In many ways, today's consumers are more savvy than previous generations when it comes to dietary concerns. There is a trend toward eating more whole foods in general, as well as plenty of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. But this is in stark contrast to the dietary trends that our foremothers followed. In fact, plenty of dieting advice from the '90s will make you want a burger right now. Or at least a veggie burger.
Basically, starvation — or at least extreme dietary restrictions — were heavily encouraged. And, counterintuitively, so was the consumption of highly processed foods. It was a lose-lose situation for most any one who wanted to gain control of their dietary habits.
This was a time when advertisers would have you believe the solutions to all of your dietary concerns lay at the bottom of a bag of Snackwell's Devil Food Cookies. Because if there was one true health food in the world, it was a "fat-free" cookie or other packaged snack food. It's no surprise that food culture has taken such a turn away from these ideas in recent years. That said, it's fun to take a look back and marvel at how some of these trends seemed like such a good idea at the time. Sometimes it's a better idea to ignore the fads and trust your gut.
1Try The Grapefruit Diet
Do you remember this ish? It's basically all grapefruit, all the time. Although the original diet dates back to the 1930s, as noted in WebMD, you probably know a friend-of-a-friend who tried it out during its '90s resurgence. According to Healthline, the grapefruit diet is restrictive and could lead people to abandon the plan altogether.
2Only Eat Fat-Free Foods
If one diet trend dominated the 1990s, it was low-fat or fat-free. You could not walk down a single aisle in the supermarket without seeing those terms a thousand times over. Even fast food got into the mix with McDonald's McLean Deluxe burger (and a vintage commercial on YouTube you need to see).
Unfortunately, this idea had some rather disastrous consequences. According to NPR, the fat-free trend might have caused weight gain for a lot of people, because food manufacturers would "take out the fat; [and] add lots of sugar." Yikes. Oh, and this trend also lead to the whole olestra debacle, a fat substitute that turned chips and french fries into abdominal disasters, as recounted in Time. Thankfully, kale chips don't seem to produce any deleterious effects, so it looks like consumers have much better options now.
Sure, the premise sounded good: there's a pill for almost every ailment, so why not dieting? But the reality of diet pills in the '90s was much different. For instance, the weight-loss drug Fen-Phen was withdrawn from the market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997 due to its potential risks to the heart.
Ah, yes: the era of bun-less hamburgers. In the late '90s (and into the early '00s), the Atkins Diet was all the rage, with people everywhere eschewing carbs and starches for protein. But even this long-lived fad diet had a drop-off point, and by 2003 the Independent reported the Atkins diet was no easier to follow than other dietary programs.
It you walked into a bookstore in the mid-to-late '90s, chances are you were confronted by giant stacks of Enter the Zone books by Barry Sears. The Zone diet followed a combination of carbs, fat, and proteins that apparently help your body work more efficiently. According to WebMD, the diet's weight loss goals of about one pound per week are reasonable, although it is unlikely that all of the weight loss will be purely fat and not water or muscle.