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Carbs, Protein, Fat: Diet Fads Throughout the Past Three Decades

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Fad diets are a part of our past, present and future. There have been countless fad diets over the years, entailing a wide variety of different rules and products. Some diets have been silly while others are down right scary (tape worm diet, anyone?). One typical theme in different fad diets is that certain macronutrients are demonized, while others are praised. There always seems to be a battle between fat, carbs and protein! Let’s take a walk through history and discuss.


Macronutrient- an essential nutrient required in relatively large amounts; carbohydrates, fat, protein


The 1990s

The nineties were a great time to be alive! Listening to the Backstreet Boys while your internet was dialing up was what daily living was all about. The diet craze of the time? Low fat! Fat makes you fat, right? (Just for the record- no!). Low fat diets were generally high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. Pretzels and rice cakes were popular snacks as they were fat-free.

The Early 2000s

As people were tired of denying themselves bacon and cheeseburgers, the Atkin’s diet came along. This diet was actually developed in the 1960s, became popular in the ‘90s, but really blew up in the early 2000s. The Atkin’s diet focused on having a very low amount of carbohydrates, and getting everyone to count their “net carbs”. We went from fat being enemy number one to carbohydrates being the new devil. Since this diet limits carbs, it’s higher in fat and protein. While people no longer had to deny themselves butter and cheese, candies and sweets had to be strictly limited, and even healthy foods like fruit and whole grains have to be consumed in small quantities.


Keto is currently all of the rage! For those of you living under a rock, a ketogenic diet is a high fat diet. The idea behind it is to starve your body of carbohydrates to burn ketones as the primary energy source. So similar to the Atkin’s diet of yesteryear, limiting carbohydrates is still the goal, but there’s now a new focus on increasing fat intake. Does putting butter in your coffee sound appetizing? Then this diet is for you!

What’s To Come

It seems the keto diet is still going strong in terms of popularity, so if I had to guess, we have several years before something new comes along. The fad diet world has demonized fat and carbohydrates, so will it be protein’s turn to be shamed? If I were a gambling woman, I would put my money on no, but my guess is as good as yours. Maybe we’ll circle back to low fat, high carb? I don’t really see that happening anytime soon either. Maybe the next diet craze will involve eating all the macronutrients in harmony and will focus on appropriate portions and making good choices…. yeah, right!


So you’re probably dying to know, which decade had it right? Which diet is the key to success? You guessed it - none of the above! The best diet is one that you can stick to long term. I can tell you that a ton of people lost weight on each of those diets. If you are creating a calorie deficit by eating less (or moving more), you should generally have weight loss success. I can also tell you though, a ton of people failed on each of those diets as well. If you feel that you can’t keep up with your diet while also living daily life (work, family, stress, holidays, social gatherings) then you probably won’t succeed.

The fad diet business has to be bold to attract attention. That’s how money is made. The demonizing of certain food groups is a great way to get people on board with a specific diet plan. However, this can cause an unhealthy relationship with food. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that are afraid to eat specific foods or have a strong feeling of guilt after eating a certain meal. You don’t have to live life this way!

My diet advice is as boring as it comes: everything in moderation. Good old fashioned exercise and eating a balanced diet which involves all of the food groups is the way to go. I will never make millions off this diet philosophy, as it’s just not edgy enough. However, I truly believe it’s the healthiest way to live that promotes general health, a healthy relationship with food, and the best likelihood of long term success.



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