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Diet trends: What to try, what to skip


With the holiday season in the rear-view mirror, many of us are facing down the new year toting a few extra pounds that need shedding. But how to begin? The plethora of diets to choose from can be dizzying. So CBS News asked top nutrition experts to weigh in (pun intended) on which popular diets and weight-loss trends are most effective and which ones should be shunned.

There's no Holy Grail diet that works best for everyone, the experts agreed. Instead, people need to choose and then personalize a weight-loss plan that suits their lifestyle, tastes, culture, and health needs such as allergies, intolerances and chronic conditions.

"I don't think there's one diet or one way to lose weight," said Dr. Holly Wyatt, medical director of The Wellness Clinic at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

"We're always searching for the best diet, but randomized controlled trials show there isn't one," Wyatt said. "You are really trying to find a diet that matches what you can adhere to."

Read on to learn which diet trends may suit you best and which ones you're better off avoiding. And be sure to check in with your health care provider before embarking on any weight-loss plan.

Detox, cleanse, and juice diets

Svirin Vadim

"I'm not a big fan of long term detox or juicing diets," said Pamela Nisevich Bede, co-author of the book "Run to Lose: A Complete Guide to Weight Loss for Runners."

Detox diets typically involve fasting followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit, juices, and water.

Nisevich Bede said there can sometimes be a place for cleansing-type regimens for a day or two if you've overdone it, but people need to be wary of them in general.

"When we do that day in and day out for weeks, we start to get some nutritional deficiencies," she said, mentioning one recently popular detox trend involving a drink of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. Stay on a diet like that and you'll miss out on important nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and iron, she said.

She also recommends avoiding detox diet schemes online that involve buying supplements that promise to "cleanse" your system.

There's no "crazy magic" product that will get you to a healthy place, Nisevich Bede said. "I'm always wary of any fad diet where you have to buy a certain supplement and have to invest in a pyramid type scheme."

She said she prefers to recommend a good, old-fashioned diet rich in fruits and vegetables, plus exercise, for people who want to reach a healthy weight.

High protein, low carb

Ann M Marosy

One top trend with staying power is swapping out some of the carbohydrates on your plate for protein, said Pamela Nisevich Bede, a registered dietitian and sports nutrition expert.

"Not anything too extreme, like Atkins, but just bumping up the protein to two times the RDA," or Recommended Dietary Allowance, she said. "When you keep fat and carbs within reason, you get better success with weight loss."

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to Harvard Medical School experts. To calculate your RDA for protein, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. A person's needs may vary depending on their health and activity level, too.

Try shifting from carb-heavy sandwiches to lettuce wraps, adding more legumes to meals, and bumping up your portion of chicken or other lean protein at dinner to increase protein and cut carbs, Nisevich Bede suggested.

And while protein supplements can help boost protein intake, the experts say veer away from any supplement that isn't pure protein. For example, whey, a milk protein, is OK, but protein supplements that also claim to contain "fat burners" or vitamins are not beneficial, said University of Colorado nutrition expert Dr. Holly Wyatt.

Paleo diet


The Paleo diet is based on emulating the way cavemen must have eaten: no dairy, no refined sugar, no processed foods. Instead, meat, fish, and lots of fresh vegetables and fruit -- the fare of hunter/gatherers -- defines this diet trend.

While you may see pounds drop once you cut out all the bread, cookies, and ice cream, it may be a tough diet to follow over the long haul, said Lenox Hill Hospital nutritionist Sharon Zarabi.

"It's still popular, especially with cross-fitters and fitness enthusiasts who do high-intensity training," said Zarabi. But it limits anything processed or out of a box, making it challenging for busy people. "I think diets are more about how realistic they are for a person," she said.

The Paleo diet doesn't include legumes and dairy, a restriction that doesn't make sense to Keri Glassman, a diet and nutrition contributing editor for Women's Health magazine. "There's no reason not to eat legumes. Yogurt has a place in the diet, too," said Glassman, who calls her modified version of it "Paleo plus."

Mediterranean diet


Rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes, olive oil, even some red wine, the Mediterranean diet comes out on top in study after study for its health-related benefits. It banishes simple sugars and processed foods.

"There is more and more research showing the Mediterranean diet has staying power," said Pamela Nisevich Bede, co-author of "Run to Lose: A Complete Guide to Weight Loss for Runners.

An analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a lower incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, according to Mayo Clinic experts.

A study out this fall by Columbia University researchers suggested it may also help delay brain shrinkage as we age.


Sauerkraut and other fermented foods help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. istockphoto

"Gut health has become very popular this year," nutrition expert Keri Glassman told CBS News. "We're going to see a lot of diets coming out focused on gut health."

"There is so much research going on here," including the gut/brain connection and gut/weight connections, she said. Increasingly, research suggests that a healthy balance of good bacteria in the body may help regulate weight and ward off a range of health issues.

Glassman said probiotic foods that promote a healthy bacterial balance in the belly are gaining popularity, including yogurt and fermented foods such as kimchee and sauerkraut.

"Clean eating"


The buzzword "clean eating" is making its way around the diet and nutrition world, said Lenox Hill Hospital nutrition and fitness expert Sharon Zarabi.

"It is a way to describe eating foods that come in the purest form, unprocessed and light," said Zarabi.

People into "clean" foods avoid rich sauces, processed foods and additives, sugar, artificial sweeteners, or anything fried in oil, in favor of a diet of whole grains, protein, and fruits and vegetables, preferably organic.

While "clean eating" implies something good, Zarabi said she does not recommend this approach to clients because it encourages extreme dieting behavior.

"Extreme dieters may take it literally and avoid any healthy fats. Although we are trying to get you to eat healthy, everything falls into a balanced diet. If you try to avoid eating cooked foods and adding healthy fats to your diet in an effort to eat 'clean,' you may be missing out on essential nutrients and fats to help with many metabolic processes within the body," Zarabi said.

Fresh meal delivery

Blue Apron

Lots of people are turning to healthy, pre-prepped meal services to help with weight control, said Sharon Zarabi, a nutritionist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York. A number of companies offer well-balanced, nutritious meals that can be ordered online and then boxes of pre-portioned fresh produce and frozen meat, poultry or fish arrive at your door. You cook up the meals yourself according to instructions provided.

"They're a great idea," Zarabi said. Companies such as Blue Apron, Plated and HelloFresh offer local, farm-sourced, seasonal ingredients at prices around $10 per serving.

They also help people limit portions, said Zarabi. "There are no leftovers or buying ingredients. Everything is basically in a box for you to prepare your meal," she said.

Many healthy meal-delivery services are expanding to offer vegetarian and gluten-free options, too, she said.

Another plus: meals tend to be seasoned with herbs and spices versus salt, Zarabi said.

Bowl meals

Vladislav Gudovskiy

Salad bowls, rice bowls, burrito bowls, smoothie bowls. You name it, 2015 saw it in a bowl. Instagram and Pinterest especially loved the photogenic trend as rainbow layers of yogurt and fruit, and bowlfuls of greens dressed with everything from garbanzos to goji berries graced the social sites.

While this trend is a keeper because it generally revolves around nutrient-rich whole foods -- vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruit -- Dr. Holly Wyatt, medical director of The Wellness Clinic at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, said eating bowl meals won't help with weight loss.

"You can get a salad that has just as many calories and fat as a cheeseburger if you're not careful about what you're putting in it," said Wyatt, who is also an associate professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes at CU School of Medicine.

People aiming to drop pounds in the new year need to watch portions and content, she said.

In a salad or burrito bowl, for instance, pile on the greens, chickpeas, and fresh peppers, but go easy on items like cheese, avocados, nuts, dressings and other higher calorie and fat choices. "Try skipping the avocado if you choose an olive oil dressing. Or go with salsa as your dressing and have a quarter of an avocado or almonds," Wyatt recommended.

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