Diets — which one is best for you?

You want to lose weight but which diet should you follow? There are plenty of diets that can support weight loss. Any eating plan that results in you eating fewer calories than you burn will cause weight loss. However, what you eat is important in terms of meeting nutrient needs as well as promoting health and reducing risk of disease. Some diets are better than others at helping you achieve all goals.

MyNetDiary encourages you to find the best diet that works for you. You can customize nutrient goals as you see fit. Our default settings for calories and nutrients are taken directly from the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intake (DRIs). For more information on how to customize your nutrient goals, please read “Foods to Meet Nutrient Needs.”

If you have been instructed to follow a specific eating plan by your health care provider then please follow his/her recommendation. Otherwise, continue reading for tips on how to select a diet.

Tip 1: Variety

Barring food allergy, choose a diet that includes a variety of fruits, veggies, legumes (dried beans/peas), whole grains, nuts/seeds, and protein sources (from animal and/or plants).

Tip 2: Gradual weight loss

Choose a plan that allows you to lose weight gradually so that you have energy, can concentrate, and do not feel overly hungry or cranky. A generally recognized safe weight loss is an average of 1-2 lbs per week. A slower rate of weight loss might be appropriate if you are closer to your goal weight.

Tip 3: Safety

Be sure that your diet is safe for your medical condition. If you are unsure, then ask your doctor.

Tip 4: Long term

Choose a plan that you can follow for the long term - one that encourages healthful food choices that are affordable and accessible.

Tip 5: Know your preferences

Choose a diet that includes foods you enjoy and prefer. Choosing a diet with foods you hate will set you up for failure.

Tip 6: Support

What level of support do you need to meet your goals? Diet books and articles will provide information, recipes, and menus but they will not provide companionship or two-way communication with others who have similar goals. If you want to communicate and get support from others, then choose a plan that incorporates group classes and/or online chatting/forums/teams.

Exploring Diet Types

There are many diets to select from, but most of them will fall into four broad categories: low carb, moderate carb, high carb, and very low calorie (fasts, cleansing diets, and single food diets), diets. Do you know which type of diet type you prefer?

Examples of Popular Diets

Low carb Moderate carb High carb/Low fat Very low calorie
South Beach (Phase 1)
Flat Belly
South Beach (Phases 2,3)
Pyramid Food Guide
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes
Spectrum (Dean Ornish)
Cabbage Soup
Master Cleanse

Low carb diets

Carbs: Less than 35% of total calories

Low carb diets are those that restrict carbohydrate intake (grains and grain products, milk/yogurt, fruit, sugar, sweets, and starchy vegetables) while allowing greater protein and fat intake.

Possible Pros: satiety, dramatic short term weight loss, lower blood triglyceride levels Possible Cons: higher blood LDL and total cholesterol levels (Atkins), difficulty with diet compliance over the long term, weight regain with reintroduction of carbs, unsafe with certain medical conditions, lower tolerance for endurance or aerobic activity, and lower nutrient intake.

My pick: South Beach Diet since there is an emphasis on choosing healthier protein and fat choices. As well, after Phase 1, South Beach is essentially a moderate carb diet rather than a low carb diet.

Moderate carb diets

Carbs: 35 — 50% of total calories

Moderate carb diets are a good compromise for those of you who love healthy fats and protein foods, but still want more carbs than that allowed on low carb diets. The better plans emphasize plant-based fats, leaner protein sources and fish, and less processed/higher fiber carbs.

Possible Pros: heart healthy, better management of Type 2 diabetes, satisfying foods that taste good Possible Cons: might not result in weight loss if calories intake remains high

My pick: Mediterranean style diets. Cuisines from countries that border the Mediterranean Sea all fall under this category. Many people write about how to follow a Mediterranean style eating plan. Here are just a few resources: Mayo Clinic WebMD , and Walter Willett’s “Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy.”

High carb/low fat diets

Carbs: more than 50% of total calories

Fat: less than or equal to 35% total calories, with an emphasis on low saturated fat and cholesterol intake

Many low fat diets are recommended by public health agencies and are designed to reduce risk of and manage heart disease and hypertension. They typically recommend servings from all the major food groups with an emphasis on high fiber carbs, lean animal foods, and plant-based fats and proteins. The default settings for MyNetDiary are typical for a low fat diet.

Possible Pros: lower LDL and total cholesterol levels, higher fiber intake, and can be a lifelong eating plan Possible Cons: very low fat diets (e.g. Spectrum) can be hard to follow long term and might discourage intake of healthful fats such as omega-3 (fish) and monounsaturated fats (nuts, olive oil), could lower HDL level and might not lower triglyceride levels in the blood.

My pick: Volumetrics — I really like this researcher/author’s approach to weight control since it is practical and relevant to our current lifestyle. The plan supports a diet that is consistent with disease risk reduction and management. You’ll learn a lot about foods and how to make good choices.

Very low calorie diets

Diets that provide 800 calories or less are meant for short term, rapid weight loss. Although some doctors prescribe these diets in specific situations, I do not recommend going on one without medical supervision as they can be unsafe. The diets tend to have limited variety of foods or no foods at all. This type of diet will not teach you how to eat healthfully to control weight for a lifetime.

More resources

American Dietetic Association: Consumer Diet and Lifestyle Book Reviews

Harvard School of Public Health: Many Paths to Successful Weight Loss

MyNetDiary: Weight Loss Articles

WebMD: Diets A-Z

Parting words

Which diet you select to lose weight is your choice. However, I recommend that you choose one that is safe, permanent, enjoyable, healthful, and affordable. Regardless of diet type, logging food intake will help you discover how your food choices affect your calories and nutrient intake. Tracking becomes educational as well as functional with MyNetDiary. Take advantage of all the features we offer — online community, a dietitian-moderated forum, a huge food database, and flexible goal setting.

If you have questions about the material covered in this article, please be sure to post them in Community Forum.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE
Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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