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Treating obesity

How to choose a scientifically-proven diet for obesity treatment

For an obesity treatment plan to be effective, it needs to include changes to the way that you eat. Here’s what you need to know about choosing a scientifically-proven diet for obesity treatment - plus 3 tips to help you get started.

4 min. read

Choosing a scientifically-proven diet for obesity treatment

While there’s a wide range of diet plans around, few of them are backed up by scientific research. But if you want to transition to healthier ways of eating as part of your obesity treatment, your diet should be grounded in science rather than what seems like a miracle diet.

Talk to your doctor about the best diet for your obesity treatment plan. They can also make recommendations based on your medical history and personal needs.

Read on to find out more about the best scientifically proven diets for weight management.
 

What are the best diets for obesity treatment and overall health?

Healthier ways of eating are relevant for obesity treatment, but there are many benefits beyond weight loss. Focus on improving your health (such as reducing your risks for chronic diseases) and quality of life, not just weight changes.

When starting a diet, the emphasis should be on your individual eating patterns, the quality of the food you eat, and having a healthy relationship with food.

Here are the scientifically proven diets that can help you manage weight, in addition to other health benefits. These diets are centred on achieving better health and managing weight rather than extreme limitations to what and how much you can eat. 
 

Mediterranean diet

A popular diet for obesity treatment is the so-called Mediterranean diet.

This diet is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, cereals, and whole grains. The Mediterranean diet is also relatively high-fat, mostly from extra virgin olive oil. You're encouraged to eat some fish and small amounts of poultry and dairy products. Red meat is only eaten in small amounts.

The Mediterranean diet can reduce your risks for cardiovascular disease. It has been found to lower body weight, especially when you limit how much you eat and are more physically active.
 

High fiber diet

Another effective way to manage weight is to have more high-fiber foods in your diet.

According to research, eating lots of whole grains, fruit, nuts, and high-fat dairy can protect against gaining weight and developing obesity. In contrast, white bread, meat, sweets, and desserts promote weight gain and increase your waist size.

Research shows that whole grains can be good for your weight and BMI. Whole-grain foods reduce hunger and the desire to eat while increasing feelings of fullness compared to refined grain foods.

Whole-grain foods include:

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Rye
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Bulgur

There are some simple swaps you can make to include more whole grains in your diet. For example, try rye or wholemeal wheat bread instead of having white bread.
 

Vegetarian diet

Following a vegetarian diet has also been found to have a significant impact on losing weight compared to a non-vegetarian diet.

Vegetarian diets tend to be high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The greatest weight management results are seen with vegan diets where no animal products like eggs, dairy, or meat are consumed.
 

What is the best food for obesity treatment?

While there is no set scientifically proven diet for weight management, there are clear guidelines for the best foods for better weight control.

Though starting a new diet can feel like a big step, focus on eating more of these foods every day.
 

Foods for better weight control

These are the best foods to eat (in moderation) to help you manage weight:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Extra virgin olive oil
     

Foods to avoid for obesity treatment

If you’re trying to manage weight, you may want to avoid these foods or eat less of them:

  • Refined grains
  • Sweets
  • Desserts
  • Sugary drinks
  • Meat
  • Ultra-processed foods

How does losing weight improve your health?

See how losing 13% of your body weight can lower your risk of developing certain obesity-related complications.

How can you start a healthier way of eating?

Not sure where to start with your scientifically-proven diet for obesity treatment? Here are 3 tips to make it easier to stick to.
 

#1 Plan your meals

Meal planning is a key tool for obesity treatment through diet. By planning your meals ahead of time, it's easier to make long-term adjustments to your diet.

Planning meals can help you add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet by giving you the chance to decide what you'll eat in advance. Meal planning can also help you to save money and shop more efficiently.

By planning your meals, you can also reduce some of the anxiety and stress associated with mealtimes. 
 

#2 Keep a food diary

Research shows that monitoring what you eat could have a positive impact on losing weight. Keeping a food diary is one method of self-monitoring that’s really easy to do.

Try journaling to keep track of the food and drink you have every day, the times you eat, and how you feel when you’re eating. You can also jot down where you're eating, what you’re doing, and who you’re with.

A food diary gives you a better idea of your day-to-day diet and how it affects you. This can help you recognise patterns and see where you can improve your diet, such as eating more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
 

#3 Drink more water

There's also some evidence to suggest that drinking more water can help improve the outcomes of a scientifically proven diet for obesity treatment.

Drinking more water is especially effective when you also drink less high-calorie drinks. A simple swap in your obesity treatment is switching soda for water.
 

How to make better food choices?

When you’re making dietary changes as part of an obesity management plan, it’s important to find a diet that works for your lifestyle. The scientifically-proven diets for obesity treatment we looked at here are only effective if you can maintain them long-term. 

Making simple swaps in the way you eat, drink, and plan your meals can make a big difference with your weight. These scientifically-proven diets for obesity treatment should also be combined with an exercise plan for the best results.

Talk to obesity care providers who specialise in managing obesity for more help with making long-term diet changes.

References
  • Obesity Canada. Medical Nutritional Therapy. https://obesitycanada.ca/guidelines/nutrition/ [Accessed January 2022].
  • Estruch R & Ros E. The role of the Mediterranean diet on weight loss and obesity-related diseases. Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders 2020; 21:315–327.
  • Esposito K et al. Mediterranean Diet and Weight Loss: Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders 2011; 9(1).
  • Fogelholm M et al. Dietary macronutrients and food consumption as determinants of long-term weight change in adult populations: a systematic literature review. Food & Nutrition Research 2012; 56(1).
  • Sanders LM et al. Effects of Whole Grain Intake, Compared with Refined Grain, on Appetite and Energy Intake: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Advances in Nutrition 2021; 30;12(4):1177-1195.
  • Kristensen M et al. Wholegrain vs. refined wheat bread and pasta. Effect on postprandial glycemia, appetite, and subsequent ad libitum energy intake in young healthy adults. Appetite 2010; 54(1):163-169.
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  • Hu FB & Malik VS. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: Epidemiologic evidence. Physiology & Behaviour 2010; 100(1):47-54.
  • Monteiro, CA et al. Household availability of ultra-processed foods and obesity in nineteen European countries. Public Health Nutrition 2017; 21(1):18-26.
  • Abbot JM & Byrd-Bredbenner C. A Tool for Facilitating Meal Planning. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour 2010; 42(1):66-68.
  • Ramage S et al. Healthy strategies for successful weight loss and weight maintenance: a systematic review. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism Video Series 2013; 1(3):1-20.
  • Burke LE, Wang J, Sevick MA. Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2011; 111(1):92-102.
  • Muckelbauer R. Association between water consumption and body weight outcomes: a systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013; 98(2):282-299.
  • Bracamontes-Castelo B, Bacardí-Gascón M, Jiménez Cruz A. Effect of water consumption on weight loss: a systematic review. Nutricion Hospitalaria 2019; 26;36(6):1424-1429.

Find your local weight management provider

Talk to your weight management provider about treatment options that could prevent the weight you lose from coming back.

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