Advance with MUSC Health

The Best Diet For You

Advance With MUSC Health
July 08, 2021
A green apple with a measuring tape wrapped around it as a bowl of salad sits in the background.

It's an ongoing quest: browsing the bookstore's diet section, scouring websites and downloading podcasts in search of the perfect weight-loss diet. You know, the one that will restore us to our prom-night weight in 10 days or fewer.

An MUSC Health dietitian has encouraging news: There is a "best diet" for you: It's simpler than you might think, and it's realistic.

Tonya F. Turner, MPH, RDN, LDN, lead dietitian and associate director for clinical services at MUSC Health’s Weight Management Center.
Tonya F. Turner, MPH, RDN, LDN

Research shows that the best diet for long-term success and weight loss depends on you, says Tonya Turner, lead dietitian and associate director for clinical services at MUSC Health's Weight Management Center.

"There's so much mixed information out there," Turner says. "The best diet for you is one that fits your lifestyle and that you're able to comply with for the long term. If you can do intermittent fasting or follow a lower-calorie prescribed diet or the Mediterranean diet, then keep going. Sometimes, we follow diets that are too restrictive or eliminate specific foods that are part of our normal intake but, in reality, if you can't adhere to something for the longer term, it's not right for you."

A slightly caloric-restrictive diet is good if you're trying to shed pounds, but it can't be so restrictive that it's unsafe or too hard to follow.

Turner cautions people to avoid eliminating entire food groups and instead include all groups and choose wisely, focusing on moderation and balance.

"All food groups have a good place in our diet," she says. "If you're trying to follow a low-carb diet or eliminate refined sugars, you still need to have carbohydrates in some form, such as fruit, whole grains or starches from vegetables such as sweet potatoes. People who eliminate starches entirely or adopt an extreme low-calorie diet tend to slide off the wagon after a week or two, which can be discouraging."

Moreover, incorporating all food groups will make a diet easier to follow. That means a well-balanced diet with heart-healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, including whole grains, all of which are necessary for a healthy diet.

Incorporating fiber, which comes from whole grains and fruits and vegetables, is essential to maintaining a lower-calorie diet because it gives us a feeling of fullness.

"The recommended amount of fiber is 25 to 35 grams per day, but the average American gets only about 10 to 15 grams," Turner says. "Put a rainbow on your plate with a variety of low-calorie, high-nutrient fruits and veggies. The different-colored veggies and fruits supply different vitamins, minerals and nutrients."

For protein, eat fish and lean chicken, plant-based, beans, tofu, legumes and eggs, and avoid processed meats such as bacon, hotdogs, deli meats, which have more sodium and fat.

Turner says healthy snacks are "awesome" if eaten regularly.

A few nuts such as nutrient-rich almonds and walnuts paired with a piece of fruit are a good choice and provide protein, good fats and fiber. A hardboiled egg with veggies and hummus is another easy, healthy snack.

"Healthy snacks are like throwing fuel to the fire because they keep you satiated," she says. "Just avoid snacks that won't keep you full like crackers and chips because they lack fiber and protein."

And now for the really good news: Desserts aren't completely off the table. "Totally foregoing treats is a misconception," Turner says. "Everyone is going to crave something sweet or have a special event where sweets are served. One cookie or piece of cake is not going to break your long-term success. At the same time, don't indulge every day. Enjoy it and get right back on track. Remember: You're in it for the long term."

Turner cautions people who want to lose weight to have realistic goals. Getting down to your "ideal" football weight or your college weight of 20 years ago isn't always practical or healthy.

Getting to a healthy weight is the goal. Ask yourself: What is my goal for starting a weight-loss program? When is the last time I was at my goal weight? Can I maintain that weight?

"Sometimes I tell people who want to lose 40 or 50 pounds that losing that many pounds isn't necessarily where they need to be, especially if they haven't been at that weight in 20 years. Instead, they may need to be at a weight that is sustainable with a healthy diet and moderate physical activity and where their clothes fit and they have energy to enjoy life. That is the key."

In partnership with the MUSC Health & WellnessInstitute, MUSC's Weight Management Program offers services for people who want to shed pounds -- a lot or a few. A multidisciplinary team of dietitians, psychologists, nurses, exercise physiologists and physicians can help you adopt a lifestyle approach to weight management and make life-changing habits.

Call 843-792-2273 or email for more information or to sign up today