WebMD Weight Loss Clinic: Special Diets

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about how to diet with various medical conditions.

From the WebMD Archives

When you filled out your eating habits evaluation, the questionnaire asked you whether you were allergic to, or did not want to eat, certain foods. You may have noticed that not all the common foods to which people are allergic were listed. That's because we don't ask about allergies to foods that we never specifically prescribe -- or foods that you already eat, as indicated by our questionnaire answers.

A couple of examples:

  • We don't ask whether you're allergic to shellfish because your eating plan will never specifically call for shellfish. It may recommend lean or fatty fish/seafood, but you can choose from a long list of different types -- and avoid the ones that give you problems (or that you just don't like).
  • We don't ask about milk allergies if you say you drink milk or eat other dairy foods. We do ask this question if no dairy products show up on your questionnaire.

And remember, before starting any diet plan, check with your doctor.

I'm supposed to be on a low sodium diet. Will this plan work for me?

The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic program can work for all but those on the strictest low-sodium diets (less than 2000 mg a day). Of course, it's always a good idea to discuss any new diet or fitness program with your doctor.

Reducing the sodium in your diet will help control high blood pressure, as will losing , eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limiting alcohol. Here are some tips for keeping your salt intake down while following your eating plan:

  • When making choices within food groups, select fresh instead of canned foods
  • Become a label reader to determine which foods are high in sodium
  • Use low sodium versions of soups and other packaged foods
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Choose whole-grain rice, pastas, cereals and breads
  • Keep in mind that sodium occurs naturally in some foods, like breads and dairy products
  • Avoid processed meats, like cold cuts
  • Avoid high-sodium condiments like soy sauce, pickles, and olives
  • Limit the amount of salt you add during cooking
  • Taste your food before salting it
  • Use herbs, spices, vinegars, fruits, and vegetables to add extra flavor to your food so you won't miss the salt

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I'm a vegetarian. Can I use the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic diet?

Vegetarian diets can be very healthy, and research suggests these diets lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes, heart disease and stroke. What makes a vegetarian diet healthy are all the nutritious fiber-rich foods.

If you are a vegetarian who eats dairy products and eggs, you'll have no problem getting all the nutrients you need from the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic program. We have incorporated soy-based foods along with other popular vegetarian options, to give you a wide range of choices.

You should select from a wide variety of foods within the meal plan, including:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables and salads
  • Legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Whole grain breads, pastas, rices, and cereals
  • Low-fat or skim dairy products (for those who use milk products)
  • Eggs (for those who eat them)
  • Soy-based foods (tofu, veggie burgers)

Of course, it's always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any weight loss or exercise plan.

I'm a strict vegan. Will this program work for me?

While our eating plan is easily adapted to a vegetarian diet that includes some dairy products and eggs, it will not support a strict vegan diet. Such a diet does not meet our minimum standards for good nutrition, as it is difficult to get all the nutrients you need in a vegan diet.

Remember, you should check with your doctor before starting any new diet.

I'm a diabetic, Type II. How do I use this plan with that condition?

Many people with Type II diabetes can control the condition with a consistent regimen of exercise and regular, well-planned meals that are limited in sweets and sugars. (Of course, the particular plan that works best for you will depend on what your doctor recommends.)

It's important for people with diabetes to eat all the food in their eating plans at the designated times, and never skip meals. And remember, exercise not only helps burn calories and gives you energy, but can help lower blood sugars.

People with diabetes should select from a wide variety of foods within the meal plan, and remember to:

  • Choose unsweetened whole grains
  • Select whole fruits more often than fruit juices
  • Eat plenty of vegetables
  • Choose low-fat or skim dairy products
  • Choose lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts
  • Avoid sugars and sweets (you may use artificial sweeteners instead)
  • Eliminate or limit alcohol
  • Choose high-fiber foods, as these are absorbed more slowly into your bloodstream
  • Get plenty of chromium, from legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts

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I have a history of heart disease. How do I factor that into this diet?

Diets that promote good heart health are well-balanced, limited in saturated fats, and contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with soluble fiber (including oat products, breads, cereals, and some dried beans). In fact, most heart-healthy diets are similar to vegetarian diets except that they include small amounts of lean animal protein.

The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic program recommends that everyone choose plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and use only limited amounts of fat.

Also, make sure to select from a wide variety of foods within the meal plan, and choose:

  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats, and low-fat or skim dairy products
  • Fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and mackerel, two to three times per week
  • Oatmeal and legumes, which contain soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol
  • Very little, if any, alcohol. If you do drink, choose a glass of red wine
  • Limited amounts of total fats and animal fats; instead, choose heart healthy oils like olive and canola

Remember, you should check with your doctor before starting any new diet.

I am allergic to wheat. Can I follow the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic diet?

People with wheat allergies can enjoy a long list of foods, although they need to avoid all products that contain wheat. Many grains and other food products are available online and in natural-food stores that are safe alternatives to wheat-based breads, cereals, and other starches.

If you have a wheat allergy, you should select from a wide variety of foods within the meal plan, including:

  • Plenty of fruits and fruit juices
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Potatoes, corn, and other vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Breads and baked goods made from gluten-free grains like amaranth, pure buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rice, wild rice, arrowroot, corn flour, potato flour, and soy flour
  • Cereals made from cornmeal, grits, rice flakes, soy flakes, or rice
  • Pasta made from beans, corn, peas, potatoes, quinoa, rice, and soy

Remember, you should check with your doctor before starting any new diet.

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I have multiple medical conditions and dietary restrictions. Will this program work for me?

If you have a severe, chronic illness, or many restrictions on what you can eat, you should check with your doctor before starting this or any other weight-loss program.

For most people, the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic program is both safe and effective. Based on the National Academy of Science's nutrition guidelines, it's designed to promote slow and steady weight loss through small changes in your diet, along with regular physical activity.

Can I use the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic plan if I am on a low cholesterol diet?

Diets that promote good heart health are well-balanced, limited in saturated fats, and contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with soluble fiber (including oat products, breads, cereals, and some dried beans). In fact, most heart-healthy diets are similar to vegetarian diets except that they include small amounts of lean animal protein.

The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic program recommends that all users choose lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limited amounts of fat. To make sure you keep cholestrol levels low, select from a wide variety of foods within the meal plan including:

  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats, and low-fat or skim dairy products
  • Fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and mackerel, two to three times per week
  • Oatmeal and legumes, which contain soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol
  • Very little, if any, alcohol. If you do drink, choose a glass of red wine
  • Limited amounts of total fats and animal fats; instead, choose heart healthy oils like olive and canola
  • No more than one egg per day

And always be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new diet.

Is the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic suitable for people with hypoglycemia?

People with hypoglycemia need small, frequent and regular meals of healthy foods to keep their blood sugar within normal limits. It's important not to skip meals, and to plan ahead.

To keep your blood sugar from dropping, meals that contain carbohydrates also should have protein and fat. Good examples of healthy snacks would be fruit and cheese, peanut butter and celery, and dried fruit and nuts.

You should always check with your doctor before starting any new diet. When following the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic plan, be sure to select from a wide variety of foods within the meal plan, including:

  • Plenty of fruits and fruit juices
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas

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