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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.



Fad Diets and Holiday Weight Loss

By: Janice Rutkowski, M.D.

The holiday season is approaching, filled with parties, family and, for many of us, a few extra pounds. If you stand on the bathroom scale January 1 and see a higher number, you may resolve to take off those pounds ─ fast.

If that’s the case, be careful how you do it. There are fad diets on the market that promise quick 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, while others restrict you to just a few foods.

Any diet that restricts certain foods or strictly limits calories can lead to initial weight loss. But fad diets rarely bring long-term results because people return to their poor eating habits when the diet ends.  Also, people who use these extreme diets may not be getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Let’s examine five fad diets to avoid in 2017. Then we’ll give you tips for the right way to control your weight during the holidays.

  1. The Five-Bite Diet

The Five-Bite Diet encourages you to count bites instead of calories. You skip breakfast and then eat five bites of whatever food you want at lunch and dinner. The problem with this approach: even if you choose high-calorie foods for your five bites, you may only take in about 800 calories a day, which is less than half of the recommended daily amount. This diet won’t provide you with the key vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs, and may cause deficiencies that lead to anemia, bone loss, decreased cognitive function, and low energy.

  1. The Raw Food Diet

The Raw Food Diet teaches that cooking food destroys nutrients and natural enzymes, so you should only eat raw fruits, vegetables and grains. Since raw foods are often low in calories and fat, you’ll probably lose weight and get some nutrients on this diet. The downside is you’ll also miss some important nutrients, including protein, iron, calcium and minerals.  Also, cooking food has some benefits, such as killing bacteria and making food easier to digest. Eating only raw foods can also lead to bloating, indigestion, constipation, malnutrition and a lowered immune system.

  1. The Baby Food Diet

The Baby Food Diet is an Internet phenomenon that cuts calories and controls portions by having you replace one or two meals a day with baby food, which ranges 25-75 calories per jar, and then eat a healthy dinner. This diet has several notable drawbacks. It is very low in fiber, which can lead to digestion problems. It is low in fat and protein, which will leave you hungry in an hour or two and increase your chances of binge eating. Also, since baby food is very bland and there’s little chewing, you will probably feel unsatisfied and crave something else.

  1. The Blood Type Diet

The Blood Type Diet is based on the assumption that the foods you eat react with your blood type, so your blood type dictates what you should eat. If your blood type is A, for example, you should have a mainly vegetarian diet; type O’s should consume meats and avoid grains; type B’s can eat a variety of foods; and if you’re type AB you can eat anything on the A and B lists. But research has not supported this diet’s claims, and following it can deprive you of vital nutrients. For example, people with type A blood may not get the proteins and carbohydrates they need for good health.

  1. The Master Cleanse

Master Cleanse claims to rid the body of harmful “toxins” and promote weight loss. It is a liquid diet that lasts three to 10 days and features a special lemonade drink made of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. This concoction is a diuretic that will cause you to shed water weight. The problems with the Master Cleanse are shared by all “cleansing” regimens. First, its claim that it rids the body of toxins is questionable since your liver and kidneys do that on a continual basis. Second, once you stop the diet, the water weight will return. Third, the diet only gives you 600-1,200 calories a day, well below the recommended daily amount. And finally, because of the lack of nutrients and calories, you may experience fatigue, nausea, dizziness and dehydration.

Now that we’ve looked at wrong ways to deal with weight gain, here are 10 good tips to help you enjoy the holidays while keeping your weight under control:

  1. Be realistic. Instead of trying to lose pounds during the holidays, try to maintain your current weight.
  2. Plan time for exercise. A moderate increase in exercise can help offset holiday eating. Try walking briskly 10-15 minutes twice a day.
  3. Before a party, eat a light snack like raw vegetables or a piece of fruit to curb your appetite.
  4. At a party buffet, take small portions of a variety of foods, including vegetables and fruits.
  5. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Chew your food slowly and enjoy the flavor.
  6. Limit the amount of alcoholic beverages you drink. They can lessen your inhibitions and induce overeating.
  7. If you overeat at one meal, eat less at the next to balance out your calorie intake.
  8. Plan group activities with family and friends that aren’t all about food. Try playing games or going on a walking tour of decorated homes.
  9. Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering.
  10. Prepare favorite dishes that are lower in fat and calories. Here are some tasty, healthy holiday recipes to get you started.


Janice Rutkowski, M.D.Dr. Janice Rutkowski is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She sees patients at the Arundel Mills office.

Important Facts About That Cough You Have

Cough is a frequent symptom seen in medical offices at this time of year. It can be a source of aggravation, frustration and anxiety for many patients. A cough falls into one of the following categories based on its duration: it can be acute, lasting less than 3 weeks; subacute, lasting from 3 to 8 weeks; or chronic, which lasts over 8 weeks.

The acute cough is mostly a result of upper respiratory tract infections and acute bronchitis. Most of the time, these are due to viruses and do not require the use of antibiotics. Fever may or may not be present and phlegm can be discolored. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is on the rise in the United States and may manifest by violent coughing and should be treated with an antibiotic. Approximately 15% of users of commonly prescribed blood pressure medications, lisinopril or zestril, may develop a cough, which usually begins within a week of beginning the medication. Treatment is stopping the offending medication and waiting 1-4 weeks for resolution, which you’ll want to coordinate with your primary care provider so you can get on an appropriate replacement medication. Lastly, pneumonia may also cause you to develop a cough. Depending on what incites coughing, therapy is supportive with cough medication, antihistamines, decongestants, antibiotics (if needed), and possible inhalers if asthma-like signs are present.

A subacute cough is most commonly a result of a prior upper respiratory infection. It can also be caused by asthma, postnasal drip, gastric acid reflux (even if heartburn is not present) or a primary lung disease. At this time, a chest X-ray should be obtained, especially for smokers or former smokers. Specific therapy is suggested depending on the cause.

Finally, chronic cough should be evaluated by requesting appropriate tests which may include sinus imaging, CAT scans, cardiac or gastroenterologic evaluations. A referral to a specialist may be needed.

If you or a loved one is suffering with a cough, particularly one that has lasted for more than 3 weeks, see your primary care provider, who can then determine an appropriate course of treatment.


Janice Rutkowski, M.D.Janice Rutkowski, M.D. is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She sees patients at the Arundel Mills office.

Bless You!

A Q&A about allergies and testing with Dr. Janice Rutkowski

After the winter season of 2014-2015, we are enjoying the onset of beautiful spring days, but unfortunately not everyone is enjoying the good weather. Maryland is one of the most allergy-prone states, both in air-born allergens and those in food.

In this article, Dr. Janice Rutkowski answers questions about allergies and testing for them.

Q: What are allergies?
A: Allergies happen when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance (allergen), such as plant pollen, dust, certain foods, insect stings or bites, or pet dander. When you come into contact with an allergen, your immune system’s reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.

Q: What are the signs I may have allergies?
A: Allergic symptoms include itchy eyes, nose or throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, chest congestion, cough or wheezing, itchiness or eczema (inflamed or irritated skin). The severity of allergies can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening emergency.

Q: Can allergies be cured?
A: Most allergies can’t be cured, but treatment can help relieve your symptoms. In the case of seasonal allergies, many people find relief with over-the-counter medications. But when they don’t respond to the usual treatments, they require testing to determine the cause.

Q: What allergy tests are available?
A: There are two standard tests: skin tests and blood tests.

Skin tests (known as scratch tests) are the most common and are administered by allergists or dermatologists. A very small amount of certain allergens are put into your skin by making a small indentation or “prick” on the surface of your skin. If you have allergies, a small swelling that looks and feels like a mosquito bite will quickly occur where the allergen(s) is introduced.

However, under certain conditions, a blood allergy test is preferable to the skin test.  Allergy blood testing is recommended if you:

  • Might have an extreme reaction during skin testing or have a history of life-threatening allergic reactions.
  • Have severe skin disorders.
  • Are using a medicine known to interfere with test results and cannot stop taking it for a few days. This would include antihistamines, steroids, and certain antidepressants.
  • Cannot tolerate the many needle scratches required for skin testing.
  • Have an unstable heart condition.
  • Have poorly controlled asthma.

MPCP can administer the blood test in our offices for people who have skin disorders or are at risk for an extreme reaction. We can test for many substances in one sitting.

If you are one of many who suffer from cold-like symptoms with the change of seasons or have one of the symptoms listed above, see your MPCP doctor for evaluation and treatment so you can enjoy this wonderful season in good health!

Janice Rutkowski, M.D. is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She sees patients at the Arundel Mills office.