Dieting is nothing new to the United States, but various diets come in and out of vogue. Remember Atkins, South Beach, the Zone, “eat for your blood type” and that recurring cabbage soup diet?

Some of the diets making headlines now include paleo, ketogenic, intermittent fasting … and the list goes on.

So what makes a diet stick around, and, more important, how do you know if a diet is safe and effective?

With a new diet or weight loss pill on the market seemingly every day, it’s important that you know how to spot a gimmick. If the website is selling something to help you with weight loss, there’s probably a financial motive rather than a health motive.

We Americans spend billions of dollars each year on the weight loss industry, including products that are nonscientific with unproven claims. If the headline promises a 10-pound weight loss in a week, rest assured, it’’s too good to be true and that weight loss is probably water weight.

The general rule? Cutting 3,500 calories in a week (that’s 500 a day) will likely result in a 1-pound weight loss per week.

So how do you know if a diet is good? First, do some quality research. Remember that not everything you read on the Internet is true. I teach a university-level nutrition course, and I have my students review articles in peer-reviewed journals, not simply on social media platforms or .com (commercial) domains, which may have hidden agendas or be of opinion only. Look for websites with the most credible domains: .gov (government agencies) or .edu (educational institutions).

An effective diet is one that has shown positive health outcomes and safety in the long term. Proving it requires multiple large studies, not just one or two small studies.

Here are some red flags: a promise of a quick fix, elimination of a certain food or an entire food group or a diet backed by celebrities rather than credible health organizations.

Beware of diets that list “good” and “bad” foods. All food should be able to fit into an eating plan, but you may need to limit the frequency and amount you take in. That’s called portion control. As we age, we need fewer calories, so we need to cut back on our portions.

My advice? Don’t look for a diet. Look for a healthy lifestyle you can maintain for the rest of your life. Go back to the basics — lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and plenty of water.

All foods — in the right amounts — can fit into a healthy lifestyle plan.


Q: Do we need fat in a meal for the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin D?

A: Absolutely. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. The beta-carotene (a precursor for vitamin A) in a salad is much better absorbed when regular or low-fat dressing is used versus nonfat dressing, or when avocado (a healthy fat) is included in the salad.

If you take vitamin D in the morning, add some cream to your coffee to help with absorption. In both of these examples, it doesn’t take a lot of fat to help with absorption. Small amounts are effective.

Everything Bagel Chicken Tenders Salad

I recently picked up a jar of everything bagel seasoning at the grocery store — a perfect seasoning to add flavor and crunch. Here’s a recipe to try it on, from EatingWell magazine.


» 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

» 1 large egg

» ½ cup panko breadcrumbs, preferably whole wheat

» 1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning

» 1 pound chicken tenders

» ¼ cup canola oil

» 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

» 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

» 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

» 1 teaspoon honey

» 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

» 5 ounces mixed baby greens


Place flour in a shallow dish, and lightly beat egg in another shallow dish. Mix breadcrumbs and everything bagel seasoning in a third shallow dish.

Dredge chicken tenders in flour, egg and then breadcrumbs. Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until it is golden brown and reaches 165 degrees, about 7 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to prevent burning.

Whisk olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and pepper in a large bowl. Add greens and toss to coat. Serve the greens topped with the chicken.


Serves 4 (3 ounces chicken and 2 cups salad each)

Per serving: 394 calories; 27 grams protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 25 grams fat; 109 milligrams cholesterol; 1 gram fiber; 2 gram total sugars; 402 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.