There's a tangy, new viral diet fad in town, and it begs the question, “Can you die from too much mustard?” Not from eating it, necessarily, just from watching other people eat it.
Tiffany Magee’s TikTok is filled with her eating her favorite lunch over and over in a spellbinding sequence: chicken sausage, raw and pickled vegetables, fruit, cottage cheese and a metric ton of mustard, adding up to over 100 million views. And she claims she's lost 80 pounds — and counting — since eating this meal every day.
If you haven’t had the bright-yellow pleasure, here’s one of her trademark crunchy-munchy lunches, featuring hearts of palm:
There’s nothing terribly wrong with that plate nutritionally, as long as the rest of the day’s meals fill in some nutritional gaps, and food jags are normal. But, though it’s no surprise there’s a lot of mustard in the mustard diet, I don’t think you’re prepared for how much there is.
I muster my courage to watch several in a row. My eyes water. My teeth cringe. It looks to be up to a 1/4 cup of the pungent, turmeric-spiked and salty style of the condiment. Along with things like cottage cheese, pickled vegetables and sausage, that’s a day’s worth of sodium in a single meal, and enough vinegar to make a salad buffet blush.
Despite that, this is one of the most viral diet trends ever. There are hundreds of response videos: same school bus-hued mustard, same chicken-apple sausage, same raw vegetables.
It’s wonderful that so many people are trying new things for their takes on the trend, and some really like it. TikTok user Lyndee LeBourgeois thoughtfully chews a carrot and says, “I think I need more mustard.”
There’s a strong contingent of haters, though. Popular food and lifestyle YouTuber Farnum gave it a 2 out of 5, and his wife had a core meltdown, ultimately spitting it out.
“We’ve been waiting days and days and days to try this,” says user @kobanks8, disapprovingly, “and y’all LIED.”
A friend who tried the hearts of palm told me she can’t believe anyone likes it. “Those people are CRAZY. If I never hear the words ‘cottage cheese and mustard’ again, I will die a happy girl.”
That sentiment is probably behind some of the hilarious parodies. TikToker @ashiannaaaa deadpans, “Asparagus, cottage cheese and mustard; carrot, cottage cheese and mustard…,” as she repeatedly dips fries in a Wendy’s Frosty.
Magee did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Regardless of whether they smile or grimace, many taste-testers are tagging their mustard-palooza videos with #weightloss, and that’s why, as a registered dietitian, I think the important takeaway has gotten lost.
Maybe it’s buried under all the mustard. So, here it is:
I’m a fan of using cottage cheese as a nutrition booster in certain contexts, and mustard is chock-full of delicious anti-inflammatory compounds, but neither adds enchanted superpowers to the protein or unprocessed vegetables and fruits already there. It seems like they work for Magee, and that’s great! But that’s her.
The key is to use flavors and textures you love to support your unique nutritional needs. If you pine for an unnatural amount of French’s Classic, or your doctor has prescribed mustard shots due to acute dietary deficiency of the color yellow, go for it. But it’s not inherently better than a preoccupation with salmon and salsa, or tangerines and tahini. Some recovering picky eaters find they love everything from kale to crawfish étouffée as long as it has soy sauce on it. Keep portions on the moderate side of outrageous, and that’s fine with me.
So, although I prefer my cottage cheese stone-cold and pineapple'd to within an inch of its life, and the idea of eating that much mustard in one sitting makes my face scrunch up so hard I’m in danger of collapsing into a black hole, maybe warm cottage cheese and (low sodium!) mustard are your thing. Are you looking forward to this lunch with unbridled glee and leveraging your preferences to be a healthy, strong and happy person? Awesomesauce! That’s every dietitian’s dream.
But, dietitians also want you to know that weight is not a reliable proxy for the big nutritional picture. Our real focus is what you eat and how active you are — not so you can be thin, but so you can be well. We want you to live a long life full of comfort and celebration, to find ways to enjoy your food in the service of your health. If you’re choking down mustard and cottage cheese so you can choke down other foods you hate, thinking it’s a magical skinny potion? That if you can suffer yourself thin you’ll be happy?
That nightmare doesn’t cut the mustard. Keep scrolling.