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KeeleyLife: Fad Diets Resources

On Friday, February 12, April Lopinot, VP of Human Resources and KeeleyLife Committee Leader, was joined by Melissa Swank, Keeley Companies Health & Wellness Coach, to discuss popular fad diets and how you can understand and determine what diet is best for you. You can listen to the full podcast episode here!

In the podcast, April and Melissa discuss the top nine fad diets. Below is more information about each one.

Macrobiotics (Macros)

Macrobiotics is based on ancient Eastern Principles and was founded by philosopher George Ohsawa.

Objective: Live in harmony with the elements and achieve physical and emotional balance and well-being.

In practice:

Balance of the three macrobiotics – fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – by eating:

  • 40-60% whole grains

  • 20-30% vegetables

  • 5-10% beans and sea vegetables.

Focuses on:

  • Higher fiber, lower fat, and including seasonal, organic, and local foods (when possible)

  • Quality vs. Quantity (no calorie guidelines)

  • Using traditional methods of cooking (steaming, pressure cooking)

  • Eating only when hungry

  • Liquids only when thirsty (nothing too cold, not with meals)

  • Chewing each bite at least 30 times (improves digestion, increases mindfulness)

  • Maintaining physical activity

  • Positive lifestyle and mental outlook

The goal: Eat a variety of foods to maintain nutrient balance.

Pros to Macrobiotics include a lifestyle change for some, naturally eating less by chewing more, and encouraging a whole foods approach. Cons to Macrobiotics include difficult to adhere to when eating out, some approaches may require meet, and it may not facilitate weight loss goals since no portion size recommendations exist.



The DASH Diet, created in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Objective: To lower and prevent high blood pressure by reducing salt intake and incorporating more of the following nutrients: potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. The DASH Diet considers the willingness of participants to alter their lifestyle approach, encouraging gradual changes dependent on current lifestyle.

In practice:

DASH includes

  • Quantifying daily caloric intake based on age, gender, and activity level

  • Calculating the number of servings per food category based on calorie intake

  • For the majority of people, it’s recommended that daily sodium intake is kept under 2,300 mg

  • For people with high blood pressure, it should be kept under 1,500 mg.

  • Encourages gradual reduction of daily salt intake from 2,300 mg to 1,500 mg, allowing the body time to adjust.

Focuses on:

  • Including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy

  • Significantly reducing sodium intake

  • Avoiding red meat, sugar, and saturated fat

  • Including whole foods

  • Maintaining changes as a lifestyle rather than a diet

The goal: To improve health outcomes related to hypertension and heart disease.

Pros to the DASH Diet include an emphasis on whole foods, balanced approach, can turn into a lifestyle change rather than a diet, and many may benefit from decreasing salt and sugar consumption. Many have also found that the DASH Diet is easier to sustain as it does not restrict any food group. Some cons include the fact that some individuals may benefit from red meat and high quality, full-fat dairy, which are both prohibited. The DASH Diet also requires a certain number of daily servings from each food group, not taking into consideration the dietary needs of vegans, vegetarians, and those that are lactose intolerant.


Atkins Diet

Robert C. Atkins, MD, created his iconic diet in the 1960s and published his first book, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, in 1972. It wasn’t until two decades later that the Atkins Diet became revolutionary.

Objective: Based on the concept that the body will burn fat for fuel when carbohydrates are significantly restricted. This allows individuals to reach their goal weight more quickly than if carbohydrate intake remained the same.

In Practice:

There are four phases of the Atkins Diet:

  • The first phase, Induction, severely restricts carbohydrates and focuses on protein, healthy fat, and vegetables to jump-start weight loss

  • The second phase, Ongoing Weight Loss, incorporates nuts, berries, and yogurt to add more variety and carbohydrates back into the diet

  • The third phase is Pre-Maintenance, which allows fruit and legumes

  • The fourth and last phase is Lifetime Maintenance, which allows the introduction bread and grains back into the diet

Focuses on:

  • Including a significant amount of high-quality protein

  • Eating lots of high fiber food

  • Signficiantly reducing sugar

  • Emphasizing vitamins and minerals, and the elimination of trans fats

The goal: Force the body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, and potentially losing weight as a result.

One of the biggest pros of the Atkins Diet is the possibility of quick weight loss with a focus on long-term weight loss and maintenance. The restriction of process foods fosters a healthy lifestyle while encouraging awareness of hunger cues and cravings. Some cons include the fact that the Atkins Diet can be high in saturated fats and cholesterol. It doesn’t promote a health balance of food groups and condemns carbohydrates, which are required by some for proper function.


Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and derivatives of these grains. A gluten-free diet is traditionally used to treat individuals that suffer from Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that is triggered by an individual’s intolerance or hypersensitivity to gluten.

Objective: The gluten-free diet aims to reduce symptoms associated with Celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, including digestive, neurological, and (in the case of Celiac) autoimmune issues. Common symptoms of Celiac include abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhea, pale stools, weight loss, stomach pain, skin rashes, anemia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, seizures, tingling sensations, ulcers, amenorrhea, and muscle, joint, bone cramps, and pains.

In Practice:

  • The gluten-free diet requires the elimination of all foods and food products with the gluten protein, including wheat, barley, rye, and many processed foods with wheat or wheat gluten in them. As a result of cross-contamination, there may also be gluten present in foods that typically do not contain gluten, like oats (processed on the same equipment)

Focuses on:

  • Label reading to ensure no wheat is included

  • Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables

  • Including high-quality meat and fish

  • Including healthy, plant-based fats

  • Eating gluten-free grains

Those following a gluten-free diet are encouraged to include, high-quality meat and fish, healthy fats, and gluten-free grains. Due to the fact that many grains are enriched with vitamins and minerals, following a gluten-free diet may lead to certain deficiencies if dieters do not actively incorporate these nutrients in other forms.

The goal: To reduce inflammation in the gut that generates symptoms of intolerance or autoimmune disorders.

One of the most significant pros to the Gluten-Free Diet is that it is a drug-free cure for those with Celiac disease. Gluten is the only major restriction while emphasizing whole foods. Some cons include a difficulty for some to avoid gluten, the possibility for some people to fall into a processed food trap, and it may attract dieters who do not need to go gluten-free.


Strawbridge, H. (2013) Going Gluten Free? Here’s What you Need to Know. Harvard Health Publishing:

Ketogenic (Keto) Diet

The Ketogenic Dietwas created in the 1920s to help control epileptic seizures in individuals who do not respond to medication.

Objective: The diet is based on the process of ketosis, in which the body uses ketones (a byproduct of fat metabolism) for fuel instead of glucose. tTHis process naturally occurs in times of starvation, carbohydrate restriction, or excessive exercise. Once ketosis begins (usually within a few days of implementing the diet) insulin levels drop, causing the pancreas to start producing glucagon. Glucagon determines the rate at which ketones are produced and sends the body into fat-burning mode, which is why the diet has gained recognition as a means for weight loss.

In practice:

For the body to reach a state of ketosis:

  • Calorie intake must be limited and comprised of 80% fat

  • The remaining calories should come from low-carb vegetables and protein

  • Should be introduced gradually so body has time to adjust

  • Each meal is carefully measured, including fluids, and a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement are imperative

  • Only works if it’s followed very carefully

  • Individuals on this diet should be closely monitored by an experienced team of practitioners

Focuses on:

  • Significantly reducing carbohydrates from the diet

  • Significantly increasing calories from fat

  • Monitoring dietary balance to ensure nutritional needs are met.

  • Reducing intake of sugar

The Ketogenic Diet is primarily recommended for children with epilepsy as there have been numerous studies showing a reduction in seizure rates.Some other pros of the Keto Diet, along with the reduction of seizures, include quick weight loss and restricting sugar intake. Some cons include extreme fatigue during the first two weeks, potential nutrient deficiencies, and the possibility of bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth. Potential side effects include dehydration, constipation, vomiting, high cholesterol, kidney stones, behavior changes, slower growth rates in children, pancreatitis, excess fat in the blood, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies This diet is also not safe for those who do not exercise because ketones need to be released as energy.


Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is considered by some to be one of the healthiest ways of eating in the world. Beyond a dietary approach, it’s a lifestyle that pertains to the ancient customs and dietary patterns that have existed in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. Objective: Focus on natural, whole foods, plant-based fats, and diets similar to those living in the Mediterranean region. In practice:

The Mediterranean diet

  • Consists of natural, whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts, dairy, and plant-based and fish-based oils

  • Excludes processed and refined foods

Focuses on:

  • Important lifestyle factors such as relationships, leisure, and physical activity

  • Including extra-virgin olive oil

  • Additional seasonal fruits and vegetables

  • Wild-caught fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Only eating meats and saturated fats on special occasions.

  • Including a small amount of wine and coffee

The goal: The Mediterranean diet can become a sustainable lifestyle approach that allows moderation and flexibility.

Pros include the high importance of whole foods, healthy fats, and enjoyment of indulgent foods in moderation. Some cons include the fact that some may require firmer guidelines to feel their best, may not react well to wine and coffee, and may not have the willpower to moderate rich foods.


Paleolithic (Paleo) Diet

Objective: The Paleolithic Diet, also known as the Primal Diet, is rooted in the belief that sticking to food our caveman ancestors would have eaten leads to optimal health.

In practice

  • Consume meat, fish, vegetables, wild fruits, eggs, nuts, and more

  • Primarily requires minimal processing or preparing with processed ingredient

Focuses on:

  • Eating a lot of healthy fats, like coconut oil, avocado, ghee, and olives

  • Including vegetables as the primary source of carbohydrates

  • Including animal protein (red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, organ meat)

  • Prioritizing organic, high-quality food

  • Limiting fruits (since they’d be “treats” to cavemen)

  • Only eating when truly hungry

  • Adding in a rigorous physical activity regimen

  • Getting enough sunshine (vitamin D)

The goal: Consume the foods cavemen did millions of years ago, before the cultivation of grains and legumes, and well before the invention of processed, packaged foods.

Pros to the Paleo Diet include a lifestyle approach that is focuses on whole foods, is low sodium and high in potassium, is high in fiber, and encourages organic foods. The healthy fats required in the Paleo Diet contribute to optimal brain function and the low glycemic load may stabilize blood sugar helping reduce cravings and binges.


Lindeberg, S. (2010) Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective Paleo 101. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-405-19771-7


Whole30 is a nutrition and lifestyle program aimed at changing participants’ lives through food in 30 days. Proponents claim that sugar, dairy, grains, and legumes hinder health and diminish energy levels. It’s also thought that these foods cause muscle pain and cramping, allergies, hormonal imbalances, skin issues, and digestive problems.

Objective: The program is said to reset your body, diminish cravings, and transform old habits to reboot the metabolism, improve immune system function, reduce inflammation, and reset the digestive system. In Practice:

  • Whole30 Individuals remove all processed foods, added sugars, stimulants, and other irritants. Dieters must stick to the plan perfectly for 30 days, and if they slip up, they are able to start over.

Focuses on:

  • Including low-sugar fruits and vegetables

  • Adding in high-quality protein

  • Removing all processed foods

  • Avoiding dairy, grains, legumes

  • Removing added sugar (including alcohol)

  • Eliminating coffee and other stimulants

The goal: Whole30 is said to reset the taste buds so that participants don’t crave extremely salty and sweet foods.

Pros to Whole30 include quick weight loss in some cases, a complete lifestyle change after the initial 30 days, and the ability to consume a wide range of nutrients and flavors. Cons include a difficulty for vegans and vegetarians to get adequate protein and a difficulty to remove alcohol completely. The restrictive nature of Whole30 may also lead to binges and eating disorder behavior.


The Whole 30:

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting currently reigns as one of the most popular dietary trends. The diet is used to assist with weight loss or improvement of health. Recent studies also demonstrate that when done correctly, Intermittent Fasting has other body and brain benefits, like controlling Type 2 Diabetes, reducing oxidative damage and inflammation in the body, and boosting cellular reproduction.

In Practice:

Intermittent Fasting involves cycles of eating and fasting, but it doesn’t necessarily define the foods you eat or when you should eat them. The three most popular methods include:

  • The 16/8 Method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.

  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

  • The 5:2 Diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally the other 5 days.

Focuses on:

  • Creating blocks of time for eating and other blocks for fasting

Pros to Intermittent Fasting include the reduction of calorie intake, which may lead to weight loss, improvement of insulin sensitivity, and initiation of cellular repair. Your body will also adjust hormone levels to make fast more accessible as energy. Some cons include that it may modify hormone levels in women that affect menstruation and fertility and the restrictive nature may lead to binges and eating disorder behavior.


Longo, V. D., & Mattson, M. P. (2014). Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell metabolism, 19(2), 181–192.

Barnosky, A., et al. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translatiional research, 164(4), 302-311. Accessed on 2/10/21 at

Please note: The information presented in this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure health-related concerns. This information must not take the place of talking with your physician, dietitian, and other members of your healthcare team to ensure your dietary approach supports your overall health and well-being.


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