Senior Health

6/30/2023 | By Kristen N. Smith

Many people are on the hunt for a healthier and more balanced dietary pattern and may turn to books and the internet for the latest information. How can you tell if the nutritional information you’re receiving is going to be helpful instead of harmful? In other words, what are the red flags that can help a person identify a fad diet, to tell if they have stumbled across a healthy and nutritious regimen or yet another trendy, unsubstantiated sham?

For starters, a fad diet is trendy — it makes big promises of dramatic weight loss in a short period of time (think of those diets out there that promise a loss of 5 to 10 pounds in the first week — yes, likely a fad diet). As a general guide, fad diets are unhealthy and are not associated with long-term weight loss or management. Some of them can be damaging to your metabolism and to overall health.

Here are a few red flags to know which diet plans to avoid if you want to steer clear of fad diets:

Ways to identify a fad diet

Rapid weight loss, guaranteed.

The truth? Diets promising weight loss of more than two pounds per week are not associated with long-term results and are linked with weight regain.

fad diet

“It’s so easy!”

The truth? Don’t get caught in the trap of fad diets. If you run into a diet that promises quick and easy results without exercise, run the other direction. Like our grandmothers used to say: ”If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Entire food groups are off limits.

The truth? If the diet calls for total avoidance of whole groups of food, the end result may be an imbalanced dietary intake. If an entire food group is simply missing from one’s diet, so are the nutrients and compounds that are associated with that type of food.

Tips for healthy choices

Instead of choosing a fad diet, keep an eye on the following to help support a more balanced nutritional intake:

  • Read labels and portion foods according to your individual needs.
  • Limit intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, tea, etc.) and boost your intake of water each day.
  • Move your body regularly — find an activity that brings you joy or happiness. Try to get 30 to 60 minutes of movement around four to six times each week.

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Kristen N. Smith

Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, LD, has been the Executive Editor of Environmental Nutrition since 2018. As a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Kristen is experienced in the areas of weight management, health promotion, and eating disorder prevention and treatment. She holds a BS in Dietetics from the University of Kentucky, a PhD in Nutrition Science from the University of Minnesota and is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She has written for peer-reviewed scientific journals, research-focused blogs, and various newsletters. She is also the co-author of The High Protein Vegetarian Cookbook: Hearty Dishes Even Carnivores Will Love.