Scarsdale Diet

Eating Grapefruit

The Scarsdale Diet took America by storm after its publication in 1979. Supplanted by many other diet fads since that date, it remains one of the first, and best, menu-oriented short-term diet plans.

Characteristics of The Scarsdale Diet

The Scarsdale program consists of two phases. Each phase consists of a specific set of guidelines which are to be followed without alteration. Overall, the diet is high in protein, low in carbohydrate, low in fat, and low in calories. The general proportions of the macronutrients are 43% protein, 22.5% fat, and 34.5% carbohydrate. Compared to the standard American diet (protein 10%, fat 45%, and carbohydrate 45%), the Scarsdale Diet represents a radical change of eating habits for the average person.

Phase One: The Medical Diet

Phase One consists of a series of daily menus that is followed for two weeks. No substitutions are allowed, as the menus have been carefully planned to provide optimal nutrition while supporting rapid weight loss. The only snacks allowed are carrots and celery. Fats are avoided; meats are carefully trimmed, salads are dressed with lemon juice and vinegar, and vegetables are dressed only with lemon juice.

During this phase of the diet, breakfast is invariably one-half of a grapefruit and one slice of toasted, dry protein bread, with a cup of black coffee or tea. Lunches and dinners are specified in the diet book, and generally include a portion of meat or other protein, a salad or vegetable, and additional protein bread or grapefruit. Herman Tarnower's The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet includes two-week menu plans for various special circumstances, including gourmet, vegetarian, and international (ethnic) cooking.

Phase Two: The Keep-Trim Program

Following the fourteen-day "SMD," dieters continue weight-loss and health-building by following the "Keep Trim Program." Dieters alternate following each two-week plan until the goal weight is achieved, at which point they continue following the healthy eating habits that they have learned while following the rules of the Keep-Trim phase.

Absolute No-Nos While following the Keep-Trim program, no sugar is allowed, no dairy fat, no candy or dessert other than fruit or sugar-free Jell-O, and no potatoes, noodles, or flour-based foods. Alcohol intake and protein bread are restricted. Carrots and celery are "free foods."

Do's Lean meats are permitted, including red meats, poultry, fish, and shellfish. Up to three eggs per week are allowed, as is any cheese, in small quantities. Condiments and low-fat, low-sugar dressings are allowed.


Once the Scarsdale Diet has done its magic and you have reached your goal weight, your primary concern is to weigh daily and to return to the SMD immediately if there is a gain of more than 4 pounds over your target weight. Secondary is the injunction never to eat more than is needed -- never overload your stomach. Other guidelines for maintaining weight loss include:

  • Take your time and don't rush through your meals. Chew your food thoroughly.
  • Avoid high-calorie snacks, keeping celery, carrots, cucumber, and zucchini on hand for snacking.
  • Avoid eating seconds.
  • Use sugar substitutes instead of indulging in real sugar.
  • Do not start your meals with bread or rolls.
  • Avoid rich, fatty sauces on vegetables and meats.
  • Make sure that you get enough exercise.
Scarsdale Diet