Four Women Walk into a Grocery Store – a Comparison of Four Diets

Let’s say that four women are trying to eat healthier:

  • one woman has been diagnosed with prediabetes and has seen a dietitian and been put on a consistent carbohydrate diet allowing for three carb choices at each meal and two choices as a snack
  • one woman is on Weight Watchers and is allowed 27 SmartPoints a day, and 35 Anytime Points a week
  • one woman has cut her calories to 1200-1400 a day
  • one woman is trying to adhere to the 1400-calorie Mediterranean style eating plan as described in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020

They all eat precisely the same meals for one day. Which diet plans do you think this menu would work for?

Breakfast – 1 cup of bran flakes and 1 cup of skim milk

Lunch – an open-faced turkey sandwich (1 slice whole-wheat bread, 2 oz sliced turkey, lettuce, tomato, and pickle), 1-cup cantaloupe, and two whole-grain Fig Newton cookies

Dinner – 1 small wheat dinner roll with 1 tsp margarine, 1/3 cup brown rice, 1 cup cooked broccoli, 3 oz roasted chicken, 2 cups salad with 2 Tbsp reduced-fat Italian dressing, and 1 ½ cups sliced strawberries

Bedtime snack – ½ cup low-fat frozen yogurt

Does it work for the woman who has seen a dietitian and been put on a consistent carbohydrate diet? Yes, it does. It contains 11 ½ carbohydrate choices or 176 grams of total carb.

Does it work for the woman on Weight Watchers? Not entirely because she would have to use three of her anytime weekly point allotment since it comes to 30 points. She should skip either the Fig Newton cookies or the frozen yogurt if she doesn’t want to dip into her weekly anytime points.

Does it work for the woman who is just watching calories? It does – this menu provides 1,234 calories for the day.

How does it compare to the Mediterranean Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)? She is supposed to get at least 1 ½ cups of vegetables, and she gets two with this menu. She should aim for 1 ½ cups of fruit, and she’s getting 3 ½. Her goal is five ounces of whole grain, and that’s how much she will eat on this day. She is eating 5 ounces of protein, and the Mediterranean DGA meal pattern calls for 4. She is a bit short on dairy – the DGA calls for 2 ½ cups of dairy a day on a 1400-calorie meal pattern, and she will only consume 1 ½ cups on this day. She is also slightly over on “extra” calories since she is allotted only 110 a day, and she is eating more than 140 here.

The bottom line here is that many “diet” plans are based on the same basic principles. They are pretty much interchangeable. I worked for a trendy “weight loss center” (no longer in existence) before going to college, and the entire plan was the consistent carbohydrate diet – you got so many servings of fruit, grain, etc. each day. The only difference was the relatively expensive supplements, protein bars, and protein shakes that you could purchase (if the initial and monthly charges didn’t break your budget already). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a wealth of primarily ignored information and is the basis for a significant proportion of what we hear and read about nutrition daily. It’s not a short document, but it’s well worth looking if you’re genuinely interested in fad-free healthy eating. Eating well is complicated, mainly only because we MAKE it complicated.