Best diets or fad diets? 2024 Edition


By Ines Jabir, RD

As 2024 opens its door, wherever we turn our head, we hear "New Year, New Me" and ways to completely change ourselves, pressured by the environment we live in. What we eat plays a massive role in our health and wellbeing, hence it is important to make informed and beneficial choices. In this article, we will be diving into the world of fad diets in 2024 and what are the best alternatives to implement a healthy lifestyle.

Firstly, what are fad diets?

Described by the British Dietetic Association to be "a plan that promotes results such as fast weight loss without robust scientific evidence to support its claims". The most famous fad diets are quite restrictive with only one group of nutrients or a detrimental combination of nutrients. Social influencers also tend to advertise foods that are expensive and supplement or ingredients that are unnecessary.

Back in 2022, I completed a university research concluding that university students are more likely to be influenced by fad diets through social media, particularly from non-registered individuals. 

If you have worked with me to find your nutrition balance, you know that I don't like to use the word diet as there is such a counterproductive misconception of food habits being forcibly changed for a short period of time. Instead, I like to call to use the terms sustainable dietary approaches or lifestyle changes, to improve our health and wellbeing now and in the future.

I like to call to use the terms sustainable dietary approaches or lifestyle changes, to improve our health and wellbeing now and in the future.

Many diets claim to be a quick-fix, which is something we tend to as humans. We like quick and easy things to change for the best outcome.

Here is a breakdown of dangerous dies which are becoming increasingly popular:

  • Cabbage Soup Diet: with all soups made of cabbage for at least 7 days.

  • Frutarian Diet: as the name suggests, this diet includes a large portion of fruits eaten throughout the day and some people have exceptions of nuts and seeds added for protein. This diet is leading to a very restricted diet and large portion of groups missed in the nutritional intake. Additionally, it causes a high content of sugar to be consumed, causing phases of tiredness and prone to illness. 
  • Baby food diet -only including baby food jars and celebreated by influencers, baby food diet consists of pureed fruits, vegetables, and a few meats, such as turkey, chicken, and beef, with "gravy." It is very low in calories, with about 20-100kcal, not providing enough energy with quite processed components. Although baby food is not advised for adults, other types of pureed diet may be needed 

These diets have not be scientifically tested, however with the few testimonies on media, they can work for rapid but unhealthy weight loss

As we have explained the "dangerous diets", there are some dietary approaches which have shown to be beneficial for some individuals, for example:

  • Intermittent fasting: with the most popular scheme of 16:8, this nutrition method is based on having an hour window where one enjoys filling meals and the remaining hours are fasted.
  • Atkins Diet: reduced intake of processed carbohydrates and more importance to protein and fats. However, the consumption of fats is not the same as keto diet.
  • South Beach Diet: similarly to Atkins diet, this dietary approach relies on the reduction of carbohydrates and choosing more the low glycaemic index type of carbohydrates. It is also supported to have more healthy or good fats and protein.

What is the winner intervention? Mediterranean Diet!

From Shayna Gruenewald
From Shayna Gruenewald

Several robust studies have shown that the dietary approach to have the best health outcomes is the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, ntuts and seeds and social eating. It is always the top-ranking thanks to its flexibility, environmental sustainability and most durable on a long-term outcome.

Daily basis: wholegrain starchy carbohydrates, pulses, vegetables and fruits and olive oil

Few serving weekly: fish, diary, eggs and chicken

Smaller amounts: processed food including processed meat, sweets and cakes

The most important and significant element is the regular physical activity and eating in family with all main meals. Eating with friends and particularly family shows positive effects in eating behaviours and increases happy hormones and positive emotions. An additional element is the positive impact on children, who are prompted to eat fruits, vegetables and grains and are less likely to eat on snacks and consume toxic elements in the future.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Nutrition Balance's editorial stance.