The fifth installment of the series on eating patterns is about the MIND Diet. Last month, we explored the Macrobiotic Diet and discussed its holistic approach and strong reliance on plant foods, with some fish, nuts and seeds. Ranked #4 (tied with Weight Watchers) out of 41 total diets in the U.S News Best Diet Rankings, the MIND Diet is similar to the Mediterranean and DASH Diets, but focuses on foods that improve brain health and cognition. Continue reading “The MIND Diet”
The Nordic Way
By Arne Astrup, Jennie Brand-Miller and Christian Bitz
Pam Krauss Books/Avery (2017)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD
The Nordic Way, a Mediterranean-like diet, is based on the results of the 2010 Diet and Obesity Genes study in Europe. The ‘DiOGenes’ study followed more than 1,000 overweight adults and children who had recently lost weight. The study found that a small reduction in high-GI foods and a moderate increase in protein was able to curtail weight re-gain. The book asserts that the obesity epidemic has coincided with an increase in refined carbohydrates. While the diet structure is based on scientific research, the tone of the book is decidedly optimistic, stating that The Nordic Way is “the world’s best diet” and that by increasing intake of dairy protein, it “will help you get a flat stomach!” In no uncertain terms, the book declares that, “no matter what, you will lose weight more easily and achieve significant health benefits if you replace the high-GI foods in your diet with their low-GI counterparts” because low GI foods promote weight loss and prevent weight gain.
Synopsis of Diet Plan:
The Nordic Way promotes two guiding principles: the 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and that lower-GI carbohydrates are better for weight loss and maintenance. Like the Mediterranean diet, The Nordic Way is heavy on fruits and veggies, emphasizes whole grains and highlights lean sources of protein. Fat is less of a player in The Nordic Way, but healthy sources from cold water fish, nuts and canola oil are recommended, as well as low-fat dairy. The book asserts that a “modestly higher protein and slightly lower amounts of carbs” will enhance satiety, reduce hunger and increase metabolism. The eating plan does not preclude any one food group or item, even if it is a high-GI carbohydrate, and many recipes feature higher-GI items, such as potatoes. The book provides a list of GI values for common foods, alternatives to high-GI foods, sample weekly meal plans and more than 80 recipes.
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
While the tone of the book may leave something to be desired, the eating plan itself does not. The book explains the difference between hunger and appetite, emphasizes the importance of satiety and the palatability of meals, and that ‘quick-fixes’ and deprivation diets don’t yield lasting results. It also doesn’t eliminate foods or food groups, including high-GI carbohydrates, but rather offers alternatives or to enjoy those items in moderation. The Nordic Way eating style relies heavily on lower-GI carbohydrates and lean sources of protein, such as rye breads, lowfat dairy and fish. It also introduces the reader to new foods, such as whole kernel rye bread (the dense, moist variety) and skyr, Icelandic yogurt. The diet does not advocate for counting calories or restricting, but challenges participants to learn to stop eating when they are satisfied, which may happen sooner with slower-digesting carbohydrates and sufficient protein at each meal.
The book may over-promise results, but adopting a ‘Nordic-style’ eating pattern is perfectly healthy. The book provides easy-to-understand explanations for the diet, as well as weekly meal plans and easy-to-prepare recipes with minimal ingredients. Some readers may have trouble trying to figure out the 2:1 ratio, but the concept is relatively simple. Because the eating pattern is based on the results of a study of overweight individuals, it may appeal to those who are trying to maintain weight loss in addition to those trying to lose more weight.
As a side note, I’ve incorporated full-fat cottage cheese and that dense, rye bread into my diet, and had already been eating full-fat Icelandic plain yogurt and find I’m satiated for longer periods of time. I also like the simple combinations of foods, at they are often things I already have in my kitchen, such as deli meat on whole grain bread with cottage cheese and vegetables.
The Sonoma Diet
By Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD
Meredith Books (2005)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD
Named for the California county that shares the same latitude as regions of Italy, Greece and Southern France, The Sonoma Diet highlights the benefits of eating a Mediterranean-style diet. This eating pattern, long famous for its lean meat, plant-based protein and fats and variety of produce, is no stranger to diet books and programs.
The Sonoma Diet promises to help dieters shed pounds quickly; in fact, the phrase ‘a trimmer waist and better health in just 10 days’ graces the cover of the book. Additionally, the author claims that ‘every step of the journey from overweight to perfect weight will be comfortable, pleasant and simple.’ By following the diet plan and incorporating ten ‘power foods’ (almonds, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, grapes, olive oil, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, whole grains), the author enthusiastically guarantees swift weight loss and easy maintenance, all while enjoying a glass of wine or a little chocolate (later on in the diet).
Synopsis of Diet Plan:
The Sonoma Diet is made up of three ‘waves,’ each with lists of allowed foods. The author begins by prescribing a ‘kitchen clean-out’ and instructs dieters to throw out processed foods, sources of sugar, saturated fats and hydrogenated oils, as well as white or refined-grain products and full-fat diary.
Wave 1 lasts for 10 days and ‘will rid you of destructive eating habits that cause weight gain’ and will ‘recalibrate your body.’ During Wave 1, fruits are not allowed, nor are wine or added sugar, some vegetables and up to 3 tsp of fat (in the form of plant-based oils or foods) per day. Low-fat and no-fat diary is allowed, but only in small portions and not as a source of protein.
Wave 2 begins on Day 11 and lasts until a dieter’s goal weight is reached. During this Wave, fruits are back on the table and the list of vegetables gets longer. Additionally, dieters can start incorporating wine, dark chocolate and honey into their diets again.
Wave 3 begins once the dieter has met their weight-loss goal and is designed to ‘extend the diet into a lifestyle.’
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
The diet, while made up of lots of real, healthy food, is very restrictive during the first wave. Because it only lasts for 10 days, it’s unlikely dieters would experience any deficiencies as long as they are consuming a variety of ‘allowed’ foods. By promoting portion control and mindful eating, the author is helping the reader build skills they can use beyond the diet itself. Wave 1 eliminates fruit entirely, which must be noted.
There’s a lot to like about The Sonoma Diet and the optimistic tone may help motivate some dieters. The author emphasizes eating real, whole foods as part of a lifestyle change. The book addresses more than just what foods to eat or not eat; the author gives visual examples of plate sizes and portions, as well as addressing maintaining weight loss (Wave 3), how to add indulgent foods back into the diet, and even a diet ‘q&a’ section. Throughout the book, the author includes helpful information, such as the importance of fiber in the diet, tips for eating out and even a list of recommended products by brand.
On the flip side, the author’s overly enthusiastic tone may over-promise results and does not address those with significant medical issues. Some readers may be intimidated by the multiple Wave/Tier system with lists of approved foods and specific percentages of each food group at meals. Wave 1 doesn’t include fruit and allows very little fat, and may not provide enough calories for some dieters. While The Sonoma Diet lauds the enjoyment of eating (hence the allowance of wine and dark chocolate in Wave 2), it doesn’t address the importance of exercise beyond a couple paragraphs. Lastly, the book’s weight-loss claims may be unrealistic for most dieters.
The book includes approximately 170 pages of recipes of varying difficulty and a sample 10-day meal plan for Wave 1.