Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Avoid Fad Diets: Eat Right for Life, Not Just "For Now"

March is National Nutrition Month

Feb. 26, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Cut all the carbs, eat only raw veggies, replace a meal with a shake — these are all advertised as good ways to lose weight. A University of Missouri-Columbia nutrition expert agrees that fad diets will take off weight, but it won't last, and it isn't healthy.

"Fad diets appeal to people because they focus on weight loss and not on overall health," said Pam Hinton, associate professor of nutritional sciences in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. "We want people to focus on nutrition and health. People need to recognize that there are benefits to be gained from a healthful diet besides just weight loss."

Many people believe that healthy eating is just too hard. Hinton says the problem is actually people making the obstacles larger than they really are. She points out that vegetables can be cooked in the microwave just as easily as heating processed food.

"I'm not sure how something so simple became so complicated," Hinton said. "Nutrients haven't changed; the foods that have the nutrients haven't changed. If people simply followed the food pyramid, most would lose weight."

Moderation and variety are the keys to long-term healthy eating. It's also important to choose high quality foods over low quality foods. Fast food and snack foods are low quality, which means they have a lot of calories without a lot of nutrients.

"Beware that you can take a high quality food and lessen the quality," Hinton said. "Don't add processed cheese sauce to the broccoli or deep fry the veggies."

People fight change, and the first thing that must change in order to eat better is the mindset. Once people make up their minds to eat better, it will happen, Hinton said. She suggests that people experiment with some changes and see if they feel better. Above all, don't fall for the fads. In the long-run, it doesn't work because it is usually a modification that people can't sustain.

"The risk for virtually every chronic disease is greater for people who are overweight," Hinton said.

"It's not just about how people look; weight is a part of overall health."