It should come as no surprise to any casual observer that the diet industry is big business.
It certainly should also not be surprising to know that your patients are among those who have turned to the diet industry for help with weight loss. Most, if not all, of your patients are currently dieting, have done so in the past, or are considering doing so. Your patients may even ask for your advice in choosing which diet plan will work best for them.
There’s a bewildering array of diet programs out there, and it can seem impossible for your patients to sift the wheat from the chaff in determining which will give them the results they want. Below are three diet plans that are little more than fads, as well as three healthy eating patterns experts say will safely and effectively help your patients reach their weight loss goals.
Diets to pass up
Military Diet: The Military Diet promises that your patients can lose as much as 10 pounds in one week without having to do any vigorous exercise or take any diet products. It works by combining the following “chemically compatible” foods for three days a week: Apples, bananas, lean meats, peanut butter, eggs, green beans, and vanilla ice cream. Water, tea, and coffee (with Stevie) are also allowed. Your patients can eat what they want for the remaining four days of the week, provided they keep to 1,500 calories per day.1
Unfortunately, the foods the system includes don’t necessarily provide the full spectrum of daily minerals and vitamins the body needs, and there are no guidelines for the four “off” days from the diet. Furthermore, continuing the Military Diet for an extended time may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
HMR diet: The Health Management Resources (HMR) diet plan seems to be better based in sound nutrition than the Military Diet. It claims that three times as much weight loss can be achieved and maintained than through other diet programs.2 This is done by combining its own shake products, entrees and nutrition bars, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. The HMR plan works by what it calls the daily 3+2+5 structure: Three HMR shakes, two of its entrees, and five servings of fresh fruits or vegetables per day. The plan also includes daily exercise and healthy lifestyle habits.2
Like many other quick-start programs, such as Weight Watchers, your patients will initially get good results from the highly structured portion of the HMR program. Once they get to the maintenance phase, in which they prepare meals from their own food instead of HMR entrees, they often begin to have pounds creep back up. HMR and similar programs often do not counsel patients on how to keep up with weight loss on their own.
Green smoothie cleanse: There are several variants on this diet plan, but it basically centers on green smoothies as the main food source. The goal is to detox the body to remove the desire for unhealthy food, and then reprogram it to desire healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.3
Only raw, dark-green, leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, and water should be used for the first part of the cleanse. Low-sugar fruits, such as apples, bananas, blueberries and grapes can be added. Approximately 60 ounces of green smoothie should be consumed each day.3
Like the HMR diet, the Green Smoothie Cleanse sounds healthy. However, its main danger is that it adds up to less than 1,000 calories per day, which can be dangerous even in the short-term. If your patients follow such a diet, they may not only fall short on key daily nutrients, but may also suffer from fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.
Three healthy eating patterns
In 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture released the eighth edition of its 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.4 This public health guideline outlined both current eating habits of Americans, as well as ways in which these habits can be improved by recommending healthy eating patterns, rather than diets, as part of a wellness lifestyle.4
The guideline recommends a healthy U.S.-style eating pattern that is based on standard foods within the U.S. diet, but with more nutrients and lower caloric values.5 This pattern can be adjusted to meet the caloric needs of both children and adults.
The Mediterranean-style eating pattern adjusts the U.S. eating pattern to be more in line with the popular Mediterranean diet, but based on foods that are part of the American diet.6 Most notably, it contains more fruit and seafood, and less dairy than in the U.S.-style eating pattern.
It also has lower calcium and vitamin D levels because of the lower dairy levels.6 You may suggest your patients include vitamin D or calcium supplements if they are following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern.
The vegetarian-style eating pattern includes alternates to animal-based protein sources.7 These substitutes can include soy products such as tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Dairy and eggs are included for your patients who are vegetarian, but those who are vegan can opt for soy beverages and other plant-based protein sources.7
Given that the diet industry is worth billions of dollars, with no slow down in sight, you should take it as a given that your patients are likely to be following some type of diet. In fact, you should probably include questions about weight loss as part of the standard medical history for any of your patients. However, the key is to think in terms of lifelong eating patterns, rather than quick-fix diets.
- The Military Diet. Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
- Health Management Resource (HMR). Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
- 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. Accessed Oct. 17, 2017.
- S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th Edition. December 2015.
- Appendix 3. Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern: Recommended Amounts of Food From Each Food Group at 12 Calorie Levels. In: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th December 2015.
- Appendix 4. USDA Food Patterns: Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern. In: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th December 2015.
- Appendix 5. USDA Food Patterns: Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. In: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th December 2015.