Top Diets

In This Chapter

  • A review of the science behind plant-based diets
  • What ancient cavemen diets revealed
  • Vegetarian diets and nutritional concerns
  • A look at low-carbohydrate diets
  • How commercial weight loss plans work

With the beginning of each year it seems that a brand-new diet plan is released. Should you follow it or not? Who’s promoting it and why? Is it easy to use and is it a safe and nutritious way to lose weight? It’s important to know the answers before starting a diet.

In this chapter, we’ll discuss popular diets routinely reported about in books, magazines, and on television and the internet. You’ll learn the basic components of the diets and how they define themselves. We'll also cover how easy they are to maintain and what costs you’ll incur by following them.

Plant-Based Diets

Plant-based diets are all the buzz in the nutrition world. They’re popular with environmentalists, animal rights supporters, locavores, and dietitians. There are various degrees of plant-based diets from raw vegan to Mediterranean.


A locavore is a person who prefers to consume foods grown locally, generally within a 100-mile radius. Locavores support their local farmers by shopping at farmers markets and stores showcasing local ingredients. Living in an area with a mild climate makes being a locavore much easier than in areas with harsh winters.

A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like—the diet’s primary (or exclusive) source of calories comes from plant products. Foods with very little processing are emphasized and items such as nuts, legumes, soy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are given the spotlight.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the term “vegetarianism” applies to plant-based diets as a whole. Over 47 percent of Americans report that they eat a vegetarian meal at least once a week. A study published in the Journal of Family Medicine reported that individuals with coronary heart disease who followed a plant-based diet as part of their therapy for a period of more than 3½ years saw a reduction in cardiac events.

The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends eating plant-based meals for at least two thirds of the calories you consume. By increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, you’ll increase your fiber intake and fill up on foods that are not dense in calories. The institute also states that eating a mostly plant-based diet will not only help prevent cancer, but also will likely decrease your weight.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a lifelong way of eating. Based on the dietary patterns of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, this way of eating has been the subject of numerous studies. A multitude of research has concluded that following a Mediterranean diet will decrease the likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Additional research has shown a reduction in the incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Following the patterns of a plant-based diet, each meal in the Mediterranean diet is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The following simple concepts are incorporated into the diet:

  • Healthy fats, such as olive oil, replace butter and margarine.
  • Foods are seasoned with herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Protein consists of frequent servings of fish and seafood at least twice a week.
  • Additional proteins consumed include chicken, eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Dairy should be low fat or nonfat.
  • Meat and sweets are eaten no more than a few times a month.
  • Wine, typically red, is consumed in moderation. Moderation means no more than 5 ounces a day for women and men older than 65 (10 ounces a day for men under 65 years old).

Following this eating pattern is a way of life for many Mediterranean-based cultures. It’s fairly easy to follow once you get accustomed to making choices that are in line with the diet. Most restaurants have options following these patterns, but you may need to ask for substitutions. Like most healthy ways of eating, you’ll need to plan ahead and spend some time cooking. Learning simple trade-offs will become second nature. Try some of the following tips for a smooth transition:

  • Replace mayonnaise with hummus.
  • Add a handful of almonds to your yogurt.
  • Incorporate legumes into meals.
  • Try new salt-free seasoning blends.
  • Dip your bread in small amounts of olive oil instead of margarine or butter.

People of the Mediterranean area are also active on a daily basis. They incorporate daily activities like riding a bike to the store or walking to the park into their lifestyle. Fitting physical activity into your daily life is a key component.


Hummus is synonymous with the Mediterranean diet. This ancient spread dates back as far as the twelfth or thirteenth century. The true country of origin is much debated—several Mediterranean countries claim bragging rights. However, the taste of hummus varies from region to region. It consists of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), sesame paste (tahini), lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Greeks use olive oil as an added fat, while Turks use butter. Some regions add Greek yogurt, chili peppers, or cumin. Hummus is a great addition to any diet, and passes the vegan test. Be careful to not overindulge in the tasty spread, it may be packed with nutrients, but it also is high in calories.

The Flexitarian Diet

The combination of a flexible diet and a vegetarian diet is called a flexitarian diet. Also referred to as “semi-vegetarian,” a flexitarian follows a vegetarian diet in some form, but will occasionally eat meat. The subgroup of vegetarianism (lacto-, ovo-, pesco-) they follow on a daily basis, and how often they deviate from it, will determine the health benefits and what supplements they may need.

The flexitarian mind-set doesn’t eliminate any foods or food groups, but rather adds more of the plant-based foods such as tofu, beans, nuts, and seeds. Being a plant-based diet, it focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.


Words are added before “vegetarian” to clarify foods eaten outside of what a strict vegetarian would eat. Lacto-vegetarians adds dairy to their diet, ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, and pesco-vegetarians consume fish. Sometimes the prefixes are combined if an individual eats more than one category. For example, a lacto-ovo vegetarian eats a vegetarian diet but includes dairy and eggs.

The Vegetarian Diet

Strict vegetarians closely follow a more vegan diet. Plant-based foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes comprise the majority of a vegetarian’s calories.

According to AND, the bioavailability of plant-based protein should not be a concern for vegetarians or vegans. AND reports that protein from plant-based sources (such as beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) contains a sufficient supply of all the essential amino acids. Protein sources should include those recommended for vegans as well as any chosen by a particular subgroup, such as dairy, eggs, or fish.

Ensuring adequate intake of all minerals and vitamins is essential with any diet, and there are some considerations for vegetarians. Depending on the form of vegetarianism you follow, you may need to take supplements to ensure you’re getting adequate vitamins and minerals.

Adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can be ingested through nuts, seeds, avocado, flaxseeds, and healthy oils. For pesco-vegetarians, fish is an excellent source.

Iron is plentiful in animal products. With the elimination of these from the diet, iron deficiency becomes a cause for concern. Nonheme iron is the primary source of iron for vegetarians. Good sources include dark leafy vegetables, beans, and iron-fortified bread. Fiber and phytic acid, found in many fruits and vegetables, can inhibit the absorption of nonheme iron. Eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus, tomatoes, and strawberries, will help with the absorption of iron. Zinc, also commonly found in animal-based products, may require supplementation.

There’s also a high prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency in both vegetarians and vegans. Deficiency symptoms include numbness and tingling in the hands and legs, fatigue, mood swings, an altered state of balance, irregular menstrual cycles, and memory difficulties. It’s important to seek out top sources of B12, however, supplementation may be necessary.

If dairy is eliminated from the vegetarian diet, there will likely be a decreased intake of calcium and vitamin D. Increasing consumption of dark-green vegetables (kale, spinach, and broccoli), beans, calcium-fortified juice, and milk substitute will ensure their calcium intake will be within dietary guidelines. Adequate vitamin D intake is difficult to achieve through diet. Sunlight is a valuable source, but supplementation may need to be considered.


Due to early research showing a possible link between omnivore diets and an increased risk of osteoporosis, there is some thought in the vegan community that their calcium needs may be lower than those for omnivores. The Vegetarian Resource Group states that vegans and vegetarians should follow the same calcium guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as meat eaters. Drinking calcium-fortified juice and soy milk as well as eating dark-green leafy vegetables will help with calcium intake, but a calcium supplement may still be needed.

Following a vegetarian diet has gotten easier over the years. School lunch programs, airlines, and restaurants all generally offer vegetarian selections. Carefully read menus and request alterations such as substituting black beans for chicken on a salad. To follow a healthy diet, you still must plan ahead and cook at home. Relying on meatless fast-food options can add unwanted calories, fat, and sodium to your diet. Because vegetarian diets are not as strict as a vegan diet, the cost shouldn’t be any more than a traditional diet. In fact, the cost may even be less because you’ll bypass the meat counter.

When following a vegetarian diet, remember that just because a food or meal is vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Soda, candy, movie theater popcorn, and your vanilla soy latte are all vegetarian. Embrace the true vegetarian diet and eat a wide variety of nutrient-filled whole foods.

The Vegan Diet

Individuals choose a vegan diet for a variety of reasons. These may include social, animal rights, or environmental concerns, and/or health beliefs. Vegan individuals vary in degrees on how strictly they adhere to a true vegan diet. The basic premise is that no animal products of any kind, including butter, cheese, eggs, and honey (made by bees), are eaten. These include ingredients added to many products, such as whey, gelatin, and lard.


Many acclaimed bakers around the world use butter as one of the basic ingredients for baking. If you are a baker and are going vegan, don’t panic. There are butter alternatives on the market, or you can make your own. Keep in mind butter alternatives are still high in saturated fat and calories. They may also contain trans fats from hydrogenated oil.

Protein sources are strictly plant-based and include grains (quinoa, millet, and amaranth), legumes, tofu, soy, nuts and nut butters, and seeds. Due to eliminating all animal-based proteins, vegans should ensure they have adequate iron and zinc intake.

As noted with vegetarians, vegans may be at risk for developing several additional nutrient deficiencies. The addition of foods to compensate for the elimination of other groups is essential to maintaining good nutrition. Consider your sources and intake of calcium, iron, B12, and zinc.

The degree to which you follow a true vegan diet and your support from friends and family will define the ease and longevity of following a vegan lifestyle. There are numerous apps and websites dedicated to supporting one another in the vegan community. If you’re new to the vegan way of life, finding a support system to help with the transition is imperative.

Vegan restaurants and options available in traditional dining establishments are making it easier to dine with nonvegan friends and family. Eating a healthy vegan diet filled with nutritious foods still requires planning and some creativity. It will be difficult and expensive to adhere to this diet if you don’t plan to cook and prepare most of your foods at home.

A plethora of vegan-friendly products have surfaced in the marketplace. Look at online recipe databases for new recipes, or reinvent your favorite dishes using new ingredients available on the market. Follow the same basic principles of meal planning by ensuring your plate contains proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Use caution when balancing carbohydrates with protein and good sources of fat.

The Raw Food Diet

The belief that cooking foods destroys key nutrients is the theory behind raw food diets. Most individuals who follow a raw food diet are also vegan; however, some may choose to eat raw animal products like raw milk, cheese, sushi, and meat. Grains may also be consumed raw and the majority of calories will be from nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Eating only raw foods is not a new way of life. The theory of eating only raw food dates back to the 1800s, yet there haven’t been any scientifically reviewed studies supporting its claims. Foodborne illness is a serious concern when consuming raw milk and meat. In addition, following a highly restrictive diet can also have consequences to long-term health.


Raw milk comes from cows, sheep, or goats, and has not undergone any of the conventional forms of pasteurization to kill potentially harmful bacteria. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pasteurization doesn’t lower the milk’s nutritional value and doesn’t increase the potential for allergic reactions.

Adding the complexity of consuming only raw foods to an already challenging diet can be overwhelming for a beginner. This is a difficult and inconvenient diet for the average person. Foods need to be dehydrated, juiced, and blended to make food combinations.

The Juicing Diet

Many juicing diets are also considered “detox” diets. A juicing diet requires purchasing juice or using a machine to juice fruits and vegetables. Juice has generally the same vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients as the raw fruits and vegetables. However, depending on the process used to obtain the juice, some of the nutrients may be reduced. Juice contains no fiber; it’s removed in the processing of the fruits and vegetables.

There are various methods of following a juicing diet. Some people juice and drink one glass a day, or the juice is added to smoothies with Greek yogurt or peanut butter. The less restrictive forms are easier to follow for an extended length of time and won’t leave you as nutritionally deficient. Following a restrictive juicing diet for an extended length of time will leave you deficient in protein, fiber, and fat.

Proponents tout the need to cleanse and detox your body by juicing. One of the primary jobs of the kidneys and liver is to filter out toxins. There’s no scientific evidence to support claims that the juice diet’s detoxing or cleansing contributes to good health.

Juicing can be healthy in small amounts. If you would rather drink your seven servings of vegetables than chew them, then by all means juice. However, remember you’re missing out on all the fiber those fruits and vegetables would have provided. Eating whole vegetables and fruits will make you feel full. Not only will the fiber add bulk, but the process of chewing and swallowing also produces satiety.

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet

Endorsed by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy diet, the TLC diet was developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to lower the risk of heart disease and cholesterol.

Giving up high-fat foods to keep your total fat intake between 25 and 35 percent of your daily calories is an important factor in the TLC diet. Trans fat should be eliminated and saturated fat should be kept to less than 7 percent of your daily calories (for a 2,000-calorie diet this equates to less than 13g per day). To help with the modifications, the TLC diet suggests including whole nuts instead of nut butter, swapping out butter for heart-healthy oils, and eliminating fried foods. Reducing dietary cholesterol to less than 200mg per day is also advised.

Calorie targets are based on your personal goals, such as lowering your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol, or losing weight. Increasing fiber-rich foods to help bind cholesterol in the blood is key.

Items to focus on:

  • 3-5 servings of vegetables and beans
  • 2-4 servings of fruits
  • 6+ servings of whole grains
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat and nonfat dairy
  • 5 oz. of lean protein (skinless chicken breast or turkey)
  • 2 meals per week of high omega-3 fish
  • 30 minutes a day of physical activity
  • Supplementing with a daily multivitamin

For those who don’t see a reduction in their cholesterol or their level is still higher than acceptable, they should add:

  • 5-10g of soluble fiber (oats, whole fruits, or beans)
  • 2-3g of plant sterols/stanols

You should also reduce or eliminate:

  • Red meat (high saturated fat content)
  • Alcohol
  • Simple sugar
  • Sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day

To learn to be successful on the TLC diet, you’ll need to master reading food labels, which include a lot of key information for the TLC dieter. By reading the labels, you can determine the total amounts of saturated and trans fats. Cholesterol and fiber amounts are also included on the labels. By continuously reading labels, you’ll become proficient in determining if a food has added sugar or if the sodium content is in line with your intake.


Sterols and stanols are found naturally in some plants. Eating them has been shown to help lower cholesterol in your bloodstream by blocking the absorption of LDL in your small intestine and preventing the cholesterol from blocking your arteries. While they do occur naturally in small amounts, they’re also being added to foods. Getting plant sterols/stanols from whole foods is the best approach. However, if you have high cholesterol or have had a heart attack, eating 2 to 3g per day from whole and fortified foods has been shown to lower your LDL by 6 to 15 percent.

If you dine out, you’ll also need to become proficient at navigating nutritional information provided by restaurants. Cooking at home also will be essential to being successful on the TLC diet. Even though the diet may increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, a reduction in meat and eliminating processed foods will offset the cost at the grocery store and may even save you money.

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet

Designed to lower blood pressure, the DASH diet is based in science. It’s a commonsense approach to changing the way you eat. You don’t need to have hypertension (high blood pressure) to follow this diet. It has many health benefits and touts weight loss as a possible side effect. The DASH diet helps with weight loss mainly because you’re giving up daily splurges of high-calorie, fat-filled processed foods. The DASH diet helps you determine the number of calories you need based on your height, weight, and activity levels. The basic premise is a reduction in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and refined sugar. It increases your intake of foods high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, and fiber.

Daily and weekly goals for a 2,000-calorie diet are:

  • 4-5 servings of fruit (per day)
  • 4-5 servings of vegetables (per day)
  • 6-8 servings of whole grains (per day)
  • 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy (per day)
  • 2-3 servings of heart-healthy oils (per day)
  • 6 oz. of lean protein (no more than 4 egg yolks per week)
  • 4-5 servings of nuts and seeds per week
  • Less than 5 servings of sweets per week
  • Two meatless meals per week
  • Reduce sodium to 2,300mg with a goal of under 1,500mg (per day)
  • 30 minutes of physical activity each day
  • Replace salt with herbs, spices, salt-free blends, lemon juice, and vinegars (per day)

This diet has been proven to lower LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL. The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet (but without the red wine and additional servings of heart-healthy fats). There’s a vegetarian version of the diet for those who choose not to eat meat. Alcohol also is limited.

The DASH diet is designed as a long-term lifestyle change, making it very easy to stay on for quite some time. There are no special foods to buy and once you get accustomed to the recommended components, it will be easier to eat out. You’ll likely need to ask for substitutions at restaurants, such as no sauce on the chicken and fresh fruit instead of fries.


Reducing your sodium intake can be a real challenge. The average American consumes 4,000 to 5,000 milligrams per day, with recommendations of only 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day depending on your health needs. Fresh vegetables are a smart choice, but frozen and canned can be good options, too. Just be sure to read the labels and if you purchase canned, look for those with no added salt or reduced sodium. Rinsing your canned veggies will also lower the sodium levels. Use salt-free spice blends or make your own. Flavored sauces, rice, canned soups, deli meats, and processed foods are particularly high in salt. Look for items with less than 450mg per serving.

The Paleo Diet

Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers 100,000 years ago. It was a preagricultural era, which means they didn’t have cultivated crops or farmed animals—no dairy, wheat, oats, or legumes. Everything consumed was gathered from the land or hunted.

Incorporating the hunter-gatherer philosophy into our modern-day diet eliminates all processed foods, salt, refined sugars, alcohol, grains (wheat, oats, and quinoa), starchy vegetable (potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash), legumes, dairy, and animals raised on grain. While many Paleo dieters tout it as a high-protein diet, its guidelines for protein, carbohydrate, and fats are close to the acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR).

Individuals who follow the Paleolithic diet eat meat (grass-fed only), fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, and seeds, along with high amounts of nonstarchy fruits and vegetables. The glycemic index is also taken into consideration when choosing foods. Fruits and vegetables with high sugar contents (grapes, bananas, and watermelon) are eaten infrequently. The acid-base balance is a component of the Paleo diet. Dieters believe balancing foods that raise (meats) or lower (fruits and vegetables) the pH of your blood will lead to better health.

Following the Paleo diet long-term may be tricky and expensive. The cost of eating large amounts of grass-fed meats (beef, wild boar, bison, and wild game) with fresh fruits and vegetables can add up quickly. Eating out can be difficult unless you frequent higher-end establishments that offer grass-fed meats.


According to researchers at Texas A&M, the fatty acid profile of grass-fed beef and grain-finished beef are mostly monounsaturated and saturated fats. Beef from cows fed longer on grain may have more monounsaturated fat, which may lower cholesterol. Grass-fed beef may have a slightly higher (.02 grams versus .055 grams) omega-3 fatty acid level. Daily requirements for women are 1.1g and for men 1.6g.

This diet has healthy components, such as reduced salt intake and elimination of refined sugars, soda, and sports drinks. The elimination of grains and dairy, however, could lead to deficiencies in many B vitamins and calcium. Ensure plenty of calcium-rich vegetables are in your diet and consider supplementing with B vitamins. Also, be aware that coffee is not on the Paleo diet!

Commercial Diet Plans

In 2014, weight-loss companies brought in over $2.5 billion. With that kind of revenue generated, you should expect big results. Studies show some of the top companies do succeed in assisting clients with weight loss, but the success generally is short term.

The plans that focus on portion control tend to have the best results. Costs of the plans range from $40 to over $700 a month, depending on the level of support, participation, and amount of food purchased. Commercial diet plans aren’t for everyone. But for someone who needs or wants continued support, they’re a viable option.

Weight Watchers

The Weight Watchers approach to weight loss is commercially endorsed by highly paid starlets featuring striking differences between their before and after photos. This program is based on the principle that no two calories are created equal.

The program assigns points to foods based on how long they’ll fill you up. Lower-point foods will make you feel fuller longer. Higher-point foods are quick used. The key is sticking to your points and learning how to choose foods, which will help keep the weight off. No foods are off limits, just higher in points. Fresh fruits and vegetables are free, so eat away. Weight Watchers claims eating out is easy with a few simple points, and some restaurants even have Weight Watcher points printed on their menus. Points are sufficient to allow for three meals and two snacks daily.

Research shows programs offering emotional support and group sessions lead to better compliance. This philosophy is taken to heart at Weight Watchers. A smartphone app is available to help you count points as you go; it includes activity tracking, recipes, customized meals, videos, a support community, and a 24/7 help line for continuous support.

Personal coaches are also available to connect one-on-one via phone or email as often as you want. You also can sign up to receive text reminders and motivation from your coach. There are a variety of fees associated with belonging to Weight Watchers and for additional benefits, such as unlimited group sessions and personal coaching.

The Weight Watcher’s plan was originally designed for people to prepare their own fresh foods at home. However, Weight Watchers now has an entire line of prepackaged and pre-portioned meals available to choose from in your local grocery store.

Due to calorie restriction, Weight Watchers recommends taking a daily multivitamin to ensure an adequate intake of calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and B12.

Jenny Craig

Another weight loss company using high profile, well-paid actors, Jenny Craig prides itself on personalizing a diet plan for you. It provides all the foods you need for your meals, simplifying the process of meal preparation.

The program follows guidelines set out as a plan for you using your weight loss goals, fitness habits, motivation level, and current weight. Jenny Craig emphasizes an active lifestyle along with behavior modification and calorie reduction.

On Jenny Craig you’ll eat three meals, two snacks, and one dessert daily. The pre-portioned meals are small but nutritionally balanced. The types of foods provided are designed to help you feel full as long as possible. Fresh fruit and low-fat dairy are also included. Gluten-free meals are also offered.

Financially, you’ll have to purchase all the premade meals and snacks until you’re halfway to your weight loss goal. If you have a family, you’ll still have to cook regular meals for them, as the foods provided only feed one. In the beginning, there’s limited flexibility for dining out or eating at a friend’s house. An event such as a party or outing where food is central becomes difficult. These factors may affect your ability to stay on the diet long term.

A monthly fee is associated with the program and builds in a weekly consultation to discuss your progress. The consultant will offer advice to you on the phone or in person.

The program has no ending point, and some stay on it for years while slowly incorporating their own home-cooked meals. Jenny Craig admits it’s challenging to get enough of all nutrients on a low-calorie program and recommends taking a multivitamin.


Well known for the high-protein, low-carb diet, Atkins was developed by a cardiologist. This diet incorporates four levels of carbohydrate intake with the goal of putting your body into ketosis (a state in which your body no longer has glycogen to use as fuel for the brain and has to convert fat into fuel, creating ketones as a byproduct). The problem with ketosis is your brain is not happy; it prefers glycogen as its source of fuel. You may experience weakness, nausea, bad breath, constipation (there’s very little fiber in the diet), and being downright cranky. The ketones in the blood also cause inflammation.

Some studies have shown weight loss and improved waist circumference. However, it’s possible the weight loss comes from reducing calories rather than the actual types of foods you eat. One study did report weight loss of approximately 10 pounds in 1 year of Atkins participants. But it also reported the participants ate higher levels of carbohydrates than were outlined by the diet.

As for the nutritional side effects of the diet, sodium exceeds the recommended amount, and it will be difficult to get nutrients readily available in grains, such as fiber and B vitamins. With limited dairy in the first phases, it’s a good idea to supplement with calcium. The diet is extremely high in fat, with the intake well over the AMDR and carbohydrate intake far under. It’s safe to say the Atkins plan does not provide a well-balanced diet.

It can be an expensive diet to follow due to the amount of meat required, and especially if you purchase the Atkins food products. Frozen meals are available in select stores, and protein bars, shakes, and treats can be purchased in stores or online. The Atkins website offers free online weight loss tools, such as a carb tracker, recipes, meal plans, shopping lists, forums, and chat groups. There’s also a smartphone app available. The diet is difficult to stick to long term with its rigorous restrictions on carbohydrates. Eating bacon may sound like fun for a while, but it can get old quickly. Imagine no baked potatoes, breadless sandwiches, and meatballs without pasta.


A high-protein diet should never be followed if you have kidney disease or renal insufficiency. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) doesn’t recommend a high-protein diet to aid in weight loss.

South Beach

The premise of this diet is lower carbs, higher protein, and more healthy fat than the typical American diet. You toss out the unrefined carbs and bad fats, and replace them with whole grain carbs and healthy fats. That sounds pretty reasonable, right?

Be cautioned, the diet can be pretty restrictive in the early phases, but it does allow for three meals, two snacks, and a dessert each day. Phase one starts out highly restrictive but eases up as you progress. Vegetables, lean protein (chicken, fish, and turkey), nuts, and eggs are the mainstays of the diet. Whole grains, fruits, and additional vegetables are added in the second phase. The final phase is where you maintain your weight and theoretically stay there for the rest of your life. This stage has no “off-limits” foods, but has limits on certain items such as “good fats.” Once you get to the maintenance phase, the diet is a fairly well-rounded, healthy meal plan. Add some extra nutrients by incorporating fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.

The prescribed menus can be expensive, but tweaking the meals to stay within the confines of the diet will help save some money at the grocery store. There are specific South Beach products you can purchase in select stores or have delivered to your home. Offerings include meals and a wide variety of bars (including gluten-free).

South Beach offers a mobile app as well as online interactive tools, recipes, meal plans, coaching, and a support community.

The Least You Need to Know

  • You can lose weight on any diet. It’s the long-term changes in your eating habits and lifestyle that keep the weight off.
  • Diets that focus on eating whole foods will provide you with the best variety of nutrients.
  • Going vegetarian requires thoughtfully planned meals to make certain your body doesn’t miss out on important nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.
  • Successful dieters are actively involved in their food choices and leave no meals to chance.
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