A woman holds a salad bowl and appears to be teaching a recipe. She smiles.
Focus on healthful foods in moderation, and exercise, to start along your path to wellness. (Taylor Ballek | Spectrum Health Beat)

Fad diets seem to pop up like dandelions in the spring. Everywhere.

Many people fall for these diets, which make dubious claims that the dieter will burn fat and lose weight quickly, often without the proper nutrition or exercise required for long-term fitness.

Kristi Veltkamp, a Spectrum Health registered dietitian, shares that there is no quick fix to any weight-loss journey. Research shows 95 percent of all diets fail.

“You may lose weight fast or see others losing, but most diets are not sustainable and you end up gaining back more than you lost,” Veltkamp said. “Find something that you can do long term and start with small achievable goals. And be sure to get moving.”

If you think the claims are too good to be true, you’re probably right. There isn’t a product out there that will miraculously melt your fat away or an over-the-counter pill you can take to make you thin in an instant.

Libby Down, another Spectrum Health registered dietitian, said fad diets are no substitute for a balanced and active lifestyle.

“If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re probably in it for money,” she said. “Ultimately, the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in.”

Anyone who wants to lose weight should start by building a healthy relationship with food, both dietitians note.

“Choose foods that are minimally processed, eat a variety of colorful plant-based foods, lean protein and whole grains,” Down said.

In the meantime, avoid diets that make these claims:

Quick weight loss

Many fad diets suggest that you’ll only need to follow them for a certain number of weeks or months. Stick to slow, steady weight loss or you are more likely to regain the weight quickly after the diet ends.

No need to exercise

Exercise should be a regular part of any sensible weight-loss program, so beware of diets that promise you’ll lose pounds while lounging on the couch. Regular exercise can help maintain weight loss gained through dieting. Sensible diets or weight-management plans are designed to be used over a lifetime, Down said.

Quantities and limitations

Diets that allow you to eat unlimited quantities of any food, such as soup or grapefruit, are questionable—and ineffective. Not only are these diets boring, but eliminating food groups such as carbohydrates deny you some crucial nutrients.

Steady menus

Having to follow a specific meal plan can be overwhelming. If you feel like you can’t eat that way or keep to a schedule, then this diet will fail and is not for you.

Food combinations

Watch out for diets that insist on eating certain foods together or eating your meals at a certain time. Neither of these will help you drop pounds. If you eat the same dinner at 6 p.m. or 10 p.m., it won’t affect your weight loss.