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Evaluating the Nutritional Components of Fad Diets
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Evaluating the Nutritional Components of Fad Diets

31 January 2022

Understanding how effective popular diets are at cutting or expending calories and ultimately weight loss.

By Dr. Jennifer Denlinger, CCC, CHEP
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Our nutrition class textbook contains a chapter toward the end of the book devoted to diets. I cover this chapter after students have already learned about nutritional intake, the concepts of losing or putting-on weight, preferred nutritional requirements, plus how to make nutritional calculations. Armed with their new nutritional facts, I ask students to evaluate what I describe as fad diets.

I assign them a fad diet to research and we do a positive and negative comparison. This lesson helps avoid a dry and stagnant lecture on a subject that has many opinions. Also, it is usually quite an amusing, almost funny conversation with the students.

I begin by asking students which fad diets they have heard of – this is not research-based. Generally, I hear many different types of diets as there are usually mixed generations in the class. I have 31 diets written on individual popsicle sticks. Each student draws one stick to see which diet they are responsible for researching. (I ask them to return the sticks to me for use in future classes.) Instructors can remove sticks if you don’t have that many students in your class or want them to focus on certain diets. I give them a handout to help direct their research. As usual, I remind them if they use a source such as Wikipedia, they need to double-check the information with another site. I also give them a predetermined about of time to complete the activity.

After their research is complete, they write question answers in bullet format on a whiteboard, plus anything else they think should be shared. At the end of this, they talk through each one, and I ask them do they think it would work, yes or no.

The overarching dieting lesson objective is to understand how different diets direct people to consume fewer calories than needed or spend more calories than consumed.

Attachments:
Fad Diets Worksheet for students
List of Fad Diets


Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger, PhD., CCC, CHEP, is the Culinary Management Program Department Chair at the Poinciana Campus of Valencia College. She is also the vice president of ACF’s Central Florida Chapter. Additionally, Chef Denlinger earned the 2020 Innovation Award, sponsored by CAFÉ and the Idaho Potato Commission, for a creative escape room based on safe food handling procedures. She also earned the 2021 Green Award sponsored by the United Soybean Board and was runner up in 2021 for the Postsecondary Education of the Year sponsored by Sysco Corporation.