Weight Management

The HMR Diet: Weight Management

On each day of the HMR diet, you’ll eat three shakes and two entrées.

In its 2021 diet rankings, U.S. News & World Report named the HMR program as No. 1 in the fast weight loss diet category.

 That’s certainly appealing to people who want to lose a lot of weight quickly. But what is this diet, and how does it set itself apart from other commercial plans?

What Is the HMR Diet?

HMR stands for Health Management Resources. A behavioral psychologist named Lawrence Stifler, PhD, developed it over 30 years ago, notes U.S. News & World Report. It is a low-calorie diet, which is defined as 1,200 to 1,400 calories, and combines portion-controlled HMR shakes and entrées with fruits and vegetables. Also incorporated are a light amount of moderate physical activity and support from peers, such as HMR health coaches and medical professionals.

HMR Diet Phases

There are two main phases of the HMR program, says Adam Schafer, RDN, the lead dietitian at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois. (The medical center offers the HMR program.)

Phase 1: Fast Weight Loss This phase lasts at least eight weeks (depending on how much weight you aim to lose). It focuses on eating HMR food replacements (like shakes, nutrition bars, and low-calorie prepackaged meals), plus fruits and vegetables.

Phase 2: Maintenance This phase involves slowly getting off meal replacements and back to regular food. During this time, you might eat five meal replacements per week (versus 14 in phase 1). The ultimate goal is to completely get off meal replacements but maintain your weight with the new healthy habits you’ve adopted from the program. HMR suggests transitioning into an eating pattern in line with the Mediterranean or DASH diets.

The HMR Diet: Pros and Cons

There is no one right diet for everyone, so it’s important to consider how the HMR program might fit into your life. Some people might find the initial focus on prepared foods liberating, while others might miss the types of foods they used to make and eat. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the diet, rather than paying attention only to its reputation for causing fast weight loss.

The Pros

  • Structure “The point of the meal replacement is to develop structure around your diet,” says Schafer. When you don’t have to worry about shopping, prepping, and cooking, you can focus on behavior modification that helps you work through underlying issues that may have caused you to overeat, and then develop new, lasting healthy habits. Essentially, it allows you to let go of everything you did before and start over new, says Schafer.
  • Support If you can, opt to go to a medical center (these are often found at hospitals around the country; type in your ZIP code at the HMR program’s website to find one near you). There, Schafer explains, you’ll take part in weekly classes with an expert (like a registered dietitian) who will talk to you about your daily routine and lifestyle to work on changing habits, overcoming mental roadblocks, and introducing physical activity to your day.
  • Simplicity During phase 1, you will chiefly eat meal replacement products that are pre-portioned and calorie controlled. “If you follow the meal replacement plan, you will lose weight,” says Schafer.

The Cons

  • Difficulty Following the Plan It can be tough to stay on a diet that is completely centered around meal replacements for every meal and snack, says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, a nutritionist in New York City and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. You won’t be going out to eat or sharing special meals with family and friends — you’ll have to stick to your HMR meals.
  • The Food These are shelf-stable meals, and while the fact that they don’t need to be refrigerated is convenient, this is likely because they are pumped with preservatives, notes Dr. Young. On the other hand, whole, fresh foods typically provide your body with a larger variety of nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. The fresh taste and varying textures of whole foods also provide more satisfaction during mealtimes. Each entrée has a rather long list of ingredients, and many reviews across the web note that the foods can taste somewhat artificial.
  • May Not Be Suited for First-Time Dieters or Otherwise Healthy Folks Because of the restrictions and type of food offered, “I think that the HMR diet is best reserved for someone who is extremely overweight and at risk for chronic disease, and they feel as if they’ve done everything imaginable to try to lose weight,” says Young.

The Benefits and Risks of the HMR Diet: An Overview

Always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet. That said, here’s what you might expect if you’re starting the HMR program.

What Are the Benefits of the HMR Diet?

  • A Lifestyle Shift One of the key features of HMR is that it is often offered at medical centers where supervisors can monitor your weight loss and ensure that you’re approaching the diet in the safest way possible. For instance, if you are starting to work out for the first time or need to lose weight in preparation for knee or back surgery, the support team at the clinic can advise you on the best way to exercise, says Schafer. “This diet is good for people who have multiple health conditions and [are] concerned about losing weight. That’s what sets it apart from other plans,” he says.
  • The Tailored Approach Weekly meetings allow the clinic to develop a tailored weight loss approach for every person that will meet you where you are in your life now. You can also opt for an at-home program, in which case you will be connected to a health coach for weekly group counseling sessions. The coach will help you increase your daily physical activity, include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, and lower the amount of fat in your diet, according to HMR. You’ll also have access to the HMR app and other online resources. But Schafer prefers the in-person approach because of the access to medical professionals who provide support and accountability.
  • Quick Weight Loss Seeing progress so quickly “is a nice way to get someone motivated and sustain it,” says Young.

Are There Any Risks to Following the HMR Diet?

  • Interference With Existing Conditions and Medications This diet can work for many people, including those with certain preexisting medical conditions, says Schafer. Yet if you fit into this category, you’re better off going to an in-person clinic. That’s because individuals who have preexisting conditions, such as renal kidney disease, gout, or diabetes, will want to make sure that the plan takes these conditions into account.
    They’ll also need to factor in how a new low-calorie diet may impact medications they are taking. For example, if you have kidney disease, a dietitian may have to monitor your plan to be mindful of any restrictions on nutrients, such as potassium and sodium, and fluid intake, Schafer says. Meanwhile, those with gout will need to watch the uric acid levels in the foods they choose.

HMR Diet Reviews

Despite its spot as U.S. News & World Report’s best fast weight loss diet, the HMR program does not fare well in the overall diet category, ranking  26th out of 39. In the commercial diet plan category, it scores at No. 10, behind WW (formerly Weight Watchers), the Mayo Clinic diet, and the Jenny Craig diet. The panel of experts evaluating HMR dinged it for the repetitive nature of the shakes, as well as the strictness and potential to be difficult to follow.There is limited scientific evidence that backs up the weight loss results of the HMR program. One small study found that participants with obesity who took part in an HMR-style diet (eating meal replacements and fruits and vegetables) lost an average of 37.4 pounds over 18 weeks.

Another small study found that a low-cal plan with three shakes, two meal replacements, and five servings of fruits and veggies daily helped dieters with obesity lose an average of 28.6 pounds more than control group participants, who received weight management counseling only.

How Much Do the HMR Diet Foods Cost?

A two-week starter kit in the at-home plan, which includes a variety of HMR shakes, entrées, and hot cereal, as well as optional coaching support, is $167.

 There is a discount for setting up auto deliveries every two weeks.

You also have the option of signing up for HMR’s in-person program, which takes place in a clinic. While prices are approximate, the company says that you can expect to pay the following fees:

  • An initial medical screening starting at $60
  • HMR weight-loss foods for $100 per week
  • The cost of fruits and vegetables, which you purchase on your own
  • Lifestyle classes at $25 per week
  • Medical supervision (cost varies)

What Food Can You Eat on the HMR Diet?

HMR is built around the 3/2/5 plan:

  • 3 HMR shakes per day
  • 2 HMR entrées per day
  • 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day

HMR Diet Food Menu and Sample Shopping List

During the initial weight loss phase of the HMR diet, you do not need to do much food shopping, preparation, or cooking. You will order a specific amount of HMR-approved foods, which will be shipped to your house. The only other foods you will purchase on your own are fruits and vegetables. From those you can choose your favorites from this list:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Cooked Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cooked zucchini
  • Cooked eggplant
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Oranges
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Melon
  • Apples
  • Kiwi
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Mango

A 3-Day Sample Menu on the HMR Diet

All the food in the initial phase will be HMR-approved (see the complete food list below). You’re  encouraged to consume at least three shakes, two entrées, and five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. If you are still hungry, you can eat more HMR food or pump up the volume of your meals with additional vegetables alongside the entrées or extra fruit in your shake.

Day 1

Breakfast Multigrain chocolate shake

Snack 1 cup of fruit

Lunch Chicken enchiladas and 2 cups of vegetables

Snack Chocolate shake blended with 1 cup of fruit

Dinner Vegetable stew with beef

Snack Vanilla shake mixed with 1 cup of frozen fruit

Dessert Pudding

Day 2

Breakfast Vanilla shake

Snack 1 cup of fruit

Lunch Chicken with barbecue sauce and 2 cups of vegetables

Snack Chocolate shake

Dinner Mushroom risotto and 2 cups of vegetables

Snack Vanilla shake mixed with 1 cup of frozen fruit

Dessert Pudding

Day 3

Breakfast Vanilla shake

Snack 1 cup of fruit

Lunch Lentil stew and 2 cups of vegetables

Snack Chocolate shake

Dinner Chicken pasta Parmesan and 2 cups of vegetables

Snack Vanilla shake mixed with 1 cup of frozen fruit

Dessert Pudding

A Complete HMR Diet Food List

HMR food is all packaged and shelf-stable. Here’s what is offered, according to its website:

  • Shakes and pudding mixes
  • Multigrain hot cereal
  • Chicken soup
  • PB2 powdered peanut butter
  • Bars (chocolate peanut butter, double chocolate chip, iced oatmeal, lemon)


  • Beef stroganoff
  • Cheese and basil ravioli
  • Chicken enchiladas
  • Chicken pasta Parmesan
  • Chicken with barbecue sauce
  • Lasagna with meat sauce
  • Lentil stew
  • Mac and cheese
  • Mushroom risotto
  • Pasta fagioli
  • Penne pasta with meatballs
  • Rotini chicken Alfredo
  • Savory chicken
  • Turkey chili with beans
  • Vegetable stew with beef
  • Whole grain medley with chicken

How Much Should You Exercise on the HMR Diet?

HMR encourages moderate exercise, such as walking briskly, swimming, or dancing. You can tailor this to your schedule. For example, you might take a 10- to 20-minute walk after breakfast, lunch, and dinner; or plan a few longer walks every week. The HMR program recommends walking every day during the first week to build the habit. Your goal is to burn 2,000 calories through physical activity weekly.

Remember that this is a lower-calorie diet, and you should talk to your doctor if you are planning vigorous exercise while restricting calories. Also, be sure to increase exercise slowly, especially if you are new to a workout program.

How to Get Started With the HMR Diet

There are two ways you can start with the HMR diet: at home or in person. The at-home plan sends food to your door and connects you with group phone coaching. You can get started with this plan here on the company’s website. The in-person clinic program, which often offers medical guidance, is available in select weight-loss clinics around the nation. Find one near you.

Moving to Phase 2

After you have completed phase 1, the second phase is all about maintenance. This is where an in-person program can be especially helpful, says Schafer. Your coach will learn about your daily routine and work-life balance, and create a transition plan. That said, you can still make the at-home program successful.

After understanding how many calories are right for you to eat based on your lifestyle and exercise habits, Schafer says that learning how to batch-cook meals and snacks is key in the transition. By cooking larger meals and repurposing them throughout the week — essential in keeping food interesting — you’ll create something that is akin to meal replacements. For example, you might cook a pot of quinoa and roast some veggies. That may come together as a grain bowl with chicken one night or become part of a roasted veggie salad with chickpeas. “This is just like [the first phase of] HMR but with homemade food. Once we help people make the connection about how to make this work, they do a lot better on their own,” he says.

HMR Diet Before and After Pictures

You can find success stories on HMR’s website. You’ll be able to see before and after photos, as well as testimonials about both the in-person and at-home programs.

Here are some before and after photos of people who have gone through the HMR program and had success:

Cindy B., 57, from Vancouver, Washington, lost 116 pounds
Kim K., 50, from Boston, lost 50 pounds.Courtesy of HMR Program
Emily N., 43, from Normal, Illinois, lost 127 pounds.Courtesy of HMR Program
Susan H., 43, from Boston, lost 80 pounds.Courtesy of HMR Program

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