasted Portobello fajitas
- Breakfast – coconut protein smoothie, cashew butter, kale, and blackberry
- Lunch – brown rice sushi, avocado, and vegetable with seaweed salad
- Dinner – eat eggplant lasagna prepared with a large green salad and cheese
- Breakfast – veggie omelet made with whole eggs
- Lunch – eat a roasted vegetable with a tahini quinoa bowl
- Dinner – eat black bean burgers with sliced avocado and a large salad
Pros And Cons Of The Engine 2 Diet
There are many reasons you should consider trying a plant-based diet, which is low in fat, and largely emphasize whole foods over the processed foods, which contain added salt and sugar. However, like any other diet, this eating plan has a few downsides. Review the advantages and disadvantages to make your final decision on whether this is the right plan for you.
Can Help Lose Weight
Although weight loss is not the main goal of the engine 2 diet, people who follow this diet can lose weight because the diet is naturally low in calories and low in fat.
Boosts Heart Health
Originally, the engine 2 diet was introduced as an eating plan for the local firefighters to reduce their cholesterol. The meal plan was created to promote heart health because cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the US.
Encourage Nutrient-Dense Foods
Engine 2 diet largely prioritizes whole foods, including legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, The healthy foods included in this diet are rich in nutrients such as antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
Also, it limits processed foods that are high in added sugar, sodium and calories, yet lacks valuable micronutrients. A review of 12 studies showed that vegetarians and vegans had a high overall diet quality than non-vegetarians.[viii]
Moreover, increased intake of processed foods has been associated with increased risks of premature death, heart disease, and cancer. However, it’s important to note that the engine 2 diet restricts many nutrient-dense products, which are high in fat, including avocados, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils.[ix]
High In Fiber
In essence, fiber is essential for digestion and keeps a person feeling full for long. The engine 2 diet is high in fiber because of its plant-based and whole foods.
No Calorie Counting
Most diets needed followers to keep a close eye on their macronutrient and calorie intake. With this diet, there is no calorie tracking. Most engine 2 diet meals are prepared with unprocessed, whole foods. Eating whole foods is an essential part of this eating plan since it allows consumers to eat many micronutrients.
For people looking for a simple and straightforward eating plan, this engine 2 diet might be a great choice. Rather than requiring consumers to meticulously count calories, measure portions, or track amounts of fiber, carbs, or fat, this diet offers a simple list that summarizes the foods to eat and what you should avoid.
The engine 2 diet plan is more restrictive than the typical fad diet. A vegetarian diet is free of animal products, but the engine 2 diet goes a step further to remove sugar and oil and to cut out fat and salt.
People Might Experience Cravings
When an eating plan is highly restrictive, followers might be more inclined to start having cravings. No snacks are included in this plan, so this might also increase cravings.[x]
Although not necessary, individuals following the diet might purchase and eat engine 2 branded products from the whole food market. Nonetheless, these items are more costly than other foods allowed on this eating plan. For instance, a 2 pack vegetable burgers is $4.99.
Is The Engine 2 Diet A Healthy Option For You?
For starters, the engine 2 diet is not the only eating plan that removes animal products. You’ll also find other vegan diets, including the fruitarian diet, raw food diet, and macrobiotic diet. The engine 2 diet has many similarities with the plant-based diet but is very strict with regard to vegetable oils.
The United States department of agriculture dietary guidelines for Americans appreciates that vegans and vegetarians can meet their daily-recommended allowance for nutrients without meat.[xi] The engine 2 diet doesn’t pose any health risks considering you meet your daily nutritional needs.
Nevertheless, the USDA recommendations show that many Americans do not get sufficient vitamin D in their daily diets. Researchers have demonstrated that meatless diets are low in vitamin D.[xii] However, vegetables and fruits are high in plenty of micronutrients; in their natural state, vitamin B12 might be a challenge for plant-based eaters.
Consumers following this diet should eat fortified foods such as non-dairy milk and engine 2 branded cereal. Also, according to the USDA, supplements are an option for people following the vegan or vegetarian diet.
With limited sources of protein and fat, and vegetable oils, the engine 2 diet is low in calories. The guidelines do not require people to follow this diet to count calories, so there are very few calorie recommendations.
Because this eating plan is plant-based, followers should check their vitamin D intake, vitamin B12, protein, and other valuable nutrients to meet USDA’s dietary guidelines.
How Much Does The Engine 2 Diet Cost?
Although you might have to spend more on fresh produce, you’ll save by not buying animal products and skipping the butcher. Followers of the engine 2 diet should consider purchasing the book.
Moreover, you can get customized recipes through the engine 2 diet meal planner, which allows you to make grocery lists and menus, speak with the plan experts whenever you want, and access more resources such as email tips as well as delivery of groceries in specific areas for only $14 per month or $99 per pear.
The 7-day challenge is free to join. However, you can choose to join the behavioral change program for $247.
What is the Main Health Benefit of the Engine 2 Diet?
What Should You Eat on the Engine 2 Diet?
What Does Esselstyn Eat for Breakfast?
Where Can You Find the Engine 2 Products?
What is a 7-Day Rescue Challenge?
How Does the Engine 2 Diet Works?
- [i] Esselstyn R. The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet: Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health. New York: Grand Central Publishing; 2016.
- [ii] U.S. News & World Report Best Diets. The Engine 2 Diet.
- [iii] Esselstyn R. The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet: Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health. New York: Grand Central Publishing; 2016.
- [iv] Kahleova, H., Dort, S., Holubkov, R., & Barnard, N. D. (2018). A Plant-Based High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet in Overweight Individuals in a 16-Week Randomized Clinical Trial: The Role of Carbohydrates. Nutrients, 10(9), 1302. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091302
- [v] Tonstad, S., Butler, T., Yan, R., & Fraser, G. E. (2009). Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care, 32(5), 791–796. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc08-1886
- [vi] Najjar, R. S., & Feresin, R. G. (2019). Plant-Based Diets in the Reduction of Body Fat: Physiological Effects and Biochemical Insights. Nutrients, 11(11), 2712. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11112712
- [vii] Satija A, Hu FB. Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health. Trends Cardiovasc Med. 2018;28(7):437-441. doi:10.1016/j.tcm.2018.02.004
- [viii] Parker HW, Vadiveloo MK. Diet quality of vegetarian diets compared with nonvegetarian diets: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2019 Mar 1;77(3):144-160. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy067. PMID: 30624697.
- [ix] Fiolet T, Srour B, Sellem L, Kesse-Guyot E, AllÃ¨s B, MÃ©jean C et al. Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort BMJ 2018; 360 :k322 doi:10.1136/bmj.k322
- [x] Massey A, Hill AJ. Dieting and food craving. A descriptive, quasi-prospective study. Appetite. 2012;58(3):781-5. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.01.020
- [xi] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition. December 2020.
- [xii] Baig JA, Sheikh SA, Islam I, Kumar M. Vitamin D status among vegetarians and non-vegetarians. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2013;25(1-2):152-155.