Beware of ‘quick-fix’ new year diets, as they can be harmful to your health, experts have warned.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has published a list of ‘red flags’ to watch out for when it comes to diets for a new year and a new you.
Dietitians warn people should avoid diets using the word ‘detox’, telling people to eat only one type of food, like cabbage, or promising rapid weight loss of more than two pounds (1kg) of body fat a week.
Diets which recommend the fat-burning effects of certain foods, like grapefruit and green tea, are warned against.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has published a list of ‘red flags’ to watch out for when it comes to diets for a new year and a new you. Dietitians warn people should avoid diets using the word ‘detox’, telling people to eat only one type of food, like cabbage, or promising rapid weight loss of more than two pounds (1kg) of body fat a week
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
It can also be a red flag if a diet requires substituting everyday foods with expensive supplements or ingredients.
The BDA is urging the public to say ‘no thank you’ to fad new year diets, as brands use this time of year ‘to prey on potential customers’.
Anything which claims to offer a quick-fix weight loss solution could end up doing more harm than good, the organisation cautions.
Marcela Fiuza, a registered dietitian and spokesman for the BDA, said: ‘For many people the new year is a good opportunity to set goals and intentions, including to improve health.
‘However, new year’s resolutions that focus on weight loss as a primary outcome can often lead to yo-yo dieting or weight cycling, which can be detrimental to health.
‘New year’s resolution diets can also be triggering for those with eating disorders and can lead to disordered eating.’
If a diet offers a ‘magic bullet’ to lose weight, without having to change your lifestyle in any way, it is probably too good to be true.
Diets should also be avoided when they present no evidence for how well they work, beyond a few individuals’ success stories, according to the BDA advice.
People should also be wary of food plans which ask them to severely limit entire food groups, or diets which an ‘influencer’ like a celebrity or social media star is getting paid to promote.
Dietitians have had to warn people off diets including the water diet and boiled egg diet this year.
On the ‘new year, new you’ message, registered dietitian and BDA member Nichola Ludlam-Raine said: ‘Psychologically, it can be really damaging to people’s self-esteem, making people believe that they are not good enough as they are.’
She added: ‘The healthiest and most sustainable approach is small and slow – the opposite of what fad diets promise.
‘A dietitian can help someone look at their long-term goals and emphasise on the positive impacts on their overall health, not just their weight.’
Kaitlin Colucci, another BDA member and registered dietitian, said: ‘Fad diets promise quick fixes, they require little time, little thought and some investment, which promise big results.
‘They can be problematic as they do not lead to sustainable long-term change and can develop into unhealthy and disordered relationships with food.’
The BDA, which represents more than 10,500 dietitians across the UK, is working with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to report adverts which give incorrect and misleading information on diets.
Miles Lockwood, Director of Complaints and Investigations at the ASA, said: ‘Any claims should be backed up by robust evidence, not just ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, and ads shouldn’t make claims that people can lose an irresponsible amount of weight or fat.’
Fad diets can lead people to become deficient in important nutrients or change their metabolism, so that they actually lead to weight gain in the long-term.
Generally, a healthy diet cuts down on highly processed foods and increases intake of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains.