What are fad diets?

Angela Lemond
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fad diets are trendy ways that people eat to lose weight. They usually involve the elimination or drastic reduction of specific foods with the promise of quick weight loss and little to no need to exercise. In today's day and age with obesity rates so high, it is understandable that fad diets are so tempting to people. Unfortunately, weight loss is rarely sustained. In fact, many people not only regain the weight but gain even more than when they had started.

Instead, commit to making small changes over time that will yield a slow, progressive weight loss. Eat plenty of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. Make at least half of your grains whole, and choose extra lean meats and poultry in reasonable portion sizes. Choose low-fat milk dairy and take in a moderate amount of healthy fats that are found in fatty fish, nuts, and both vegetable and olive oils. Balance your energy in (food) with regular energy out (exercise). Aim to get in at least 30-45 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular activity in most days, and challenge your muscles regularly to minimize losses that occur with age. This is the best long term approach to weight management.

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fad diets are generally based on popularity or food trends, and not scientific research. Fad diets pose problems; some are not effective, while others can lead to health problems. If you have some weight to lose, it’s important to consider all the benefits and drawbacks of a diet before committing to it. Some popular fad diets, such as the Cabbage Soup diet, can work for a short time. The longer-term problem that many people encounter when adopting these diets is that they are difficult to stay on. If you follow the diet exactly, then you will lose weight. But most fad diets are so restrictive that the dieter has trouble staying on the diet for longer periods of time.

Heather R. Mangieri
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fad diets are diets or programs that have been created and marketed for weight loss or promoted as a way to feel better or cleanse the system. They are generally restrictive eating plans that offer magical claims and false promises, promise rapid weight loss and omit essential nutrients. Fad diets will often recommend eliminating or severely restricting certain food groups, such as carbohydrates or dairy or they will encourage followers not to eat certain foods at the same time.

Losing weight and keeping weight off requires a healthy diet foundation including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low fat dairy and a little healthy fat. Having a healthy foundation, that is calorie controlled, allows us to enjoy our favorite treat on occasion without worrying about gaining weight.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fad diets are usually nutrition, or non-nutrition programs that tend to claim rapid health results with little scientific merit. Fad diets tend to eliminate whole food groups, or offer some other type of extreme touting rapid weight loss, or significantly improved health in very little time or with little effort... Sound too good to be true? It usually is... Most fad diets are not based on science, and can be dangerous. Examples of fad diets include the Atkins diet (eliminating all carbohydrates), the maple syrup diet, and the cabbage soup diet. None of the programs provide lasting weight loss, and may even lead to additional weight gain when you go "off “of them. A sound diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and little added sugars or saturated fats.  

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fad diets are truly what they state- a Fad- they come as quickly as they go and do not support healthy habits and long term weight loss.

Here is a great way to identify a fad diet:

Here are some tips on fad diets and why they should be avoided:

Fad diets, as their name implies, are short-term quick fixes that actually set many dieters up for weight-loss failure. Fad diets often lack variety, omit essential nutrients needed for health and label certain foods as bad or foods to avoid. Some fad diets attribute almost magical qualities to certain foods. Avoid getting fooled by the promises of fad diets by contacting a registered dietitian.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.