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What are fad diets?

Fad diets are fashionable diets that generally do not result in long-term weight loss and at times make unproven claims about health. Fad diets can be dangerous to your health if undertaken for a long duration as they typically eliminate many important food groups and nutrients from your diet. Common fad diets include the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet and the Cabbage Soup Diet.

What are examples of fad diets?

Fad diets come and go with trends. In the late 1900’s, the low-fat diet was very popular, but now in the 2000’s there has been a switch towards the popular high-fat diet. Some examples of fad diets include the Paleo Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Alkaline Diet, the Raw Food Diet, and many others. 

How to tell if I am following a fad diet?

If the diet sounds too good to be true and promises a quick fix, such as rapid weight loss, it is likely considered a fad diet. Fad diets often eliminate entire food groups, such as grains or fruits. These diets often draw results from only one scientific study that may have been tested on a small group of people, and conclude simple results from more complicated studies. 

What’s an alternative to fad diets?

With how commonly fad diets are discussed in the media, it might seem like the only option for weight loss is to make drastic changes and to follow a fad diet. Although initial weight loss may be experienced with fad diets, it is typically challenging to maintain. Setting realistic goals with a focus on overall health is an alternative to fad diets. Even small shifts to eating patterns and exercise habits can help with weight loss. When it comes to dieting, it is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. If a fad diet worked for a friend, family member, or coworker, that does not mean it will necessarily be the best approach for you.

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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