You want to lose a few pounds — and this time, you’re determined to make your healthy habits last. So, where do you start? Should you ditch carbs, or embrace whole grains? Cut out meat, or go high-protein?
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There’s no one right answer, says registered dietitian Andrea Dunn, RD. “The best diet is the one you’re going to follow,” she says. “And I don’t say that tongue in cheek! There’s no one diet that will fit everybody’s needs, personalities, lifestyles or food preferences.”
Fad diets have been around forever, and most come and go for a reason: They don’t work long-term. If you’re looking to lose weight — and keep it off — Dunn recommends starting with an eating plan backed by solid science.
Here are her top 3 picks:
Technically, the Mediterranean diet isn’t a diet, Dunn says. “It’s more of a lifestyle.” Based on typical eating habits from the Mediterranean area, this plan is heavy on plant-based foods.
The basics: Load up on veggies, beans and other legumes. Eat fish and seafood a couple times a week in place of red meat. Eat fruit for a sweet treat or nuts for a snack. Use olive oil as your main fat.
The benefits: Studies show the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke and helps with weight loss, too.
Who it’s good for: The Mediterranean diet is a great choice if you aren’t a huge meat eater and dig veggies, fruits, legumes and whole grains.
Dunn often recommends a diet she calls a moderate protein plan — but it could also be described as a moderate carbohydrate plan. This plan still emphasizes whole grains and produce and limits processed foods and added sugar. But it allows for more animal proteins for those carnivores-at-heart.
The basics: With this diet, aim to get:
The benefits: For many people, a higher-protein diet decreases hunger, making it easier to stick to the plan.
Who it’s good for: This diet is a great choice for people who get excited about making spreadsheets or using an app that lets them track everything they eat. “If you love numbers, this is the plan for you,” Dunn says.
Short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the DASH diet started as a research diet plan to curb high blood pressure. “This style of eating can also help with lowering cholesterol and weight loss,” Dunn says.
The basics: The DASH plan breaks out the number of servings you should eat from each food group.
The benefits:Studies have found that while DASH does help lower blood pressure, it’s even better at lowering cholesterol.
Who it’s for: This diet is perfect for the person who plans meals around the food groups and does not want to track for calories.
Some people find other diets work well for them. Some love the high-fat, low-carb keto diet. Others swear by intermittent fasting, in which you restrict eating during certain days of the week or hours of the day.
Dunn recommends steering clear of plans that forbid entire food groups. Likewise, skip diets that promise rapid weight loss of more than 1 or 2 pounds a week. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she says.
And think about whether your new diet is truly something you can stick with for the long haul. Dunn notes, “It’s about matching your lifestyle with the foods you enjoy and what will work best for you long-term, without feeling deprived or ripped off.”