The 7-Day Meal Plan to Banish Acne, According to a Nutritionist

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It’s true—what you put in your body has a major effect on your complexion. It’s no wonder greasy pizza and sugar-heavy snacks wreak havoc on skin and cause breakouts: Where’s the health component in those types of foods? Additionally, eating foods heavy in toxins is a key offender in harming your skin.

Don’t get us wrong; we love snacking on junky foods during a Netflix binge just as much as the next person, but we understand we’re not doing ourselves any favors while doing so, especially when we wake up to a big breakout the next morning. As a result, we turned to nutritionist Maria Bella and dietitian Meg Hagar to find out what to eat to stop acne and get glowing skin.

Bella let us in on a few insider dietary tips for clear skin, the most obvious being hydration: She suggests having two to three liters of water every day and incorporating some detoxifying green tea.

Meet the Expert

  • Maria Bella is the founder of Top Balance Nutrition in New York, NY. Her expert advice has been featured in Oprah Magazine and published The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Acid Reflux Diet in 2012.
  • Meg Hagar, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian specializing in acne and nutrition.

Keep scrolling for a seven-day clear-skin diet that will help kick acne to the curb.

Day 1

Breakfast

Egg White Omelet

Eggs are great on their own, thanks to their high protein content, but a healthy dose of veggies is even better. "Adding fiber (a whopping 9g per 1/4 cup) to balance blood sugar, feed beneficial gut bacteria and lower inflammation, zinc (an entire day's worth for women in 1/2 cup serving size) to help lower inflammation and balance immunity AND added antioxidants is a win win win situation for acne prone people," Hagar says.

Ingredients:

1 box liquid egg whites (about 10 egg whites)
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup each chopped onions, mushrooms, spinach, and green peppers
Pinch of cayenne pepper to taste

Lunch

Autumn Soup

Full of beta-carotene, this hearty soup promotes both skin and eye health. Ginger, meanwhile is great for your heart.

Ingredients:

2 cups dairy-free tomato, carrot ginger, or butternut squash soup (Amy’s Light in Sodium Organic Soups are great)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Dinner

Steak

For the steak, you can grill a 5-oz. tuna steak, tilapia, swordfish, salmon, halibut or cod (all are full of protein, though the fish will also add a dose of heart-healthy omegas).

Cauliflower Mash

Cauliflower is high in vitamin C, which helps aid in the growth and repair of tissue throughout the body, as well as with the formation of the important collagen (imperative for skin and nail health).

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese ($5)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Day 2

Breakfast

Pumpkin Parfait

Pumpkin is a "true skin nutrient powerhouse, if you ask me," says Hagar, as it is "a good source of squalene & vitamin E (antioxidants), fiber and zinc (which is anti-inflammatory and may help support the immune system). It pretty much hits on all major pathways that trigger acne—that is, dysregulated immunity, low antioxidants/nutrients and low fiber." Plus, the probiotics in yogurt fight against acne.

Ingredients:

1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 banana
1 tbsp. flaxseed
1 tbsp. cinnamon

Lunch

Mixed Avocado Salad

"Try to eat food in its most natural form," recommends Hagar of a whole foods-focused diet. As avocados are full of healthy fats, they'll especially help with skin. Spinach, meanwhile provides fiber.

Ingredients:

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup spinach, chopped
1/4 avocado, chopped
1 small can of tuna (in water) or 1 hard-boiled egg
Shredded carrot
Shredded beet or any other non-starchy vegetable

Ingredients for Dressing:

Lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil

Dinner

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta With Vegetables

"Not one specific food, but a style of eating because one of the biggest mistakes I see my clients making before they come to me is that they are omitting the right foods- but they still have acne," Hagar says. "The mistake they are making is focusing on only the omission of a few foods instead of following an entire pattern of eating. The ideal eating style to heal acne is unprocessed and high in antioxidants and fiber." Spinach, luckily is full of fiber.

Ingredients:

1 cup spiralized zucchini
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 10-oz. box of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and halved
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 cup dry white wine

Day 3

Breakfast

Goji Berry Smoothie

"The goal here is to limit processed items as much as possible because there are so many additives, chemicals or even toxins from food packaging that can interfere with our internal balance if it becomes too much," Hagar says. "Eventually, when prolonged, this could contribute to acne. Try to eat food in its most natural form."

Ingredients:

1 cup raw spinach
1 cup raw kale
1 small apple
1 cup raspberries
2 tbsp. goji berries
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

Lunch

Herbed Lemon Salmon

Protein and healthy fat help reduce inflammation and keep skin well-moisturized. Bella urges the incorporatation of lean protein and fiber into every meal and snack, as well as an overall reduction in daily sugar and dairy intake—two food groups that are proven acne aggravators.

Ingredients:

1 salmon fillet
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1//2 lemon cut into slices

Dinner

Easy Tuna Bowl

Quinoa is rich in Vitamin B, which has a brightening effect on the skin. Riboflavin, meanwhile, gives elasticity to the skin.

Ingredients:

1 can of tuna in water, drained
1 cup broccoli
1 cup quinoa
2 tsp. olive oil

Day 4

Breakfast

Cantaloupe Bowl

The high water content in cantaloupe and other melons helps to keep the skin well-hydrated. Plus, the fruit is packed with nutrients like vitamins A, B and C, which keep things youthful and supple.

Ingredients:

1/2 cantaloupe with seeds scooped
1 cup of unsweetened soy yogurt
1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
1 tsp. cinnamon

Lunch

Mixed Bean Salad

Anthocyanin (and ingredient found in beans) has several anti-aging properties. Bella suggests eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, E, and D to help clear your skin.

Ingredients:

1 can canned cannellini and kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup each of spring onions, parsley, bell peppers
1 tbsp. lemon juice or mustard
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 butter lettuce wraps

Dinner

Seared Chicken With Avocado and Cucumber Salad

This light and protein-packed salad has omega fatty acids and lots of vitamins from the heavy dose of citrus, all of which help the skin stay healthy and moisturized.

Ingredients:

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 avocado, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. lime juice

Day 5

Breakfast

2 large boiled eggs
1 fruit of your choice

Lunch

Tomato Cucumber Salad

Keeping ingredients whole helps preserve their nutrient content.

Ingredients:

1 cup sliced tomatoes
1 chopped cucumber
1/4 sliced white onion
1 sliced green bell pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
Pinch of parsley

Dinner

Burger

Burgers aren't typically thought of as a health food but, when simply sauteed and wrapped in lettuce, you can reap the benefits of protein, a building block of the hair, skin, and nails.

Ingredients:

1 ground beef patty, 100% veggie burger, or salmon burger
2 large leaves of iceberg lettuce (or enough to cover your burger)

Directions:

Heat the burger in a frying pan until cooked to your desired doneness. Remove from heat and wrap with iceberg lettuce.

Turnip Fries

Thanks to their high vitamin A content, turnips help the body regulate sebum (keeping skin clear), and help bodily tissues grow (including the skin and hair).

Ingredients:

4 turnips, trimmed and peeled
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder

Day 6

Breakfast

Mediterranean Breakfast

Cucumbers can do more than just de-puff eyes. When eaten, they provide the body with beta-carotene, helping fight free radicals and heal the skin from the inside, out.

Ingredients

2 hard-boiled or poached eggs
1/2 avocado, diced
1 cup cucumber, diced
1 cup tomato, diced
Parsley to taste

Directions:

Cook the eggs either hard-boiled or poached and serve with avocado, cucumber, tomato, and parsley.

Lunch

Tuna Salad Zucchini Boats

Tuna contains both the vitamin B complex and elastin, which works to keep the skin tight and smooth.

Ingredients

1 zucchini, halved and centers scooped out
2 cans of tuna in water
2 tbsp. hummus
1 cup each chopped carrot, celery, and white onion

Dinner

Spaghetti Squash With Chicken, Mushrooms, and Spinach

Beta-glucan (found in the cell walls of some mushrooms) is a true natural wonder, as it can both fight inflammation (which causes breakouts, among other things) and protect from future damage.

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup white mushrooms
1 cup fresh spinach

Day 7

Breakfast

Oats

Eat this hearty bowl with a side of green tea to really reap the benefits. "The component in this magical tea for acne prone people has been shown to actually help your body detox better," says Hagar. "This same component is also super anti-inflammatory and can really help with those stubborn cystic breakouts. The other reason I love green tea for acne so much is that it's packed full of antioxidants AND it may even help with hormonal acne by blocking the enzyme that converts hormonal metabolites to testosterone."

Ingredients:
1 cup dry oatmeal
2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk
1/2 cup berries
6 walnuts, halved
Pinch of cinnamon to taste

Lunch

Simple Grilled Chicken Salad

Keeping a diet light in starchy foods (like pasta and potatoes) is good for your skin, as eating refined carbohydrates may increase insulin levels and contribute to the development of breakouts.

Ingredients:

2 cups mixed greens
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
Your choice of non-starchy vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.)
1 tbsp. lemon
2 tbsp. olive oil

Dinner

Baked Salmon and Asparagus

By now, you know that salmon is a skin superfood. But asparagus is great, too, as its vitamin A content helps reduce the production of sebum, therefore preventing acne breakouts due to oily skin.

Ingredients:

4-oz. salmon fillet
1 roasted asparagus
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup quinoa

Snacks

Bella recommends two snacks per day, one after breakfast and one before or after dinner. Here are some of her favorite choices:

  • 6 oz. unsweetened soy yogurt or 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (or other fruit)
  • 10 raw almonds and 2 dried apricots or whole fruit of choice
  • 1 banana and 1 tbsp. peanut or almond butter
  • Sliced banana rolled in unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 clementines and 1 hard-boiled egg
  • Celery stalks topped with 1 tbsp. peanut butter + 10 raisins
  • 1/2 cup carrots and cucumber with 1/4 cup hummus
Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sińska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgarisPostepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016;33(2):81-86. doi:10.5114/ada.2016.59146

  2. Kober MM, Bowe WP. The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoagingInt J Womens Dermatol. 2015;1(2):85-89. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2015.02.001

  3. Veith WB, Silverberg NB. The association of acne vulgaris with dietCutis. 2011;88(2):84-91.

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