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5 Diet Book Red Flags to Watch Out For
woman looking at book

Every January, diet books are cracked open, pored over -- then often discarded after a few weeks. If you've got a few collecting dust on your shelves, please don't consider it a failure. Most fad diet books aren't nearly as simple or sustainable as they promise to be.

As a dietitian, I’ve read through a lot of trendy diet books and notice the same red flags popping up in their pages. They’re signs that the diet is, at best, not realistic to follow long term, and, at worst, something you should avoid completely. So the next time you're tempted to pick up a new diet book, consider a few cautions first:

Off-the-wall scientific claims: If a diet makes a sensational claim about food that you’ve never heard before, there’s a reason for that. Instead of relying on scientific consensus, many diets cherry-pick a few research studies (including those done on rats or in test tubes, not people) to make their shocking declarations or broad recommendations of what or how to eat.

Upselling with supplements: If a diet says you need to spend extra money on their line of supplements, tread carefully. A lot of diet gurus make loads of money on supplemental pills and powders. Keep in mind that supplements aren’t as well-regulated as food or medicine are, so there’s an element of “buyer beware” involved.

Demonizing healthy foods: Watch out for diets that turn you against foods you normally would consider nutritious, claiming they’re secretly toxic to your body or the cause of extra weight. For instance, some diets warn against eating fruit, and the lectin-free diet cuts out foods like beans, eggplant, and whole grains.

Shaky qualifications: Is the diet book author truly qualified to give you advice on how to eat, or is the person actually a radiologist, fitness coach, or actress? Are there any nutrition professionals involved in creating the diet, such as a registered dietitian?

Dramatic promises: As much as we may love the drama of a before-and-after reveal, real changes to weight and health take time. If the diet promotes speedy results, like the promise of a flatter stomach in 14 days, take it with a big grain of salt.



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Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Registered dietitian

Sally Kuzemchak is a registered dietitian in Columbus, Ohio. An award-winning reporter and writer, Sally has been published in magazines such as Health, Family Circle, and Eating Well and is an Advisor to Parents magazine. She is the author of the book The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids. She blogs at Real Mom Nutrition, a "no-judgments" zone all about feeding families.

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