7 Fad Diets That Work for Seniors

Reviewed and Updated by Troy Frink,

It may seem like you hear about a different celebrity toting a new diet every time you turn the TV on. Some people say that eating lots of protein and cutting carbs is the way to go. Other people say to keep the bread and pasta in your diet and to not eat dietary fat.

The diets on this list may be considered fad diets, however, they are diets that work*. Experts in health and nutrition created and reviewed these diets, and they may offer overall health benefits along with additional support for specific health conditions such as dementia, heart disease, and diabetes.

*Always check with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.

1. Mediterranean Diet

According to US News, the Mediterranean Diet is the best diet for overall health, heart health, and diabetes management. The people who live around the Mediterranean Sea “live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments.” 

The diet itself “is more of an eating pattern than a structured diet.” In other words, you’re “on your own to figure out how much to eat to lose or maintain weight.” With the Mediterranean Diet, you focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.

You should also have fish “at least a couple of times a week,” and eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt “sparingly.” The diet does not prohibit sweets and red meat, but it does encourage you to eat them only on special occasions.

2. DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to stop or prevent high blood pressure. DASH ranks third in the “Best Heart-Healthy Diet” category.

The diet focuses on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy in an attempt to help manage blood pressure, because these foods contain nutrients such as potassium, calcium, fiber, and protein. All of these nutrients have been shown to “deflate blood pressure.”

DASH also recommends limiting sodium to 2300 mgs a day. 

According to US News, the diet works because it’s easy to follow long-term.The DASH diet recommends making small changes such as:

  • Adding one vegetable or fruit serving to each meal
  • Introducing two or more meatless meals per week
  • Using herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor food
  • Snacking on almonds or pecans instead of chips
  • Swapping whole wheat flour for white flour whenever you can
  • Taking a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both)

DASH, according to US News, can be used as a weight loss diet if you burn more calories than you take in.

3. Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarian” is a combination of two words — flexible and vegetarian. The term basically means that you’re a vegetarian most of the time, but you can eat meat when the urge hits. The diet is based on a book called The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life, by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician. 

The idea is that if you consume more vegetables than meat, you can lose weight and improve your overall health. The US News panel of experts agree, because the Flexitarian Diet ranks third for the “Best Diets Overall,” “Best Diets for Weight Loss,” “Best Diets for Healthy Eating,” and “Best Weight Loss Diets.”

According to US News, the diet is easy to follow. The diet emphasizes plant-based protein (beans, peas, lentils), eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Blatner’s book offers a customizable meal plan that includes two snacks. If you follow the plan, you’ll consume about 1500 calories a day. 

You can adjust your food intake as necessary for weight loss or maintenance. How much you consume depends on your age, weight, height, and activity level.

4. MIND Diet

The MIND Diet is designed to help promote brain health. Note: There is no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but eating leafy greens, nuts, and berries may lower your risk of developing the progressive brain disorder.

MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and it’s a mixture of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. The diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.

If you follow the MIND Diet, you’ll eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad, and one more vegetable. You also get a glass of wine, which is good for brain health, according to Morris.

You’ll snack on nuts most days, and every other day you should eat half a cup of beans. You’re supposed to include poultry and blueberries twice a week, and fish once a week. When you cook at home, you should use olive oil instead of other cooking oils.

5. Volumetrics Diet

This diet was created by Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University. Like the Mediterranean Diet, Volumetrics is an approach to eating, rather than a structured diet. 

Volumetrics groups foods by energy density. Basically, the lower a food’s energy density, the more likely it is to fight off hunger.

For example, non-starchy fruits and vegetables, and broth-based soups have a very low energy density because they’re mostly water. Those foods are in Category One.

Low-density (Category Two) is the next step up. Those foods include starchy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat meat.

Medium-density (Category Three) foods include meat, cheese, pizza, ice cream, pretzels, and cake.

High-density foods make up Category Four, and they include chips, chocolate candy, cookies, butter, and crackers.

To follow the diet, you’ll use Rolls’ book to categorize your food choices. You’re supposed to focus mainly on Category One and Two foods, keep Category Three portions small, and eat Category Four foods rarely.

Volumetrics can help you lose weight if you stay in a caloric deficit, which may be easy to do if you eat mainly filling, low-calorie foods.

6. Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet is designed to promote “weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.” The diet uses the Mayo Clinic’s “unique food pyramid” that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

The diet works on some of the same principles as the Volumetrics Diet by focusing on foods with low energy densities. For example, two cups of broccoli has the same amount of calories as one quarter of a Snickers bar. 

The Mayo Clinic Diet is effective for weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can lose “6-10 pounds in two weeks, and continue losing 1-2 pounds each week until you hit your goal weight.” You do this by adding a healthy breakfast, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. 

7. TLC Diet

In the diet’s case, “TLC” stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. The National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program created the diet with the goal of cutting cholesterol for heart health. It focuses on vegetables, fruits, bread, whole grains, pasta, and lean meat. 

If you want to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) level, men are supposed to eat 2,500 calories a day, and women are to eat 1,800. If you also want to lose weight, men are to eat 1,600 calories a day, and women are supposed to aim for 1,200 calories a day.*

Then you’re supposed to limit saturated fat to less than seven percent of your daily calories. If you do that and our LDL level hasn’t dropped by 8-10 percent, then add “two grams of plant stanols or sterols and 10-25 grams of soluble fiber every day.” You can find stanols and sterols in vegetable oils. 

Other daily guidelines include: 

  • Keeping meat to a maximum of five ounces per day, and sticking to skinless poultry and fish
  • Eating 2-3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products 
  • Loading up on fruits and vegetables — up to four servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily
  • Eating 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, pasta, or other grains

*The exact appropriate number of calories to eat may differ for each individual person. Speak to a doctor before beginning a new diet.

Healthy Choices for Your Overall Health

The above diets may be a great starting point for getting or staying healthy. Go to your doctor with specific questions about diet and exercise, and check out our blog for information about Medicare. To learn more about Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Supplements, call 844-431-1832 or contact us here to arrange a meeting with a licensed agent.

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