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Diet Trends Through the Years

November is the start of the holiday season where we think of family meals and celebrations around a table, but for any dietitian who’s been in the business long enough this time of year might as well be called “diet eve.” It’s like a two month celebration of food that’s followed by the month where everyone shuns their favorite meals in favor of the next big diet trend. Unfortunately for many of us, the temptation to follow an extreme diet is renewed each year with only a fleeting memory of the one that failed the year before. Think we’re wrong? Think again. The history of diet trends goes back many years and we’re here to prove it.

1930s: Grapefruit Diet
This diet first hit the mainstream before computers and social media were a part of our everyday lives. It started in the 1930s and as many diets do, it resurfaced many times throughout the decades. The idea? Eat grapefruit with every meal along with other foods like eggs and meat in a set quantity. It’s a 12-day diet that’s mostly protein and promises fat loss from grapefruit’s so-called fat-burning enzymes. Not surprisingly, this diet fell out of favor in recent years. Maybe because people don’t enjoy eating the same thing every single day? Just a guess.

1940s: Master Cleanse
Arguably the most extreme diet on this list, the Master Cleanse consists of drinking only the Master Cleanse elixir of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne, and water for up to two weeks. Yum. It first started in the ‘40s, but has continued to remain popular due to mentions by celebrities over the years. According to Cornell University, the most notable mention came from Beyonce in 2007 while being interviewed by Oprah. Unfortunately for all of us, this cleanse doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon with over 48K search results returned for #mastercleanse on Instagram alone. If we have one wish for 2020 it’s that this trendy diet never sees its moment in the spotlight again.

1970s: Atkins: the OG low-carb
Before we had keto, we had Atkins. You may think they’re similar in their approach, but most nutrition pros will tell you there is a key difference. With Atkins the focus is low-carb and high-protein. This differs from the ketogenic diet where fat is the focus followed by moderate protein and extremely low carb. Trust us, they’re different. The Atkins Diet rose in popularity starting in the early ‘70s and continues to be a popular diet approach today. (Haven’t you seen Rob Lowe selling you Atkins bars and talking about his “cheat days”? Ugh.) This one seems to have serious staying power and is standing the test of time, even through the recent keto craze. 

1980s: Cabbage Soup Diet
The ‘80s loved cabbage. Cabbage Patch Kids were popular with children while their parents were following the infamous Cabbage Soup Diet. Followers of this diet did exactly as the name implies, eat cabbage soup (large quantities of it). It’s meant to be followed for a week and promises fat loss. Sound familiar? If you’re thinking about literally every other detox/cleanse diet then you’d be on the right track. They all have a similar theme – reduce the variety, declare a single food as a fat-burner, and consume only that food for a specific period of time.

2000s: South Beach Diet
In the new wave of trend diets the focus shifted from eliminating foods completely to only eliminating some foods for a short period of time and then defining proportions of nutrients for the long-term. It might sound more reasonable than the others, but don’t get us wrong, it’s still a challenging diet to follow for the long-term. The South Beach Diet is outlined in phases with claims to help you eliminate cravings and lose fat. The first phase eliminates most carbohydrate sources with the exception of dairy followed by a second phase of adding some foods back in and finally a third phase which is considered to be the maintenance/healthy lifestyle phase. Maybe just skip to the maintenance/healthy lifestyle phase? Just a thought.

2010 - 2020: ACV, Juicing, Baby Food, Intermittent Fasting, Keto…what’s next?
The diets over the last decade have given us a range of absurdity. From drinking only apple cider vinegar to eating baby food, we’ve seen a lot in the last 10 years. Given that social media only adds fuel to the dieting fire, we’re unlikely to see a slowing of diet trends as we enter the next decade. If you’re going into the coming holiday season with the idea that you’ll start a new diet in January, 2020, we have an idea…don’t. There’s something liberating about avoiding the “Last Supper” before a restrictive diet and swapping it in favor of an acceptance for where you can make improvements that feel good today. In other words, diets are temporary and we believe there is a better way. Start small, make a commitment to choose a healthier option today, move a little more, and challenge the automatic thought that you have to start a restrictive diet to be healthy. 


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At FLIK Hospitality Group we believe in great food, great service, and great people. Our wellness first approach ensures our food supports healthy and delicious choices, specially curated by our team of culinary experts and registered dietitians. At FLIK, we believe in seasonality in sourcing our ingredients and providing a customized approach to the culinary and hospitality needs of each client. Our dedication to providing quality hospitality service is unparalleled in the industry.

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