Spotting Fad Diets: How to be a Savvy Consumer

By Escali in Healthy Living

By Melissa Herrmann Dierks RD, LDN, CDE

melissa-herrmann-dierks-RD-LDN-CDE-registered-dietitianWeight loss and long term weight management are best achieved by following a meal plan with a focus on balance, variety, and moderation.  Labeling individual foods or beverages as “good” or “bad” will not help you to reach your goal, and neither will eliminating favorites from your diet.  January always brings new fad diets, pills, potions, shakes, fasts, shots, and exercise regimens to the public.  They all make promises for a quick and easy weight loss.  Here are some tips on how to spot a fad, and where to find some helpful information.

* If a “diet” eliminates any entire food group or nutrient, such as dairy, fruit, or carbohydrate, it is a fad.  When you eliminate an entire food group, you also eliminate specific nutrients that food group provides, which can lead to deficiency.

* Plans that require consumers to purchase their foods, shakes, or snack bars are usually not sustainable.  Are you going to limit yourself to these foods the rest of your life?  Look for a plan that uses “regular” food that you can get at the grocery store or a standard restaurant.

* Many people, out of desperation, seek out weight loss “shot” programs administered by doctor’s offices.  These hormone shots are accompanied by a very low calorie diet, usually about 500 calories/day.  These shots are not recommended by endocrinologists.  The 500 calorie per day diet is not one that most people can follow for very long, and it does not provide all of the nutrition that you need.

* Walk in to any health food or vitamin store, and you will find many shakes, pills, bars, and powders promising to help you lose weight.  One thing they tend to push is “high protein” products.  Here in the US, we don’t see protein deficiency in the average American, in fact most Americans consume 2-3 times the protein that they need each day.  So why all of a sudden do we need more?  The store personnel are not licensed to act as nutrition experts, take their recommendations with that in mind.

* A weight management plan or class does not need to be expensive.  If you need a payment plan to afford the program, it may not be for you.

So where can a person turn for help with weight loss guidance based on actual research?

* Weight Watcher’s is an affordable program that uses “regular” food.  Although the program offers their branded foods and snack bars, you are not required to use them.

* Find a dietitian at or call the toll free number on the back of your insurance card to find a dietitian near you that is contracted with your plan.  A Registered Dietitian can design a meal plan that takes your health issues, lifestyle, food preferences, weight history, etc into consideration.

* Check with your local hospital, parks and recreation department, YMCA, church, library, or community center to inquire about weight loss programs they may offer.  Make sure that the person providing the program is a Registered Dietitian or Licensed Nutritionist based on your states requirements.

* Online programs such as or can help you track your intake and provide calorie information.

Good luck and good eating!

Melissa Herrmann Dierks is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Nutritionist, and Certified Diabetes Educator.  For more information please visit her website.

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Disclaimer:  The Escali Blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. more

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