These safe weight loss diets include the Zone, Mediterranean, Volumetrics, Atkins, and South Beach diets. I interviewed health experts to get the pros and cons of each diet plan.
“All the popular diets can help you lose weight because they provide almost identical calorie intakes,” says nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott, PhD, author of The Cortisol Connection: Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health – And What You Can Do About It. “But different people may do better on different diets because of personal tastes. For instance, if you love bread, don’t even think about trying Atkins…because it won’t work.”
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The key to losing weight – and keeping it off – is to find the eating plan that fits your personality and lifestyle. And don’t forget about exercise! To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.
5 Safe Diets for Weight Loss – Plus the Pros and Cons
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Nutrient-dense foods full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals are encouraged (veggies, fruits, broth-based soups, nonfat milk, etc) are encouraged in the volumetrics diet plan. Energy-dense foods are in the no-fly zone — including cheeseburgers, cookies, packaged foods, etc. This is my favorite weight loss program!
- Benefits of the Volumetrics Diet Plan. Volumetrics is a healthy, inexpensive, safe way to lose weight — it’s my favorite weight loss program. “Diets often fail because people feel hungry,” says dietician Jodi Greebel, author of The Little Black Apron: A Single Girl’s Guide to Cooking with Style and Grace. “Volumetrics encourages large quantities of nutrient-dense foods, which fill you up. This plan also encourages food journals and exercising – two keys to permanent weight loss.”
- Drawbacks of the Volumetrics Diet Plan. “Volume alone may not satisfy your taste buds,” says NYC nutritionist and personal trainer Ariane Hundt. “This may leave you vulnerable to those tempting fat, sugar, and salt cravings.”
The Mediterranean Diet (probably the healthiest weight loss program)
Rather than focusing on calories, this healthy eating plan (not really a “weight loss program”) revolves around veggies, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, fish, poultry, and dairy – with limited red meats and moderate wine consumption. The Mediterranean Diet is probably the safest weight loss program for men and women. It has Dr Oz’s seal of approval!
- Strengths of the Mediterranean Diet Plan. The home cooking emphasis makes it inexpensive and easier to track fats, cholesterol, and sodium, says Amy Hendel, health expert and author of Fat Families, Thin Families: How to Save Your Family from the Obesity Trap. Plus, these flavorful foods don’t trigger feelings of deprivation. Nutritionist Haruko Oyama of Montefiore Medical Center says this diet is connected to numerous health benefits, such as decreased risks of cardiovascular disease, and possibly diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
- Weaknesses of the Mediterranean Diet. “The effect of the Mediterranean Diet Plan on weight loss specifically hasn’t been as widely researched as the health effects,” says Oyama. Plus, people could take the freedom to eat healthy fats a little too far…and overdo it.
The Zone Diet
You won’t overdo it if you stay in the zone. This weight loss plan calls for one gram of fat for every two grams of protein and three grams of carbohydrates, to balance hormones and control hunger. If you want to lose 30 pounds and you can afford the home-delivered meals, this might be the diet for you!
- Pros of the Zone Diet. NYC nutritionist and fitness trainer Ariane Hundt says, “This diet promotes fat loss, reduces inflammation, increases energy, reduces cholesterol and has anti-aging benefits.” Plus, nutritionists generally favor healthy, balanced meals.
- Cons of the Zone. “The fat/protein/carb groups are a little simplistic,” says Hendel. “We need some calcium from dairy every day, and we need to separate grain-based carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables (the Zone counts them as one). And, limiting grains can be difficult to sustain. Most Zone-committed eaters seem to be highly motivated, physically active people who can afford the home-delivered meals.”
South Beach Diet
If you need structure, here’s one of the strictest weight loss programs on the market! Cardiologist Arthur Agatston’s diet is divided into three phases: Eliminate Cravings, Lose Steadily, and Maintain. Strict guidelines about reduced-fat dairy, lean proteins, veggies, and healthy fats are part of every phase of this diet plan.
- Benefits of the South Beach Diet. “The core of this diet is a heart-health promoting, balanced diet that most people can follow if they don’t mind the rules,” says Hendel.
- Weaknesses of the South Beach Diet. Registered dietitian Jan Evans says, “The first two phases are unhealthy, unbalanced and not only cause fluid loss/dehydration, but can cause ketosis and electrolyte imbalance. The diet is too restrictive in the first two phases, and lacks essential nutrients.”
The Atkins Diet
Exercising is key to losing weight – and so is eating a balanced diet. Similar to the Scarsdale Diet, Atkins focuses on increased protein intake and limited carbohydrates. Of all five safe weight loss programs for men and women, this may be the most controversial!
- Strengths of the Atkins Diet. “These very low carb diets can quickly and dramatically shed pounds,” says Hendel. “Water weight goes first, then fat.”
- Weaknesses of the Atkins Diet Plan. Low carb diets have a bad rap in the medical community because of the potential long-term health effects of excess protein: high cholesterol, kidney abnormalities, cancer risks, unhealthy metabolic states, and osteoporosis. Atkins now includes more plant-based foods, though many nutritionists still deem it unhealthy. “Most people simply cannot sustain eating this much protein,” Hendel says. “I’ve also smelled the sweat and breath odors of people on long-term high-protein diets, and it’s a bit offensive.”
If you have any thoughts on these diets for weight loss, please comment below…