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The Scarsdale Diet: Optimal Weight Loss Program or Fad Diet?


The Scarsdale Diet: Optimal Weight Loss Program or Fad Diet? 

If you’re on the hunt for weight loss diets, chances are you’ve stumbled across the Scarsdale diet. Popular in the 70’s diet sensation and created by Dr. Herman Tarnower, this 1000-calorie diet promises weight loss in only 2-weeks –a pace questioned by man. Discover the pros and cons of this extreme diet in this guide! 

Who Created the Scarsdale Diet? || What Is the Scarsdale Diet? || Does the Scarsdale Diet Work? || Is The Scarsdale Diet a Medical Diet? || The Scarsdale Diet Plan || The Rules || Benefits || Downsides || Key Takeaway

Who Created the Scarsdale Diet?

Dr. Herman Tarnower, an established cardiologist in Scarsdale, NY came up with the Scarsdale diet plan in the 70’s. Originally a two-page document, this diet plan was curated to help out his patients with better weight loss results.

Inspired by a series of achievement accounts, Dr. Tarnower launched “The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet Plus Dr. Tarnower’s Lifetime Keep-Slim Program” in 1979.

This book became an instant hit as it offered an instant weight loss solution.

Source: NY Times


What Is the Scarsdale Diet?

Here’s the Scarsdale diet plan in a nutshell:

  • Calorie Intake: 1000 calories a day allowed.
  • Protein-Carbohydrate Ratio: This diet plan allowed a 43% protein, 22.5% fat, and 34.5% carbohydrate ratio.
  • Duration: For the Scarsdale diet plan to work, you need to follow it strictly for 14 days. After this, you’ll transition to the Keep Slim Program.
  • Beverages: Drink at least 945ml (about 31.95 oz) of water a day. You can also have sugar-free tea, coffee, or soda.
  • Alcohol: In these 14 days, you can’t have alcohol.
  • Snacking: No snacking between meals.
  • Bread: Only a specific amount of protein bread is allowed.
  • Dressings & Sauces: You’re only allowed to have low-fat dressings and sauces.
  • Substitutions: You’re allowed to substitute with certain foods, but they need to have the same calories.
  • Supplements: You need to take your daily dose of multivitamins and minerals.
  • After 14 days: Transition to the Keep-Slim Program for maintenance, which is a bit less restrictive but still emphasizes on high protein and low carbohydrates

Keep Slim Program

Here’s the Phase 2 of the Scarsdale diet plan i.e., Keep Slim Program:

  • Transition from Strict Phase: Start the maintenance phase after the 14-day restrictive diet.
  • Increase Caloric Intake: Although no calorie count is specified, you can consume more calories than phase 1. However, you need to be careful with portion sizes and consume high-protein meals.
  • Add More Food Options: With your focus on high-protein, low-carb options, add more nutritious foods to your diet.
  • Monitor Carb Intake: Make sure your diet is low in carbs.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water. You can also indulge in beverages like sugar-free tea and coffee.
  • Limit Snacks: Add healthy, low-carb and low-fat snacks. Even then, you need to be careful about portion sizes.
  • Enjoy Alcohol in Moderation: While you can let loose and have a drink, it’s important to keep your alcohol consumption at the low-low.
  • Exercise Regularly: Stay active to boost metabolism and stay fit.
  • Adjust Based on Feedback: If you start gaining weight, you’ll have to return to phase 1.
  • Stay Committed: You need to stick to this program – that’s the only way you’ll see results.

Find The Right Diet For You:

Does The Scarsdale Diet Work?

To answer shortly, yes, the Scarsdale diet works. It is a 1000-calorie diet plan which leads to short-term weight loss.

However, according to medical experts, it poses threats to your health and wellbeing. Since it is a highly restrictive diet, it is not sustainable in the long run.

Is The Scarsdale Diet a Medical Diet?

No, it is not a medical diet. The Scarsdale diet is referred to as a “medical diet” because it was developed by Dr. Herman Tarnower, who was a cardiologist in the 70’s. However, just because a diet is curated by a doctor, does not mean it is universally a healthy or medical diet. In fact, the Scarsdale diet plan faced backlash for promoting unhealthy eating habits that lead to health problems in the long run.

The Scarsdale Diet Plan


Breakfast (every day)

  • Half a grapefruit (52 calories)
  • 1 slice of protein bread, toasted (80 calories)
  • 1 cup of unsweetened black coffee or tea (2 calories)

Day 1


  • Grilled chicken salad with spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, and radishes. Use a dash of olive oil, lemon, and herbs for dressing. (380 calories)
  • 1 apple (95 calories)


  • Grilled fish with a side of sautéed zucchini, and green beans in minimal olive oil. (340 calories)

Day 2


  • Tuna salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and onion. Season with herbs, lime juice, and a dash of olive oil. (380 calories)
  • Half a cantaloupe (90 calories)


  • Turkey slices with a side of steamed asparagus and cauliflower. (400 calories)

Day 3


  • Egg salad (using both whites and yolk) with celery, lettuce, and a sprinkle of herbs. (370 calories)
  • A bowl of watermelon slices (100 calories)


  • Lean beef steak with Brussels sprouts and broccoli, seasoned with permitted herbs. (400 calories)

Day 4


  • Chicken Caesar salad (no croutons or heavy dressings) with Romaine lettuce and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese slices. (390 calories)
  • A bowl of strawberries (80 calories)


  • Fish tacos using protein bread, filled with grilled fish, lettuce, tomatoes, and radishes. (400 calories)

Day 5


  • Turkey and spinach wrap using protein bread. (370 calories)
  • 1 peach (70 calories)


  • Shrimp stir-fry with bell peppers, green beans, and snow peas. (400 calories)

Day 6


  • Beef salad with arugula, spinach, and cherry tomatoes. Dash of olive oil and lemon juice as dressing. (380 calories)
  • 1 plum (70 calories)


  • Chicken and vegetable skewers with bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes. (400 calories)

Day 7


  • Egg white omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese. (360 calories)
  • A bowl of blueberries (100 calories)


  • Grilled salmon with side salad of lettuce, cucumber, and radishes. (400 calories)

Snacks (Choose 1-2 Per Day, Each Day)

  • Six walnut or pecan halves (90 calories)
  • 1 cup carrot sticks (50 calories)
  • Black coffee or tea (2 calories)
  • Freshly pressed vegetable juice (varies, but aim for around 60 calories)

What Are The Scarsdale Diet Rules?


Like most diets, the Scarsdale diet comes with its own set of rules and guidelines. The goal of this diet is to help you shed a few pounds without compromising on your nutrient consumption.

The Rules for This Diet

Consult a doctor or health professional if you are pregnant or have any other serious medical conditions

  • Avoid vegetables such as potatoes, lentils, corn and beans. Green and waxed beans are allowed though,
  • Overeating is not allowed
  • You can only consume snacks like celery and carrots
  • Use meager amounts of sauces such as ketchup, mustard, chili sauce or vegetable dressings
  • Herbs and spices are allowed.

What Foods Can You Eat on the Scarsdale Diet?

Here’s a breakdown of the foods that are allowed in the Scarsdale diet plan:

Non-Starchy Veggies

  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Green beans
  • Leafy greens (like spinach and lettuce)
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini


Prioritize grapefruit when possible due to its metabolism-boosting properties.

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupes
  • Grapes
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Starfruit
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Grains and Breads

  • Only protein bread is recommended, avoiding other grain products.


Lean Meats: Including beef and hamburger.

Poultry: Such as chicken and turkey.

Fish and Seafood: Incorporate varieties of fish and other seafood but exclude processed options like bologna.

Eggs: Both yolks and whites are allowed, but they should be prepared without fats like oil or butter.


Choose low-fat variants to stay within the diet’s guidelines.

  • 2% milk
  • Cheese slices
  • Cottage cheese

Nuts and Seeds

  • Limit yourself to six walnut or pecan halves a day, to be consumed occasionally.


  • Most herbs and spices are permitted to enhance the flavor of your meals. Popular choices can be rosemary, thyme, turmeric, and more.


  • Unsweetened black coffee
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Zero-calorie diet sodas for those occasional fizzy cravings.

Even though the Scarsdale diet is restrictive in terms of calories, it does comprise of essential nutrients. However, it is not a sustainable diet and is not promoted by health professionals.

What Foods Aren’t Allowed on the Scarsdale Diet?

Here’s a list of foods that aren’t allowed on the Scarsdale diet:

Starchy Veggies and Grains

  • Beans (including lentils and chickpeas)
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • White potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Rice
  • Pumpkin
  • Most wheat and grain products, such as bagels, bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, and pizza.

Sweet Treats and Sugars

  • All sugary snacks and treats.
  • Breakfast items like doughnuts, pancakes, and cereals with added sugar.
  • Most sweets, including chocolates and candies.

Fatty and Processed Proteins

  • Highly processed meats like bologna, sausages, and bacon.
  • Avoid most fatty cuts of meat.


  • Full-fat variants, such as whole milk, creamy yogurts, and rich cheeses.

Fats and Oils

  • All oils, including cooking and olive oil.
  • Butter, ghee, and mayonnaise.
  • Salad dressings, especially those high in fat and sugar.

Processed Foods

  • Fast food items.
  • Premade frozen dinners.
  • Snacks like potato chips.
  • Processed snacks and most store-bought baked goods.


  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Artificially sweetened beverages.
  • Most fruit juices, especially those with added sugars.
  • Sodas, including diet sodas.
  • Specialty coffees and teas with added syrups and sugars.


  • Avocado and jackfruit from the fruit category.
  • Flour and all flour-based foods.
  • Most nuts and seeds, except limited amounts of walnuts and pecans.

Benefits Of The Scarsdale Diet


Despite the criticism this diet received, the Scarsdale diet plan does come with a handful of benefits. Here are a few of them:

Simple & Easy to Follow

The Scarsdale diet plan stands out for its simplicity. Unlike other diets that are confusing because of their difficult meal plans or rare ingredients, Scarsdale offers clear, easy-to-follow guidelines.

Most foods in this diet are available in local grocery stores, so you won’t have to endlessly search for rare ingredients.

With a menu in place, it removes the guesswork, making it straightforward for anyone to adopt. In addition, since it is a 2-week plan, many people stick to it. This guarantees effective results quickly.


What makes the Scarsdale diet such a hit is that it is inexpensive. Most of the ingredients are available locally so you don’t have to visit the specialty section. You can get all your items from the local grocery store.

In addition, the portion sizes are small. This means you’re using minimal ingredients, which saves your long-term costs.

No Long-Term Commitment

With this diet being a 1-week follow plan i.e., 7 days of restriction and 7 days of maintenance, you don’t have to commit to it in the long-run.

Sure, if you start gaining weight again after the diet period is over, you can always hop back on the restrictive plan. But if you want to stay slim, you can follow the ‘Keep Slim Program’ loosely.

Downsides Of the Scarsdale Diet

It’s no secret that the Scarsdale diet is not supported by health experts and medical professionals. Here are a few reasons why:

Highly Restrictive Diet

This 1000-calorie diet is highly restrictive. It prohibits many food items as discussed earlier, and these are essential for you.

It doesn’t promote intuitive eating either. So, if you’re craving a cookie, you best bet you can’t have it.

Extremely Low in Calories and Limits Carbohydrates

Not only is it limited to 1000-calories, but it is also extremely low in carbs. While it’s great to have a protein-rich diet, carbs are a key source of energy.

Consuming such a low carb diet means you’re at a risk of having low energy and blood sugar levels, which could lead to health risks in the future.

Not Sustainable

Without a doubt, sticking to a list of foods so religiously and avoiding your favorite snacks is just not sustainable.

According to research, an average man and woman should consume 2500 and 2000 calories a day, respectively. And for weight loss, they should reduce the calorie consumption to 2000 and 1500 calories a day, respectively.

This means that if you’re restricting yourself to 1000 calories because of the Scarsdale diet, it’s just not sustainable.

Key Takeaway

To conclude, while the Scarsdale diet plan promises instant results, it is an unsustainable diet because of its restrictive nature. For those looking to lose weight in the short run, it’s a decent solution. But it is not a healthy diet plan to follow – especially because of the health risks associated with it.

If your goal is to stay fit and eat well, make sure to follow a balanced and nutritious diet.

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