Scarsdale Diet: How it Works, Menus and Reviews

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Scarsdale is the name of a town in the state of New York, United States. This name is also associated with a diet developed by Herman Tarnower (1910-1980), an American cardiologist and nutritionist. The latter developed the Scarsdale diet in the 1970s with the aim of eliminating excess weight in subjects who desired it. This is a diet aimed at rapid weight loss over a short period of time. Hypocalorific and restrictive, it is classified in the category of “low-carb” diets characterized by very little carbohydrate intake.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.


The Scarsdale diet is based on extremely limited carbohydrate intake, a considerable reduction in fat and calories while advocating a high proportion of protein and selection of foods. It is therefore a low-calorie diet, hypocarbohydrate and high protein based on eating certain foods and banning a whole list of foods. It is the scrupulous following of the recommendations during the different phases which allows maximum results to be obtained, in particular rapid weight loss.

The healthy foods favored during the first phase are vegetables, fruits and proteins with a calorific intake which does not exceed 1000 calories per day.

The choice of foods is more varied during the second phase which is a stabilization stage. These two phases must be repeated as many times as necessary until the subject reaches the desired weight.

For each of these two phases, the author offers several forms of menus (classic, exotic, economical, gourmet and vegetarian) to vary the diet and adapt it to everyone’s desires and tastes.

How does the Scarsdale diet work?

The Scarsdale diet is based on three daily meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) consisting of a significant proportion of proteins and a reduced proportion of fats and carbohydrates aimed at theoretically reducing calories in the diet. It must be followed for two phases of fourteen days each with permitted foods and prohibited foods. Snacks are not permitted.

What are the two phases of the diet?

First phase

The first phase (Two-On in English) lasts two weeks. Particularly strict, it is characterized by a limited choice of foods with a menu that must be followed to the letter. There are prescribed foods that should not be replaced with another. During the two weeks, the breakfast menu is always the same. It consists of half a grapefruit, a slice of wholemeal or protein-enriched bread, coffee or tea.

As for lunches and dinners, they invariably consist of lean meats, poultry or fish. These meals are accompanied by vegetables (cold or hot) without fat. Only lemon or vinegar is allowed as a seasoning for salads. Alcohol is prohibited. But water, coffee (decaffeinated), tea and diet drinks are allowed as drinks.

Between meals, when hunger prevails, the subject can eat carrots or celery.

The second phase

Less restrictive, compared to the first phase, phase 2 or stabilization phase (Two-Off in English) also lasts 14 days. The choice of foods to eat is more varied. But carbohydrates and lipids are always strongly limited during this phase which aims to stabilize weight loss. Starchy foods are not allowed. Other recommendations that should be respected during this phase are:

  • maximum, two slices of bread per day;
  • eggs are allowed at a rate of 3 per week;
  • sweet industrial foods, fatty meats, fats and cold meats are prohibited.

After this second phase of 14 days, the subject can stop the diet or resume the first phase.

Allowed/prohibited foods

Allowed foods

On the Scarsdale diet, you can eat certain foods. These are, among others, the:

  • fruits (grapefruit, mango, papaya, peaches, etc.);
  • vegetables (spinach, carrots, celery, radishes, etc.);
  • sources of lean protein (lean meat, in particular chicken, lean beef, turkey without skin or fat);
  • 0% fat dairy products;
  • sweeteners (to replace sugars);
  • spices, vinegar, lemon, garlic, onions, salt and mustard can be used as seasoning.

Prohibited foods

To help you lose weight, as part of the Scarsdale diet, certain foods should not be eaten. Among the foods to ban, I can mention the:

  • starchy foods (rice, pasta, etc.);
  • fats (oil, butter, etc.);
  • fatty dairy products;
  • cold meats;
  • sugars and sweet products;
  • fatty meats (sausage, pork chop, etc.);
  • jams and desserts.

What is a typical day on the Scarsdale Diet?

A typical day on the Scarsdale diet is as follows.


  • seasonal fruit or 1/2 grapefruit,
  • slice of toasted or protein bread,
  • coffee or tea without milk, without sugar, without cream.


  • lean meat (chicken, turkey, etc.)
  • tomatoes (grilled or roasted)
  • coffee or tea.


  • lean fish
  • green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, etc.)
  • coffee or tea.
Having coffee or tea after dinner is recommended during the Scarsdale diet.

The benefits of the Scarsdale diet

  • It is a short diet that allows you to lose weight quickly. This result (with a weight loss of up to 500 g per day) and this short duration constitute a source of motivation which makes it possible to avoid any abandonment during the implementation of the diet.
  • The Scarsdale diet is easy to follow. The menus are already developed with proportions previously calculated and available in dedicated books. You don’t need to design the menus, just buy the food to concoct the dishes with a wide range of recipes recorded in the book written by Dr. Tarnower (”The Scarsdale Medical Diet’’).
  • When short-term, the Scarsdale diet is beneficial for health with generally sufficient intakes of proteins, mineral salts and vitamins.
  • Generally speaking, there are no restrictions in terms of the quantities of foods allowed, nor the counting of calories, nor the weighing of food rations. So you no longer need a effective appetite suppressant.
  • With weight loss being particularly rapid, this slimming diet can be useful to future newlyweds who want to lose weight quickly or to people who want to quickly lose weight for a special event in the near future.

The lessers

  • Renewal of this diet or frequent repetition, as the author suggests, can have harmful effects resulting from nutritional imbalances. Indeed, banning oils can promote a deficiency in essential fatty acids. Insufficient proportions of dairy can cause a calcium deficiency. These nutritional deficiencies can cause brain dysfunction.
  • It is a strict diet which is sometimes incompatible with social life, because it does not allow any deviation or adaptation of meals. It is therefore difficult to apply it scrupulously when inviting friends or going out to a restaurant.
  • The diet does not allow a relatively varied diet. It’s a high protein diet but also low-calorie and low-carbohydrate. This is a particularly unbalanced diet which can have side effects resulting from a high protein consumption or a poorly diversified diet.
  • This diet exposes the subject to a regain of lost kilograms upon returning to a normal diet. It can cause a yoyo effect given the very rapid weight loss during the first two weeks.

The effectiveness of the Scarsdale diet

The Scarsdale diet is characterized by a diet rich in protein. It also involves reducing the amount of calories and the proportion of carbohydrate intake. This low proportion of carbohydrates and calories promotes a reduction in hunger while allowing the body to tolerate restrictions. In doing so, to meet its needs, the body will draw on fat reserves and not on its sugar reserves.

Thus, the Scarsdale diet promotes after a few days the reduction of the feeling of hunger and rapid weight loss, by half a kilogram per day on average (according to the author), or 7 to 9 kilos in 2 weeks. . It has beneficial effects on weight loss just like best fat burners. But, this effectiveness is short-term and prevails when the instructions and recommendations are scrupulously respected. Once you resume a balanced diet, weight gain is almost inevitable.


The Scarsdale diet consists of a first phase of two weeks and a second phase of two weeks, for a total of four weeks for the two phases. The author recommends a regular alternation of phase 1 and phase 2, i.e. maintaining the alternations of the different phases for life.

Special Menus and Recipes for the Scarsdale Diet

Day 1
Half grapefruit
slices of wholemeal bread or slices of protein-enriched bread,
tea or coffee without sugar, milk or cream
Varied cold meats of your choice (lean meats: chicken, turkey, tongue, lean beef, etc.)
sliced, grilled or pan-fried tomato
coffee or tea
Fish or seafood (shrimp, crabs)
Vegetable salad
slice of toasted wholemeal or protein bread
Grapefruit or a seasonal fruit
Coffee or tea
Day 2Half grapefruit
slices of wholemeal bread or slices of protein-enriched bread,
tea or coffee without sugar, milk or cream

Fruit salad (you can combine any fruit you want) Sugar-free coffee or tea
a chopped and grilled steak salad of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers sugar-free coffee or tea
Day 3Half grapefruit,
slice of wholemeal bread or slice of protein-enriched bread,
tea or coffee without sugar, milk or cream
Lettuce salad with tuna (vinegar or lemon juice as seasoning) grapefruit, melon or seasonal fruit sugar-free coffee or tea Roast lamb (after removing the fat) salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery coffee or tea without sugar
Day 4Half a grapefruit, slices of wholemeal bread or slices of protein-enriched bread,
tea or coffee without sugar, milk or cream
2 eggs prepared without fat, low-fat or low-fat cheese, green beans or toasted whole-wheat bread or protein, pure coffee or tea.Grilled chicken (no skin, no fat)
spinach, green peppers or green beans
coffee or tea.
Eating wholemeal or protein-enriched bread and drinking unsweetened tea or coffee recommended in the morning as part of the Scarsdale diet

Opinions of health professionals

For health professionals, the Scarsdale diet can be an interesting tip or solution that can contribute to rapid weight loss, as long as it is applied for a short period of time not exceeding 14 days. Since it is a low-calorie diet, it can induce weight loss during the first few weeks. However, no new scientific evaluation can establish a certain relationship between this weight loss and scrupulous respect for the principles of the Scarsdale diet.

Beyond two weeks, this slimming plan does not meet the nutritional needs of the body and can cause significant deficiencies in essential fatty acids and minerals (calcium). Particularly restrictive, it can have harmful effects on health. To avoid any exposure to the consequences of a dietary imbalance, some professionals advise seeking medical advice or that of a dietitian before using the Scarsdale diet. For them, this slimming plan should not be applied for a long period of time.

Also, for some experts, this diet developed in the 1970s with knowledge from the last century, may be out of step with current knowledge (from the 21th century) in terms of nutrition.

Consumer reviews

Consumers who appreciate the Scarsdale diet highlight the fact that they do not have to rack their brains to design menus and recipes. They are generally satisfied with this diet which allowed them to lose weight quickly during the first weeks. But, as critics of this regime point out, they find the implementation a bit taxing and are not prepared to respect the principles of this regime throughout their lives. It is even boring or bland for other consumers who criticize it for the lack of variety in the menus.

These consumers, disappointed with this slimming plan, express their dissatisfaction by revealing that they have lost only an insignificant amount of weight. They do not forget to reveal the hunger they felt for days and the impractical nature of this diet which does not allow them to have a meal in a restaurant, with friends or relatives during festive periods. For them, it is a diet that is too restrictive, frustrating and unsuitable for life, even ineffective.