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Trying to lose weight but don't know where to begin? With so many diet plans in the market, selecting the right one is a task in itself. Here's help.

Diets that say "go easy on carbohydrates"

Low-carb diet works on the principle that by decreasing carbohydrate intake we lower our insulin level. A lower insulin level forces the body to burn stored fat, and this causes weight-loss. The Atkins or Zone diets follow this principle.

Atkins followers have to kick out potatoes, pasta, cakes, etc from their lives. But they can go for fat-laden foods like meat, cheese and butter. This diet may help you avoid bad carbohydrates like sugar that have no nutritional value. But there are carbohydrate-rich foods like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta that have other nutrients, too. Moreover, low-carb packaged foods are laced with artificial sweetners that are not good for health.

Diets that say "watch your glycemic-index"

Like low-carb diets, glycemic-index diets shun foods that cause blood sugar to rise, as such foods stimulate the release of insulin, which in turn leads to fat storage and hunger pangs. The South Beach diet is a glycemic-index weight-loss plan.

South Beach dieters go only for the right carbohydrates. Its first phase makes you go off on foods like baked stuff, pasta, rice, fruits and soft drinks. Second phase brings back "good" or low glycemic-index carbs like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The third is a diet maintenance phase. This diet plan attracts people with its weight-loss plan minus the cravings. It also gets a thumbs-up for low-fat and low-carb foods that help cardiovascular health.

However, it ignores other factors that affect blood sugar level like age, weight, preparation methods of food and size of their portions.

Diets that say "go easy on the fats"

A low-fat diet tries to eliminate or minimize high-fat foods from meals. The logic behind this diet plan is low fat = low calorie = weight loss. This diet requires you to cut down on fatty foods like fried foods, cheese, milk, etc. and substitute them with low-fat versions. Besides, all added fats like butter and mayonnaise either have to be eliminated or reduced to a bare minimum.

The diet scores on 2 counts. One, it gives importance to fruits and vegetables that have natural fat, fiber and nutrition. And second, it makes people stay away from high fat foods that are bad for the heart.

However, the diet has been criticized because:

  • It assumes that low fat means low calories. Many low fat foods still have carbohydrates or are spiked with carbohydrate-rich additives (like corn syrup). Carbohydrates are nutrients with calories.

  • It does not make a difference between good fats like monounsaturated fats (olive oil, peanut oil, etc.) and bad fats like saturated fats (red meat, butter, etc).

Diets that say "do it the Mediterranean way"

This diet has often won the approval of scientists because it emphasizes on the right foods like olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, less of red meat, fish and moderate amounts of red wine. The heart-friendly Mediterranean diet has been lauded for its long-term health benefits. While it may help you to keep a consistent weight, it is not your typical weigh-loss diet.

Before choosing a diet

Here are some things to consider before you zero in on your diet plan:

  • Stay away from fad diets. These usually ask you to eliminate an entire nutrient (for example, carbs). They come with compulsory herbal concoctions like pills. They give you very limited food choices and promise speedy weight-loss.

  • The program should suit your lifestyle.

  • It should keep your ailments and long-term health in mind.

  • It should include all food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat and milk products.

  • It should not leave you with cravings and hunger pangs. If it does, you will not be able to stick to it for a lifetime.
Obesity experts will come up with a variety of diet plans for weight-loss. However, they more or less agree on basic components of a successful weight management program: low cal food and exercise. Any diet that perfectly blends these elements will be your ideal diet program for life.

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