Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Diet Plans That Are Too Good to Be True; And Those that Really Work!

The following article is written by Beth Machnica, a student at SUNY Oneonta, who interns for Deborah Richter, a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga.

Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, Paleo Diet – what’s the deal? With a forever-growing list of fad diets, how do we know if they’re hurtful or helpful for us? There are a few red flags to look out for when seeking a healthier way to eat.

Leaves You Empty

One of the first things to scope out for in the diet world is diets having major limitations on calories or certain nutrients.
  • Atkins limits the total amount of carbohydrates eaten in its first stages. Although it allows carbohydrates to be gradually brought back into the eating plan, this initial restriction may be dangerous if continued. According to the Institutes of Medicine, the body needs a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. Since the Atkins diet suggests less than 70 net carbs per day for its first three stages, this raises some health concerns.
  • South Beach is similar to Atkins with limitations on carbs in its first phases. This program offers guidance and advice from registered dietitians, which is a distinction from other plans. However, the diet may lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients while offering too much protein, which may be a concern for those with kidney conditions. Overall, it may be helpful in making us more aware of the healthful choices.
  • Paleo Diet is one that leaves your tank quite empty – meaning it's too low in carbohydrates. Although it bans processed foods and encourages healthy fats, having too little carbs won’t do much in terms of weight loss. The body is able to burn the most fat when it has enough fuel – meaning enough carbs.  Despite some of the healthy-sounding habits it may promote, the Paleo diet is not one that will result in long-term weight loss.
All in all, try to stay away from diets that largely restrict this nutrient or any others. Instead of trying to eliminate carbohydrates entirely, be mindful of portion sizes and span them out throughout your day.

Fat burns in a fire of carbohydrate!

Aim for complex carbs such as whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables, or beans. Eat more of these beneficial foods and try to eat less of the soda, candy, cakes, and cookies – which tend to be simple carbs that aren’t as useful to our bodies. Think SSSOO: Save Simple Stuff for Special Occasions Only.

Too Good To Be True?  Not These!

Another aspect to look out for is unrealistic expectations. If a diet promises it will make you lose 30 lbs. in a month, it is not realistic or healthy. In the same way, the promise of turning you into an Olympian athlete in a month is just as much of a red flag.
  • Nutrisystem tends to be more realistic compared to a fad like the Paleo diet. Nutrisystem states it may help you lose 1-2 lbs. per week – which is considered gradual healthy weight loss. Any more than this amount may be too rapid. With Nutrisystem, the food is already portioned out for you, but it can be pricey to follow. It has been rated to be fairly safe overall by health professionals, with the limitation that some nutrients may be missing.
  • Weight Watchers fits into a person’s lifestyle without requiring the purchase of special food (although the company offers its own brand of products for convenience). Every food fits into Weight Watchers, plus it emphasizes getting active. Weight Watchers can be helpful because it makes us more mindful of what we eat. This mainly stems from the requirement to count the points in what we eat, which may be tedious for some. The diet has been rated as safe by health professionals, so there is not as much need to worry about not getting enough nutrients. Habits learned should continue to be practiced even after you stop going to Weight Watchers – this is what makes it permanent.  

Not A Lifestyle Change? Ditch It.

With any new health habit – whether it’s getting active, eating better, or quitting smoking – the overall idea should be to make gradual changes towards better health, and to keep them for life. A diet that only requires 25 days or 8 weeks or 3 months is just like the sun in Western New York – temporary!

By gradually changing our habits over time, we’re more likely to stick with them for life.

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