Archive for January, 2013

Whereas the DASH diet ranked number one in 2012 as the healthiest diet, not far behind were other excellent diets. The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet ranked number two (See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/tlc-diet). Developed by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association, it claims to lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol by eight to ten percent in six weeks. This diet sharply reduces dietary fat, especially saturated fat found primarily in meats, dairy (butter/cream), and fried foods. The diet encourages restricting foods high in cholesterol and increasing those high in fiber.

Three diets tied for third place, Mediterranean, Mayo Clinic, and Weight Watchers. While the DASH diet is well-known for lowering sodium in the diet and the TLC diet is low-fat, the Mediterranean diet is a balance of healthy foods without reducing any specific food or substance. This diet has no specific “plan” but emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes; olive oil; herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least twice a week; poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; and sweets and red meats only for special occasions. Those living around the Mediterranean Sea, for which the diet is named, tend to have more active lifestyles, control their weight, consume diets high in healthful foods as listed above, and eat less red meat, sugar, or saturated fat than Americans. See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet.

The Mayo Clinic diet, also a balanced diet, advocates a two-phase program. Part one, referred to as “Lose It” phase, doesn’t count calories. Part two, “Live It,” involves learning the number of calories needed and where those calories come from. The aim of the diet is weight-loss, and participants should lose from six to ten pounds in two weeks. See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mayo-clinic-diet/recipes.

U. S News & World Report ranked Weight Watchers as number five among healthiest diets. Experts considered this diet easy to follow, safe, and nutritionally sound. Weight Watchers emphasizes group support. Foods include lots of fruits and vegetables, and it allows for occasional indulgences. Check http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/weight-watchers-diet for more information.

Although these best diets may contribute toward loss of weight, the news magazine also evaluated diets touted for weight-loss. Weight Watchers ranked number one in that category with Biggest Looser, Jenny Craig, and raw food diet tied at number two (See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-weight-loss-diets ). Volumetrics came in fifth.

Now you have it. Many diets out there are healthy choices. Forget all the fad diets that may actually do harm and concentrate on wholesome foods to provide adequate nutrients and calories to become a healthier you.

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In the last blog (Dumb and Dumber Diets in 2012, January 13, 2013), I identified loser diets for last year. If those diets were ridiculous, who were the winners?

Each year nutrition experts evaluate more than 25 diets for the US News & World Report to decide the best overall diet. For the third year in a row, they chose the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Scores were based on whether diets were easy to follow, nutritious, and safe and effective.

The primary focus of the DASH diet, developed by National Institute of Health, is to decrease sodium intake and thereby lower blood pressure. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend a maximum of 2300 milligrams (mg) per day, the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt. For African-Americans, those over age fifty-one or individuals who have chronic diseases of hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease,the suggested limit is 1500 mg/day. The DASH diet also effectively lowers cholesterol and reduces risks for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

What is this #1 diet? The DASH plan requires no special foods or difficult-to-follow recipes. It is based on eating a specific amount of servings from fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk products, whole grains, and protein foods from lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, and seeds. It is lower in sodium, sweets, added sugars, and fats than what most Americans eat.

If you choose to follow this healthy diet, change your eating pattern slowly. Sudden increased amounts of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains may cause bloating and digestive upsets. Symptoms subside as your body system adjusts to healthier fares. The additional fiber is a benefit for overall health. If you eat very few fruits/vegetables, start with a vegetable at lunch the first day—maybe a salad or raw carrot strips—and alternate with a vegetable serving the next day at dinner. Add a fruit of your choice during the day. Gradually add more fruits and vegetables.

Alter milk products to lower the amount of fat in your diet. Begin with 2% products and gradually reduce the amount of fat over a period of weeks. Choose low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, and other milk products.

The DASH diet is similar to recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. A daily comparison for a 2000 calorie diet looks like this:

FRUITS: 4 Servings
VEGETABLES: 5 Servings
GRAINS: 6 Servings (1 oz./serving)
At least half from whole grain.
Choose from lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
DAIRY:  3 cups equivalent
Choose low-fat or skim products.

FRUITS: 4-5 Servings
VEGETABLES: 4-5 Servings
GRAINS: 6-8 Servings (1 oz./serving)
At least half from whole grain.
PROTEIN FOODS: Less than 6 oz.
Choose from lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
DAIRY: 2-3 cups equivalent
Choose low-fat or skim products.

Check out more information on the DASH diet at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/dash_brief.pdf.  Find sample menus at: http://dashdiet.org/sample_menu.asp, and see select recipes at: http://dashdiet.org/DASH_diet_recipes.asp

Other good choices are out there, but if you want #1, DASH is the way to go. Why wait to start getting healthier?

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What will 2013 hold for the latest gimmicks or diets to lose weight? In case you missed it, observers considered 2012 a new low in efforts to lose weight. The British Dietetic Association (BDA) identified what they considered as the top five worst diets.

  • OMG (six-week diet). Ranked at number five, this diet starts with a cup of black coffee early each morning followed by exercise. Afterward, go straight for a bath in cold water and sit until 10:00 a.m. Then you can have breakfast, but no fruits or snacks. If you try it, let me know how it works for you. Me? I prefer hot showers and breakfast as soon as my toes reach the floor each morning.
  • Alcorexia/Drunkorexia Diet. Eat very few calories throughout the week so you can save up to spend them drinking alcoholic beverages on weekends. Sound like a winner? I won’t bore you with details. According to the BDA, “(The diet) is absolutely stupid and could easily result in alcohol poisoning and even death.”
  • “Party Girl” IV Drip Diet. This procedure, costing upwards of $200 – $300, has caught on with some celebrities. A clinician inserts an IV drip of fluids mixed with customized vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream. Gives you extra pep—they say.
  • KEN (ketogenic enteral diet). The KEN diet, also a clinical procedure, involves threading a NG (nasogastric) tube through the nose into the stomach. Special liquid-patented formulas provide specific amounts of protein and nutrients. Referred to as forced starvation, the diet can cause organ damage. It’s administered in 10-day cycles with normal eating in-between.
  • Dukan Diet. Written by the French physician Pierre Dukan, this diet ranked number one for the second year. Similar to the Atkins diet, it begins with high-protein foods and no carbohydrates to accomplish quick weight loss. The BDA considers it “confusing, time-consuming, very rigid, and . . . hard to sustain.” The diet warns of constipation, low energy, and bad breath.

These aren’t the only absurd diets out there. Who knows what will surface or repeat in 2013? Wouldn’t you rather cut back a little on high-fat, high-sugar foods and eat a little less to lose a few pounds? The thought of that cold bath motivates me to make wiser choices and skip all the nonsense.

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As 2012 closed, many resolved to lose weight during the coming year. A few days into 2013, several had already broken well-intended goals, and some gave up entirely.

Why make any goals for eating? What would happen if we kicked aside thoughts of calories and concentrated on the positives of food? Think about the following:

  • We all eat. We can’t survive unless we do. Food is not the enemy—even high-calorie choices have their place.
  • Sugar does not make us fat. It’s that huge amount we tend to add to foods and drinks. Not only that, high-sugar foods often replace ones that provide needed nutrients for better health. Likewise, avoiding high-fat, high-sugar foods and keeping them out of the house can prompt more healthful eating and loss of weight.
  • Diet is not a bad word. We all are on a “diet.” The word refers to whatever we eat—from toast and water to caviar and wine—that is our diet. What is your current diet, or what do you want it to be? Small changes can drastically alter a less healthy meal pattern into one that helps maintain a healthy weight and improve overall health. The brochure at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/DG2010Brochure.pdf  provides a great resource for a healthier lifestyle.
  • Add instead of subtract. So-called “weight-loss diets” focus on what not to eat. Instead, consider what you can add to your diet.
    • Add fiber to ensure a greater sense of fullness.
    • Drink ample water between meals to keep you hydrated and replace some of the urge to eat.
    • Each day add five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables, four to six ounces of protein foods (lean meats, seafood, eggs, nuts, legumes), the equivalent of three servings of reduced-fat milk/milk products, and six servings of bread/cereal/pasta with half of those servings from whole grain sources.
    • Use some of the above foods to make reduced-calorie desserts such as puddings or fresh fruit combinations.
    •  See http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/ExecSumm.pdf  for more details on healthy eating.
  • Watch portion size. One of the greatest culprits in the “battle of the bulge” is overindulgence. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes from the time food reaches the stomach for the brain to realize you are getting full. Eating more slowly helps bring about satiety to keep from overeating. The following serving sizes help prevent consuming too much: fruits and vegetable, one-half cup cooked or one cup fresh; lean meats, about the size of a deck of cards; bread, cereal, or pasta, one slice or one ounce; milk/milk products, the equivalent of eight fluid ounces.

These five principles can help you have a healthier diet and perhaps a healthier you during this new year. You don’t need a resolution to do that.

Have a happy, healthy 2013.


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