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Developed by the British Dietetic Association.


options for support finding the right approach for you

(Page 6 of 8)
Find the right approach
Your doctor's surgery
Commercial Slimming Organisations
Meal replacements
Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCDs)
Other approaches Medical approaches
Be Weightwise and webwise

Other approaches

Here we've included two of the more popular diets that are often talked about: low carbohydrate and food combining diets. There is no magic formula in these approaches that help you lose weight - it comes down to restricting calories. There are just different ways of doing it.

How to spot a 'quick-fix' diet. We recommend you avoid diets that:

  • Recommend magical fat-burning effects of foods (e.g. grapefruit)
  • Promotes the avoidance of a whole food group (and suggest large doses of vitamin and mineral supplements instead)
  • Promote eating mainly one type of food (e.g. cabbage soup)
  • Don't address barriers to changing eating habits
  • Don't recommend regular physical activity
  • Don't warn people with a medical condition to seek medical advice
  • Suggest rapid weight loss (over 1kg (2lbs) per week)

Low carbohydrate eg The Atkins Diet

Typical features:

  • The aim is to severely restrict carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals)
  • Most fruits are restricted and even some vegetables
  • Chocolate, crisps, sugar and most alcoholic drinks are also limited
  • Meals are based on large portions of meat, fish, poultry, dairy products
  • Encouraged to use liberal amounts of butter, oil, fatty meats and cream
  • During weight maintenance phases, the carbohydrate allowance is a little more relaxed but remains limited


  • There is concern about the long term effect of following this type of diet. More research is needed, but on current evidence, the British Dietetic Association does not recommend using this approach for managing weight
  • Although some people do lose weight in the short term, without adverse effects, this rapid weight loss is initially due to water and glycogen (carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in the muscles). Often, initial weight loss is regained
  • Side effects of this diet can include: weakness, nausea, dehydration and bad breath. These side effects could be serious for people with diabetes
  • The American Heart Association (AHA) has highlighted concerns about potential heart, kidney, bone and liver problems while following this type of diet

For further information see the British Dietetic Association (BDA) site: or the Food Standards Agency site:

Food combining

Typical features:

  • Protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products should not be eaten at the same meal as carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, pasta, potatoes, cereals and sugary foods)
  • The theory behind this is that combining foods in this way interferes with 'proper' digestion and leads to weight gain
  • Most fruits, vegetables and salad are not restricted
  • Processed foods are discouraged


  • It's not true to say that eating combinations of foods interferes with 'proper' digestion- most foods contain a mixture of nutrients- and there is no evidence to suggest that it has any influence on weight loss
  • Choosing foods when eating out might be more difficult
  • Restricting processed foods means preparing meals from scratch, which some people might find time-consuming
  • These diets offer little in the way of behaviour change strategies or recommendations for becoming more active

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