Food columnist Kathryn Rem discusses the best diet plans -- Atkins what?

If you’ve tried grazing, starving, journaling, skipping breakfast, sipping tea or downing herbs to lose weight, you might be confused by the many diet plans screaming for national attention.


Consumer Reports magazine recently rated eight popular diet plans and places the Volumetrics diet by Dr. Barbara Rolls on top.


Volumetrics is a plan that maximizes the amount of food available per calorie. That’s done by eating lots of vegetables and other low-density foods, switching to reduced-fat products and using low-fat cooking techniques. The diet encourages people to consume a low-cal soup or salad before meals to curb the appetite.


Rolls, a professor in the department of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University, explains it in “The Volumetrics Eating Plan” (Morrow hardcover, 2005).


The eight plans detailed in Consumer Reports were studied in clinical trials, with results after three to six months and after 12 months. At least 40 subjects were followed in each plan.


Ranked No. 2 by the ad-free magazine is Weight Watchers, which combines weekly meetings with “point” counting. Of the plans listed, this one scored first in long-term adherence but was average on weight loss.


Next in the ratings is Jenny Craig, a program of counseling and Jenny Craig foods. It has a high dropout rate, but those who stick with it lose a lot of weight, the magazine stated.


No. 4 is Slim-Fast, a brand of controlled-calorie shakes and bars. Eat one for breakfast and lunch, with other food, plus a low-cal dinner. It’s convenient for people who don’t want to cook.


Rated fifth most effective is eDiets, an online subscription site that offers meal plans and support groups. Customized plans are appealing for people with allergies, but dieters didn’t lose a lot of weight.


The Zone Diet is next on the list. To stay in the “zone,” each meal must be 30 percent fat, 30 percent protein and 40 percent carbohydrates. It allows lots of fruits, but not many grains other than oatmeal.


No. 7 is the Ornish diet, a very low-fat vegetarian plan that outlaws meat, fish, oil, alcohol, sugar and white flour. Dr. Dean Ornish says his regimen can prevent or reverse disease.


On the bottom of the barrel is the Atkins diet, a low-carbohydrate plan that begins with a two-week respite from carbs. Consumer Reports said long-term adherence by dieters is below average, and the nutrition supplied does not meet the government’s U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


Everyone knows, of course, that weight loss is achieved by eating less and exercising more. Sounds simple, but it’s hard to do. The magazine offers these tips:


- Skip the buffet table. Variety stimulates the appetite, so the fewer kinds of food you eat, the less you’ll eat.


- Watch your fats. There’s been a lot written lately about “good” fats (in olives, nuts, avocados, seafood) and “bad” fats (trans fat and saturated fat from meat and dairy). But all fat contains 9 calories per gram, compared with 4 grams for carbs and protein. Choose wisely and limit.


- Weigh yourself. This is controversial. Not seeing results can murder motivation. But research shows that big losers weigh themselves at least weekly. If they gain a pound or two, they take immediate steps to lose the new weight.


Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 or kathryn.rem@sj-r.com.