Dr. Shankar Santhanam

Experts from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are ready to answer readers’ questions. Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjbh.org.

As I start to think about the New Year, how can I change my diet to live well?

As we are approaching the New Year, one of the more popular resolutions Americans make is to start a new diet. Many people attempt to diet every year, they may have different motivations for why they try to diet. Some are trying to lose weight while others are trying to live healthier lives. When it comes to dieting, we should strive to improve our overall health by having better eating habits and complement it with a regular exercise program.

Obviously, this is easy to say but hard to execute. Before committing to a new diet program, the individual needs to understand that the diet is really a lifestyle change. It is meant to be a lifelong commitment and not a temporary plan. When starting a diet, one should choose a diet based on a few factors. Choose a diet that fits your specific needs, fits your personality, and can be realistically incorporated into your life. Diets are started to lose weight, control chronic disease and/or achieve a healthier lifestyle for individuals.

U.S. News and World Report annually reviews the top diets. These are based on various criteria and then put into different categories. Best overall diets in 2017 were the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the Mediterranean diet, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), and fourth place tie between the Flexitarian diet, Mayo Clinic diet, and the TLC and Weight Watchers diet. They further categorize diets into best diet for weight loss, best for diabetes mellitus, best for heart health and best for healthy eating.

This is helpful but also confusing. Remember: there is no one diet perfect for every person. Each diet has pros and cons. Choosing a diet that you think will work for you, help you achieve your personal goals and be safely implemented are essential for any person dieting. It is recommended that you seek help from your physician and a dietitian or nutritionist to choose the right diet and help guide you to success. Remember: a diet should be perceived as an eating lifestyle not a temporary fix or short term plan.

— Dr. Shankar Santhanam, Family Medicine, RWJ Medical Associates

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician. Concerned about your health? Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjbh.org.