20 Popular Diets from the ’70s That Health Experts Now Warn Against

The 1970s were a decade of bold statements, including diet trends. Back then, the average American consumed more red meat and less vegetables than today. National obesity rates were also lower, but that might not be thanks to these fad diets! Get ready for a trip down memory lane as we explore 20 outrageous diet crazes from the 1970s—some so strange they’ll make you wonder what people were thinking (and maybe reach for some healthy snacks instead).

The Cabbage Soup Diet

Embrace the humble cabbage and shed pounds quickly, or so it promised. This low-calorie fad relied heavily on cabbage soup, leaving dieters feeling deprived of variety and essential nutrients for long-term health. While cabbage itself is a healthy vegetable, this restrictive plan wasn’t sustainable and lacked the balance needed for a healthy body.

The Scarsdale Medical Diet

High-protein, low-carb became the mantra of the Scarsdale Medical Diet, promising rapid weight loss through this restrictive approach. However, this unbalanced plan often led to unpleasant side effects like headaches, fatigue, and constipation. Doctors today advise against such restrictive diets due to the potential health risks.

The Grapefruit Diet

This fad claimed the tangy grapefruit could “burn fat” with its magical properties. While grapefruit is a healthy fruit full of vitamins and antioxidants, this unbalanced plan lacked essential nutrients from other food groups and wasn’t a long-term solution for weight management.

The Master Cleanse

This extreme detox involved consuming only a concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for several days. Since it offered no solid food, this fad could lead to electrolyte imbalance and malnutrition, posing serious health risks. It’s best to consult a doctor before attempting any cleanses or drastic dietary changes.

The High-Protein Diet

Protein is an essential nutrient for building and repairing tissues, but 1970s versions of the high-protein diet often went overboard. These plans emphasized excessive meat consumption, neglecting the importance of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber for a healthy body.

The F-Plan Diet

This wasn’t necessarily a fad but an early example of a focus on fiber in weight management. The F-Plan Diet promoted high fiber intake and low calories, featuring meals like muesli for breakfast, packed with oats and nuts, and salad with pulses for lunch, offering sustained energy. While effective for some, this plan might not have been as popular as the more extreme fads of the era.


Metrecal was a chalky, protein-rich powder marketed as a “Satisfying Food for Weight Control.” While convenient, it wasn’t exactly a culinary delight. This fad highlights the sometimes unpleasant lengths people went to in the pursuit of weight loss during the 1970s.

Carnation’s Slender

When dieters discovered Carnation’s Instant Breakfast could be a meal replacement, the company capitalized on the trend with a weight-loss version complete with snack bars. Carnation’s Slender offered convenience but faced competition from other similar products flooding the market, all vying for a piece of the diet craze pie.

The Sugar Busters Diet

This plan focused on limiting sugary foods, a concept with some merit in today’s world. However, the 1970s version of the Sugar Busters Diet might have been overly restrictive, potentially cutting out healthy sources of carbohydrates like fruits and whole grains.

The Stillman Diet

The Stillman Diet promised quick weight loss with its low-carbohydrate, high-protein approach. While some might see initial results, this restrictive plan often led to yo-yo dieting and potential health risks in the long run. Doctors today emphasize a balanced approach to weight management that includes all food groups.

The Flex Diet

This cyclical approach involved alternating high-carb and low-carb days. While a concept with some modern adaptations, the 1970s version of the Flex Diet lacked the scientific understanding we have today. Back then, dieters might have cycled in and out of ketosis too frequently, potentially causing unnecessary stress on the body.

The Airline Diet

The Airline Diet mimicked the limited food options on airplanes, offering very low-calorie intake and lacking essential nutrients. This restrictive plan was not only unsustainable but could also be dangerous due to the lack of essential vitamins and minerals.

The Liquid Protein Diet

Convenience was king in the 1970s diet scene. The Liquid Protein Diet involved consuming only protein shakes, promising effortless weight loss. However, this approach lacked essential nutrients like fiber, healthy fats, and vitamins and could potentially cause kidney problems due to the strain of processing excessive protein.

The Celebrity Diet

Following the eating habits of your favorite stars was a popular trend in the 70s. Unfortunately, these celebrity diets were often unproven and needed more scientific backing. What worked for a celebrity with a specific body type and access to nutritionists might not be healthy or sustainable for the average person.

The Egg Diet

This repetitive plan relied heavily on eggs for most meals. While eggs are a good source of protein, this fad lacked variety and essential nutrients from other food groups for long-term health. Constantly eating the same food can also lead to feelings of deprivation and make it difficult to stick to the diet in the long run.

The Low-Fat Diet

While not necessarily a fad, this approach gained traction in the 1970s with the misconception that all fat was bad. While some fats can contribute to health problems, healthy fats are essential for our bodies. The Low-Fat Diet often led people to consume processed foods low in fat but high in sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates.

The Drinking Man’s Diet

The Drinking Man’s Diet allowed for unlimited alcoholic beverages alongside a limited food menu. It’s a recipe for dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, and potential liver damage. There’s no magic bullet for weight loss, and this fad highlights the dangers of prioritizing alcohol over healthy eating.

Sego Diet

This meal-replacement shake promised weight loss convenience but faced competition from a growing market of similar products. While Sego shakes offered some nutrients, they lacked the fiber and variety of whole foods and might not have been as satisfying as a balanced meal.

The Fad Diet du Jour

The 1970s were a breeding ground for short-term, restrictive diets promising quick fixes. These “fad diets of the day” lacked long-term sustainability and often posed health risks. From the bizarre grapefruit diet to the questionable protein-only shakes, these fads were more about trendy gimmicks than actual healthy weight management.

The Disco Diets

Just like the era itself, the diet fads of the 1970s were flashy, often short-lived, and sometimes downright strange. From cabbage soup concoctions to protein-only shakes, these fads focused on quick fixes rather than long-term healthy habits. So, the next time you’re considering a fad diet, remember the wild world of disco diets and opt for a sustainable, balanced approach to weight management instead!

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