As I begin Lunch ‘n Learns on weight management, I am reminded of a question I have already been asked several times: Which diet is the best? Although there is no clear-cut answer to this question, as each person has differing needs and may have to try several different programs before finding the one that works best for them, I would not hesitate to say that the best “diets” out there are actually not diets at all. By this I mean that these “diets” are more lifestyles than anything else, and they teach lifelong eating habits that can be continued even after weight loss has been achieved.
U.S. News & World Report recently analyzed 25 different diets and ranked them according to several factors: nutrition, safety, how easy they are to follow, and effectiveness in weight loss and prevention of diabetes and heart disease. Many of the top diets all fit the criteria listed above, in that they emphasize healthy eating habits more than counting calories and quick weight loss. If you are looking to successfully lose weight and keep it off, you might want to give one of the following eating plans a try:
- DASH Diet: Although this diet was designed to combat high blood pressure (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other unprocessed foods earned it the top spot on the list. Since processed foods usually contain more sodium (and fat, sugar, or calories) than we should be eating, it makes sense to stick to whole foods that are as unprocessed as possible. These foods are also often more satisfying, so you’ll need to eat less of them to feel full, which will in turn save you calories.
- TLC Diet: The TLC, or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, Diet was created by the National Institutes of Health with the aim of helping to lower cholesterol. The key to this diet is cutting back on fat, especially saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels and, by extension, raise one’s risk of heart disease. Since all fat is high in calories, it makes sense to cut back on your intake of fat in order to lose weight. Including some fat in your diet, however, is a good idea, since fat helps us feel full and is essential to keeping our bodies working properly. The TLC Diet also emphasizes increased fiber intake, as certain types of fiber may lower cholesterol level and help contribute to satiety and regularity, which are both important in weight loss.
- Mediterranean Diet: The Mediterranean Diet instructs us to eat like the locals – that is, the locals of Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece, who generally live longer and suffer from fewer chronic illnesses than Americans do. The Mediterranean Diet is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, plant oils, nuts, legumes, and overall fresh and unprocessed ingredients. It also encourages regular physical activity and moderation when consuming red meat, sweets, and foods high in saturated fat. In my opinion, this diet should be fairly easy to follow as it allows for the inclusion of a lot of tasty and satisfying foods.
If you have questions about any other diets or eating plans, send me an email, and I’ll include information in an upcoming post. In the meantime, don’t get discouraged if you are struggling to lose weight, as it may take a while to find the eating plan that’s right for you. Obviously, if you are considering losing weight, you should check with your doctor before starting any sort of diet. But choosing a “diet” than more closely resembles a lifestyle – one that you can continue long after the pounds have come off – should make your journey to weight loss much easier.