Fad Diets for Weight Loss Have Long History

Fad Diets for Weight Loss Have a Long History


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

As a registered dietitian I have spent as much time battling wacky weight loss diets as my clients have spent trying to lose weight. Sure, it would be great if you could “lose weight while you sleep” as one fad diet promised, but that’s just not possible. It’s just another empty promise that can do more harm than good in the end.

How can you tell if a fad diet is bad for you? Any diet that puts your health in jeopardy for the sake of losing weight is not good. And sometimes you can tell just by the name!

In honor of National Nutrition Month this March, I’d like to expose some of the fad diets from the past so you won’t be as likely to fall for them in the future. It’s a perfect fit with this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month, Get Your Plate in Shape. The theme combines the equally important messages to balance your food choices and be physically active to get your plate – and your body – into good shape.

Questions about how to get in shape have been around for as long as there have been scales and mirrors! Unfortunately, many of the answers have come in the form of fad diets and wacky weight loss gimmicks. See how many you recognize from this Fad Diet Timeline adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that spans over 200 years, and use it as a reminder that while fad diets may come and go, good nutrition is here to stay.

Fad Diet Timeline

1820 Vinegar & Water Diet, requires mixing apple cider vinegar and water to cleanse the body

1903 “Fletcherizing,” promoted by Horace Fletcher, requires chewing food 32 times

1925 Cigarette Diet, recommends that you “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”

1928 Inuit Meat-and-Fat Diet, includes caribou, raw fish and whale blubber

1930 Hay Diet, does not allow carbohydrates and proteins to be eaten in the same meal

1950 Grapefruit Diet, is based on the belief grapefruit juice can melt fat

1964 Drinking Man’s Diet, is made up of alcoholic drinks and meat

1976 Sleeping Beauty Diet, individuals are heavily sedated for several days, so can’t eat

1981 Beverly Hills Diet, allows only fruit, in unlimited amounts, for the first 10 days

1986 Rotation Diet, rotates the number of calories taken in from week to week

1987 Scarsdale Diet, is low in carbohydrates and calories

1994 First version of the Atkin’s Diet, a high protein, very low carbohydrate plan

1995 Sugar Busters, eliminates sugar and refined carbohydrates

1996 Eat Right for Your Type, is based on eating foods matched to your blood type

2000 Raw Foods Diet, focuses on eating just uncooked, unprocessed, organic foods

2004 Coconut Diet, replaces most animal fats and vegetable oil with coconut oil

2011 Baby Food Diet, starts with 14 jars of baby food a day and an optional adult dinner

How many did you recognize?

Milk and milk products provide an overlooked source of protein

Milk is a Great Source of Protein, Too!


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Most people know that milk is a great source of calcium. Unfortunately the connection between milk and calcium has been so well taught, many people don’t know about the other important nutrients found in milk and milk products. Protein is one of them.

In my work with vegetarians, finicky eaters, and others who struggle to plan nutritionally balanced diets, the question of how to get good sources of protein always comes up. When I point out the protein content of milk, yogurt, and cheese, they are always surprised those foods can supply protein and calcium at the same time.

The truth is, most foods provide an array of different nutrients. But in an effort to make menu planning easier, nutrition educators have grouped foods according to the key nutrients they contain. For example, milk became known for its calcium, orange juice for its vitamin C, and meat for its protein. That strategy obviously had some drawbacks when it came to learning about the other nutrients those foods contain.

So for those who need more protein in their diets and are not able to get it all from meat and meat substitutes, such as beans, nuts and soy products, milk is your go-to source. Milk is also a good source of Vitamins A, B2, B12, and D and a good source of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium in addition to calcium.

Ways to Add Milk Products into Your Meals

A big advantage in using milk products to bulk up your protein intake is how easily they can be combined with other foods without taxing your appetite. For just a few ideas, you can add powdered milk to fluid milk, use evaporated milk to make “creamed” soups, blend strained yogurt into mashed potatoes, melt cheese onto your vegetables, stir ricotta cheese into pasta before adding sauce, or whip cottage cheese to use as a base for a cream sauce.

Protein Content of Milk Products

1 cup portion used for easy comparison

grams protein

28 Cheese, shredded: American, Cheddar, Mozzarella

28 Cottage Cheese: low fat or full fat

28 Ricotta Cheese: part skim or full fat

24 Powdered Milk, instant: fat free

22 Greek (strained) Yogurt, plain: fat free or reduced fat

19 Evaporated Milk, canned: fat free or reduced fat

14 Yogurt, plain: fat free or low fat

11 Milk Plus: fat free

8 Fluid Milk: fat fee, low fat, reduced fat and whole

Research shows people eat less of a snack they crave when they delay eating it.

Research Offers Simple Way to Snack Less on Foods You Crave


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If you crave certain foods and give in too easily to the urge to snack, do not despair. A new study offers valuable advice just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest snack day of the year!

Research presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology showed that when subjects postponed eating a snack they craved to an unspecified time in the future, they ate less. Not only did they eat less of that food when they finally got around to having it, they ate less of it over the next week, which can be helpful if you have a lot of Super Bowl leftovers in the house.

A key finding from this study was that those subjects who put off eating the snack they desired to an unstated time in the future did much better than those who denied themselves eating any at all and those who gave themselves permission to eat all they wanted.

Why Postponing Works?

By postponing the opportunity to eat something you crave, you give yourself time for the desire to diminish, and that’s a good thing. Every minute you’re not eating those nachos, fried mozzarella sticks, or chocolate covered pretzels adds up to calories, fat, salt and sugar you did not consume.

This strategy also removes two other saboteurs to self-control: guilt and retaliation. Guilt comes into play when you immediately start eating all you want of the snacks calling out to you. Once you realize what you’ve done, guilt can trigger further gluttony. On the other hand, if you tell yourself you can’t have the snacks at all, you’re likely to feel deprived and will eventually retaliate and eat more than your share.

Delay Trumps Denial

The subjects were divided into three different groups. One group was allowed to eat the snack freely, another was told not to eat the snack, and the third was told they could eat it later. The researchers observed their behavior when offered two different snacks: candies and chips.

The results were the same whether the subjects were assigned to a group or got to select the group themselves. Those that were told to delay their snack ate the least. Those who were told not to eat the snack at all ate the most.

So as you get you game plan ready for the Super Bowl, here’s a cheer that is sure to make you a winner when the snacks are served:

“I think I’ll pass!”

Diet for a healthy heart also helps to keep the brain strong

Diet for a Healthy Heart is Good for the Brain


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If it seems to you the foods that can help prevent heart disease grab all the headlines, your eyesight is fine! Heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women alike in the U.S., so controlling it makes news. Keeping the brain sharp is also on people’s minds, but it takes more than cross-word puzzles to do it. What you eat can also help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The good news is that the diet that’s good for your heart is good for your brain, too!

The dietary guidelines that support a healthy heart include foods that won’t clog your arteries, supply plenty of anti-oxidants, help to keep blood pressure low, and deliver lots of nutrients.

To keep your heart and brain healthy you should be eating:

  • Dark green, deep orange, yellow, red and purple vegetables and fruits, such as spinach, carrots, peaches, tomatoes, and berries.
  • Whole grains and products made from them, such as whole oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta.
  • Oily cold-water fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna, salmon, sardines, lake trout, and herring.
  • Beans, nuts and seeds for their fiber, essential oils and micronutrients, such as kidney beans, chick peas, almonds, walnuts and sunflower seed.
  • Nonfat and low fat milk and milk products, such as yogurt and cheese.

Added Ways to Feed the Brain

Eat Fish Often –People who eat baked or broiled fish at least once a week – regardless of type – have been found to have more of the gray matter in their brains in the areas related to Alzheimer’s. Scientists believe the larger and stronger that area is, the longer it takes for the disease to destroy it. Eating fried fish was not found to provide the same benefits.

Season with Curcumin – This spice is the active ingredient in turmeric and used in Indian curries. Animal research has shown it reduces amyloid plaque, which is what accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Human studies have also found that those who ate the most curried foods had the highest scores on cognition tests.

Supplement with Vitamin B12 – Even if the diet is nutritionally adequate, certain medications and changes in digestive secretions can interfere with the absorption of vitamins needed for vital brain functions, such as Vitamin B12. Older adults with deficiencies of Vitamin B12 have been found to have smaller brains and lower scores on test measuring their memory, thinking and reasoning.

Learn what foods can cause diarrhea due to food allergy or intolerance.

Is Your Diarrhea a Sign of a Food Allergy?


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If you experience occasional diarrhea, it could be caused by a food allergy or food intolerance. Most people connect food poisoning with diarrhea, but that is not always the case.

A true food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the immune system. Research shows that around 3 to 4 percent of people have food allergies. The first sign of symptoms may be within minutes of coming into contact with the problem food – meaning you may have simply touched it, not consumed it – or several hours later.

If you have a true food allergy will cause a reaction every time the food is consumed. The diagnosis may require a combination of lab tests, physical exam, thorough diet history and a controlled food challenge.

These eight foods account for 90 per cent of all food allergic reactions.

  1. Milk – not the same as lactose intolerance, includes milk casein and whey
  2. Eggs – includes both the white and yolk
  3. Peanut – is a legume, not a true nut
  4. Tree nuts – includes but not limited to walnut, almond, hazelnut, coconut, cashew, pistachio, Brazil nuts
  5. Finfish – such as salmon, tuna, halibut
  6. Shellfish – such as shrimp, crabs, lobster
  7. Soy –includes soy milk, flour, oil, and soybeans
  8. Wheat – not the same as gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley

The most common symptoms of a food allergy are:

  • Gastrointestinal: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Skin: Rash, itchiness, swelling
  • Respiratory: Congestion, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing
  • Other: Anaphylaxis, a swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing that can be fatal

Food intolerances can also result in diarrhea. They are triggered by the inability to completely break down or digest a food. Small amounts of a suspect food may be tolerated without difficulty, while larger amounts will bring on symptoms. It may take some trial and error testing to determine if you have a food intolerance.

Common food intolerances:

  • Sugars: lactose in milk, fructose in fruit, honey and high fructose corn syrup
  • Gluten: protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some other grains
  • Preservatives: sulfites commonly used in wine and dried fruit, monosodium glutamate (MSG) a flavor enhancer

The same types of symptoms can occur with a food intolerance as those experienced with a food allergy. The key is to figure out which food(s) are responsible for your symptoms and how much, if any, you can tolerate if you’re unwilling to give up the food.

You can find more information from The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

Calories, nutrients in food, physical activity and more can all be tracked using new online tool

Keeping Track of Food, Calories & Fitness Just Got Easier!


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Have you been eating more fruits and vegetables? If so you can credit the USDA and its private sector partners for getting out the message to “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” That campaign began in September 2011 following the release of the ChooseMyPlate icon, designed to help reshape the nations eating habits.

Now it’s time to take it up a notch.

From January through April 2012 the key message is “Enjoy your food, but eat less.” I love the message because it reinforces the fact that eating is meant to be enjoyed – not something we hear too often from a government program!

The best part about this new campaign is that it comes with a great line up of online tools to help you plan and keep track of your food, fitness and health. It’s called SuperTracker and includes:

Food-A-Pedia – Includes over 8000 foods you can look up to see their nutrient content and make comparisons to other foods

Food Tracker – Lets you enter the foods you eat each day to track your intake and compare it to your nutrition goals

Physical Activity Tracker – Lets you enter your daily activities and tracks your progress

My Weight Manager – Get weight management guidance by entering of your weight and tracking your progress

My Top 5 Goals – Select your personal health goals then sign in for tips and support from a virtual coach

My Reports – Get reports to see progress towards goals and trends over time

All you have to do is login and create a personal profile to take advantage of all these valuable tools and resources. I can’t think of a better way to learn how to “enjoy your food, but eat less.”

There is No Need to Diet! Try This Alternative Instead

If Diet Means Don’t Eat to You, Don’t Diet!


This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

Diets just won’t go away. A perennial new year’s resolution, a guaranteed way to make money and a perpetual source of hope – dieting will remain a constant in our continually changing world as long as diet means don’t eat.

The only alternative is to eat! That’s right, if you don’t like the way it feels to be on a diet and want a way to abandon all diet plans and the diet foods that go with them forever, you must decide to eat instead.

Sound too good to be true? Let me explain.

Eating is about choosing foods that nourish your body. If done properly you can prevent most chronic diseases. And if you can prevent heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and many forms of cancer you won’t need special diets to treat them later in life.

Conversely, if you don’t eat to nourish yourself throughout your life you will need to go on a diet at some point to fix the damage. That’s when diets are prescribed to reduce fat, sodium and sugar and control calories, serving sizes and snacks.

The end result may be the same at this point – whether eating or dieting – but the attitude is not. Eating gives you the freedom to choose what you eat. Dieting gives you the rules about what you cannot eat. Even if you follow the same rules, by choosing them you defeat the need for a diet.

Why not begin eating today to nourish yourself and abandon diets forever? No matter what your weight or medical condition, it is simply a change of attitude. But that change in attitude may help you succeed where all diets have failed.

Enlightened Food & Nutrition Resolutions include diversity, poverty, illiteracy and human rights.

Become Enlightened with These Food & Nutrition Resolutions


This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

I’ve seen my fair share of “diet, exercise, lose weightresolutions as a registered dietitian. Fortunately for me, I’ve never had to make those kinds of resolutions. I just live it every day.

My resolutions are more of the self-enlightenment variety. It’s a continual process to be more aware of the world around me and my place in it.

That’s why I take a little more time to make my New Year’s Resolutions. It’s like buying shoes. I don’t like the blisters that go with either if they rub me wrong.

Instead I walk around in my new resolutions for a while to see if they feel as good after a few days as they did when I first tried them on.

I’ve been breaking in some resolutions for 2012 over this past week. They’re now at the point where they feel right. The next big step is, of course, to share them. Making a public announcement is like throwing out the receipt for a new pair of shoes. There’s no taking them back after that.

In my role as a registered dietitian blogger, I hereby resolve that when writing or speaking about food and nutrition I will:

Acknowledge the diversity of the U.S. population in age, ethnicity and religion as well as income, education and geography – all factors that impact food choice and dietary patterns.

Recognize that the food supply and health care in this country are determined by economic and political forces, not human rights, so until that changes everyone does not get their fair share.

Never forget that nearly half of the U.S. population now lives below the poverty line or are counted as low income when all living costs are factored into their budget, making eating well a bigger challenge. 2010 Census Bureau data

Not overlook the fact 22 percent of American adults score below basic literacy levels, so are not capable of understanding basic food and nutrition information or making informed healthcare decisions. National Centers for Education Statistics.

Are you doing all you can to understand the needs of those around you?

The healing powers of tea are on the calendar for January

The Healing Powers of Tea


This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

It isn’t always clear who makes up these declarations, but the calendar is full of days and months dedicated to particular foods and health causes. I personally think it is a good way to focus our attention on things we can eat or do that can have a big impact on our well-being. One month at a time.

This year I plan to highlight my favorite food or health “occasions” at the start of each month so you can “celebrate” them right along with me. Who said eating well wasn’t fun!

My pick for January is the celebration of Hot Tea Month. Why not get a cup to sip while reading this?

Tea is now the most widely consumed beverage around the world next to water and the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc. reports that 80% of U.S. households have tea in them.

Legend has it that tea was accidently discovered over 5000 years ago when some tea leaves blew into a pot of boiling water belonging to a Chinese Emperor who was known as a “Divine Healer.” The flavorful drink was believed to cure a variety of ailments and its use soon spread throughout China and Asia into Europe and the New World. What few tea drinkers could have known then is that the real benefits they received from this simple beverage were due to the purifying effects of boiling the water before drinking it.

Recent studies done on both Black and Green tea provide significant evidence of their health benefits. The naturally occurring compounds in tea leaves called flavonoids hold the key to many of their benefits. Just like the antioxidants found in other fruits and vegetables, the flavonoids in tea have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers while supporting the immune system and bone health. Preliminary research also suggests that drinking tea may have beneficial effects on body weight, fat accumulation and insulin activity.

While researchers continue to study the exact mechanisms by which can tea heal and strengthen our bodies, I prefer to focus on its more ethereal properties. Drinking hot tea has always involved certain rituals for me, and those rituals have comforted me in an otherwise unpredictable world. For instance, when I drink tea:

  • Water must boil and a kettle must whistle for me to enjoy a cup of tea. It cannot come from a microwave oven or hot water faucet.
  • My tea must be consumed from a bone China cup with a thin lip. No chunky coffee mugs or, heaven forbid, disposable cups, thank you very much.
  • Drinking tea makes me sit still, to possibly stare out a window or get lost in my thoughts. No chance to multitask with my hands wrapped around a cup of hot tea.
  • Drinking tea is my way to slow down, to recoup, regroup and reflect. Don’t offer me tea if I’m in a hurry, I need time to enjoy it.

Drinking tea makes me feel good. It is a ritual I participate in several times a day and feel so richly rewarded by. And now that it’s Hot Tea Month, I hope you will enjoy it, too.

Learn the signs of low body temperature as winter approaches

A Drop in Core Temperature of the Human Body Can Be Lethal


This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

Hypothermia means low body temperature. It occurs when we are unable to keep our core body temperature at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If the body remains below 95°F for too long it can kill us. Most of the deaths caused by hypothermia are the result of irregular heartbeats that lead to heart failure.

One reason so many people die of hypothermia in their own homes each year is that it can happen very gradually without their even knowing they were getting too cold. That’s because the brain is the first organ affected as the temperature of the human body drops. In a very short time, we cannot think clearly, become confused and start to feel sleepy. Once that happens, we may not realize we are too cold, so don’t seek help or do anything to keep ourselves warm. Then, we may fall asleep.

Hypothermia Among the Elderly

The elderly are especially at risk since changes in the body can make it harder for them to tell they are getting cold, especially when conditions are not that severe. That is one reason why those being cared for in skilled nursing facilities need to have their body temperature measured regularly to be sure they are not too cold.

Elderly people living on their own may put themselves at risk by setting their thermostat lower to save on the heating bill. Unless someone stops by and tells them how chilly it is in their home, they may not realize it. They may also be unable to put on all the layers of clothing they need to stay warm due to arthritis and other illnesses that make it difficult to move their arms and legs.

Certain illnesses that accompany aging can also make it harder to stay warm, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone), diabetes and circulatory problems. Extra precautions may be needed by people with those conditions to dress appropriately and be prepared for unexpected changes in the weather. Medications used to treat anxiety, depression and nausea can increase the risk of accidental hypothermia along with some over-the-counter cold remedies, so should be checked with the pharmacist.

Signs of Low Body Temperature

Even if someone is shivering it does not mean they are effectively keeping themself warm. Conversely, if someone is not shivering it does not mean they are not cold. According the National Institute on Aging, in either case they could be experiencing hypothermia, so check for the “umbles”:

  • stumbles = poor control over body movements or stiffness in arms and legs
  • mumbles = slowed or slurred speech
  • fumbles = slow reactions
  • grumbles = shallow breathing, confusion

If someone has these symptoms and you suspect they may be suffering from hypothermia, take their temperature. If it is not above 96° F, call for emergency services. While waiting for help to arrive try to keep the person warm by wrapping them in coats, sweaters or dry blankets and towels – whatever is available – including your own body. If they are lying down, just lie against them and gently press your body next to theirs.

Once at the hospital a special thermometer will be used to get an accurate reading of the person’s temperature since most household thermometers cannot read very low temperatures. Treatment with warmed intravenous fluids or more aggressive rewarming with fluids infused directly into the stomach or bladder may be needed.

How are you planning to keep warm this winter?