We are constantly bombarded with trendy fad diets. Whether the diet is touting the benefits of low carbs or the glycemic index, the promise is the same: quick weight loss. Unfortunately, subsequent weight gain is usually the result. Let’s take a look at the popular fads and see how they stack up.
The Atkins Diet
Summary: Claims carbohydrates make you fat, so you should severely restrict them and eat mostly protein and fat.
How it restricts calories: With little to no carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cake, cookies, potatoes, fruits, vegetables), the body is inevitably getting fewer calories – therefore weight loss occurs quickly.
Caution flag: A high intake of saturated fat from processed meats, cheese and butter is not good for your cardiovascular system. A high-protein diet may increase the risk for kidney stones, osteoporosis, gout and certain cancers. You are missing out on the most healthful carbs such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, that improve health, blood sugar control and weight control over time.
The South Beach Diet
Summary: Uses the glycemic index to identify good versus bad carbohydrates. Needlessly restricts carbohydrate intake in the misbelief that this cures cravings and promotes weight loss. On the plus side, it encourages fruits, vegetables, legumes and unrefined grains, such as whole-wheat breads and brown rice, which are better for weight loss.
How it restricts calories: The restrictions go too far, as carrots, bananas, pineapple and watermelon are called “no-no’s.”
Caution flag: Although South Beach menus average a mere 1,200 calories, this diet claims that hunger is a thing of the past. It also emphasizes a higher intake of animal protein and saturated fat by reducing carbohydrates.
The Zone Diet
Summary: Claims that diets too high in carbohydrates lead to high insulin levels, which prevent the burning of fat.
How it restricts calories: Restricts foods that have a high glycemic index response.
Caution flag: The glycemic index is not really designed to be used for weight control because it makes cheesecake look like it is a better choice than potatoes, carrots and turnips.
The Bottom Line
Reduce your intake of foods that are laden with sugar, fat and processed white flour. Increase your intake of low-fat, high-fiber whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Choose fish, white meat poultry or lean meat in small portions. Make your dairy selections as low in fat as possible. And don’t forget to exercise almost every day!
By Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, LD.
Best Diet Book Choices:
• The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan: Feel Full on Fewer Calories by Barbara Rolls, PhD
• Dr. Shapiro’s Picture Perfect Weight Loss by Howard M. Shapiro, MD
• The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan: A Scientifically Designed Balance of Healthy Foods by Joy Bauer
• Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman
• The Way to Eat: A Six-Step Path to Lifelong Weight Control by David L. Katz
• The Step Diet Book: Count Steps, Not Calories, To Lose Weight by James Hill, PhD
• Calorie Density Solution by Robert Pritikin
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.