What can I eat on total diet replacement (TDR)?

If you’ve just started on a total diet replacement (TDR) programme (or perhaps you’re about to start!), you likely have lots of questions about what you can and cannot eat as part of this new, temporary nutritional substitution programme. And you’re not alone! For many, this will be the first time undertaking a TDR programme, and we’re here to help make things easy for you.


First, a quick recap on total diet replacement. A TDR diet is one in which you switch away from normal food entirely, onto a nutritionally-complete diet of powdered meals. People typically consume four sachets per day, each containing approximately 200 kcal. Whilst some programmes recommend a lower calorie intake (closer to 600 kcal), there is no evidence that this actually works any better, so on the Habitual programme you will have approximately 800 kcal per day.


The general rule of thumb is therefore that, beyond the sachets, you should not eat anything that contains calories whilst on total diet replacement.


This isn’t quite as simple as it may seem (which works in your favour, as there are a number of additional flavourings and drinks you are still allowed).


Here is a list of what you can have whilst on TDR 🥳:

  • Tea & coffee (a splash of lowfat milk is OK)
  • Herbal tea
  • Tabasco or other zero-calorie hot sauces
  • Dried or fresh herbs, including small amounts of garlic (can be added to savoury sachets)
  • Cinnamon (some people like this in their shakes)
  • Mint leaves (this can add a nice flavour to vanilla or chocolate shakes)
  • Zero-calorie sauces such as Skinny Syrup
  • Diet soda (though too much of this may cause stomach issues)
  • Sparkling water
  • Flavoured, zero-calorie water
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Fibre supplements or drinks such as Fybogel (whilst these may contain a small amount of calories—typically around 5 kcal per sachet—they can be helpful in treating bowel issues that come along with TDR and are thus acceptable on the programme)

Whilst you should avoid most other foods on TDR, here are a few things that are not allowed which we’ve received questions about in the past 🙅‍♀️:

  • Gum with added sugar: There are some gums with sugar added, so make sure to check the ingredients before you buy
  • Celery/cucumbers/tomatoes: While these foods are low calorie, we generally recommend avoiding any non-TDR foods beyond zero-calorie drinks and flavourings. In fact, people tell us that it’s easier to simply stick to a routine of 4 shakes/soups per day when they don’t allow themselves cheats like this, which can open up a slippery slope towards other foods.
  • Low-fat yoghurt: Keep in mind that low-fat does not mean low-calorie. Whilst low-calorie, yoghurt does still contain calories and therefore isn’t part of a TDR diet.
  • Fruits: Although fruits are generally a part of a healthy diet, they are quite high in naturally occurring sugars (and therefore calories!), and are thus not permitted on TDR.
  • Sweetened milks: Whilst you can make up your shakes with skimmed milk or unsweetened milk alternatives, it’s important to check the label to make sure there are no added sugars (particularly if you’re buying a milk alternative). “Plain” almond milks, for example, often contain a natural sweetener such as apple concentrate. Not only do sweeteners add additional calories; They can also be dangerous to your blood sugar levels which would otherwise be controlled whilst adhering to TDR.
  • Juices or other calorie-containing drinks: Again, even juices without added sweeteners can contain a high amount of natural sugars. This includes aloe juice and other drinks you wouldn’t necessarily think or as “fruity”.
  • Natural sweeteners such as honey or agave