Baby Food Diet: How Bad Is It For You?
Cabbage soup, that lemonade-maple-syrup-cayenne-pepper-concoction, the ubiquitous acai berry cleanse: quick-fix fad diets often go out of style as quickly as they came in.
But according to recent reports out of Europe, the trendy so-called "baby food" diet -- which involves eating pureed fruits and vegetables 14 times a day -- is showing signs of staying power. And the real surprise? It's not that bad for you.
The diet, created by trainer-to-the-stars Tracy Anderson, who later distanced herself from the craze, became popular in the spring of last year after Jennifer Aniston and Lady Gaga were rumored to be fans.
Last month, it was reported that British celebrity Cheryl Cole had also jumped on the baby food bandwagon. The UK-based web grocer Ocado compared baby food sales before and after the reports and noticed a significant increase.
"While Ocado cannot categorically state this uplift was due to media discussion around the diet there was a confirmed sales spike," a spokesperson for Ocado said via email.
While the diet has some obvious drawbacks, like depriving users of the pleasures associated with eating un-pureed food, it has one distinct advantage over other extreme weight loss techniques: According to health experts, it’s not as bad as you might think.
"Food that makes a baby grow is pretty good food," said Dr. Samuel Klein, Director, Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis.
Klein explained that baby foods typically don't have much added sugar, sodium or preservatives. Because fruits and vegetables are baby food staples, those on the diet are likely to take in a decent amount of these oft-neglected food groups.
Other positives include the built-in portion control store-bought infant food affords. If your meals are all measured out, you might be less likely to overindulge.
However, experts seem to agree that the diet's upsides compared to other fads don't make it a permanent solution.
"Who wants to eat baby food 14 times a day?" said Jim White, a registered dietitian and spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. "We've got to enjoy ourselves too, and chew our food. It's just not livable, unless you're in a retirement home."
White suggested using baby food as a supplement to snack on or curb your appetite is a much better alternative.
New York-based psychiatrist Marianne Gillow, a third of whose patients struggle with eating disorders, pointed out that the diet could be useful to jump start a health kick but that it doesn't get to the root of the problem. Moderation, as exhibited in the Department of Agriculture’s recently released food plate makes a lot more sense to her.
"The biggest problem with a lot of fad diets is that it doesn't teach you how to make peace with food in the real world," she said. Learning to eat healthfully, she added, is "almost like the process of psychotherapy: you need to think through your relationship with food."