Updated: Nov 20
This post was adapted from episode 43: "Lyme Disease Diet: Do You Really Need to Make Changes" of the Nourished & Free podcast.
One of the latest diets to grace the internet is one spearheaded by Tiktok’s Tiffany Magee, aka the “Mustard Girl”. She earned her pet name because her diet is heavily made up of cottage cheese and mustard. In August of 2023, I posted a video walking through my thoughts about Tiktok’s Mustard Girl, and the concerns I have around her diet as a Registered Dietitian. What’s more, this led to a bigger conversation around the topic of Lyme Disease, which Mustard Girl claimed to have (notice I said “claimed” not “claims”. We’ll get to that later).
Let’s walk through the concerns I have around the cottage cheese and mustard diet, why it shouldn’t be replicated, and ultimately what’s the best diet for Lyme Disease (spoiler: it’s not the mustard and cottage cheese diet).
What is the Mustard Diet on TikTok?
The mustard diet originated from “Mustard Girl”, Tiffany Magee, and involves eating a highly restricted diet of cottage cheese, chicken apple sausages, eggs, and raw vegetables - all with mustard included on the plate, or even mixed into the food itself. Tiffany first began eating this way fairly recently and blew up on Tiktok after sharing her meals with the camera, eating her food on screen while having conversations with followers/commenters.
She claimed to have been diagnosed with Lyme Disease and was put on a highly restrictive elimination diet by her provider. However, according to a Reddit thread discussing some of her problematic patterns, she has also stated in previous videos that she jumps from diet to diet.
We’ll talk about why Tiffany's story of being diagnosed with Lyme disease is problematic later when I share a conversation I had with Dr. Andrea Love, an immunologist and microbiologist with specialties in infectious disease immunology, cancer immunology, autoimmunity and executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation.
Diagnosis aside, Tiffany suspiciously has removed many of the statements she had online about suffering from Lyme disease.
This leads me to one of the reasons why this diet has been controversial: many back her and say she was eating this way due to Lyme disease… but is she? Most of her content is fixated on the weight loss aspect of the way she eats. She has content showing before/after images of her weight loss and even displays her weight on the scale.
For those who are subject to developing an eating disorder or who already have an eating disorder, this type of content is highly triggering (I hate using that word - I think it’s overdone - but it really does apply here). The dietary pattern she displays and obsessive tracking of weight are major red flags for disordered eating, and what’s worse is that she’s bringing millions of people into her world.
What does Mustard Girl eat?
Tiffany eats a very limited, low-carbohydrate diet of what appears to be only raw veggies with mustard such as carrots, celery, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and hearts of palm as well as dragon fruit. She typically has mustard with her veggies by mixing cottage cheese and mustard. She also eats eggs and mustard, and sausage and mustard (chicken apple sausages).
Cottage Cheese and Mustard
Mixing cottage cheese and mustard can make a delicious, high-protein vegetable dip. In addition to protein, cottage cheese provides many great nutrients such as potassium, vitamin D, and calcium. Mustard, on the other hand, is purely for flavor and does not contribute any meaningful nutrients or provide any significant health benefits on its own.
While this can be a great way to eat more veggies if that is something you struggle with, I wouldn’t recommend having this to eat at every meal or snack. A healthy diet is one that is rich in a variety of foods. This ensures a proper range of nutrients is consumed, which ultimately serves the body’s needs without the use of supplements.
Raw Vegetables and Mustard
Tiffany eats many raw fruits and veggies, often dipping the veggies in her signature cottage cheese and mustard mix. While it is great to include as many fruits and vegetables in the diet as one can tolerate (and is feasible), having the majority of a diet made up of fruits and vegetables will not provide enough overall energy or macronutrients to meaningfully sustain someone. Additionally, that is a lot of fiber and may be distressing for some individual’s gastrointestinal systems, leading to gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
Sausage and Mustard
Mustard girl follows your classic high-protein, low-carb diet for weight loss. One of her only sources of protein appears to come from the chicken apple sausages she eats. I have no issue with including sausage and mustard into your diet from time to time, but one should not assume it is a magical cure-all.
Packaged sausages are high in sodium, which may be damaging to your heart health if eaten all the time, depending on the person and their other dietary habits.
Is Mustard Girl a Scientologist?
In an interesting development, reports of Tiffany Magee being involved with the church of Scientology are coming out. This Tiktok user shares his connection to the community, and how he discovered she is a part of it. Many are saying that her Scientology background is unsettling and that her connections to the community are discounting her as a credible source.
Her father, who is thought to be heavily involved in Scientology, is allegedly responsible for the production of Tiffany’s electrolytes/supplement brand.
What disease does Mustard Girl have?
Tiffany claims to have Lyme Disease, and that her doctor has instructed her to eat the way she does for her condition. She talks about how she’s avoiding lectins and eating an anti-inflammatory diet to help reduce her symptoms (supposedly) brought on by Lyme.
To better understand Lyme, I talked with Dr. Andrea Love, infectious disease immunologist and executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation as well as co-host of the Unbiased Science Podcast.
In our discussion, Dr. Love explains how Lyme disease is a bacterial infection from a tick bite that US citizens only have about a .001% chance of contracting (which may even be an overestimation). She also explains that Lyme disease is 100% curable with antibiotics and that it only takes a maximum of 28 days to completely wipe out the disease.
Dr. Love shared that Lyme disease can, in some cases, resolve on its own without antibiotics. If the antibiotics are warranted, the infection will go away. Some symptoms may linger, but that does not mean that the individual is still infected with Lyme.
Any other treatments are unnecessary, expensive, and even dangerous.
There is a lot of misinformation around Lyme Disease due to the popularization of “Chronic Lyme” from high-profile celebrities, advocates, and highly questionable providers. Many of the claims from the “Lyme literate” community are not actually backed by scientific evidence.
Lyme disease is real, no one is saying it isn’t. However, it is not nearly as common as it is made to appear, and the treatment is a simple course of antibiotics (if the infection doesn’t go away on its own). Any providers stating that chronic Lyme is a thing and that long-term treatments are necessary are either ill-advised or ill-intentioned.
Listen to our full discussion on the Nourished & Free podcast to learn more about the misinformation surrounding Lyme and find out the truth behind this disease.
What is the Lyme Disease Diet?
In the functional/unconventional/holistic health world, a Lyme disease diagnosis is usually followed by a prescribed diet for Lyme disease, such as seen with Mustard Girl. I’ve heard many examples of Lyme “specialists” telling their patients to eliminate a variety of foods, usually citing “anti-inflammatory” as the reason.
Let’s break down who these specialists are really quickly, and if it makes sense to listen to anything they say: Many people are jumping on the Lyme disease bandwagon and claiming to be specialists in the field. As Dr. Love explains, these are “clinicians, some of which have medical degrees, many of which are chiropractors or naturopaths or people who are very unqualified, but many of the MDs are not infectious disease specialists, so they might have started as a psychiatrist or something but they have an MD at the end of their name and they created this coalition alongside private labs that create fake tests to diagnose Lyme disease… these clinicians call themselves Lyme literate specialists or Lyme literate physicians. So if you hear that word, it's just a red flag.”
Dr. Love also describes in her 2 part series about Lyme Disease on the Unbiased Science podcast that some of these clinicians have even been subject to and pleaded guilty to malpractice lawsuits.
These “specialists” are perpetuating the narrative that Lyme disease can be a chronic condition, which is leading to many individuals thinking they have chronic Lyme when in fact their conditions may be related to something else that is now going undiagnosed. I hope by now that it’s clear we shouldn’t be taking diet advice from Lyme “specialists”.
Aside from that, is this actually a warranted dietary protocol? And are these “Lyme literate” specialists providing accurate information when it comes to “anti-inflammatory diets”?
Foods to Avoid with Lyme Disease
A quick Google search of “what foods to avoid with Lyme disease” will tell you a variety of things, depending on the source. Here’s a generalization of all those sources combined below:
Avoid refined oils
Many of the “Lyme literate” specialists claim these foods to be inflammatory. The problem is that the evidence of these foods being generally inflammatory doesn’t exist (with the exception of sugar - yes, of course, if you have too much sugar it may create some unnecessary inflammation, BUT context matters such as volume consumed, overall quality of the diet, what was paired with it, etc).
You know what else doesn’t exist? Research on Lyme disease and dietary interventions. There is not one single study digging into changing the diet for Lyme disease. Why are we taking the advice from providers who clearly know nothing about nutrition (and about Lyme disease)?
Don’t even get me started on avoiding lectins for Lyme disease, which is another one of Mustard Girl’s claims. Are lectins bad for you? Let’s see what the science says. This article from the Mayo Clinic does a great job of explaining how there’s weak evidence showing that raw lectins in great excess may lead to negative health outcomes, but nobody is even eating raw lectins in large quantities. You would have to sit down with a bowl of raw kidney beans to be eating raw lectins, and eat a LOT of them, which would most certainly chip a tooth!
Additionally, foods that contain lectins (mostly plants) are found to be massively beneficial for our health. This narrative about whether lectins are unhealthy needs to be squashed immediately.
Is a Lyme Disease Diet food list necessary?
Self-proclaimed Lyme experts advise eating an “anti-inflammatory” diet, however, Lyme disease can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics and the infection has no connection to diet, therefore no dietary interventions are actually necessary.
Restricting foods will always carry some kind of risk with it, whether it’s physical or psychological. If it isn’t necessary to begin with, it’s not worth the risk.
Is the Lyme Disease Diet healthy?
Despite many alleged ‘experts’ (who are actually not experts at all in the field of nutrition or immunology) claiming that changing your diet will help the symptoms that come with Lyme disease, it won’t.
In my discussion with Dr. Love (remember: she’s an immunologist and infectious disease specialist, and her doctoral dissertation research was on the immunology of Lyme disease), we determined the following problems with the Lyme disease diet:
#1: Context is important: one may think they have Lyme due to a false diagnosis. So if you don’t even have Lyme to begin with, then changing your diet is REALLY unnecessary
#2: The infection of Lyme is completely unrelated to diet as it is contracted from a tick
#3: Lyme, as long as properly diagnosed, can be treated easily thereby ridding the symptoms
#4: There are no studies to date proving a dietary pattern for Lyme, including an anti-inflammatory diet.
The Problem with Mustard Girl
The problem with Mustard Girl is that she is not an expert on nutrition, and she’s using this highly controversial diagnosis of Lyme disease as a scapegoat for her eating behaviors (or… she was. Now it’s just all about the weight loss). At the end of the day, all her diet boils down to is eating low-carb, low-fat, high-protein, and high-fiber. We see this all the time with quick-fix diets, it’s really not that special.
My biggest issue around her being so popular is that she is selling supplements and guides, and influencing countless others to do this (just look at the comments on her posts - she’s influencing MANY to eat just like her).
Having a huge platform of 1M+ is a great opportunity to sell products… which is exactly what she’s doing. Are those products legitimately helpful? Necessary? Even safe? Unfortunately, nobody seems to be considering these questions.
Does the Mustard Girl diet actually work?
One of the reasons she can be so compelling to others is that she did lose weight. Well, of course she did! When your diet looks the way hers does, it’s nearly a guarantee that some weight will be lost because it is a low-calorie diet. We need to stop thinking mustard is some sort of magical key to weight loss.
We also need to recognize that this woman has admitted to being a chronic dieter. Who’s to say she’ll be eating this way in a year? Diets like this lead to diet burnout. They’re unsustainable because they’re so restrictive. Our bodies want (and deserve) more food than that and a wider variety of nutrients.
Is Tiktok’s mustard and cottage cheese diet healthy?
I do appreciate how she seems to genuinely enjoy vegetables. Eating enough vegetables is something that we know the United States struggles with. In fact, more than 80 percent of Americans have diets that are low in vegetables, fruit, and dairy. We also know she loves cottage cheese, which can be a great way to incorporate dairy and more protein into your day.
If including the “Tiffany plate” into your diet from time to time is enjoyable for you, I think that’s great! However, it doesn’t mean that only eating those foods is healthy or that Tiffany’s diet should be replicated.
Does Mustard Girl have an eating disorder?
While I am in no position to diagnose someone with an eating disorder or not, it is within my scope of practice to know the signs of an eating disorder and make recommendations accordingly.
When eating disorder dietitians are with a client, a clue of disordered eating is if they use an excessive amount of condiments. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong or disordered about using condiments, but because oftentimes condiments are used by those with an ED as a way to make low-calorie foods more palatable.
Another red flag is if someone repeatedly eats the same meals over and over again. This may be showing a need to control food, which can very quickly become disordered.
Some other signs of an ED are a hyperfixation on weight loss, body checking, going along with the diet advice that came from an unqualified professional, and/or frequent dieting.
I don’t know Mustard Girl personally and I am not her personal dietitian, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But, my professional opinion based on what I’m seeing is that she exhibits many signs, symptoms, and red flags of an eating disorder.
Many say she is just eating “healthy”. Yes, objectively the foods she eats are a part of a healthy diet, but so are all foods. What makes a diet truly healthy or not is more complicated than that. And sometimes, a seemingly healthy diet can actually be unhealthy because it’s become an obsession.
The Bottom Line: A Dietitian Review of Mustard Girl’s Lyme Disease Diet
Overall, Mustard Girl’s diet is problematic. She’s encouraging a highly restrictive, low-carb/low-fat/low-calorie diet that is difficult to maintain. Her claims to have Lyme disease are questionable, and the justification for eating the way she does because of Lyme disease is simultaneously outrageous and hilarious.
The thing is, she may have actually been told to eat that way from a “Lyme literate” provider. But as we discussed, this doesn’t make the Lyme disease diet actually appropriate for Lyme disease. The kicker? She seems to have backtracked on the Lyme disease narrative because she has now deleted most mentions of Lyme disease from her profile.
Her influence on the world is concerning. Teenagers are asking their moms for chicken apple sausages because “that’s what Tiffany eats”. Mustard is flying off the shelves because women everywhere are desperate to have this FINALLY help them lose the weight for good.
Those thinking they have Lyme disease are changing their whole diet. Those who have symptoms of something are unknowingly turning to pseudoscience and scams for answers after learning about Lyme from Tiffany.
Finally, eating disorders continue to rise along with the rise of Tiktok and other social platforms getting smart to what their consumers are interested in, and showing Tiffany’s videos to those prone to an ED.
If you’re ready to have a no-BS approach to nutrition and overcome an all-or-nothing mindset with food, check out my 4-month signature program, Nourished & Free.