How Do I Know What Diet Is Best for Me? 7 Things to Consider

Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2022
How Do I Know What Diet Is Best for Me
With so many options, it can be difficult to figure out which diet to choose to fit your goals. Here are tips for figuring out which diet is best for you

With so many options, it can be difficult to figure out which diet to choose to fit your goals. Here are tips for figuring out which diet is best for you.

7 questions to ask before choosing a diet plan

  1. What is your goal? Before you choose a diet plan, determine what your goals are. Do you want to lose weight, gain weight, build muscles, tone muscles, or bulk up? Once you have identified your fitness goals, it will be easier to find a diet plan that is in line with those goals.
  2. Do you have any underlying health conditions? Some diets can harm your health if you have underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or eating disorders. For example, the keto diet focuses on obtaining calories through fats and proteins, which may not be suitable if you have high blood pressure and need to stay away from fatty or salty foods. Similarly, if you are pregnant, you should consult your doctor about which diet is safe for you and your baby. 
  3. What are your dietary preferences? If you are a vegetarian or vegan, a diet that advocates eating more animal-based protein will not work for you. Similarly, a purely plant-based diet may not work for you if dairy, fish, or meat are regular staples in your normal diet.
  4. Is the diet sustainable? In order to be able to successfully stick to your diet plan, it needs to be something you can do for the long haul. Fad diets come and go because they are often not realistic or flexible enough. A sustainable diet plan should be not so restrictive that it dampens your social life or prevents you from traveling. This just makes it much more likely that you will throw in the towel and give up.
  5. Are there any health risks with the diet? Some diets may focus too much on one type of nutrient such as fat, while others may exclude some nutrients altogether. Very restrictive diets can put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Diets that focus on too much fat can put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Similarly, diets that focus on eating in a short time window (intermittent fasting) may carry a risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), particularly in people on diabetes medications.
  6. Will the diet burn a hole in your pocket? For diets to be sustainable, they have to be budget-friendly as well. If you are on a budget, it may be difficult to follow a diet that focuses on expensive supplements or exotic foods. 
  7. Is it backed by science? Check whether the diet is supported by scientific evidence. Many fad diets have fallen by the wayside because it has been proven that they simply do not work, or worse, carry health risks. Do your own research or seek the help of a nutritionist to determine whether a particular diet is effective and safe.

7 popular diets and their pros and cons

Table. 7 popular diets and their pros and cons
Type of diet Examples Pros Cons
Balanced diet
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH) diet
  • Flexible
  • Includes a wide range of foods
  • Good for the heart and brain
  • Sustainable
  • Risk of consuming extra calories, which may not be suitable for weight loss
  • Because alcohol is recommended, there is a risk of binge drinking
Low carb, high protein diet
  • Keto diet
  • Atkins diet
  • South beach diet
  • Paleo diet
  • May help manage blood sugar levels
  • May promote satiety and weight loss
  • May not be sustainable
  • Risk of a higher intake of unhealthy fats
  • May cause nutritional deficiencies
  • Risk of ketoacidosis, especially in people with diabetes
Intermittent fasting
  • 16/8 method
  • 14/10 method
  • 5:2 diet
  • Not restrictive
  • Suitable for people who like to eat fewer large meals
  • May promote weight loss and improve blood sugar and lipid levels
  • May cause unpleasant symptoms in some people
  • May not be suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and teens, and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes or nutritional deficiencies
  • May encourage binge eating behaviors
Low-fat diet
  • Ornish diet
  • Promotes heart health
  • May help with weight loss and reduce blood cholesterol levels
  • May not be sustainable due to being too restrictive
  • May cause deficiencies (such as deficiency of omega-3 fats and fat-soluble vitamins)
Very low-calorie diet
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) diet
  • Optifast
  • Promotes weight loss
  • May improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • May promote food cravings and unhealthy relationship with food
  • May not be suitable for people on diabetes medications
  • Generally not sustainable
Vegan diet
  • Promotes intake of more fiber and healthy fats
  • May promote weight loss and heart health
  • Good for the environment
  • May not be suitable for everyone
  • Higher likelihood of micronutrient deficiencies
Gluten-free diet
  • May reduce symptoms of gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease
  • May promote intake of less processed foods
  • May not be sustainable due to being too restrictive
  • Gluten-free products may be more expensive
  • May cause excessive calorie consumption through gluten-free foods that could be high in fats and sugars


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What to keep in mind

No matter which diet you choose, adequate nutrition is key. While calories are important if you are trying to lose weight, make sure that you do not overlook the importance of meeting your nutritional requirements while on your diet. This includes the need for protein, fats and carbs (also called macros or macronutrients), as well as minerals and vitamins (also called micronutrients). 

Besides healthy eating, it’s also important to drink enough water, avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake, get adequate sleep, and stay physically active.

If you are not sure what diet is best for you, talk to a nutritionist. They may prescribe supplements if they believe that you won't be able to meet all your nutritional requirements through diet alone. If you have any health conditions, your doctor may advise special dietary plans, such as diabetic diet and renal diet, that is better suited to you.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2022
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Hopkins T, Deshmukh E. Diet Comparison Guide. Sutter Health.

Harvard T.H. Chan. The Best Diet: Quality Counts.