Diets that Work

Fact Sheet

Diets that Work

  • Editors
  • Susan Kirk, MD

    Dorothy Shulman, MD

    Jane Norman, MA, RD/LD, CDE

Are you confused by all the weight loss diets out there? It can be hard to know what works and what’s healthy. Everyone wants a diet that promises to take weight off quickly. But the best kind of weight loss is slow and steady—about 1/2 to 2 pounds a week. You’ll want to find an eating plan you can live with for the long-term and that keeps the pounds off permanently.

This resource is about three diets that have been proven to work:

Did You Know?

It’s not just what you eat that counts.  Regular exercise needs to be part of your routine, whatever type of diet you choose.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that’s common in Greece, Spain, southern Italy, and southern France. Traditional foods in those areas include fish, vegetables, fruits, beans, breads high in fiber, whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil or canola oil. Nuts are part of the diet as well. The Mediterranean diet is low in red meat, cheese, and sweets. Many of the meals are vegetarian. A moderate amount of wine can be included daily.

This type of diet can help lower your risk for heart disease, prevent type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and lower cholesterol. Some researchers also claim that this diet can prevent depression, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

Sample Dinner Menu

Are you ready to lose weight?
  • Have you chosen a way of eating that you can live with over the long-term?
  • Have you removed tempting junk foods from your house?
  • Have you told a friend or relative about your plans?
  • Have you chosen a way to get exercise most days of the week?

A Moderately Low-Carbohydrate Diet

This diet, similar to the South Beach diet, promotes the use of lean protein foods and high-fiber, nutrient-rich carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The diet also includes some types of fat (healthy unsaturated fats) and low-fat dairy products. It excludes white flour products and most starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, and pasta.

In general, this type of diet is healthy and can result in weight loss. You don’t need to count calories or do other complicated calculations to follow this diet. Nor do you need to deny yourself regular meals. Cooking for this diet is fairly easy. You can also modify the food choices if you are vegetarian or vegan.

Sample Dinner Menu

A Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

A vegetarian diet generally excludes animal products. But some vegetarians do eat small amounts of animal products; for example, some vegetarians eat milk and eggs along with fruits, vegetables, and grains. Other vegetarians might include fish but no meat. A vegan diet is a diet that excludes all animal products. People who follow a vegan diet need to take vitamin B12 supplements and include protein, such as nut butters, beans, and nuts, to make sure they get all the nutrients they need.

Most vegetarians eat fewer calories than non-vegetarians. A vegetarian diet can help fight heart disease and high blood pressure.

Sample Dinner Menus



What should I do to get started with weight loss?

First, answer the questions above. Think about what works for your family or the people you live with. Then, meet with a registered dietitian for personalized advice. Seeing a dietitian will help you reach your weight-loss goals. If you have a medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any kind of diet or exercise program.

How can I keep the weight off?

Questions to ask your doctor