Guide to Popular Diets (and Which Might Be Best for You)

by Fit After Fifty
Heart shaped bow l filled with grapes, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, and cantaloupe

Weight loss is one of the more motivating reasons to exercise and consume a healthier diet, but not all weight loss is safe for older adults, particularly more frail seniors. There’s a healthy way to go about dieting and weight loss, with overall wellness as the target, versus dropping pounds.  

Diets should not be focused on weight loss alone, but also other areas of general health and wellbeing such as heart-healthiness and diabetes-friendly, particularly for people ages 50 and over. No one wants a complicated diet that involves loads of calorie-counting and long lists of forbidden foods, so the best diets are also easy to follow.

[ Related: How to Manage Unintentional Weight Loss ]

10 Best Types of  Diets

There are pros and cons to every diet of course, but these diets are the more popular and common.

DASH Diet

There are no special foods needed for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (i.e. DASH) Diet, it just requires participants to work toward daily and weekly nutritional goals. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free dairy products, fish, poultry, nuts, beans and vegetable oils are all good-to-go, while fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, sugars and tropical oils such as coconut oil should be avoided.

Mediterranean Diet

People who live in Greece and Southern Italy have thrived on a heart-healthy nutritional diet that focuses on veggies, fruits, fish, whole grains and good fats (olive oil, nuts, fish, etc.). They eat very little meat that is not fish, and physical activity is a big part of life. The result has been low rates of chronic disease, obesity and heart disease, and therefore the Mediterranean Diet is a good one to consider. However, there isn’t much clarity on amounts, so it can be tricky for those who are trying to lose weight.

Flexitarian Diet

Plant-based foods are the heart of the Flexitarian diet, with lean meats and other animal products to be consumed only in moderation. It was created by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. Flexitarians eat mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and protein from plants instead of animals. The idea is to eat food in its least-processed and most natural form. In some cases, people participating in the flexitarian diet eliminate meat entirely, but the idea is to enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian diet while also enjoying animal products such as cheese.

[ Related: Brief Guide to Healthy Weight Loss for Seniors ]

Weight Watchers

Probably one of the most popular diets of the day, Weight Watchers was made all the more known when Oprah purchased 10 percent of the company in 2015 and became a spokesperson for the diet brand. The diet is based on a science-backed point system, which encourages participants to consume more vegetables, fruits and lean protein while avoiding sugar and unhealthy fats. The program offers expert support from fellow members, to help drive weight loss success for people who need some extra encouragement or accountability.

MIND Diet

Mental health is also an important consideration with your diet, in addition to diets that improve heart health and help you lose weight. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago developed the MIND diet to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It combines elements from both the Mediterranean and DASH diets and lists 10 brain-healthy food groups to focus on while avoiding another five unhealthy groups.

TLC Diet

While mental health is the focus of the MIND diet, the TLC diet is all about reducing your high LDL cholesterol (TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes). The Mediterranean diet may be more popular, but some people prefer the TLC diet because it incorporates lifestyle changes such as exercise and weight control in addition to diet and nutrition. And, you only have to focus on two key number goals each day:

  1. Saturated fat should make up 7 percent or less of your daily calorie intake
  2. Consume less than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol

Volumetrics Diet

The lifestyle change is often the hardest part about dieting for a lot of people. After all, doing a cleanse like the Whole30® program are more achievable than making a permanent change. The Volumetrics diet is centered around foods with high water/fiber content and low-energy density, such as veggies and fruit. By eating a high volume of low-calorie, fresh foods, you can avoid feeling hungry, fatigued or depressed as you may feel with other diets. The high water and fiber content of the Volumetrics diet foods also help you feel full and reduce your desire to snack on calorie-packed foods.

Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic diet is more about healthy weight loss than a more nutritional diet, but it brings beneficial effects to your overall wellbeing. Like many of the other diets on this list, the Mayo Clinic diet encourages participants to eat more fruits and vegetables. It also promotes lifestyle changes such as moving for 30 minutes or more each day and avoiding food while watching TV to avoid mindless eating. It’s structured in two parts; the first two-week phase is focused on jump-starting weight loss and adding and breaking habits to support weight loss, then the second phase is the lifelong approach to a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Ornish Diet

Did you know your diet could help reverse the risks of heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer and obesity? The Ornish diet can help accomplish this, helping your body to heal. With this diet, you want good carbs, fats and proteins, and minimize the bad carbs, fats and proteins. Real, natural foods are also a key feature of the diet, and participants are encouraged to eat mostly plants in their natural form and avoid processed foods.

[ Related: Simple Senior Lifestyle Changes and Weight Loss Tips ]

Vegetarian Diet

The vegetarian diet has long been promoted as an excellent lifestyle for healthier nutrition, and the population has been growing over the past few decades. In addition to benefiting the environment and more ethical consumption habits, a vegetarian diet can reduce your risk of chronic diseases and help you lose weight. Although there are several forms of vegetarian diet, the simplest eliminates meat, fish and poultry. Some vegetarians also avoid dairy products, eggs or both.

Tips for Dieting After Age 50

As you age, your ability to lose weight changes and it may be easier or harder for you to lose weight. In general, balance is the key. Focus on getting plenty of movement and exercise in addition to eating more natural, brightly colored fresh foods like vegetables and fruits.

Reduce Your Calorie Intake

As we age, our need for calories decreases. Depending on how active you are, older women only need 1,600 – 2,200 calories per day, while older men require 2,000 – 2,800 calories per day. This comes out to 200 – 400 fewer calories that you need per day, as compared with your younger days. Make the most of the calories you do consume!

Get Plenty of Protein

Protein intake is very important for older adults, particularly the elderly. We need more protein as we age, to help improve immune function and prevent osteoporosis. And it doesn’t have to be limited to animal protein; beans, lentils and chickpeas are all excellent sources of protein. Iron deficiency is another issue for older adults, since they often don’t eat enough red meat. Some other iron-rich foods include spinach, shellfish, legumes, quinoa, broccoli and even dark chocolate.

[ Related: Super Simple and Sneaky Ways to Slide Protein Into Your Diet ]

Keep it Simple

You’re probably going to struggle if you choose a diet that is complicated or requires a lot of steps. Instead, you’ll want something that can help bring about lifelong change, with plenty of variety in food choices. When looking at the list of top diets above, you might want to avoid something like the Ornish diet because it’s more complicated, and might be harder to follow. Meanwhile, Weight Watchers is far simpler and easier to do with its point-based system and long list of zero-point foods.

Diet for Disease Prevention

A nutritional diet will generally help keep your immune system in better shape, while helping reduce the conditions that lead to heart disease or diabetes. But if you have specific concerns or higher risk for certain diseases, you should select a diet with that in mind. For example, the Mediterranean, DASH and TLC diets are great for older adult because they help to control high blood pressure and diabetes, in addition to promoting healthy weight loss.

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