5 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet

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A “fad diet” can be defined as “a trendy weight-loss plan that promises dramatic results”. These diets may be effective short term, causing weight loss or improved targeted symptoms. This makes fad diets incredibly appealing for those desiring weight loss or relief from uncomfortable symptoms like digestive issues. 


However, they are not evidence-based, relying on theory or single studies/testimonials to act as their “proof” that the diet works. They also do not stand the test of time. In fact, 95% of diets fail to sustain the outcome that they promised the past 3-5 years after completion of the diet plan. When the promise is weight loss, this means that diet participants gain the weight back within 5 years, and usually end up at a higher weight than when they started.


5 Ways to Spot a Fad Diet:

  1.  Promotes a “quick fix” to weight or a health issue
  2.  Promotes specific foods as superior to others, and promotes/ sells “magic” supplements or food products 
  3.  Excludes or severely restricts entire food groups 
  4.  It has rigid rules that focus on weight loss
  5.  Makes claims based on testimonials or just a single research study 


A much more sustainable approach to improved dietary habits is to adopt sustainable diet-related, health-promoting behaviors that are realistic for your unique schedule and lifestyle. This includes: 

  • Eating enough throughout the day
  • Eating balanced meals and snacks (grain/ starch + protein + fruit/ vegetable) 
  • Enjoying a variety of foods in each food group
  • Choosing nutrient-dense food options when available 


These types of behaviors have proven time and time again through numerous studies to improve health, regardless of how one’s weight is affected.

Written by: Courtney Anderson, MS, RD, LD, CLC

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