Thursday, August 29, 2013
When I came across the vintage ad above for the diet drink Metrecal, I was both repulsed and fascinated by it. It looks like Pepto-Bismol gurgling (urrrgh!) in a bowl, but is actually the strawberry flavor of the product. It's ludicrous of the advertisers to think that consumers were going to opt for a can of Metrecal after they mention steak and potatoes in the ad…were they serious???

Yet, for several years, Metrecal enjoyed much success on store shelves and is often credited with kicking off the liquid diet phase of the 1960s. It was inspired by a concoction given to invalids and sick people (never a good thing) and originally came in a powder form made of skim milk, soybean flour, corn oil and vitamins and minerals that was mixed with water. A couple of years later, Metrecal (the name was a combination of "metric" and "calories") started arriving on store shelves in cans of various flavors. 

Mead Johnson, the company that manufactured the product, advised consumers to drink four servings of Metrecal daily to lose and maintain weight. At a mere 225 calories per can, that means anyone on the Metrecal diet was subsiding on only 900 calories a day. Mead Johnson claimed that the hunger pains went away after a few days. Metrecal cookies, clam chowder (noooo!) and tuna with noodles were eventually added to the product line, despite the fact that many dieters reported that the liquid flavors were disgusting. In 1960, Time magazine published an article on the Metrecal craze and noted that some people added liquor to their Metrecal to make it more palatable.

Metrecal inspired many competitors (such as Carnation with its instant breakfast drink) to jump on the liquid diet fad, but by the mid-60s it had already started to lose its luster. People were finally realizing that man could not live on liquid nourishment alone In the late 70s, Metrecal and other products were discontinued after the Food and Drug Administration declared them dangerous due to 59 reported deaths connected to liquid protein products. (Today we have Slim Fast, but that program at least recommends supplementing their products with actual solid meals.)

Here's a look at some Metrecal TV commercials from back in the day. I'd have to say that freezing the product to turn it into ice cream actually doesn't look so bad...but I still wouldn't try it. 


  1. omg strawberry liquid steak? ewww. nope, can't beat the real thing. And what's the deal with being ultra skinny back then?

  2. I wonder why they chose such an unappealing colour? What a scary product!

  3. That is FOUL. On a more positive note, I love your blog header!

  4. My mother used this stuff for a while when I was small. No strawberry color that I can remember -- it came in vanilla and chocolate, both of which she liked.

  5. For some crazy reason I found myself flashing back on the 'Metrecal for Lunch Bunch' we saw advertised as kids growing up and wondered what info there might be about it on the web now. Plenty!

  6. It was probably an hour ago that I was reading a comment on Reddit in which the product "Metrecal" was mentioned...which sparked a memory of Dean Martin mentioning it on a live album of him in Lake Tahoe in 1962...which led me to Google the product (I'd only heard the name and assumed it was some sort of liquor)...which led me through a series of various websites and blogs...of which one linked to the above article you wrote. I'm glad it did, because this website is a Retro Wonderland! From a comment you made in another post, I found that you lived through the 1980s, too. Those were glorious days. Aside from being impossibly beautiful, you appear to be in your mid-30s, based on your "About Me" photo. What's your secret? I hope this note finds you well.


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