A Healthy Diet is Family Friendly {Part 1} Fad Diets

Hi there, Mamas! Happy New Year! Hopefully after my last post, you were able to set some completely attainable and SMART goals for self-improvement for the year. If your resolution to get in shape by eating healthier, good for you! Just make sure to be aware of the fad diet trap.

Day in and day out, I hear it. People are looking for ways for their whole family to eat better – or they get slubbed up in their own quest to lose weight because they are buying junk food “for the kids.”  They’re not sure where to go, so they turn to fad diets, for either themselves of their whole family.

RDN Mama’s When “Kid-Friendly” Food Isn’t

Really, there are two big problems here:
1) Bringing your family with you on a fad diet and

2) Thinking that because your kids (or spouse) aren’t overweight, they don’t need to eat healthy.

This series will break down these problems and offer solutions on what to do instead, so you can raise a healthy, happy family.

{ Part 1: Fad Diets }

You shouldn’t bring your family with you on a fad diet escapade. First, let’s define a fad diet.

Fad diets are notorious for a few things:

  • Cutting out an entire (or multiple) food group(s)
  • Labeling foods as “good” or “bad”
  • Forcing combination of certain foods
  • Pushing an herb, pill, shake, or cleanse. These often promise rapid results or claim you can “eat whatever you want,” “without working out” and still lose weight.
  • Not being sustainable for any significant length of time

RDN Mama’s The Truth about Juice

No matter how great a “diet” sounds to you, it can be really dangerous for your kids. Let’s back track to the food group elimination. Usually, the “nutrient” being eliminated is fat (more on that here) or certain kinds of carbs (dairy, starches, even fruits!).

Sugar is a big culprit in these diets.  The problem is that there are different types of sugars.  Some occur naturally in nutritious foods, like fruit (fructose) and dairy (lactose), while others are added to foods during or after processing and contain little or no nutritional value – but they definitely have calories (think table sugar [sucrose], maple syrup, brown sugar, or agave nectar).

Fruits are part of a healthy diet!

Eliminate fad diets that eliminate fruit!

Spoiler: These are added sugars - no matter how organic or natural they are.

Spoiler: These are added sugars – no matter how organic or natural they are.

So, this type of “sugar detox” leaves you treating fruit like a candy bar – and that is confusing to kids (and to me, as an RDN!).  What your sugar-phobic fad-diet author doesn’t tell you is that fruit, while containing sugar, also contains fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals!  Way more nutritious than your candy bar! (Why was that even a question?!)  The sweet taste is just a perk.

RDN Mama’s Are You Teaching Your Child Nutritional Curse Words?

Anyways, long rant short(er): If you’re cutting out a food group, your kids will notice.  They want to eat what you’re eating. If you tell them that you’re not eating [insert carbohydrate-laden food here] because it’s “bad”, they won’t want to eat it either.  But guess what?  Kids need carbs!  They are growing which takes a lot of energy.  Guess which nutrient our body uses for its primary energy source? CARBS!  Plus, they need nutrients and fiber – all found in carbohydrate-containing foods.

Adults also benefit from nutritious carbs (think whole grains, fruits, and low-fat dairy), but their bodies can handle a bit of a skew.

Please note that it is very inadvisable for a pregnant woman to eat a low-carb diet, unless under direct medical supervision!  Your baby uses carbs for fuel!

So, let’s move on from carbs for a bit.  Another aspect of most fad diets is labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” While this might sound like a great or easy idea at first, think of the long-term consequences and whether the diet is actually sustainable for your life. Do you want to feel bad if you have treat every now and then, like a piece of birthday cake? Is it realistic that you will never have a piece of chocolate ever again? Probably not.

RDN Mama’s Snacks vs. Treats: What’s the Difference?

Kids pick up on your labeling, and that attempt to emulate their mother or father, whom they love dearly, can have not-so-lovable side effects. For example, this good-bad, black-white labeling system can turn into disordered eating. Kids avoid a tasty, but “bad” food, as long as they can; feel guilty when they finally indulge (after all, it was a “bad” food, so they must be “bad” for eating it); and then continue to binge as a way to cover the guilt. Not a great cycle.

A better choice is to focus on healthy foods, but allow for indulgences every now and then. This way, kids aren’t feeling deprived, but they’re still getting all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber they need to grow healthfully.

As far as cleanses and detox diets go, check out my colleague’s awesome take on juicing & cleansing. Also, keep this in mind:


If you feel a diet plan isn’t sustainable for a significant length of time (like a year – after all, it’s a New YEAR’s resolution, right?), don’t fret. We’ll be talking more about this all month long, including tips to get everyone in your house on the same healthy track.

Be sure to check out {Part 2 – Weight Isn’t Everything} & {Part 3 – Feeding Your Fam} of this series.

Have you tried a fad diet in the past? Did you get the results you were looking for? Did you see an impact on your kids?

For more on kids and fad diets, check out these resources: 




Photo Credits:

Bill Cosby Sugar in Fruit: rebeldietitian.us

Added Sugars & Liver/Kidney Detox: BuildUpDietitians – full of creative memes that will get you inside an RDN’s head

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