No doubt you’ve heard people say, “Diets don’t work.” But despite the common wisdom, diets do work! Most people lose weight on diets — the trick is keeping the weight off. If you go right back to your old eating habits after reaching a weight goal, the pounds will creep back up over time.
Lifelong Healthy Eating
Substitute the word “diet” with “healthy eating plan,” and you’ll understand how to make diets work. The key for losing weight and maintaining the loss is to find an eating plan you can stick with for a lifetime. A diet is something you start and stop, but a healthy eating plan is a lifestyle change that continues indefinitely.
Choosing a Diet Plan That’s Right for You
No question that a healthy eating plan means eating less junk food and more “good-for-you” foods — lean protein, veggies, fruit, whole grains and limited amounts of healthy fats. But there are many dietary roads that can take you to the same healthy-weight destination. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program — especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.
There’s no point in choosing a plan you won’t follow over the long term. Here’s a guide to five of the most sensible diet plans, plus recommendations about which plan is best suited for you.
1. Calorie / Portion-Control Diets
Calorie / Portion-Control Diets focus on the basics: reducing calorie intake by changing the mix of foods in your diet and watching portion size. A number of diet programs focus on these basics. The best ones also emphasize eating a healthy balance of food and becoming more physically active.
Best plan for: People who like a lot of variety in their diet and who want to learn how to enjoy an occasional indulgence while sticking with the plan.
2. Low-Fat Diets
Low-Fat Diets emphasize reducing total fat grams and using healthier fats. Since fat has 9 calories per gram and carbohydrates and protein have only 4 calories per gram, the idea is that eating less fat and more lean protein and healthy carbs will reduce overall calorie intake.
The best plans emphasize eliminating trans fats, reducing dietary cholesterol and eating more healthy fats from plant sources — as well as eating less saturated fats from certain meats, full-fat dairy products and processed snack foods. Eating a lower-fat diet also improves cardiovascular health and may help prevent other diseases as well.
Best plan for: People who want to improve cardiovascular health as well as lose weight.
3. Low-Carb Diets
Low-Carb Diets can range from diets in which, in the beginning stages, food selection is severely limited and almost all carbohydrates are eliminated, to those that focus on limiting simple carbohydrates such as pastries, white rice and white bread. Some low-carb plans are also high-protein.
The best low-carb plans focus on limiting simple carbs and eating lean meats and seafood, fat-free dairy products, non-starchy vegetables and healthy carbs — such as whole-grain products and fruits — in moderate proportions.
Best plan for: People who want to avoid the blood sugar highs and lows and excessive hunger that come from eating too many simple carbs.
4. Group Support Diets
Group Support Diets include any number of well-established programs that offer support for members at group meetings, one-on-one meetings with diet counselors or online support groups.
These programs offer effective diets, along with a supportive environment and opportunities to exchange ideas and share successes.
Best plan for: People who need ongoing feedback, encouragement and tips from people going through similar situations.
5. The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet refers to a dietary pattern common in Mediterranean countries. Although there is no one “Mediterranean diet,” the Mediterranean diet is generally high in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. Dairy products, fish, poultry, eggs and wine are eaten in low to moderate portions. Little red meat is eaten.
Best plan for: People who prefer eating a greater portion of the foods Mediterranean-style eating focuses on, such as fruits, vegetables and olive oil.
No one ever said losing weight and keeping it off is easy — but finding a diet plan that you can follow for life makes it much easier. Before you start, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional about which plan might best meet your health and weight goals.