The Dietitian’s Top Five Diets To Focus On In 2021 (And Three To Avoid At All Costs)

The past year has certainly been interesting and, from a food point of view, things have not been so bad. More time at home means many of us have been able to spend a lot more time and energy on food preparation and healthy eating, which is only a good thing.

Interest in plant-based food continues to grow exponentially, with growing numbers of plant-based and nut milks regularly appearing in coffee orders. More than ever, you can find non-alcoholic wines and beers, as well as low-calorie alcoholic water and wine spritzers, some of which are quickly replacing our favorite wine or spirit. And the snack section of supermarkets continues to grow, with more products carrying nutrition claims like less sugar, more protein and less “bad” fats.

Adam Liaw’s Piyaz salad packed with legumes, tomatoes and flavor is ideal for a vegan menu. Photo: William Meppem



It’s not all good news, however, with a growing habit of ordering our meals straight to our doorstep, along with desserts and alcohol, causing a lot of fat and calories to sneak into our diets every week. This came with a few extra kilograms, collectively blamed on COVID, even though it’s been almost two years since the pandemic began.

At the start of a shiny new year, before you splash the cash on another diet program that promises you’ll look like a supermodel by the end of January, here are the diets that are scientifically proven to give you the benefits to health and weight. results you want, plus some diets to avoid.

1. Low Carb Diets

Green bean, egg and avocado salad makes a great low carb meal.

Green bean, egg and avocado salad makes a great low carb meal. Photo: William Meppem



Low-carb or moderate-carb diets contain 30-40% carbs, usually tapering off at night. Programs such as the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet follow this formula. It’s an effective and sustainable way to move half a pound each week while enjoying fruits, breads and cereals in your diet. How to make Adam Liaw’s Greens and Egg Salad, illustrated.

2. The Mediterranean Diet

While not specifically known for weight loss, when it comes to health results, you can’t beat the Mediterranean diet. The simple formula includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish and little to no processed foods, and it’s the recipe for a healthy heart and a long life.

3. The 5:2 or fasting diets

Fasting diets have been shown to help kick-start a number of hormones in the body, including those that regulate fat metabolism. The 5:2 diet involves two low-calorie days each week, while for the 16:8 diet, you consume all your calories in an 8-hour window and then fast for 16 hours. Although you won’t lose 1-2 kg per week by fasting, if you can follow one of the diets consistently, you can lose a few pounds per month without following too strict a diet.

4. Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD)

The Mediterranean diet focuses on healthy fats such as salmon, olive oil, nuts and avocados.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on healthy fats such as salmon, olive oil, nuts and avocados. Photo: IGphotography



Not for everyone, very low-calorie diets contain around 800 calories and are often sold as a program in which all meals are replaced with formulated diet shakes, bars or soups for a period of time. When followed, VLCDs can be extremely effective in supporting relatively rapid weight loss of 1-2.5 kg per week and are particularly effective for people with type 2 diabetes. For less intense weight loss , followers can replace one to two meals a day to promote calorie control.

Andrew McConnell's vegan tomato and chickpea curry.

Andrew McConnell’s vegan tomato and chickpea curry. Photo: William Meppem

5. Vegan

A vegan diet, unlike a vegetarian diet, does not include any foods of animal origin, which means the diet is based on legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Although these foods are all exceptionally healthy and generally lower in calories than diets containing animal protein, vegan diets are not necessarily lower in calories than other diets, meaning they will only cause weight loss if they are also calorie controlled. How to make Adam Liaw’s Piyaz Salad and Andrew McConnell’s Tomato and Chickpea Curry.

Diets to avoid at all costs:

lemon detox diet

Basically it is a starvation diet. Deficient in all key nutrients and even dangerous for people with hormonal conditions such as insulin resistance and diabetes, there is nothing good to say for this diet, especially since you are likely regain most, if not all, of the weight you lost. as soon as you start eating again.

Avoid juice diets.

Avoid juice fasts because in the long run they are deficient in protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Photo: Supplied

Juice fasts

Often referred to as a “cleanse,” a juice diet works similar to the lemon detox diet, but with a little more sugar and calories. Long-term juice diets are lacking in protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals, and again, any weight you lose is likely to be regained once you start eating again.

alkaline diet

The Alkaline Diet suggests that alkalizing foods (those with minimal acidifying properties) help restore the body to an alkaline state. Followers believe that an alkaline body is the key to generating new cells and preventing disease. While that may sound fantastic, the reality is that the body’s pH is largely beyond our control, which means the alkaline diet can’t do what it says.

Some carbs are good, like those found in wholemeal bread.

Some carbs are good, like those found in wholemeal bread. Photo: iStock

Seven easy ways to have a healthier 2022:

  • Play the long game. All diets work if you can stick with them, long term. Look for sustainable options if your goal is to lose weight in 2022.
  • Focus on vegetables. The easiest way to improve your nutrition and support weight control is to double your daily vegetable intake to 7-10 servings per day.
  • Check your sugar intake. Adults are recommended to consume no more than 5-6 teaspoons of added sugar or less than 25 grams per day. Check food labels and look for foods with less than 5 grams of sugars per serving.
  • Plan your meals in advance. Planning is the key to food success. Each week, set aside a few minutes to plan a few meals and organize your grocery list so you have the ingredients you need to eat well on hand.
  • Limit your takeout. Fast food and take-out meals contain up to double the calories of meals you prepare at home. Limiting these high-calorie choices to no more than once a week will go a long way to improving your nutrition.
  • Cut down on processed snacks. We all snack much more than necessary. Focusing on whole-food snacks like nuts, yogurt, cheese, fruits, and vegetables is an easy way to control your calorie intake.
  • Look for whole grains. Carbohydrates are not bad if you choose the right ones. Make whole-grain breads, cereals, and crackers the staple foods you keep at home.

Susie Burrell is a registered dietitian.

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