3 warning signs that the diet you want to try is too good to be true

Some diets aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

From the cranberry juice (“lose 25 pounds in days!”) craze to the lemon “detox cleanse,” dozens of weight-loss schemes have boomed and, eventually, busted.

Other diets have stuck around, from the gluten-free plan to the more recent alkaline diet.

Instead of making yourself a guinea pig for every new eating fad, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to tell which diets were phony before trying them out?

Registered dietitian and nutritionist Andy Bellatti recently gave us three pointers to spot a faulty fad diet in minutes:

1. It emphasizes powders, pills, or both.


'Powders and pills are red flag number one,' Bellatti told Business Insider.

The problem with these concoctions, he says, is that they've taken part of something that was once a whole food, like a fruit or a vegetable, then separated and processed it for one ingredient. That's OK for things like cocoa powder, which does have nutrients, but it shouldn't make up the bulk of your eating regimen.

'When something is a powder, you're probably using what, a teaspoon or tablespoon at most? And you have to wonder how much that can really do. Versus a cup of broccoli or a quarter cup of cashews. That’s something significant,' says Bellatti.

Instead: Go for whole food as much as possible.

Phil Walter/Getty Image

Writer Michael Pollan said it best: 'Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.'

Be sure to incorporate fresh vegetables, like broccoli, bell peppers, and brussels sprouts, into any eating plan. These crunchy, colourful foods -- which the CDC actually calls 'powerhouse foods' -- are a great source of key vitamins and nutrients. They're also high in fibre, which helps keep you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal.

2. Its purported 'results' are explained in very vague terms.

If the label promises to do things like 'Harmonize your aura,' chances are it won't do much of anything at all.

One problem with putting slogans like these on health products, says Bellatti, is that they're 'completely subjective. They can't be tested.' In other words, there's no way of knowing whether a product that claims to 'bring you in line with your true self' is really doing so.

And as Bellatti points out, 'The person whose word you're taking is the person who's profiting from this.'

Instead: Eat things with specific benefits.


Most health guidelines are based around specific, measurable benefits, from drinking a certain amount of water each day (end goal: stay hydrated) to eating a specified amount of protein (end goal: maintain and build muscles).

Most of these rules are specific to you, however, because they depend on other lifestyle factors like your height, weight, gender, and the amount of exercise you get each day. Other guidelines are more applicable to everyone, like eating enough fibre to keep your digestive system running smoothly and getting enough calcium to protect your bones.

3. It doesn't align with common sense principles.


If 'cleaning out your system' by drinking a mixture of lemon juice and maple syrup sounds too easy to be true, it probably is. The truth is, you never need to detox.


Because our bodies do it for us. While our kidneys filter our blood and remove any waste from our diet, our liver processes medications and detoxifies any chemicals we ingest. Paired together, these organs make our bodies natural cleansing powerhouses.

Similarly, any diet plan that claims it can 'give you glowing skin in 24 hours' or 'make you feel like a new person' is probably being a bit overzealous.

Instead: Check out what real-life healthy people are doing, and model their lifestyle.


You don't necessarily need to subscribe to a specific meal plan or banish certain foods from your diet to start feeling and looking better. For starters, Bellatti suggests simply reaching out to people close to you who are living the lifestyle you want.

'What I would do if I wanted to get healthier is I would look at my friends and family members who are living the life I want to have and I'd say, 'what are they doing?'' says Bellatti.

'The people in your life who are the healthiest are probably doing practical things: not drinking much soda, eating very little fast food, getting enough fibre in their diet.'

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