Three Healthy Diets You Should Know

Article Categories: Patient Care & Cardiopulmonary

As a Medical Assistant, you see this every day: You greet patients and as you’re talking, they tell you about the “new” diet they’re following. Many times, the diets are for weight loss, but others are for healthier lifestyles.

Every week, another diet fad pops up, or a celebrity announces she has lost ten pounds by eating an unusual food combination. People may try new ways of eating for a while, but unless a diet is satisfying, it’s easy to fall back to unhealthy favorites.

There are some diets that have been successful and stayed around for a while. You may want to know more about them, so you understand when patients mention them or ask you if they’re safe or reliable. Here are three of the current popular--and healthy--diets to know more about:

• DASH: The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a medically sound way for patients to be heart-healthy and impact their cholesterol levels. With lots of fruits and vegetables, it meets all dietary guidelines for all food groups. It also follows recommendations of the American Diabetes Association, so patients with both hypertension/heart disease and diabetes can meet nutrition requirements.

What’s Good: All food groups can be enjoyed--some in moderation--but nothing is absolutely restricted. It’s balanced and satisfying. This makes it easier to follow and stick with for a long time. Recipes are endless, making DASH fun to cook and experiment with. Weight loss is possible with portion control.

What’s Hard: Salt, of course, is extremely limited. So are sugar and fat. Taste buds need to adapt; using spices and herbs helps. Junk food and fast food are not part of DASH. Using fresh produce and lean meats can cost more.

• Weight Watchers: There’s a reason that WW has been around since 1963 and can be found in over 30 countries! US News & World Report ranks WW as both the #1 “Best Weight Program” and “Easiest Diet to Follow.” It also ranks highly as a safe and healthy way to eat for everyone.

What’s Good: Every person gets to design his or her own diet! No foods are forbidden, and people learn to make good choices as they follow the program. WW is heart-healthy and follows current nutrition guidelines. The mobile app allows for easy checking of more than 40,000 food items. With three meals a day, plus snacks--treats are encouraged--hunger isn’t an issue. Compliance rates are high.

What’s Hard: Weight Watchers requires membership, either by paying in-person at meetings or by joining online. New members pay $20 for registration. In-person meetings are about $45 a month; online subscriptions are about $20 a month. Members have to record food intake each day in order to keep track of “points” and daily food allowances.

• Mediterranean Diet: The “darling” of diets, choosing a Mediterranean diet can prevent conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer...while promoting weight loss and brain health. The secret? Foods low in saturated fat (less red meat) and sugar, while high in fish, produce, beans, grains, nuts, and olive oil. There isn’t a specific diet; each “Mediterranean” country has its favorite types of these foods.

What’s Good: The Mediterranean diet is clearly associated with a reduced risk for heart disease, lowered blood pressure, and optimal cholesterol. It is also good for preventing and controlling diabetes. It meets nutrition guidelines and is safe for all age groups. Wine is allowed in moderation. All food groups are allowed.

What’s Hard: For those who love red meat, cutting back to a few times each month can be a challenge. Eating more fresh produce can be expensive. Learning to cook and choose “different” foods, such as hummus and more plant-based foods can take time.

When your patients ask for advice or resources about how to change their eating habits, remember to recommend what is safe--not what the movie stars are promoting.

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