How To Spot A Fad Diet (And 5 Ways To Develop Healthy Nutrition Habits)
Most of us will want to lose a bit of weight or clean up our diet at some point. But when does healthy eating cross the line into a fad? How can you avoid the quick-fix diets and focus on the fundamentals?
What is a fad diet?
There’s no dictionary definition of fad diets, but we can all identify diet plans that are extreme, rigid, and unsustainable. Some people might argue that Keto is totally sustainable for them, and therefore not a fad. Others might have been doing a big-named “diet club” type diet for years. But there are certain red flags that suggest what you’re about to embark on is a fad diet.
The issue with faddy diets is that they never lead to healthy and long-term results. The best you can hope for is fast weight loss or a couple of dress sizes down. Perfect for a holiday or a wedding, right?
Well, not really. Because the fad diet you did to get that weight off so quickly is likely to have left you with a damaged relationship with food, lots of cravings, and absolutely no forward plan for how to eat in a healthy way.
The red flags of fad diet
Before you embark on a new diet plan, run your eye down this list of warning signs. If it ticks two or more – abort mission (and come up with your own healthy eating plan instead).
1 You have to buy brand-name drinks, juices, supplements, meal replacements, pills or powders (and no alternative will do)
2 It insists you arbitrarily cut out specific foods or ingredients, without explaining why
3 The rules are rigid and inflexible, and don’t take into account individual lifestyles or routines
4 It makes specific promises about amount of weight you will lose (and this is a blanket statement regardless of height, weight, gender, activity level)
5 You have to drastically reduce or completely cut out entire macronutrients
6 It uses pseudo-science to suggest that the diet will change your body chemistry or metabolism
7 It is time bound (21 days, 12 weeks etc) and there is no apparent way to ease back into any other way of eating afterwards
What are the basics of healthy nutrition?
The good news is, nobody ever needs to go on a fad diet. The fundamentals of healthy eating are more than enough for fat loss, body recomp, health, and sports performance.
Eat enough calories – calories are a unit of energy and are the most basic aspect of your food intake. If you want to lose weight, create a small calorie deficit. If you want to maintain weight, eat the same amount as you expend.
Macronutrient balance – ensure your calories come from a good balance of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats). They all have a place in any diet and will support your energy, growth, recovery, satiety and health.
Micronutrients for health – micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found mainly in plant foods.
Include some plant foods – these are an important source of fibre and micronutrients, so make sure you get a decent amount of varied fruits, vegetables, berries, legumes, root vegetables, leafy greens, beans, and wholegrains.
5 steps to healthier eating (no fads!)
If you need to change your diet (to lose some weight or put on muscle) make small and gradual changes. Don’t slash calories or cut out entire foods.
Monitor your energy and digestion – keep some kind of note of your physical and mental wellbeing over time so you can make any necessary adjustments to your diet
Eat foods you enjoy – the best diet in the world won’t be much use if you can’t stick to it. Create your own healthy eating routine by finding foods you enjoy cooking and eating that are mostly healthy.
Find foods that fill you up – experiment with macronutrients, food frequency, and specific food choices that fill you up enough that you’re not too hungry too often.
Remember that the best way to avoid fad diets is to create a way of eating that supports your personal goals in the long term. Do you enjoy it? Does it fit in with your lifestyle? Can you be consistent with it? That’s the definition of a healthy food plan – for you.