Battle of the Diets

Check out the pros & cons of 6 top weight-loss plans.

There’s a simple key to losing weight: Move more, eat fewer calories. Repeat for life.

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy. If it did, there wouldn’t be so many commercial diet programs, and new ones appearing all the time.

In the chart on the next page, you’ll find summaries of six well-known diets. Which one is best for you? That’s simple too, experts say. It’s the one you’ll stick with.

To choose a program, think long term. “The most important consideration is whether it’s something you could do for a lifetime and feel satisfied,” says Judith Rodriguez, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida and author of The Diet Selector: From Atkins to the Zone, More than 50 Ways to Help You Find the Best Diet for You. “If not, it’s probably best not to try it.”

Following that principle will rule out quick fixes. “Ads will tell you, ‘Eat this berry and you’ll look like a model,’” says Andrea Anfuso-Sisto, an outpatient registered dietitian at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood. “But it’s like get-rich-quick schemes—if something seems too wonderful and too easy, it probably is.”

A sudden lunge toward self-denial isn’t the ticket, this dietitian insists. “I’m not a fan of the word ‘diet,’” she says. “I’d rather see a person find a healthy eating plan that he or she can sustain.”

Eating plans that eliminate entire groups of food can be harmful, Anfuso- Sisto adds. “The human body needs carbohydrates for energy. And if you’re not getting adequate protein or antioxidants, you may run into health problems, such as hair loss or fatigue, down the road.”

Both experts caution against overreliance on any program’s packaged meals or shakes. “They help you kick-start your plan and provide guidance on serving sizes, but you eventually have to figure out how to apply that to your own choices of foods,” Rodriguez says.

“Most frozen ‘diet’ meals are high in sodium, low in protein and contain preservatives,” notes Anfuso-Sisto. “They’re also not very big. While they might be convenient to have for lunch, you’d be better off—and more satisfied—having a turkeyon- whole-grain wrap with tomato and avocado.”

The biggest stumbling blocks to diet success? There are two, Anfuso-Sisto says. One is the force of habit: always skipping breakfast, or snacking in front of the TV every night, or mindlessly turning to sweets for comfort. The other is lack of education.

“The vast majority of Americans truly don’t know what a carbohydrate is, what a protein is, what a fat is, what a proper serving size is,” says Anfuso-Sisto. “When people learn these things and find out what healthy options they have, they can plan a variety of meals and snacks that are nutritious and help them manage their weight.”

In a nutshell, that’s what the best diet programs—the ones that can work—help you do.

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