How Have Diets Changed Over the Past 20 Years?

By Summer Banks FNS, SPT on May 11, 2021

It may seem like just the other day, but we entered the year 2000 two decades ago. Over those two decades, the diet and weight-loss markets have changed drastically. From the earliest weight-loss plans that focused on restriction to detoxes, cleanses, and fasting, there’s a little something for everyone. How have diets changed over the last 20 years?

From low-carb options to eating like a caveman – fasting for days or drinking nothing but juice, there have been diets to cover every type of person. The trouble with the majority of diets introduced in the last two decades is that few works as claimed. Not only are many of the diets just plain unhealthy, but most have also been clinically studied and shown to have no long-term effect on weight. But, rest assured, the decades didn’t fail us altogether. There are a couple of eating plans and weight-loss programs out there that work – plain and simple.

Overview

Diets of the Decades 

What diets have changed the face of weight loss over the last two decades, and which have come and gone like the rest of the fads in the industry? Let’s take a closer look at some of the diets and weight-loss programs that changed how we thought about losing weight. 

Atkins Diet

Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet was created in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that the mainstream market took ahold of the theory of losing weight by eliminating nearly all carbohydrates from the diet. So, how does eating fewer carbs equal weight loss? It’s all in the process called ketosis

Ketosis is the body’s fat-burning process that allows for energy production using fat stores instead of carbohydrates when the diet is lacking in these sugars. The body prefers carbohydrates, but fat will work just fine. As the body burns fat for fuel, the fat stores you’ve been carrying around melt away and you lose fat, not muscle mass. 

When studies into the Atkins Diet were reviewed in 2017, the majority of research found that the diet, indeed, promoted weight loss. So, what’s the problem with Atkins? 

The Atkins Diet is restrictive and, thanks to our society’s focus on carbohydrates in foods, eliminating these carbs can be difficult, if only on a personal level. Basically, the long-term effectiveness of the diet tends to wane as time goes on. (Nutrients)

How Have Diets Changed Over the Past 20 Years? Customer Testimonials
South Beach Diet

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet has changed several times over the years, but it has always focused on the same thing – carbs. Today it is marketed as a keto diet solution, but over the last 20 years, the focus has been more on a Mediterranean-style of low carb. While the program of old tailored to carbohydrate intake, much like Atkins, South Beach was considered the more lenient of the two. 

The South Beach Diet has never been quite as popular as the Atkins Diet, and the amount of research into the diet shows that. The latest research we found was a 2007 study that showed the South Beach Diet wasn’t as effective as other, more traditional diets. (Journal of the American Dietetic Association)

Master Cleanse

Master Cleanse

The Master Cleanse, or lemonade diet, is all about drinking lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and water. This unlikely combination is supposed to help cleanse the body and promote weight loss. The diet is simple to follow and inexpensive, which should be the perfect combination, but that’s not the case. You eat no food on the Master Cleanse, and the hunger will creep up on you rather quickly. That first push of excitement will soon be replaced with a desire to eat food. 

Though the program is far from being nutritionally sound, and despite some claims out there, there is research into the Master Cleanse (or lemonade detox) that shows promise. According to a study published in 2015, the Master Cleanse “reduces body fat…” (Nutrition Research)

With Noom, the weight-loss program based on psychology and personal coaching, you can lose the weight without having to worry about a Master Cleanse or some other diet trend. Trends come and go, but real-life changes that teach you how to live life while losing weight is the key to success. Check out Noom’s free trial offer and see what it can do for you.

Raw Food Diet

Raw Food Diet

The Raw Food Diet is one of the most self-explanatory on the list. This diet consists of all raw foods. That means nothing is cooked over 115 degrees. This diet tends to be vegetarian-heavy, but some meats can be consumed uncooked, like sashimi, or raw fish

The research into the Raw Food Diet isn’t promising. It was found that a strict raw food diet was responsible for vitamin B12 deficiency and a drop in “good” cholesterol levels. (Journal of Nutrition)

Dukan Diet

Dukan Diet

The Dukan Diet is another protein-based diet. There are four stages to the diet – Attack, Cruise, Consolidation, and Permanent Stabilization. There are plenty of rules to the diet, but suffice it to say that you will eat more than enough protein and few carbohydrates. Over time, however, you are allowed to return to a more traditional diet complete with fruit, bread, and cheese. The Attack stage consists of eating all the protein you want. That moves into the Cruise stage where you’re allowed to eat some vegetables on some days. The stages then progress to the final Permanent Stabilization stage, where you’re back to eating the foods you love. 

There’s really no strong research for or against the Dukan Diet, but we did find a mention of the Dukan Diet in research that claimed commercial diets, like the Dukan Diet, aren’t always the best for long-term results. (PLoS One)

Special K Diet

Special K Diet

The Special K Diet is one of those that a big company marketed. It worked and stay popular for a while but then faded into the background. The concept is simple – replace two meals a day with Special K cereal and eat a healthy, controlled-calorie meal for dinner. There’s not much more on the diet, other than it lasts 14 days. Snacks allowed on the plan include fruits, vegetables, and, of course, Special K foods like bars and meal replacements.

Actual research into the Special K Diet was completed and published in 2016. According to the study, over the two weeks, participants followed the plan, they lost more weight than did the control group. The brunt of the diet falls on calorie-reduction. Between the morning and afternoon cereal and snacks, you may consume fewer than 500 calories by dinner, when you fill in the nutritional gaps with a healthy, vegetable-rich meal and lean protein. (Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Science)

Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet is one of the older diets, but the consistent rebirth makes it a critical part of the diet industry over the past 20 years. The idea is to consume diluted apple cider vinegar to lose weight. All the diet asks for is one to two tablespoons added to your diet daily. 

What we know, based on research, is that apple cider vinegar supplies acetic acid. Acetic acid does show more promise than the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet. For instance, research shows acetic acid may help improve metabolism, but most studies were completed on mice and rats.

Baby Food Diet

Baby Food Diet

There’s not much to say about the Baby Food Diet other than it is one of the most fad diets on the list. Supposedly, by eating baby food, you can lose weight. The theory behind the diet is eating fewer calories. On the diet, you can eat up to 14 jars of baby food each day as meals and snacks. You are supposed to replace just two meals a day. The third meal is to be packed with healthy, lean protein and lots of nutritious, calorie-controlled starches like vegetables.

There is no research into the effect of eating baby food (by adults) on weight. 

Duke Diet

Duke Diet

The Duke Diet, from the book of the same name, was developed and published in 2007. You eat between 1200 and 1800 calories and sweets, unlike other diets, are part of the plan. The basic rules of the diet plan are to eat more, as long as you’re eating the foods allowed on the diet, and plan out your meals. Keep a food diary and learn to decipher whether or not you are hungry or just desiring food for emotional reasons. One of the key elements of the diet is to refrain from getting down on yourself if you slip up or if you aren’t losing the weight you think you should be. Weight loss is a process that takes time and patience. 

We found plenty of research on the above mentioned Dukan Diet, but nothing on the Duke Diet. 

Juicing

Juicing

Juicing is a generic diet, of sorts, that really took hold with the invention of the mega juicer by Jack LaLanne. The idea behind juicing is to get all the nutrition from fruits and vegetables in a way that tastes good and is easy to digest. Juicing fulfills both these promises, for some people as taste is subjective. 

Juicing gave birth to the Green Smoothie Diet, which came much later. Green smoothies are a combination of vegetables, like spinach and kale, with fruits and other ingredients like flax and chia seeds. Instead of juicing the elements, all are placed into a blender to create a smoothie. 

After just three days of a vegetable and fruit-juice diet, the microbes in the intestine that play a part in weight loss were altered in a way that promoted weight loss. (Scientific Reports)

Gluten Free

Gluten-Free Eating

Gluten-free eating was originally used for people with celiac conditions. Another group of people, those who felt they were sensitive to gluten but found no medical tests to prove a problem, then took this diet and changed it up to fit many others under the main umbrella. 

Gluten-free eating is not designed for weight loss. In place of gluten-containing foods (gluten is found in wheat products like bread and pasta, along with other foods), replacements are added. At first, there were no mainstream options for food choices, but soon the market took notice, and today there are tons of varieties of processed, gluten-free foods. 

According to research, the use of a gluten-free diet by anyone other than those who have a medical condition requiring the removal of gluten has no medical benefit or precedence. 

Paleo Diet

Paleo Diet

Let’s go back to the caveman days with the Paleo Diet. Proponents believe that eating like our ancestors is the key to overall health and weight loss, but that’s just not the case. The current form of the Paleo Diet is nothing like the diet our ancestors consumed. For instance, broccoli has been genetically modified to be edible for humans. In the natural form, as cavemen would have been familiar with, was toxic. 

Others who buck the diet claim that no foods we currently have in stores are anywhere near the types of foods that naturally grew 10000 years ago. The best bet for someone wanting to follow a Paleo Diet, whether for weight loss or overall health, is to concentrate on healthy, whole foods, kind of like the Mediterranean Diet we will discuss shortly. (Paleolithic Diet – StatPearls)

Keto Diet

Keto Diet

Following on the tails of the Paleo Diet is the Keto Diet. The Keto Diet has been around for more than 100 years as a diet for people suffering from certain medical conditions, like epilepsy. But, the diet can push the body into a state of fat-burning, ketosis, that took the weight-loss world by storm. There have been tens of thousands of people who’ve lost weight on the keto diet, but the majority don’t keep the weight off because the diet is so restrictive. 

Many westerners think a meal should contain meats, vegetables, and starches. The starch, despite the fact that the food pyramid and diet experts tell us it should be otherwise, often makes up the majority of the meal. For instance, a dish of spaghetti is more pasta than sauce or vegetables. On the keto diet, you remove most of these carbohydrates, so eating becomes a different experience. The foods you’ve been taught to avoid for heart health, like fats and butter, are back on the menu in quantities you never imagined. 

Because of the immense popularity of the diet, tons of research has been completed over the last five years. Based on much of the research, the keto diet can help you lose weight, but sticking with it long-term and keeping the weight off is not so easy. (The Indian Journal of Medical Research)

Noom
Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet

The last 20 years did bring about at least one amazing diet. Based on the way Mediterranean people naturally eat, and the health conditions prominent in American culture that are not prevalent in Mediterranean culture, a diet was born. The diet consists of whole foods, healthy fats, lean meats in moderation, and a slew of other naturally healthy food options. Because many people switched from a diet rich in processed foods to this natural method of eating, they noticed weight loss. 

There is so much research supporting the Mediterranean Diet; it’s hard to pinpoint a single source to support how well the diet works. But, we did find research that sums it up pretty well. According to one publication, the Mediterranean Diet has evolved into something the medical community is noticing. The title of the study says it all, “The Mediterranean Diet: From an Environment-Driven Food CUlture to an Emerging Medical Prescription.” (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)

Alkaline Diet

The Alkaline Diet

Because the Alkaline Diet played (and still plays) such a visible role in the weight-loss industry, we wanted to touch on it, if only to give it credit for being there at all. The body’s alkalinity is steady, especially that of the blood. No foods you eat will alter the alkalinity of the body. Urine and other body fluids may be altered, but that will have no impact on weight or other health conditions. 

The premise of the diet is to leave behind foods that form acid and replace them with alkaline foods. 

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has taken a sharp turn into popularity in the last few years. Most of us naturally fast intermittently, especially if we choose to stop eating after dinner and not eat again until lunch. That is basically how intermittent fasting works. 

Men typically follow the 16:8 version, and women follow the 14:10 version of intermittent fasting. With 16:8, you fast for 16 hours a day and eat within an eight-hour time frame. The 14:10 variety works the same way, but you fast for 14 hours and eat within a ten-hour time frame. 

Intermittent fasting, from whether via time-restricted, calorie-restricted, or prolonged fasting, has been shown to promote weight loss just as much, or more, than a traditional diet of calorie reduction. (Current Obesity Reports)

5:2 Diet

5:2 Diet

A specific variety of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 Diet. On the 5:2 Diet, you usually eat five days of the week, but on the other two days, you consume no more than 600 calories for men and 500 calories for women. Though the plan sounds simple enough, you have to watch what you eat on your five-day stretch because if you dine on high-calorie meals and snacks, you won’t lose weight. Too many calories are always too many calories, no matter when you eat them.

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Noom

Rounding out the list of diets of the decades is Noom. We placed this program on the list because it has reset the standard in weight-loss programs. Doctors took years creating a means of using psychology and physiology to construct a personalized diet for every user. Then, the user is partnered with a real coach – a live person – who then works with them to adopt the meal plan and lifestyle changes in a way that lasts a lifetime. 

Now, the artificial intelligence behind the program is just the start. The user can access a food database of more than three million foods. The database is managed by nutritionists to ensure all nutritional information is accurate and up-to-date. Then, to top it off, the program is broken down into small changes that require only 10 minutes a day. 

When we check out the research behind Noom, we aren’t disappointed. In a study of more than 35000 people, more than 78% of people using the app reported losing weight. Plus, the research showed that people who tracked evening meals and weight more often tended to skip the yo-yo effect and lose weight for good.

So, what did the last two decades of weight-loss programs, plans, and diets have to offer? There is something for everyone, but only a few that will truly stand the test of time. For a diet plan – the Mediterranean Diet is at the top of the list, and it will be for many years to come. The plan is based on real science, and you eat real food that’s grown naturally and cooked with healthy oils. For a more advanced weight-loss program, we settle on Noom as the best of the best. The 10-minute a day program is a quick, easy, and clinically-proven way to lose weight, so you see the results you want, and you don’t have to worry about gaining it all back when you start eating real food again. 

Noom takes the advanced in technology and partners them with research on the human mind for a new, exciting, and effective approach to weight loss. For a limited time, Dietspotlight readers can access a free trial offer of Noom so you can see just how well the plan works. 

About the Author:

Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.

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