Is The Scarsdale Diet Right For You?

scarsdale diet

Have you ever heard of the Scarsdale diet? This restrictive diet was developed by Dr. Herman Tarnower, originally promising weight losses of up to 20 pounds in two weeks. The diet is high-protein, low-calorie, and low-carbohydrate. And it definitely isn’t for everyone. But let’s dive into the Scarsdale diet and how it works, the drawbacks, and whether it’s right for you.

What is the Scarsdale Diet?

The diet itself is pretty extreme, restricting calories to 1,000 a day for all individuals. However, there is no need to count calories, since detailed menus are provided as are long lists of permitted and forbidden foods. Proteins are permitted (with fat removed) as well as some fruit and non- starchy vegetables. The only bread allowed is protein bread. No other flour or grain products may be eaten.

Challenges of Using the Scarsdale Diet


There is a definite monotony in the diet. Breakfast every day is dry protein bread with grapefruit. Lunches and dinners consist of large amounts of animal protein with fat removed and unlimited low-carb vegetables. Unsweetened tea and coffee are included and so is diet soda which is very sweetened although artificially. Such a diet could possibly be maintained for two weeks, though it would play havoc with enjoying a normal life.


Any weight lost in the two weeks on the diet would easily be regained once one resumed more normal eating patterns. To forestall this, Dr. Tarnower prescribes an on-going keep slim maintenance diet which is almost as restrictive as the diet itself, but does allow for some real bread and one alcoholic drink a day. To stay slim, you stay on this regime for the rest of your life. Should you find that your weight starts creeping up, you go back on the extreme 14 day formula.

Challenges to your Health

Like most fad diets, the Scarsdale diet was very popular in the 1970’s and then tended to fade. It re-emerged in notoriety in 1981 when Dr. Tarnower was murdered by a former lover.
Since then medical science with respect to diet and weight loss has advanced. The general consensus is that the Scarsdale diet is not good either for general weight control or your overall health.

The extreme calorie restriction and food limitations are such that ordinary human beings are not likely to be able to keep up even the maintenance phase of the diet. On again off again dieting with its cycles of weight losses and gains are a likely result. Such yo-yo eating levels are very bad for your health and may even be worse than staying at a higher weight. They result in fat gain, muscle loss and increased risk of disease such as cardiac problems.

The high level of protein in the diet has its own dangers especially when all protein comes from animal sources and is not balanced by carbohydrates. This is the case in the Scarsdale diet. Kidney problems and osteoporosis are among the more serious risks.

Most of us see exercise as a vital component of staying slim. Dr. Tarnower did mention exercise at least marginally. He suggested a three kilometre walk (about 1.5 miles) daily. Some medical observers wonder if those on the 1000 calorie a day diets would have the energy to do even this much exercise.

Is The Scarsdale Diet Right For You?

After considering the problems of following Tarnower’s program and the serious health concerns it raises, the amazing thing is that this diet is still around. Any search for Scarsdale or related topics brings up almost endless lists of related material, some of it sensible and accurate and some imbued with much wishful thinking.

Alas, the Scarsdale diet is not the magic solution to our weight control problems that it originally promised to be. Far being easy and effective, it is difficult and dangerous. Should you try it? Definitely not.

A Scarsdale Diet Meal Plan For The Day

This daily menu is based on a seven-day plan, so once you complete one week you can follow again for the second week. You’ll notice the plan is low in carbs and fat to drive weight loss. It’s also very low in calories, so please be sure and speak to your doctor before attempting a restrictive diet.  

This particular meal plan is made up of 43 percent protein, 34.5 percent carbs, and 22.5 fat. Those following this meal plan should expect to lose one pound each day. You’re allowed artificial sweeteners and you MUST drink at least four glasses of water each day. 

You’re allowed water, tea, diet soda, coffee, and zero-calorie soft drinks and club soda. However, you’re only allowed to sweeten your drinks with artificial sweeteners (meaning no alcohol, milk, cream, honey, or sugar). 

Breakfast (same every day)

  • 1/2 grapefruit
  • One slice of toast made with protein bread
  • Tea/coffee/diet soda/water


  • Cold cuts (meat, no fillers) with tomatoes
  • Tea/coffee/diet soda/water


  • Broiled fish or shellfish
  • Green salad
  • One slice of protein bread
  • 1/2 grapefruit
  • Tea/coffee/diet soda/water

The usual rules about getting and staying slim still apply. Eat less, mainly vegetables. Move more. Get into habits that you can maintain for as long as you want to remain slender. For a tailored-to-you diet, try Prime Women’s PLATE programScarsdale Diet Meal Plan



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