Scarsdale Diet: Pros, Cons, and What You Can Eat

What are the limits of this flash diet? Can it lead to nutrient deficiencies?

Photo of author

By Alex

scarsdale diet plan

The Scarsdale diet has achieved immense popularity because it allows you to lose weight with a high-protein diet for just two weeks. It was conceived back in the 1970s by cardiologist Herman Tarnower, who then published the book The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet in 1979, which immediately became a bestseller. The focus of this diet is low fat and carbohydrates and a 2-week high-protein diet. This is why it is called a flash diet. Let’s try to understand what foods are allowed and how the diet should work in the maintenance phase.

Scarsdale diet: how it works

The Scarsdale Diet is a short-term, low-calorie, and high-protein diet plan that was popular in the 1970s. It is designed to help people lose weight quickly. The diet is not backed by current nutritional guidelines and may not be suitable for everyone, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new diet plan.

The principle behind this diet is that carbohydrates should be reduced as much as possible, in favor of proteins. It is therefore one of the many high-protein diets such as the better-known Dukan diet and Plank diet.

It is a very low-calorie diet, typically providing around 1,000 calories per day. This is a significant reduction from the average daily caloric intake for most adults. The diet prescribes a strict meal plan that you must follow for 14 days. During this period, you consume a specific set of foods and portions. There is little room for variation or personal preferences. Following these guidelines, you can lose up to 20 pounds in 14 days.

The breakdown of nutrients is organized as follows: 43% of proteins, 34.5% of carbohydrates and 22.5% of fats. In some ways this combination that favors proteins seems reminiscent of the Atkins Diet, but fruit and whole carbohydrates are also included here.

Scarsdale Diet 14-day diet plan

Like many other high-protein diets, it is based on a very strict regime, to be maintained for a maximum of 15 days. Every day you can choose between 5 different menus, which do not indicate the grams for each category of nutrients, but only which foods to eat specifically.

This means that you have maximum freedom to manage portions, with the aim of educating the person on correct nutrition.

It’s essential to stick to the prescribed foods and portion sizes during these 14 days. After completing the initial 14-day phase, there is a 2-week maintenance phase that is somewhat less restrictive but still emphasizes portion control and healthy food choices.

The entire cycle can be repeated as many times as desired, but over a period of time. One of the certainly innovative aspects is the possibility of choosing between vegetarian menus and low-cost menus, designed for those who have a limited shopping budget.

scarsdale diet
Meat and vegetables are the cornerstones of the Scarsdale diet.

Scarsdale diet: a program

Let’s now try to see which foods are included in the diet. Let’s start by clarifying that oil and butter are abolished. The only seasonings allowed are spices, lemon and vinegar. Sugar is not allowed either, except in the form of sweeteners.

There are no snacks provided either in the morning or in the afternoon. For any hunger pangs, celery or carrots are suggested. It is recommended to drink at least 2 liters of water a day. Furthermore, given the low caloric intake, all physical activities that require a lot of energy should be avoided.

Breakfast is always the same every day: fruit +1 slice of wholemeal bread + coffee or tea without sugar or with sweetener.


  • lunch: grilled or steamed meat and vegetables
  • dinner: lean fish or shellfish, salad, 1 slice of wholemeal bread and fruit.


  • lunch: fruit at will
  • dinner: meat and vegetables


  • lunch: tuna and 1 fruit
  • dinner: meat and salad with vegetables


  • lunch: two eggs, low-fat fresh cheese, vegetables
  • dinner: meat and vegetables


  • lunch: low-fat cheese, vegetables and 1 slice of wholemeal bread
  • dinner: lean fish or shellfish, mixed salad and 1 slice of wholemeal bread


  • lunch: fruit at will
  • dinner: meat, mixed salad and fruit


  • lunch: meat and vegetables, fruit
  • dinner: mixed salad and tuna.

Scarsdale Diet: Maintenance Phase

After these first 14 days, we enter the maintenance phase. Foods not previously contemplated are integrated into this new regime.

  • condiments, such as ketchup
  • olives and pickles
  • 1 glass of wine or beer per day
  • wholemeal pasta and rice
  • skimmed milk
  • sugar-free jams and marmalades
scarsdale diet plan
Lemon is among the few condiments allowed

Scarsdale vegetarian diet

Vegetarians will also benefit from this diet, as meat substitutes have been provided.

Green light therefore for legumes such as beans, soya and other vegetable proteins. The rules remain the same, so no sugar, no condiments, no alcohol.

To give an example, on Monday the fish is replaced with two slices of cheese, while on Tuesday the meat gives way to a boiled potato and cottage cheese.

Scarsdale diet: pros and cons

Among the benefits, in addition to weight loss, the reduction in body fat and appetite that a protein-rich diet allows, potential benefits for glycemic control are reported, being low in carbohydrates.

In terms of contraindications, as is typical of all flash diets, there is no shortage of potential critical issues:

  • This is a very restrictive diet and is not suitable for everyone, in particular all people who need to consume a greater calorie intake or who have specific health problems should not follow this type of diet.
  • The rapid weight loss associated with the Scarsdale diet can lead to the classic yo-yo effect, that is, regaining weight lost after stopping the diet. It is always better to try to improve your eating habits to try to achieve permanent weight loss.
  • Being very limiting, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies, particularly of vitamins and minerals.
  • Those who follow this diet may experience side effects such as tiredness, headaches, nausea and constipation.
  • Finally, the Scarsdale diet is not recommended for people with specific health problems such as diabetes, eating disorders, liver or kidney disease, or cardiovascular disease.

The Doctors’ Opinion

This protein diet has been harshly attacked precisely because of this approach and because it was judged to be poorly balanced between the various nutrients. Since carbohydrates are reduced to the limit, the necessary energy is taken from proteins.

However, ingesting large quantities of meat causes the accumulation of nitrogenous metabolic waste, which is very dangerous for your health. In the long run there is a risk of bone decalcification (due to the milk ban), acidosis, uricemia and kidney stones.

It must be reiterated that the prescriptions recommend following the diet for only 2 weeks, so the body should not suffer such definitive consequences. You must therefore be careful when doing it yourself and do not extend it beyond 15 days, in the belief that you will lose further weight.

Important: always rely on your doctor beforehand and contact a dietician or nutritionist to verify the feasibility of this diet based on your state of health. Pregnant women should definitely avoid it.

More on this topic

On the topic of diets we suggest other useful articles: