Tag Archives: diet

5 Diets You Should Absolutely Avoid in 2020

By: Janice Rutkowski, M.D.

We’ve all seen the ads with the blaring headlines:


There are dozens of diets on the market that promise super-fast weight loss, but many of them take an unbalanced approach to diet and nutrition. Some tell you to avoid “bad” foods, such as carbohydrates or fats, others restrict you to just a few foods, and still others require you to buy expensive supplements or pills.

Any diet that cuts out certain foods or limits calories can lead to short-term weight loss. But fad diets rarely bring long-term results because people often return to their previous eating habits when the diet ends. Also, people who follow extreme diets may not be getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Let’s look at five popular diets you should avoid in 2020. Then we’ll give you tips for managing your weight in a smart, healthy way.

  1. Carnivore diet: The carnivore diet has you eat mostly meat (along with some eggs and fat, like cheese). This is not a healthy or sustainable diet — it is extremely high in saturated fat, which can put you at risk for increased cholesterol levels, and it also leaves out a lot of foods that contain important nutrients, including fruits and vegetables.
  2. Whole30: This 30-day diet has you eat a lot of fresh, organic vegetables, grass-fed chicken and beef, and healthy fats like avocado and nuts. That’s well and good, but it also eliminates many foods, such as grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugars and alcohol. And if you slip one day, you have to start over. The big problem with Whole30 is that it’s difficult to maintain. You may crave the foods you can’t eat and feel guilty if you “cheat.” This can turn into an unhealthy cycle where you avoid certain foods for a while and then binge on them later.
  3. Keto diet: “Keto” is a low-carbohydrate diet with plenty of meats, eggs, processed meats, sausages, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds and fibrous vegetables. But you can’t eat breads, pasta, potatoes, rice, oats flour, sugar, fruit and alcoholic drinks. The diet’s low-carbohydrate content causes your blood sugar levels to drop, and your body begins breaking down fat to use as energy, a process caused ketosis. The problem is keto isn’t sustainable in the long term. Once your body enters ketosis, you also begin to lose muscle, become fatigued, and eventually enter starvation mode. This is particularly dangerous for people with kidney or liver conditions.
  4. Atkins diet: Atkins is the granddaddy of low-carb diets. It requires you to eat a lot of meat, cheese and eggs but severely limits carbohydrates, including sugar, bread, pasta, milk, fruits and vegetables. Similar to the keto diet, it causes your body to enter ketosis and burn fat. Like many fad diets, you lose weight quickly on Atkins, but it’s difficult to stay on it for long. Also, there is medical concern about the negative effects of a high-protein diet on kidney function, cholesterol levels, and the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
  5. Pegan diet: The pegan diet combines the popular paleo diet with some vegan principles. You eat lots of fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and seeds, oils, no dairy or gluten, a small amount of meat, and few beans or grains. You get to eat healthy foods, but the pegan diet restricts some foods that provides important nutrients. Also, since it limits what you can eat, it is hard to maintain over the long run.

Now that we’ve looked at diets to avoid, here are some good tips to help you achieve your weight-loss goal:

  1. Eat smaller portions: It’s common sense, if you want to lose weight, eat less. For example, if you usually eat a cup of rice, reduce it to a half cup. If you normally eat a plate full of pasta, cut down it to half a plate.
  2. Focus on healthier foods: Make fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, such as fish and chicken, the major part of your diet. Avoid junk foods, fast food and other foods you know are loaded with fats and calories. For helpful eating guidelines, see Choose My Plate from the USDA.
  3. Get physical: Exercise is the safest way to get fit and lose weight. And you don’t have to go to the gym seven days a week. Start with just five minutes a day and increase your activity gradually. Create an exercise plan that works for you with these guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services. Strive for between 150 and 200 minutes a week.
  4. Avoid extra sugar: Sugar occurs naturally in many foods, and your body uses it for energy. But what you should do is avoid extra sugar. Skip dessert and stay away from drinks and snacks from are loaded with the sweet stuff. See these tips for reducing extra sugar from the American Heart Association.
  5. Don’t get hungry: You should never, ever skip meals. By being hungry, you increase the chances that you will binge on unhealthy snacks and food. Avoid hunger by always having some healthy snacks handy. Have a granola bar or eat a variety of nuts in between meals.
  6. Talk to your doctor: Before starting any weight-loss program, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your doctor to make sure it is balanced and healthy. Your doctor can make recommendations for eating plans, exercise programs and more.


Dr. Rutkowski is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She cares for patients at MPCP’s Arundel Mills office.



Are ‘Meatless Meats’ Better for You?

By: Christine Jones, M.D.

Plant-based meat substitutes are booming in popularity, with grocery stores and restaurants offering meatless “hamburger” and “sausage” that look and taste like the real thing. Some people eat these products because they fit their vegetarian or vegan diets, but many others are trying them because they think “meatless meat” is healthier and will even help them lose weight.

How plant-based burgers compare to beef

When it comes to your health, meat-substitute burgers do have an advantage over beef. They’re plant-based – for example, Beyond Meat uses pea protein and Impossible Foods uses soy and potato protein – so they provide healthy fiber and cut out the cholesterol found in animal products. But their health benefits are not across the board as shown in the chart below, which compares the nutrition of a beef burger to an Impossible Burger and a Beyond Burger.

4 Oz. Patty Calories Fat Carbs Protein Sodium
85% Lean Ground Beef 192* 12* 0 grams 20 grams 55 milligrams
Impossible Burger 240 14 grams 9 grams 9 grams 370 milligrams
Beyond Burger 250 18 grams 3 grams 20 grams 390 milligrams

Nutrition data from the USDA, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. * Calories and fat after cooking. Pre-cooking calories were 283.

Beef and meatless burgers contain about the same amount of protein. However, beef patties can give you fewer calories and less fat since you can squeeze fat out of a beef burger by cooking it longer, as shown in the example above. (Cooking doesn’t affect the calories in meatless patties.) Plant-based burgers are also higher in carbs since they are made of vegetables, and they contain significantly more sodium since salt is one of their ingredients. (You have the option of not salting a beef patty.)

Also remember that adding a bun and condiments, such as cheese, ketchup and mayo, can greatly increase any burger’s fat and calories.

Nutritionists have noted two cautions about Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers. First, both are made with processed plant-based ingredients rather than whole foods, which are a more healthful option. Second, both products contain coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat and can raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol) just like beef fat. Coconut oil gives Beyond Burgers and Impossible burgers comparable saturated fat levels to beef.

Bottom line on burgers

You’re not automatically eating healthier by choosing plant-based meat, and if you think eating meatless will make you lose weight, think again. But if you choose a plant-based burger, you can do so knowing that you’re getting comparable taste and nutrition to beef.

Dr. Christine Jones earned her medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She cares for patients at MPCP’s Annapolis office.

To ‘G’ or not to ‘G’: Should you go gluten-free?

The gluten-free diet is the latest nutrition craze. Books, articles and TV shows tout the benefits of axing gluten, and it’s hard to walk down the grocery store aisle without encountering a raft of gluten-free products. A survey by Consumer Reports shows over 60% of Americans think that going gluten-free can improve their physical and mental health.

Advocates claim avoiding gluten leads to better digestion and gastrointestinal function, weight loss, higher energy, lower cholesterol, and a stronger immune system. There are even products to help you “detox” your body from gluten, suggesting that it is harmful.

So what is gluten, and are there health benefits to going gluten-free?

Gluten refers to a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Cutting gluten out of your diet means cutting out gluten-containing bread, soup, pasta, cereal, and virtually any food or drink containing wheat, barley, rye or triticale (a newer grain with a similar quality as wheat).

There are people who definitely need to avoid gluten. Those with celiac disease ─ around 1% of Americans ─ may experience severe inflammation and damage to the lining of their small intestine. Even a small amount of gluten can cause bloating, cramping or skin rashes. Other people, who have gluten intolerance or sensitivity, do not suffer intestinal damage but may experience headaches, bloating, fatigue or diarrhea after eating foods with gluten.

For this relatively small group of people, a gluten-free diet functions as a detox diet by relieving their system of an irritant, and it can make a significant improvement in their quality of life.

For everyone else, research does not support the idea that cutting out gluten promotes good health. In fact, there are some good reasons not to go gluten-free:

Because wheat is ubiquitous in the American diet, completely eliminating gluten requires adopting a whole new diet. You would have to give up most breads, crackers, breakfast cereals, conventional pastas, pastry goods, beer and a wide range of processed foods made with small amounts of gluten.

Whole grains, which contain gluten, are rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber. Studies show that whole-grain foods may help lower the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that at least half of all carbohydrates in your diet come from whole-grain products.

A report from the American Dietetic Association warned that gluten-free products tend to be low in a wide range of important nutrients, including B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber, so eliminating them may contribute to a nutritional deficiency.

Gluten-free does not automatically equal weight loss. Some gluten-free products make up for gluten by adding sugar and fat. In fact, a review of studies published in the Journal of Medicinal Food revealed that a gluten-free diet seems to increase the risk of overweight or obesity.

Most gluten-free alternatives, such as pasta and bread, are significantly more expensive than their conventional counterparts. A 2007 survey found that gluten-free pastas and breads were twice the price of conventional products, for instance.

If there are no proven benefits to a gluten-free diet, why do some people swear by it? It’s possible that, in addition to cutting out gluten, these people also make other, healthy changes, such as eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, and fewer desserts and junk foods. These changes would naturally lead to feeling better and losing weight.

So, if you suspect you may have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, see you doctor for testing and a diagnosis. If not, enjoy your gluten.


Tracy Jansen, M.D.Dr. Tracy Jansen is an MPCP partner and sees patients in the Pasadena office. She received her medical degree from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and completed her residency program in Family Practice at the Medical College of Georgia. She is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.

Limiting Sugars in Your Diet

A Q&A with Dr. Pio Poblete of MPCP’s Columbia office

Q: How much sugar do people typically consume?

A: On average, Americans get about 16% of their daily calories from added sugars, according to the Food & Drug Administration.

While many foods naturally contain sugar, a lot more sugar is added to processed foods. For example, a 12-ounce can of cola contains seven teaspoons of sugar, although you might not see that word on the label. Other names for added sugars include high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, honey, and sucrose.

Even foods that you wouldn’t think of as sweet have added sugar, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup is a preservative, giving packaged foods a longer shelf life, and it plays a role in color and texture.

Q: 16% added sugars sounds like a lot. Are we eating too much?

A: Faced with mounting evidence about sugar’s harms, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommended that people limit added sugars to a maximum of 10% of their total daily calories.

Q: If I want to reduce my sugar consumption from 16% to 10%, how much sugar is that?

A: On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, that equals 12 teaspoons of sugar.

Q: Is added sugar a health concern?

A: Added sugars probably have a greater impact on high blood pressure (hypertension) than does sodium, and fructose in particular may increase cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) risk. There’s evidence that added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened drinks, raise the risks of excess weight and obesity, as well as type 2 diabetes. And, of course, sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay.

Q: How can I reduce added sugar in my diet?

  1. Use these simple tips to consume less:
  • Drink water or other calorie-free drinks instead of sugary, non-diet sodas or sports drinks. That goes for blended coffee drinks, too.
  • When you drink fruit juice, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice — not juice drinks that have added sugar.
  • Choose breakfast cereals carefully. Although healthy breakfast cereals can contain added sugar to make them more appealing to children, skip the non-nutritious, sugary and frosted cereals.
  • Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, add fresh fruit (try bananas, cherries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots).
  • Opt for reduced-sugar varieties of syrups, jams, jellies and preserves. Use other condiments sparingly. Salad dressings and ketchup have added sugar.
  • Choose fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream and other sweets.
  • Buy canned fruit packed in water or juice, not syrup.
  • When baking cookies, brownies or cakes, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t notice the difference.
  • Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use extracts such as almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
  • Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar. Try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in recipes (use equal amounts).

For a list of common foods and the amount of sugar they contain, see this article in Medical News Today.

Pio Poblete, M.D.Dr. Pio Poblete is an MPCP partner and practices in our Columbia office. He is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.