The marking of a new year often comes with new resolutions and an influx of ads for the latest fad diet to help you reach your goals. However, as a registered dietitian and the founder of nonprofit FareMeals.org, I’m here to tell you how you can still achieve your goals without resorting to temporary diets. In fact, fad diets can potentially do more harm than good in the long run. Fad diets often cut out whole food groups. We have to remember there is a reason these food groups exist — to help you maintain a healthy balanced diet. An allergy or a food intolerance is often the only reason to cut out a whole food group.
It may be hard to spot what is a fad diet versus a healthy diet. Here are some tips on how to spot a fad diet and ways to maintain a healthy diet without cutting out major food groups.
Signs of a Fad Diet:
Most fad diets are popular and kind of fly by night. They may be all the rage for a season or two and them receive less attention — That’s where the word fad comes from. They get a lot of attention from the news and social media. They quickly gain a lot of traction without any fact based support.
Fad diets are often unrealistic as it is hard to fit them into a balanced lifestyle. If you go on one of these diets, you may find yourself going to the extreme to eliminate any “unapproved” foods or even limiting social situations that involve eating. A lot of times, these diets promote under-eating, in addition to eliminating whole food groups as mentioned above.
Fad diets can also be very expensive as they require you to purchase additional specialty foods, ingredients, or kitchen tools. These diets rarely work long term making them inefficient to maintaining your overall goal. You may find success for a short period of time as these diets push extreme methods in order to get a quick result, but in the long run they may do more harm than good.
Examples of Fad Diets
Now that we know how to spot a fad diet, I want to point out a few diets that fall into this category.
Liquid diets that require you to eliminate solid foods is a great example of a fad diet. Liquid diets are not meant for long term sustainability since they restrict you from eating any solid foods. This diet consist of soups, smoothies, protein shakes, and/or juices. A popular liquid diet is a juice cleanse, but juices and smoothies tend to be high in sugar and prevent you from chewing any food, which is an important part of digestion.
A low carb diet often referred to as a Keto or Atkins diet emphasizes high fat and protein intake. It is advertised as a fat burning diet, but eliminating carbs can be dangerous because they are the body’s source of energy.
Veganism is a great practice if it is a lifestyle, but often, it is used as a quick fix diet. Without focusing on the nutritional benefits of food, people can fall into a trap of eliminating too many healthy foods in order to avoid non vegan foods. If you go vegan, avoid eating processed foods, and opt for more whole foods such as grains and beans.
Calorie counting is a common nutrition hack. For example, there are popular consumer diet programs on the marketing that get people hooked by creating points systems. While this kind of calorie counting method, can work for some people, it can also be unsustainable or lead to other issues. Sometimes dieters become hyper focused on calories rather than the ingredient list, which is what actually lets you know if the food has good minerals, and macro/micro nutrients. For example, avocados are high in calories, which may make someone avoid the fruit, but it is full of great nutrients that could be a great addition to someone’s diet.
Maintaining A Healthy Diet:
It is possible to maintain a healthy diet that is affordable and enjoyable. Simply put, we want to make sure we are getting all our macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are proteins, fats, and carbs. Micronutrients are water/fat soluble vitamins and major/trace minerals.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but an easy way to make sure you are getting all your nutrients is by eating the rainbow. Make sure your plate has the three macronutrients and then check to see if your plate is colorful. You can spruce your plate up up by adding colorful fruit and vegetables to round out your meal.
It is important to get every food group in your diet throughout the day. Fad diets can be enticing, but there is a reason we have these major food groups. My nonprofit Fare Meals will be unpacking this topic more this month. Join us for our next free webinar moderated by journalist Erica Cobb on Wednesday January 25th at 7pm EST to learn more about fad diets and how to navigate them. You can register at FareMeals.org/Events
WRITTEN BYArielle Kestenbaum