What is the best diet?

author:  Kelly Gill, MS, RD, CSSD, LD


With all the diets out there, finding one that works for you and is healthy can be utterly overwhelming.  As a dietitian, I have been asked many, many times, “what is the best diet?”  Here is my answer…


First, I turn to the Dietary Guidelines.


Here is the link, if you’re interested.  But, keep in mind, it is 200 pages!  I read all 200 pages and posted a summary in a blog found here.


Basically, every 5 years, Dietary Guidelines for Americans release a new edition based on the most up-to-date, sound research available. This is really great because they aren’t swayed by the latest craze.  These guidelines are founded on the principles of healthy eating, for everyone, and are based on unbiased evidence (which is a BIG deal to me!).  In fact, a large panel of experts come together to review the research and advise the committee, so it’s based on the input of several experts in the field of health and nutrition.


The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines use “The Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern”.  This is designed to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) and Adequate Intakes for essential nutrients, as well as Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR) set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute on Medicine (IOM).  All this basically means, the guidelines are designed to ensure individual nutritional needs are met!


Specifically, this “eating pattern” is based on evidence which supports:

  • Higher intakes of vegetables and fruits (very consistent evidence)
  • Whole grains (slightly less consistent evidence)
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts (even slightly less but still consistent).
  • Lower intakes of meats, including processed meats; processed poultry; sugar-sweetened foods, particularly beverages; and refined grains



However, there is more than one approach to healthy eating, and the evidence to support multiple approaches has expanded over time.


The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines includes The Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern and Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern as two examples of healthy eating patterns individuals may choose based on personal preference.  To that, I would add the Anti-Inflammatory diet, which I have previously blogged about.  Plus, I often teach clients by using The Plate Method.


With that said, ANY diet is better than NO diet.  Meaning, if you come across a “diet” plan that speaks to you, go for it!  For optimal benefits, find what works for you.


I recorded this video as a quick answer to the question, “which diet is best?”:


Here is that plate method I described in the video:

TSJH Plate Method - FrontTSJH Plate Method - back


Here are a few red flags that indicate it’s probably a good idea to find another diet plan.

  1. It eliminates an entire group of macronutrients – carbs, protein, or fat. Healthy diets have a balanced nutrition approach.
  2. It requires purchasing “special” products (supplement, meals, etc.) in which it is financially invested. Don’t trust recommendations that depend (financially) on product sales.
  3. It has outrageous claims that don’t follow common sense or peer-reviewed research.
  4. It does not consider differences among individuals or groups. There is no “one size fits all” diet.


As long as you’re avoiding extreme diets, your best formula is going to be what is best for you!


Here’s a link to a 15 minute video by DocMikeEvans: “What’s the Best Diet? Healthy Eating 101”.  I like and agree with his practical approach.  Plus, it’s pretty neat video that is really easy to follow!


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