By Taylor Winkel, First Mile Care DPP Coach and Registered Dietitian

Did you know that the word “diet” comes from the Greek word “diaita,” which means “way of life”?  Diet can mean both habitual nourishment, what you normally eat and drink, as well as an eating regimen specifically designed to promote weight loss.

In the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), our coaches emphasize eating for healthy aging. We teach that diet, weight loss, and healthy eating are connected, but not interchangeable. Weight loss is a natural side effect to ongoing lifestyle change that involves healthy eating and exercise, but it takes time to achieve. 

It’s very common that our DPP participants ask coaches: What’s the best diet? Do you recommend the [Atkins, DASH, IMF, Keto, Nordic, Paleo, Pritikin, Whole30, Zone, etc.] diet? Which one do you think will work for me?

What I tell my group participants is, diets are not one-size-fits-all and there is no magic formula to weight loss. What works successfully for one person may be challenging for someone else. Some popular diets may help you to drop weight in the short term, but aren’t healthy overall and are so restrictive that they become impossible to maintain. The best diet, therefore, is the one that works for you in the long term and promotes sustainable healthy habits.

Fads versus facts

U.S. News & World Report recently announced its annual ratings of popular diets. An expert panel analyzed and ranked 24 diets across several categories. The list examines diets that have some basis in science and avoids some of the more wacky diets and TikTok trends. For the sixth year in a row, the Mediterranean diet came out on top. 

The Mediterranean diet is really a style of eating rather than a restrictive diet, focused on simple, plant-based cooking — good quality fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds, a few nuts, and olive oil as the preferred fat over butter. Fish is emphasized rather than red meat, while eggs, dairy, poultry, sugar, and refined foods are eaten less than in the traditional Western diet. An important lifestyle part of the diet is eating mindfully and socializing with friends and family over meals.

Denial is a commonality among many of the diets in the U.S. News rankings. That can be their downfall as restriction generally does not work over time. The more complicated and restrictive a diet, the harder it becomes to keep to it. Who wants to live a life in perpetual denial? When you’re fixated on weight loss, you’re more likely to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, focus on adding only quality calories and ingredients to promote wellness.

Here are a few key points that First Mile Care coaches recommend:

  • Eat well-balanced meals of unprocessed whole foods. Non-starchy vegetables should account for about 50% of your plate, lean protein foods for about 25%, and the remaining 25% of carb foods like starchy vegetables or whole grains or fruit.
  • When possible, cook at home so you can control ingredients, calorie quality, and portions.
  • Read nutrition labels so you know what you’re eating and serving sizes.
  • Keep hydrated with water and not sugary drinks.

In addition, a healthy lifestyle includes exercising daily (at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week), getting adequate, high quality sleep, and managing stress.

Check out the U.S. News & World Report rankings to see their expert evaluations of popular diets, including meal plans, food lists, and tips.

You may also want to watch the webinar about “Deconstructing Popular Diets” on our blog.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!