What is the Noom diet? What you can eat, how it works and is it safe?

It could be ideal if you're looking for a new way to slim...
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  • Noom diet followers can’t get enough of this easy-to-follow weight-loss method, where a simple app on your smartphone can help you lose weight.

    Unlike popular intermittent fasting diets like the 5:2 and 16 8 diet plans or diets that rely on one food group like the high protein diet to lose the weight, the Noom diet isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ diet. It’s tailored to you based on your body and your lifestyle. We are all different after all and as seen by the diverse array of diets out there – from the Fruitarian Diet to the Sirtfood Diet – there’s certainly many different ways to lose weight.

    The Noom diet is one of the most Googled diets this year and it has been tried and tested by more than 45 million people worldwide. With many claiming impressive weight-loss results. Wondering if it could work for you? Here’s everything you need to know about the Noom diet plan:

    What is the Noom diet and how does it work?

    Even if you’re not sure what the Noom weight loss plan is, you’ve probably seen adverts for it popping up on social media. Accessed by a subscription service via the Noom app, the diet is designed to help you lose weight and keep it off long-term by counting calories and tracking your fitness, food, blood pressure and blood sugar.

    “Noom is an app that aims to help you achieve lifestyle changes surrounding diet and exercise,” says Dr Diana Gall from iMeds. “It isn’t a universal or “one size fits all” diet, but it personalises your calorie budget based on your age, current weight, height, activity levels, and other health and lifestyle factors.”

    Before you sign up, you have to answer some simple questions about your weight and how much you want to lose, and then the computer’s algorithm will work out your weight loss goal and a weekly plan on how to achieve it.

    The app even offers access to a “health coach” so you can ask direct questions, such as what to pick for dinner in a restaurant or how to have a healthy takeaway. This is helpful for when you’re feeling stuck and will also keep you on track.

    Is the Noom diet plan good for weight loss? 

    Seeing as most of us carry our phones everywhere, the Noom diet makes it incredibly easy to track calories and what you’re eating. In fact, you’ll probably only need to spend around ten minutes a day on the app filling in your progress. Forgotten to add something in? Your health coach will prompt you to help you stay on track.

    Keeping a food diary can be incredibly helpful if you’re trying to lose weight,” says Dr Gall. 

    “Being able to see what you’re eating on a daily basis can help you to identify positive and negative eating habits, and can make you more aware of the calories that you consume. You may even be less likely to snack on foods with a high-calorie density as you’ll know that you need to record it, so you might opt for healthier snacks instead.”

    And looking at the #NoomNerds hashtag on social media, results have been impressive, with a study claiming that out of 36,000 Noom users, almost 80% reported weight loss.

    What can you eat on the Noom diet?

    When following the Noom diet, it’s very clear to see what foods you should eat and the ones to avoid.

    “Foods classified as “green” foods are the ones that should make up the most of your diet, and have a low-calorie density, such as fruits, vegetables, fat-free dairy options and some grains,” says Dr Gall. These are often fibrous foods too, so they will keep you fuller for longer, and you may find you’re not reaching for a snack 20 minutes after eating. These pack in less calories so with many green foods, you can eat a high volume. It’s true: you CAN eat a lot and lose weight.

    Green foods include:

    • Spinach
    • Tomatoes
    • Carrots
    • Apples
    • Blueberries
    • Low-fat cheese
    • Almond milk
    • Tofu
    • Sweet potato
    • Peas
    • Brown rice
    • Bananas

    “Yellow foods are ones that should be eaten moderately, such as lean meats and fish,” says Dr Gall. Whilst you don’t want to cut them all out (many providing protein; the building block muscle, skin, hair and nails), it’s a good idea to just watch your portion size.

    Yellow foods include:

    • Beans
    • Couscous
    • Olives
    • Avocado
    • Tuna
    • Houmous
    • Diet drinks
    • White bread
    • White rice
    • Guacamole
    • Salmon

    “Red foods are the ones with a high-calorie density and the least nutritional value, so should only be eaten sparingly,” says Dr Gall. These are typically the processed type foods such as chips, hamburgers and pizza. Often, the red foods have a low water content and low fibre content, meaning they don’t really keep you full for too long and the lack of water can mean more calories in less space. But a word of note with the below list; nuts are incredibly nutritious however they are calorie dense, so watch your portions with these.

    Red foods include:

    • Chips
    • Mayo
    • Juice
    • Cake
    • Chocolate
    • Beer
    • Orange juice
    • Nuts
    • Whole milk
    • Pizza
    • Hamburgers
    • Crisps
    Woman with orange juice

    Orange juice is red on the Noom diet plan. (Credit: Getty)

    How many calories can you eat on Noom?

    The Noom weight loss plan uses an algorithm to work out how many calories you can eat each day. This is based on your age, gender, weight and height as well as your lifestyle.   

    While this ‘calorie budget’ will differ from person to person, it will never be set below 1,200 for women to make sure you meet your nutritional needs while reaching your overall goal of losing weight.

    “Essentially, Noom diet UK combines your calorie budget alongside information on which foods you should aim to eat more of, and which to eat less of,” explains Dr Gall.

    Woman standing at fridge

    Pick ingredients with help from the Noom app. (Credit: Getty)

    Does Noom provide meal plans?

    The Noom diet doesn’t feature meals plans to follow from day to day, so if you’re looking for this type of diet plan, it might not be for you.

    It does, however, have plenty of recipe ideas to pick from which can be helpful when putting together your own meals plans for the week – based on the foods you should be eating.

    The upside of this is that provided you stick to your calorie budget, you have complete freedom to choose what meals to make.

    What is the secret to losing weight using Noom?

    “Noom’s plans are non-restrictive, meaning that no foods are off limits, but it works to reinforce healthy eating habits by using a traffic light system,” says Dr Gall.

    This makes it a diet that has more chance of being successful long term. The less you feel like you’re denying yourself, the more likely you are to stick to it.

    One study found that 60% of Noom diet plan users lost more than 5% of their body weight and follow-up research showed that Noom users had a 6% average weight loss 65 weeks later – showcasing sustainable weight-loss.

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    What are the downsides of the diet?

    How much weight someone can lose is really down to the individual. The Noom app doesn’t shop for you or cook for you – so if you don’t stick to the calorie limit, you won’t lose weight.

    Plus, a lot of nutritional information is lacking on the app as it’s mainly just about calories.

    Sana Khan is a nutritionist and founder of Avicenna Wellbeing explains that, “Noom does not really show macro or micro nutrients”. By macros, this means protein, fats and carbs and micronutrients are vitamins and minerals within foods.

    “The focus is mainly on calories and the calories of the foods are subtracted from a daily total calorie. Calorie counting can be useful to track the food you were eating during the day however calories are not everything. It is so important to consider macro and micronutrients. In clinic I also look at hormone health, bloodwork, medical health status and family history.”

    And that’s not all. “For most people, sticking to a calorie budget can be enough to lose weight, but it’s also important to know how much of each food group you should be consuming,” adds Dr Gall.

    “For example, you may lose more weight by eating more protein and fibre than carbohydrates and fats, but by only counting calories, you might not know the actual nutritional value of the food you consume. The traffic light system that Noom offers is helpful for this, but it would also help you to know the nutritional value of each meal and snack that you record so you know if you need to increase or decrease certain food groups.”

    Users leaving online reviews complain about the “teen speak” and amount of advice given in “quiz form”, which can grate after a while. But the main issues with the Noom diet seems to be with the scripted answers the so-called “personalised” health coach will give you. This is because the advice is from a computer algorithm, not a real person.

    “Technology is fantastic, and some AI can be incredibly advanced, but qualified healthcare professionals still have their place, especially if you’re struggling to lose weight,” says Dr Gall.

    Woman in kitchen cooking

    Noom aims to re-educate people about healthy eating. (Credit: Getty)

    Is the Noom diet safe?

    Because the Noom diet focuses on changing behaviour and classifying foods and their calories through a traffic light system, it is a fairly safe dietary approach, says Clarissa Lenherr, a nutritionist at Bioniq.

    “No major food groups are restricted in the Noom diet and they offer a personalised approach according to your intake, activity levels and gender,” she says. 

    It is also a diet that focuses on educating people about healthy eating. “The importance of high nutrient, energy and protein rich foods and how they can be helpful for weight loss, is highlighted.” 

    However, as there is no way to log nutrient intake on the app, Clarissa worries that users can’t ensure they’re getting all the micronutrients, vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. 

     “There is also some uncertainty about the health coaches they offer on the app – these are not registered nutritionists or dieticians, so their degree of education in nutrition may be limited,” says Clarissa.

    She also raises the issue that there’s no way for the app to monitor or tailor your diet if you have an underlying health condition. 

    Despite this, Clarissa believes the Noom diet is safe to use overall. 

    “It is safe to follow as they suggest, as long as you do not let your BMI fall below a healthy level and you are not struggling with any eating disorders,” she says. 

    And Dr Gall adds that although the app may be enough for some people to reach their goals, others still might need a second opinion. “If you struggle with your weight or have any questions about nutrition or diet, these are best directed towards a healthcare professional – preferably someone with experience in diet and nutrition,” she says.

    How much does the Noom diet cost?

    If you sign up, expect to pay out around £40 per month, for an average of four months, on the Noom diet plan.

    But as with any other online service or app, be careful to check the terms and conditions properly before you sign up. Users regularly leave reviews about how tricky it can be to cancel the subscription and just deleting the app won’t work.

    Is Noom really worth it?

    If you have the money to spare and like a trend, then give it a go. The Noom diet UK has enough satisfied followers to confirm that if you use the app properly it can help you lose weight. It is worth remembering though that this is not your only option for this style of diet.

    “There are free options available,” says Dr Gall. “If you’re struggling on your own, you can always make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss your concerns and difficulties.”

    “You may be referred to a nutritionist or dietician for advice. You can still create a record of your eating habits by using free apps, or just by writing your meals and snacks in a diary. The advantage to this is that you may have regular appointments to check your progress, so your doctor can intervene if they think there could be a problem.”

    Which is better: Weight Watchers or Noom?

    There are no studies comparing Weight Watchers and the Noom diet and their efficacy, so it really comes down to which approach the dieter prefers, explains Clarissa. 

    “Both of these diets are similar in that they rank foods from good to bad – the Noom diet uses a traffic light system whilst Weight Watchers uses smart points,” she says. 

    “The Noom diet offers support for psychological factors that could be at play and might be stopping you from losing weight, for example looking at food habits.” 

    Through the Noom app you also have access to weekly one to one coaching calls with a health coach. “This can help you stay accountable and answer any questions,” says Clarissa.

    “On the other hand, the digital Weight Watchers package benefits from offering a great community aspect, which may be a big draw for some individuals,” she says. 

    This may be particularly helpful for people who like to share their experiences with other individuals who are going through a similar weight loss journey, or those wanting first-hand tips and advice. New research by Weight Watchers found a third of people think they would give up their diet sooner without someone to support them along their journey.

    Sana adds that although she is not an advocate for either diet, she does have a preference for one over the other.

    “If I really had to choose one diet, I would choose Noom. This is because I don’t like to promote “low-fat/high sugar” diets that heavily rely on processed foods. I like to push my clients to cut back on processed foods and refined sugars.”