Top 6 Weight Loss Fads Busted by Dietitians

Sharon Palmer

It seems every time you turn around, a new trick for quick weight loss is being plugged, from doing a tea cleanse or sipping bone broth to shunning carbs in your diet. These fad diets have one thing in common: they don’t work over the long haul. That’s because these diet fads are typically so restrictive that you simply can’t wait to go “off” of them, which can lead to weight regain and poor eating behaviors later on. In addition, many fad diets restrict important nutrients from your diet. That’s why I asked some of my favorite dietitians to weigh in (pun intended!) with their top fad diets they are just dying to bust. Listen up, and remember this—the best way to lose weight is with a sustainable healthy eating pattern that is also good for optimal health over the long term.

Healthy diets are sustainable and include a range of foods, like those found in this Nourish Lentil Bowl.

Top 6 Weight Loss Fads Busted by Dietitians

1. Keto Diets. “For me, it’s keto! Everyone thinks it’s new and different and I think to myself, It’s just Atkins all over again!” says Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, from SoundBites Nutrition.

“The keto diet is frustrating for me, because many kids with severe seizures are helped with the ketogenic diet, and I feel that it is being used for weight loss now. But that’s not quite the same purpose, and it causes people to assume things about the diet. They could really rely on it for their quality of life, when that’s not the case,” says Amy Reed, RDN, of Amy Reed Nutrition

2. Intermittent Fasting. “Have you noticed that most of the proponents for intermittent fasting are men? Research shows that fasting affects women differently than men. Additionally, many women have a history of diet and restriction, and restricting energy slows an already slow metabolism,” says Melissa Groves, RDN, owner of Avocado Grove Nutrition & Wellness.

“Unfortunately, many athletes, both strength and endurance, are trying intermittent fasting, which has the potentially to compromise their muscle mass, and more importantly, immune system and hydration status. While some research shows overnight fasts may be okay, it’s the version of going entire days without food that has me most worried,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN

Spicy Hummus Veggie Tacos

3.   Low Carb. “I worry about low-carb diets for the sake of gut health, and other reasons. Beneficial bacteria in the colon feed on resistant starch found in foods such as cooked and cooled beans, potatoes, and pasta, yet these are often the first foods to go when people diet. What’s ironic is that the very foods that people omit may be the ones that help them lose weight and support overall health,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, owner of Better is the New Perfect.

As a pediatric dietitian, I see numerous kids and their families, and more and more of the kids are apologizing, as I ask them questions about the foods they like, such as crackers and bread. I feel that the kids hear their parents talk about how carbs are bad, and it translates to ‘I am bad because I eat carbs.’ I am sometimes afraid that with all of the diets, we are influencing a generation to feel they are defined by how and what they eat,” says Amy Reed, RDN, of Amy Reed Nutrition.

Read more about healthful carbs here.

Many fad diets recommend herbal cleanses and teas. Sure, herbs and spice blends are healthful, but it’s important to eat a balanced diet and not to rely on them for “cleansing”.

4. Cleansing. “They are unnecessary. And a huge red flag is when you need to purchase a specific product to perform the cleanse. Chiropractors seem to be the ones most likely to dispense this type of advice and accompanying products, and I hate to see unsuspecting, hopeful people waste their money on this. Their time and money are better spent on building a respect for their bodies, since they are highly specialized amazing, natural machines capable of self-cleaning, through the GI Tract and liver, when we eat mostly real foods and minimal processed foods,” says Diane Norwood, MS, RD, CDE of The Wandering RD.

Look for balanced meals that aren’t overly restrictive, such as these   Herbed Lentil Patties with Mushroom Sauce,   which can be served with potatoes or whole grains. 

5. Combining Popular Diets. “What is scaring me most now is intermittent fasting with keto. So calorically and nutrient restrictive. Any plan that persuades you against eating breakfast, apples, and beans I will never understand!” says Lori Kupferman MS, LDN, RD, CEDRD, CPT, owner of May I Health You, LLC.

Instant Pot Vegetable Barley Soup

6. Gluten-Free Diet. “We all know that a gluten-free diet is only beneficial for those who have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Foods with gluten have many essential vitamins and minerals that our body needs every day. Limiting gluten in your diet when not necessary will have a negative impact on your life, body, and mind,” says Jaymar Saniatan, RD of Nutrition Phitness.

For other blogs on healthy weight loss, check out these:

7 Vegan and Vegetarian Weight Loss Tips & Recipes
11 Science-Based Weight Loss Tips
Why Is It Hard to Lose Weight As I Age?

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