Happy National Nutrition Month!

As a dietitian, I’m always trying to encourage people to follow a healthy lifestyle rather a diet. Getting asked what the best diet for someone is always a hard question to answer. For me, there is no such thing as a diet. I believe in small changes that go a long way and help sustain a healthier lifestyle. That being said, if you find that a diet works for you and you’ve seen results, more props to you. In my research as a dietitian, I’ve come across a variety of diets and figured I’d call them out here.

The Dash Diet : The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet recommends reducing your sodium intake and eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure — potassium, calcium and magnesium. We encourage the DASH diet when we see risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. By focusing on the foods rich in those nutrients, you will be integrating a high vegetable/fiber diet as well. *Endorsed by the NIH

Pro – Easy to incorporate with small dietary changes. No cost associated with the diet. (I don’t have any cons!)

Weight Watchers + Jenny Craig: Both are weight loss programs that work in differnet ways. Weight Watchers provides point values to foods therefore making it easy to track your progress. Jenny Craig provides a weight loss program with a variety of ‘add-ons’ including personalized menu and activity planning in addition to pre-packaged meals. If you are too busy to be able to add individualized preferences, both of these programs maybe worth trying. *We’ve heard better success long-term with WW

Pro – Both organizations provide community elements of support to their customers

Con – People tend to veer off time to time because they get bored. Counting points (life-long) doesn’t seem enticing.

The McDougall Plan: The McDougall plan was created by Dr. John McDougall who desires to achieve better health through vegetarian cuisine. The plan features plant-based foods, including whole grains and whole-grain products such as pasta and tortillas, and a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. The diet does not encourage animal foods, dairy products, eggs, fish and all oils including olive oil.

Pro – If you are a vegetarian, it’s a more structured program to avoid too many carbs. *That’s the biggest complaint I hear from vegetarians

Con – B12, a source from animal products, should be monitored and supplemented accordingly (speak to your doctor)

The Mediterranean Diet: Here’s a recent article on understanding how to analyze the mediterranean diet. What is a true Mediterranean diet? From what we know, it includes adequate portions of fresh veggies (5+ servings), fruits (2-4 servings max), lean protein varieties (i.e. fish), the use of extra virgin olive oil, snacks that include a variety of unsalted nuts, and perhaps a glass of red wine to finish. *Don’t forget to move! Physical exercise is highly recommended.

Pro – A great summary of how to be healthy; proven in studies and trials

Con – No specifics provided in portions. Don’t get too lenient with olive oil or extra virgin olive oil as it is still a fat.

The Atkins and Eco Atkins Diet: Atkins makes me think of high fat foods…but not if you do it right and only for the first two weeks where you are restricted to 20g net carbs (which essentially means lots of protein and veggies). Then you gradually introduce approved carbs. Apparently, for vegetarians of sorts, the Eco Atkins could be for you. During a study, those who followed the Eco Atkins demonstrated a greater reduction in LDL. However, is this for everyone? Not sure!

I am not a fan of this diet personally. But if it works for you, it works!

The South Beach Diet: This diet comes in phases. Phase 1 lasts 2 week and includes eliminating trigger foods or your ‘cravings’. Phase 2 lasts as long as it takes for you to achieve your weight loss goal. Phase 3 assumes you’ve understood how to make healthy food decisions to sustain this weight loss and move forward. The diet was created by Miami-based preventive cardiologist Arthur Agatston and primarily emphasizes eating a variety of foods that fall under the ‘Mediterranean diet’ family.

Pro – A more structured implementation of the Mediterranean diet; also gives a behavioral component to the program

Con – May be thought of as just a ‘program’ but really should be considered a transition to a lifestyle change.

The Ornish Diet: Created by Dean Ornish, physician, professor and author of the book The Spectrum. Also, encourages a similar eating behavior to that of south beach and mediterranean. He does discuss fitness and stress management with respect to The Spectrum because those are important factors to help maintain a healthful lifestyle.

I haven’t heard much about this diet so I am unable to provide an opinion either way.

Nutrisystem: This plan is brings food to your home in a convenient way. Does it taste well? Is it creative? Well, while Nutrisystem (low-glycemic program featuring “good carbs” and high protein) offers 100+ menu options and pricing models, it seems a little weird to get everything from them but if it suits you, we won’t judge. The pricing seems affordable. The only question is the sodium content, however, they state that the daily meals fall under the recommended range of 2300mg per day.

I don’t have any Pros for this program. It just seems like a ‘fad’ rather than a long-term implementation or attempt to being healthy. Plus, I am skeptical of the sodium content.

The Volumetrics Diet: I honestly hadn’t heard of this one until late last year. This diet emphasizes a focus on eating more, losing more. So what does that mean? Eat more volume of the right foods i.e vegetables, whole grains, lean protein (a.k.a. low-calorie foods). Check out Penn State University nutrition professor Barbara Rolls – she wrote the Volumetrics eating plan.

In theory, this just makes a lot of sense. I would just focus on the ‘Volumetrics’ plan for life.

If you follow one that I didn’t include, I’d love to hear about your success and thoughts. Please let us know if you have tried any of the above! Recently USA Today rated some of the above.

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