What is the best diet?

Here's what a VMS Clinical Nurse Educator has to say on the subject.

By Susan Cuellar, BSN, RN, CDE, CHC

What do you recommend to your patients when they ask you, “What is the best diet”?  “Should I try the keto diet?”  “Can I eliminate carbs from my diet?”

There are so many different fad diets and a lot of misleading nutrition information available on the internet and social media, it is no wonder our patients are confused. Here are some ideas to help you answer that difficult question when your patients ask you about the best diet:

1.     Start by listening to your patient and finding out what their goals are, then build a positive rapport with them.

2.     Praise them for taking the first step in wanting to make a positive change to their overall health.

3.     Empower them to make their own choices by giving them options to choose from and providing information about various diets.

4.     Monitor and follow up with the patient to see how things are working for them.

Remind your patients that there is no “one size fits all” diet that works for everyone. There are many variables involved including body type, activity level, health history, work schedules, family, food availability and time available in their day that will influence their choices. Encourage your patients to consult with their doctor before starting a new diet and continue to monitor their progress as they begin a new eating plan.

Here are just a few highlights from some of the popular diets patients may ask about:

Paleo
This diet is based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans.  It consists chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, and excludes dairy, grain products and processed food.   

Ketogenic
The ketogenic diet is the most restrictive and emphasizes eating near zero-carbs and eating a high fat diet.  It typically includes a low protein intake.

Low Carb
A low carb diet generally is intake of 20 – 60 grams per day of carb and the focus is on eating protein.  An example would be the Atkins diet that was popular in the 1990’s.

High Protein Diet
A high protein diet is one where protein exceeds 15% of the total daily energy intake.

There are some positive aspects of these eating plans; however, diets that restrict carbohydrate intake long-term can result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies, bone loss, gastrointestinal disturbances and may increase risks of various chronic diseases. Most people feel and perform their best when eating a balance of lean protein, high quality carbohydrates and healthy fats in their diet. Restrictive diets that exclude certain foods are less effective and less sustainable in the long-term.

The positive aspects of these diets are they all focus on high quality whole foods that are minimally processed and are rich in nutrients. These whole foods can help control appetite because they provide satiety and may result in eating less. Finally, all these eating plans encourage regular exercise to maintain health, burn calories, and promote weight loss. 

Whatever eating approach your patients take, it should be sustainable long-term and become a lifestyle choice so it can be maintained throughout their lifetime and is not just a short-term solution. 

Susan Cuellar works as a Clinical Nurse Educator at VMS BioMarketing. She joined the telephonic clinical support team in 2019.