Healthy Eating

The Dish on Diets: How 4 Popular Plans Measure Up

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By Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA

With a third of U.S. adults aged 20 and over who are overweight and another third who are obese, it’s clear people need more guidance about which diets work and which don’t. Sure, you may be tempted by plans promising to make you slim and trim in less than two weeks, but dieting is hardly a magic bullet for weight loss success.

So instead of jumping on the latest fad diet bandwagon, adopt a lifelong eating pattern that will not only help you shed pounds, but will also enhance your health and well-being. The good news: it’s not as hard as you think.

Here are 4 patterns of eating that can help you slim down and maintain a healthy weight —for the long haul!

  1. MyPlate: While the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released new dietary guidelines, the crux of the message is the same: whether you’re eating a meal or a snack, fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Research shows that eating these nutrient powerhouses helps protect against the nation’s top killers: heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Fruits and vegetables are also high in water and fiber, so they’ll fill you up fast—and that’s a big help if you’re trying to drop pounds. Think about it: for just 80 calories, you can enjoy a baked apple sprinkled with cinnamon; compare that to the 220 calories a candy bar will cost you. Need more guidance? Check out ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  2. Mediterranean: It seems like every day we hear about a new study linking a Mediterranean-style diet to better health. And it’s no wonder with the diet’s emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy olive oil, nuts, seeds and lean protein (including lots of fish and beans). The “diet” even permits a daily glass of red wine. But the real key to its success is the focus on whole, unprocessed foods that are nutrient-rich and mostly free of added sugars, sodium and harmful fats. While a true Mediterranean diet emphasizes fresh foods, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are also nutritious. Fan of the can? Be sure to rinse the contents to get rid of the added salt.
  3. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension): Ranked as the best diet for 6 years running by U.S. News and World Report, the DASH diet was originally designed to lower blood pressure. But with a focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy and less red meat and sweets, DASH not only helps you slim down and lower blood pressure, it also reduces cholesterol and is a great choice for people who have diabetes. A bonus: DASH promotes low-sodium eating, which is especially important for patients who are taking medications that cause them to retain fluids (such as corticosteroids).
  4. Paleo: This plan recommends eating like a “caveman,” so you essentially live off the land. Anything you can hunt or gather is fair game. Everything else is on the chopping block. The diet prohibits processed foods, trans-fats and refined sugars while pushing healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olive oil. Fruits and veggies are staples. Meats are free-range and grass-fed, and fish is wild (both protein sources are high in anti-inflammatory fats). The drawback with a Paleo diet is, by eliminating all man-made foods, you’re also losing healthy food groups like dairy and whole grains. Without dairy in the diet, some people may have trouble getting enough calcium to support bone health and fight off osteoporosis, so that is something important to keep in mind.

The bottom line? Everything you eat and drink matters, so write it all down—at least for a few days. Then see how your diet stacks up against the dietary pattern you’d most like to follow based on your personal interests and taste preferences. Just keep in mind the common denominator in any healthy eating plan is not ditching entire food groups or trying to starve yourself. Rather, it’s emphasizing whole, minimally processed foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Not getting the results you want? Meeting with a registered dietitian can help you develop a personalized plan to meet your goals.

Visit henryford.com/services/nutrition or 1-800-HENRY-FORD (436-7936) to learn more about nutrition services available at Henry Ford Health System.