Fad Diets vs. Healthy Behaviors

Key Facts
  • Weight loss with diets is usually temporary.
  • Fad diets can be harmful to your body.
  • The best way to lose weight sustainably is by making small changes that feel good to you
  • Young men's version of this guide

veggie diet

Fad diets are marketed as quick ways to lose weight. The most popular fads tend to change from year to year, but the promises they make don’t. Diets such as the ketogenic diet, the whole 30, the paleo diet, juice cleanses and even intermittent fasting are all fads.

Do fad diets work?

Some people will lose weight while following a fad diet, but most fad diets are impossible to stick to for long. This means that once you stop following the diet, you’ll probably gain back the weight you lost. Many people actually gain back more weight than they started with before they went on the diet.

Fad diets don’t usually provide enough vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium and vitamin D. Iron is important for red cells in your blood and calcium and vitamin D are important for healthy bones.

How can you spot a fad diet?

You can spot a fad diet by asking yourself a few simple questions:

  • Does this diet make some foods completely off-limits?
  • Does this diet promise that I will lose an unrealistic amount of weight in a short amount of time? For example: “ten pounds in one week”.
  • Does the diet refer to foods as “good” or “bad”?
  • Do I have to buy certain foods for this diet at a special store?
  • Does the diet claim I can lose weight without exercising?
  • Is this plan temporary?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve probably spotted a fad diet. Advertising that promotes these diets is often very convincing. These ads may draw you in and make you believe that it’s super easy to follow the diet and lose weight. Don’t be fooled. This type of weight loss plan is not  healthy.

Should I take diet pills or supplements that promise weight loss?

It’s not safe for teenagers to take “diet pills.” Over the counter supplements are especially not safe for weight loss because they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is the government organization that makes sure that the food we eat and the medicine we take is safe. However, supplements are not regulated so they could contain harmful ingredients that are not listed on the label.

Are there healthier ways to manage weight?

Yes! We stay healthy by having positive health behaviors. This includes finding meaningful and fun movement, eating a varied diet, drinking water, getting enough sleep and having a healthy relationship with our body.

For ways to increase the variety in your diet try these changes:

  • Stay hydrated.  Water and seltzer can be a great way to keep you hydrated throughout the day.
  • Eat breakfastStarting your day with a nutritious meal will prevent you from getting too hungry during the day and will give you energy to think at school.
  • Pack a snackEating snacks that are made up of a protein (nuts, cheese, meat) with a carbohydrate (whole-grain crackers, fruit, vegetables) can be helpful in fueling the body for longer.
  • Eat more whole grains. Choose whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and high-fiber cereals.
  • Choose lean proteins. Chicken, turkey, fish and vegetarian sources of protein, such as beans, tofu, nuts and seeds are lower in saturated fat than other sources of protein like meat and cheese.
  • Eat more servings of fruit and/or vegetables. Aim to include one or both at meals and snacks.
  • Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cuesWe are often taught to follow external cues around food but it’s actually more important to check in with yourself internally. Do you feel hungry? Do you feel full? Are you satisfied?

Simple ways to fit joyful movement into your day include:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk instead of taking the bus
  • Join a sports team or a dance team
  • Go for a walk with your family or friends
  • Dance to music
  • Join a gym
  • Play outside with your friends

Is there a way to tell if a diet is healthy?

Chances are, if something is referred to as a “diet” then it’s not a good idea to follow it. An easy way to make sure that any eating plan is healthy and right for you, is to ensure that it includes the following:

  • A balance of healthy foods from all food groups (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, dairy, and healthy dietary fats)
  • Regular joyful movement
  • Eating to the point of feeling comfortably full and satisfied.
  • Consistent meals and snacks
  • Some of your favorite foods
  • Flexibility to fit your schedule
  • Foods you can find in restaurants or at social events
Remember to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. Follow your hunger and fullness cues and eat fruits and vegetables from all the colors of the rainbow to get important nutrients for your body. Eat things you enjoy! Try to find movement that feels good. If you have questions about whether or not a diet is healthy, talk with your health care provider who might refer you to see a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian is a specialist on the topic of nutrition and can help you figure out an eating plan that is healthy, balanced, and appealing to you.