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Red Flags of Fad Diets

One constant in nutrition is fad diets. We always seem to hear about another diet that promises to be the newest, simplest, and best way to lose weight, feel better, and so on. Sometimes, these “new” diets are revamped old diets (think Caveman diet and Paleo diet). What’s the advice of someone who has studied nutrition in great depth? Read on!

Avoid fad diets. Often, fad diets promise fast results with little-no effort. They may try to sell you something. Sometimes they cut out entire food groups. If what is being promoted is not a fad diet and is instead a healthy lifestyle change, results may not be quick, you won’t be pressured to buy a pill/shake/meal, and all food groups will be encouraged. Let’s explore some of these ideas in more detail.

Fast results with minimal effort may sound promising, but often there is a catch. The amount of weight you can expect to lose safely is 1-2 pounds per week. If a diet promises that you will lose more than 1-2 pounds per week, likely what you’ll lose most is fluid. It is important to keep enough fluid in your body to prevent dehydration, which can lead to a serious medical emergency.

You will often hear a sales pitch with fad diets. If a diet plan is selling you something, think about the primary motivator. The truth is that you do not have to buy special foods, shakes, or pills to lose weight and/or feel better. Eating a healthful, balanced diet that includes all food groups, as well as controlling your portions, is your best bet.

Fad diets often exclude food groups. Food groups exist for a reason. Each food group provides you with certain nutrients that are not found (in large amounts) in other food groups. The current USDA food groups include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, dairy, and oils. It is ideal to include a variety of foods from each of these groups because even within a food group, each food has a different amount of specific vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. By eliminating a food group you will not be consuming all the nutrients your body needs. If you want more information about food groups, visit www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate and click on the food groups listed on the left.

The adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” applies to fad diets, too. Don’t be dazzled by promises of spectacular results. Getting healthy takes effort and commitment, but it is worth it in the end. Think of small steps you can take to include more of a food group you don’t eat much of, or find a way to fit extra activity into your daily life. You can do it!

Lynn Grant R.D., L.D., CDE is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She works at Capital Region Medical Center and provides diabetes education and outpatient nutrition counseling by appointment.