"The Truth Behind 10 Popular Plans", By Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., LifeScript Nutrition Expert ; Published January 05, 2009

Weight Watchers l Atkins l South Beach l 3-Day l Cabbage Soup l The Zone l NutriSystem l Blood Type l Volumetrics l Slim-Fast
l Low-Carb Diets? Good or Bad? l Are You Considering Going Vegetarian? l

Which diet plan is right for you… or a waste of money? We'll give the good, the bad and the downright unhealthy of weight-loss programs. Plus, are you addicted to food? It’s a brutal post-New Year’s ritual: You step on the scale and think, I weigh how much?! So it’s no surprise that January means big business for diet companies who try to lure you in with lose-quick promises and plans. Before you pick one, here’s the lowdown on 10 popular diets:

    1. Weight Watchers
    The claim: Eat food you love and lose weight. Each food is assigned a points value based on calories, fat, fiber and portion. Choose the foods you want within your personalized points budget.
    Advertised weight loss: No claims about how much or how quickly you will drop pounds. Anecdotally, people have lost as little as five pounds and more than 100 on the plan.
    Pros: You can learn to fit your favorite foods into a balanced diet, and tracking points teaches you to make deliberate choices. The plan also emphasizes portion control and balanced nutrition. And many dieters get a sense of community and motivation by attending Weight Watchers meetings.
    Cons: It’s possible to eat a junky or unbalanced diet within your points allowance. You’ll still lose weight, but you won’t have any life skills to help you keep the weight off.
    Special considerations: The one-month online plan costs $46.90, or you can get three months for $65. You’ll also have a $20 registration fee to attend meetings. Meeting passes range from $39.95 per month to $12 per meeting. The monthly pass also gives you access to e-tools.

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    2. The Atkins DietBy Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
    The claim: Eating carbohydrates make you fat. Without carbs, your body breaks down fat (good) and produces energy-boosting ketones (even better), which in turn reduces your appetite (best). A steak-lover’s dream, this plan encourages high-fat, high-protein foods and hugely restricts fruit, milk, sweets, breads and other starches.
    Advertised weight loss: One diet “success” featured in Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution (M. Evans, 2003) lost 21 pounds in two weeks, eventually losing 122 pounds in nine months.
    Pros: You will lose weight, probably because you are less hungry. And you’ll get in the habit of eating tons of high fiber, nutrition-packed veggies, which registered dietitians always support.
    Cons: You’ll also get in the habit of eating huge amounts of beef, bacon, whole-milk cheese and butter. Also, most Atkins followers I know gain back the weight very quickly. Why? This plan is so restrictive that they eventually cave and chow down on potatoes, bread, candy and other no-no’s.
    Special considerations: If you have uncontrolled diabetes, a low-carb diet might bring your blood sugars closer to normal range, but it won’t give you the nutrients you need to fight the complications of your disease. It might even cause low blood sugar.

    3. South Beach DietBy Arthur Agatson, M.D.
    The claim: You get fat because you’re eating carbs that are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Get rid of them and you’ll lose weight. There are three steps to the South Beach Diet:

      - Phase 1: Avoid fruit, diary, bread and other starches for two weeks.
      - Phase 2: Gradually add some of these foods back, and follow this phase for as long as you want to lose weight.
      - Phase 3: Maintenance. You’re permitted to eat any food. If you gain weight, go back to Phase 1.
      Advertised weight loss: At least 8 pounds during Phase 1, and 1 to 2 pounds per week in Phase 2.
    Pros: Phases 2 and 3 emphasize heart-healthy foods. They are moderate in calories and are high in nutrients. And, of course, with fewer calories you will lose weight.
    Cons: The first phase is so restrictive that you may not last the two weeks. Plus, the weight loss is extreme and largely made of fluids. Lastly, this program celebrates drastic pound reduction but not the effort behind it, which isn’t as motivating for dieters.

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    4. 3-Day Diet True author unknown. Sometimes claimed to be the diet of the Cleveland Clinic, but it rejects this plan. The diet is now being featured on the WebMD website.
    The claim: Follow the prescribed three-day meal plan with four or five days of your usual diet. Repeat as needed.
    Advertised weight loss: 10 pounds in three days.
    Pros: It’s based on everyday food that you already may eat, such as tuna, hot dogs, carrots and vanilla ice cream. The plan is spelled out clearly, so you won’t have much decision-making.
    Cons: It’s a monotonous, one-size-fits-all diet. Worse, it’s without nutritional merit. Any weight you lose will probably come back with a vengeance because your calorie intake is very low and the scale reflects mostly water losses. Other than eating three meals each day, you learn no healthy habits.

    5. Cabbage Soup Diet Circulates on the Internet with no author noted
    The claim: Drop weight quickly by eating homemade cabbage soup and a restricted number of other foods, but in almost unlimited quantities. For example, your intake one day is unlimited cabbage soup and fruit (but no bananas), black coffee, unsweetened tea, cranberry juice and water. Another day, you’re limited to cabbage soup, a baked potato and as much as you want of most vegetables. No scientific explanation is offered for the diet’s claims.
    Advertised weight loss: 10 pounds in one week.
    Pros: You’ll lose several pounds eating common, easy-to-find foods. Plus, you have few choices. Do you want apples or oranges? A Yukon potato or an Idaho potato?
    Cons: You’ll gain the weight back. Like the 3-Day Diet, most of the loss probably is fluids, so it won’t take long before the scale is taunting you again. The plan lacks many nutrients, including protein, calcium and vitamins E and D. And beware: All that cabbage may cause intestinal distress and public embarrassment.

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    6. The Zone By Barry Sears, Ph.D.
    The claim: A diet of 30% fat, 30% protein and 40% carbohydrate strikes a good balance between the fat-storing hormone insulin and its opposite-acting hormone glucagon. Most meals and snacks should have a small amount of protein and a larger amount of “favorable” carbohydrate (most fruits, vegetables and a few grains). You’ll lose weight, fight disease and be a better athlete.
    Advertised weight loss: Up to 1 1/2 pounds per week, all of it fat.
    Pros: You can meet all your nutritional needs, and it incorporates lots of disease-fighting, tummy-filling vegetables and beans. The Zone goes easy on unhealthful saturated fats. Mixing and matching your fats, carbs and protein forces you to eat something better than a plain bagel for breakfast and pretzels for snack.
    Cons: Following a 30-30-40 plan at every meal and snack is difficult and time-consuming. You can lose weight without doing that. Also, The Zone’s emphasis is largely on blood sugar-controlling hormones (insulin and glucagon) and not on calories, which is somewhat misguided. Fewer calories equals weight loss. By ignoring calories, you can eat as directed and still consume enough calories that you won’t drop pounds.

    7. NutriSystem
    The claim: There’s no measuring, counting calories, shopping or even cooking. You order the foods you like from the 1,200-calorie women’s plan or 1,500-calorie men’s plan. Meals are delivered to your door, you heat them up and add a few fruits and veggies. You lose weight without feeling hungry because this plan is based on “good” carbohydrates (that don’t spike your blood sugar) and protein.
    Advertised weight loss: Not specified. NutriSystem.com features people who have lost 22 to 102 pounds, but it’s noted that the results aren’t typical.
    Pros: The meal plans, including those for vegetarians and people with diabetes, are nutritionally balanced. Even busy people will find it simple to eat well, and portion control is a snap. NutriSystem provides a guide to help you develop healthy habits and attitudes, free online support, weight-loss articles and tools to track your progress.
    Cons: You’ll be sitting down to a different meal from the rest of your family, you won’t be able to eat out and you won’t learn skills like comparing foods in grocery stores and navigating buffets. Eventually, you’ll have to choose your own foods and order in restaurants, but will you know how?
    Special considerations: The plan can be expensive. Not including extra fruits, vegetables and dairy, it costs $300 to $350 a month for women and $330 to $383 for men.

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    8. Eat Right for Your Type (aka Blood Type Diet) By Peter D’Adamo
    The claim: You can lose weight and fight disease by eating - and avoiding - foods specific to your blood type.
    Advertised weight loss: No claims about the amount or rate of weight loss.
    Pros: You’ll learn your blood type, so when you need a transfusion you’ll know what to say – if you’re conscious.
    Cons: There’s no scientific evidence linking blood type and diet. More important, avoiding whole food groups can lead to nutrient deficiencies. And imagine how complicated dinner parties will get: Supposedly, Type A blood types shouldn’t eat meat; Type O’s flourish on meat and should avoid beans, wheat, oats and dairy; and Type B’s thrive on dairy. What would you serve?

    9. Volumetrics Weight Control Plan y Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., and Robert A. Barnett
    The claim: Lose weight without going hungry just by filling up on healthful foods that have “low energy density” (fewer calories for more food). Example: For 200 calories, you can have a plum, 2 ounces of turkey, a few veggies and a small roll (all low energy density)… or a sliver of cheesecake (high energy density).
    Advertised weight loss: 1 to 2 pounds per week.
    Pros: There’s no crying over banished foods because there aren’t any. Instead, you’re taught to evaluate a food based on its energy density. The Volumetrics plan is rich in fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber, healthy foods. This is a sound approach based on science.
    Cons: You have to do math to know the energy density of most foods. And putting these concepts to work can be daunting because it requires more cooking and planning. But in my mind, a home-prepared meal is a pro, not a con.

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    10. Slim-Fast
    The claim: Replace two meals with Slim-Fast shakes or bars to reduce calories while keeping hunger at bay for four hours. Slim-Fast snacks help with between-meal munchies.
    Advertised weight loss: No claims made, but success stories on the Web site range from 20 to more than 150 pounds. These results aren’t typical, the site says.
    Pros: You’ll shed pounds; there’s good research to back that up. The plan of two meal replacements, a snack or two, a balanced dinner and an additional 200 calories of healthful food should meet all your protein, vitamin and mineral needs. You have access to online support, including registered dietitians, and you get a free guide to help plan a balanced dinner and other foods.
    Cons: No meal in a can or bar can replace the nutrition in Mother Nature’s foods (though a meal shake is better than a Pop Tart or sausage and egg biscuit). Spontaneous dinners out will be a memory and you may get tired of the constant sweet taste of the shakes and bars

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By Sheri Strykowski eDiets Contributor; Published Friday, May, 09, 2008

Need a change, low-carbers? Think vegetarian! When you first started your low-carb diet, the idea of scrambled eggs and bacon dripping with cheese for breakfast made your mouth water, but after a few months of eggs in the mornin', the afterglow is fading. If you're ready for a change, try incorporating low-carb vegetarian meals and snacks into your daily menu.

Low-carb doesn't mean just meat and eggs. "It's a fallacy that you can't eat veggies on a low-carb diet," says Margo DeMello, author of Low-Carb Vegetarian . All of the popular low-carb diet plans emphasize "good" carbs and discourage eating "bad," or empty, carbs, those that are made with refined white flour, white sugar and trans fats. The avowed vegetarian was inspired to revamp her eating regimen after reading The Soy Zone (a soy version of The Zone diet), which introduced the low-carb concept to vegetarians.

There are lots of healthy, low-carb vegetarian choices, says DeMello, who lost 45 pounds doing her own version of a low-carb diet. Fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and whole grains are nutrient-dense, fiber-rich carbohydrate foods that fit into the low-carb mix.

If you've never tasted veggie burgers, veggie bacon strips or veggie dogs made with soy protein or textured vegetable protein, the author suggests you give them a try. These vegetarian mainstays are high in protein, low in saturated fat, and now come in low-carb versions that range from 1 to 5 net carbs per serving. Ounce for ounce, veggies -- the greener the better -- weigh in as the low-carb vegetarian superstars. Low in carbs and packed with fiber and phytonutrients, veggies are smart-carb choices.

In addition to the tried-and-true romaine lettuce, try mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, green beans, parsley, bok choy, snow peas, bell peppers, celery, chives, cucumber, artichoke, asparagus, scallions, bamboo shoots, collard greens, eggplant, bean sprouts and spinach -- all budget "buys" at less than 7 net carbs per serving.

To soothe your sweet cravings, two of the best low-carb fruit choices are berries and melons. At less than 5 grams of carbs per quarter cup, you can enjoy strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, honeydew melon and cantaloupe and still meet your carb quota with room to spare.

High-fiber crisp breads are generally the lowest-carb grain choices, not counting the wide array of low-carb bread, muffin and cake mixes. Other specially prepared low-carb whole grain snacks and treats are also available. So if you can't face another egg for breakfast -- or you just want to cut down on saturated fat and boost your fiber intake, here are some suggestions to zip up your food plan with a vegetarian twist: * To take the edge off an appetite or add a little taste to a salad or veggies, try 2 tablespoons of nutritious and tasty nuts or seeds: pumpkin seeds (2.4 g), macadamia nuts (.9 g), almonds (1.4 g), pecans (.6 g), chopped walnuts (1.1 g) -- all under 3 net carbs.
* Make an easy guacamole by mashing 1/2 medium avocado (3 g), season with a touch of salt, 1 tablespoon tomato salsa (1 g) and a sprinkle of lemon juice (0 g)
* Have with raw veggies or a few low-carb tortilla chips. This fiber-rich snack is also high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat = 4 g net carbs (just the guacamole)
. * Top 1 1/2 cups lightly steamed broccoli (5.8 g) with 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (0 carbs and only 1.5 g of saturated fat) = 5.8 g net carbs.
* Enjoy a 1 oz. serving of roasted soy nuts (6 g), which contains 13 g of protein and 7 g of mostly heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat -- and only 1.5 g of saturated fat. This on-the-go snack comes in flavors such as ranch, barbecue, and chocolate-covered = 6 g net carbs.
* Treat yourself to a stuffed artichoke (6.9 g). Just trim artichoke stems and snap off the tough leaves to make a flat base. Place the artichoke snugly in a sauce pan and fill pan with enough water to come halfway up the artichoke. Sprinkle with sea salt, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese (0 g), and a splash of lemon juice (0 g). Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer about 40 minutes. Pull the leaves off one at a time and dip them and the delectable heart of the 'choke in a bit of melted butter (0 g) = 6.9 g net carbs.
* Make a veggie bacon BLT by placing 4 veggie bacon strips (4 g), 1 leaf of romaine lettuce (.1 g), and 2 slices tomato (1.3 g) on 1 slice high-fiber low-carb bread (3 g). Spread with 1 tablespoon soy mayo (0 g) = 8.4 g net carbs.
* Saute 1 cup green beans (5.8 g) in 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (0 g) with one clove chopped garlic (1.0 g), and 2 tablespoons chopped onion (1.8 g) = 8.6 g net carbs.
* Whip up a double berry tofu shake for breakfast: blend 1/2 cup blueberries (8.2 g) and 1/2 cup strawberries (3.6 g) with 6 oz. soft tofu (4.7 g), 2 ice cubes, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (0 g). Sweeten with 1 teaspoon Splenda (0 g) = 16.5 g net carbs.
* Spread 2 tablespoons peanut butter (4.3 g) and 2 tablespoons sugar-free apricot jam (3.2 g) on 2 slices of crisp bread (10 g) = 17.5 g net carbs.
* For a light snack, enjoy the natural sweetness of fresh fruit: 1 cup raspberries (6 g), 1/2 cup honeydew melon (7.2 g), 1/2 cup pineapple (8.6 g), 1 cup watermelon (10.4), 1 cup papaya (11.2 g), 1/2 cup mango (12.6 g), 1 medium orange (12.9 g), 1 cup cherries. (16.8 g), 1 medium apple (17.3 g), 1 cup green grapes (26.8 g). Tip: A half-cup portion of soft tofu contains 3.1 g net carbs, 5.4 g protein and 37.5 mg isoflavones, which may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Try replacing all or part of the cream in cream soups with soft tofu. You can also substitute pureed tofu for part of the mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, or ricotta cheese called for in salad dressings, dips and spreads.

Note: All carb counts are listed in net carbs: total carbohydrates less fiber, glycerine, sugar alcohol, and polydextrose. All carb counts are taken from Atkins' Carbohydrate Counter, The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne T. Netzer, or from the nutrition label on packaged foods.

Sheri Strykowski is a freelance journalist who specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle. Her articles have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Lerner newspapers and National Safety Council publications. She is also a content expert who has built more than 40 Web sites for a Fortune 100 company.

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A new study from scientists in the US found that when women went on low or zero-carb diets they performed worse on thinking and memory tests compared to reducing calories without reducing carbohydrates. When they put carbs back into their diet, their thinking and memory skills went back to normal. The study was the work of researchers from the psychology department of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. It is published in the February 2009 journal Appetite and is already available to view online.

Dr Holly Taylor, professor of psychology at Tufts and corresponding author of the study, said the findings showed that: "The food you eat can have an immediate impact on cognitive behavior. The popular low-carb, no-carb diets have the strongest potential for negative impact on thinking and cognition."

. Taylor's co-authors and research colleagues were Professor Robin Kanarek, former undergraduate Kara Watts and research associate Kristen D'Anci.

Our brain cells need glucose to work, but they have no way of storing it so they rely on a continuous supply via the bloodstream. The researchers had a hunch that reducing carbohydrate intake would reduce the body's ability to keep the brain supplied with glucose and therefore affect cognition, since glucose comes from breaking down carbohydrates.

For the study, Taylor and colleagues recruited 19 women aged 22 to 55 and let them each choose to go on either a low carb or low calorie diet as recommended by the American Dietetic Association. Nine of them chose the low carb diet and the other 10 chose the low calorie diet. Altogether the participants attended five assessment sessions. Session 1 was just before they started on their chosen diet, sessions 2 and 3 were during the first week of dieting (when the low-carb dieters eliminated carbohydrates), and sessions 4 and 5 were in weeks 2 and 3, after the low-carb dieters started eating carbohydrates again.

During the assessment sessions the dieters performed a range of tests that measured attention, short and long term memory, visual attention and spatial memory. They also answered questions about how hungry they felt and their mood. The results showed that:

    Low carb dieters showed a gradual decrease on memory tasks compared with low-calorie dieters.
    Reaction time for the low-carb dieters was slower, and their visual-spatial memory was not as good as that of the low-calorie dieters.
    But low-carb dieters responded better than low-calorie dieters in the attention-vigilance tasks.
    This last result is consistent with previous studies that found people on high protein or high fat diets showed short term improvements in attention.
    Hunger levels did not vary between the two diet groups, and the only difference in mood was that the low-calorie dieters felt more confusion during the middle period of the study.
Taylor said: "Although the study had a modest sample size, the results showed a clear difference in cognitive performance as a function of diet. The data suggest that after a week of severe carbohydrate restriction, memory performance, particularly on difficult tasks, is impaired." Taylor also explained that: "Although this study only tracked dieting participants for three weeks, the data suggest that diets can affect more than just weight. The brain needs glucose for energy and diets low in carbohydrates can be detrimental to learning, memory, and thinking," she concluded.

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