Our guide to what’s good, bad and downright ridiculous will help you find the best healthy eating plan for you
Regular HFG readers will be familiar with our expert dietitians’ belief: there’s no such thing as a quick fix weight-loss diet. To slim down and stay healthy long term, we have to find a plan we can follow for life. But that’s not to say there aren’t diets trending out there that contain useful elements or principles for long-term healthy eating and for avoiding weight gain. We investigate the benefits – and pitfalls – of the most popular.
Six popular diets
This could be called the anti-junk food diet. It’s less about specific foods to eat or avoid, and more about the overall type and origin of the food. Read more.
Also known as the caveman diet, the idea is that we should eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors – because that’s what we were designed to do. Read more.
The main principle is that all foods should be unprocessed, unrefined and not heated above 44°C. Read more.
A nutritionally balanced diet based on foods that are native to the Mediterranean. The emphasis is on veg and healthy fats instead of red meat, dairy and processed foods. Read more.
Low-carbohydrate diets were first popularised in the 1970s by the book Dr Atkins’ Diet Revolution. It came back into favour in the early 2000s, and is now enjoying a revival as New Atkins for a New You by Dr Westman. Read more.
When The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley came on to the weight-loss scene in 2013, it was hailed as ‘The biggest diet revolution since Atkins’. Read more.
Which diet is the healthiest?
Almost any weight loss plan will work if you stick to the ‘rules’ and ideals of that diet. ‘We lose weight on restrictive diets simply because we’ve reduced the calories we’re consuming, no matter which foods the calories come from,’ explains Professor David Haslam, GP and chair of the National Obesity Forum. ‘Losing weight when we need to is usually associated with better health measures.’
But losing weight isn’t the hard part. ‘Keeping it off is the issue,’ says David. ‘We often feel deprived on diets and can’t sustain them. To maintain our weight we need a sustainable way of eating.’ A recent study at Yale University reviewed the research on dietary patterns, including low-carb, low-fat, low-GI, Mediterranean, mixed and balanced, paleo and vegan. Which came top in the health stakes? Well, there was no clear winner. However, the evidence was consistent in that a diet based mainly on natural,unprocessed foods is best for everyone.
*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.