Common Dietary Plans

Common Dietary Plans

Below you will find a list of common and current dietary plans. It is important to note that fad or quick weight loss diets are a thing of the past. They have not worked and they never will as any gains (or losses for that matter) quickly disappear inevitably with the conclusion of the diet. Another important concept to note is that the word diet can mean a temporary diet, for example, “I am going on a weight loss diet this month.” The word diet also simply describes what a person or animal eats, for example, “a person living in Greece eats a diet of whole foods.” It is this latter concept in which all of these modern dietary plans have in common and that should be the focus of any dietary plan you hopefully will be able to follow long term.  They have their differences, some of which are dramatic and certainly no one diet is perfect for everyone but they are all based on eating whole foods which are naturally dense with nutrition and hopefully can provide a framework for long-term health and vitality.

Provided are key points for each diet and then a list of common foods that are the core of the plan as well as others to be avoided. The diets are not limited to the foods on the lists, but give a general idea of what to eat or avoid. If you are interested in any of these dietary principles you are encouraged to research them further. As you can imagine there is plenty of information available online as well as a variety of points of view. Of course you will find strong opinions regarding diets online but hopefully, this guide can help to simplify and sort through some of the potential confusion.


The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is probably the most studied and widely recommended of the current popular diets. It is often the basis for many other diet plans as all of the other diets can work within the parameters of the Mediterranean diet.  People living in the Mediterranean, especially, Greece and Southern Italy and France have much lower rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and various other chronic illnesses compared to Western societies. The diet came about in the early 1960’s and although some of these cultures probably do not eat as well as they did in the past, the philosophy remains the same.

The Mediterranean diet is simple -eat whole foods, especially fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and healthy fats. Moderate amounts of red wine, chocolate, eggs, and dairy are also acceptable. Olive oil is used liberally and is the primary source of added fat, that not being in fish, meat, dairy, and vegetables. Whole grains and legumes, including rice and pasta, fill out this diet. The cultures of the Mediterranean have generally been a little better at moderation than the west and although they probably consume such things as wine and chocolate more often than we do, they traditionally may just have one glass of wine with dinner most nights of the week. It has also been noted that those living in Mediterranean countries spend more time eating at a relaxed pace, are active during the day, and spend time in the sun which yields sufficient levels of vitamin D. These additional factors certainly help to round out the health of these people.

The Mediterranean diet is not low fat or low carb but rather a mix of everything in moderation. It’s important to note that the food groups in the Mediterranean diet do not necessarily need to be traditional recipes from areas of Mediterranean origin. For example, steamed fish in banana leaves with plantains, a dish from the Caribbean, is certainly within the parameters of this diet.

Mediterranean foods to Eat

Salmon, tuna, sardines, shrimp, clams, octopus, chicken, turkey, lean red meat

Eggs, cheese, yogurt, especially Greek yogurt

Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil

Oats, brown rice, whole wheat, whole grain breads and pastas

Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds

Spinach, lettuce, kale, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, peas,

Apples, pears, bananas, figs, grapes, blueberries, lemons, oranges, strawberries

Chocolate and red wine in moderation

Mediterranean foods to Avoid

Sugar, candy, white breads and refined grains,

Refined fats such as soybean, canola, safflower, and cottonseed oils.

Processed meats such as deli meats, hot dogs, and ham.

All processed foods


The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet, sometimes called the “caveman Diet” focuses on foods that were consumed not just before processed foods but before people began to cultivate grasses, grains, and legumes. The diet really is not about what the caveman ate (maybe a misleading mascot) but what we ate from paleo times all the way up to the farming revolution. In the course of human evolution these foods are fairly recent in our diet considering that we have been eating them for only about 10,000–20,000 years at most depending on your ancestry.  Being able to bring these wild plants under our control allowed us to settle down and farm rather than be nomadic. Although an impressive achievement for mankind the Paleo philosophy believes that we really were not meant to eat these foods and for many they may be causing trouble. When we look at the lifecycle of grains and legumes, they are at a stage in which they do not want to be eaten. An apple on the other hand wants you to eat its delicious fruit and spread its seeds. A grain of wheat dies upon ingesting and therefore has a protective coating called a phytochemical on its surface, this is a defense mechanism for this plant. A phytochemical is a mild poison that tastes bitter and is intact to discourage its consumption. Phytochemicals are contained in most grains and legumes. Being classified as poisonous does not mean they are deadly, far from it. But what phytochemicals can do is impede the absorption of other nutrients and generally upset the stomach, usually slowly over time. It is possible that some people are perfectly capable of breaking down grains for metabolic use in the body and others not so much.

In consensus with all other diets, the elimination of sugar and processed foods are a big part of the Paleo diet. Recent scientific study also suggests that overeating simple carbohydrates are implicated in many of our modern health problems rather than fat, which was previously believed. It appears that all of the research is currently headed in this direction. On the Paleo diet, the consumption of good quality fats is encouraged. Fermented foods that contain probiotics are important on the Paleo diet. Using multiple parts of the animal for meat, including, liver, organ meat, and bone broth is also a staple of this diet.

The paleo diet excludes more recent food stuffs, grains, legumes, and some seeds, dairy, along with other processed foods such as sugar and food additives. In place of grains, eat vegetables of all varieties. Fruits, nuts, fish, and meat round out the diet. A minimal amount of sugar usually in the form of raw honey or real maple syrup is sometimes used in recipes. Some on the paleo diet eat rice, potatoes, or grass fed butter and dairy, other do not. The paleo diet philosophy suggests that these are the foods that we ate for so long and we really have not adapted to these newer farmed foods.

Paleo Foods to Eat

Beef, lamb, chicken, pork, game meat, organ meats, salmon, tuna, oysters, shrimp, bone broth, eggs

Olive oil coconut oil, grass fed butter, ghee, duck fat, lard, nuts, fermented foods

Apples, blueberries, bananas, raspberries, plums, cranberries, lemons, oranges, melons, apricots, figs

Avocados, carrots, kale, spinach, onions, garlic, cucumber, yams, cauliflower, leeks, beets, mushrooms

Paleo Foods to Avoid

Cereal grains, wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, teff, millet, quinoa, legumes including peanuts

Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, dairy, processed foods


Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

The paleo diet is very popular with people who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. There are numerous autoimmune conditions but they all share some of the same traits and origin. Obviously the immune system is involved in every case and most of your immune system is centered around the digestive system. Inflammation of the digestive system can affect not only the stomach but other areas of the body and working toward correcting inflammation is often a key component to treating most if not all autoimmune diseases.  The idea is to heal the stomach first to relieve any other symptoms. A paleo diet already eliminates some potentially troublesome foods such as wheat, dairy, sugar, and processed foods, which usually is beneficial. However, for some it may be necessary to eliminate additional foods that may be bothersome. This may be an oversimplification but the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is essentially eliminating certain foods and then reintroducing them later to check for a potential sensitivity. They can be either eliminated indefinitely or added back into the diet. Others may want to remove certain food or follow the AIP diet indefinitely. Food items in the nightshade family (tomatoes, bell pepper, jalapeño and other hot peppers, and eggplant) are to be removed. This is especially true for those suffering from Osteoarthritis. Eggs, chocolate, nuts, spices, seeds, are allowed in moderation on the paleo diet but are eliminated in the Autoimmune Protocol diet. The AIP diet is fairly strict but can bring much needed relief to those that have been suffering from an autoimmune condition, especially those affecting the stomach.

Autoimmune Protocol additional foods to avoid

The nightshade family:  tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, potatoes, goji berries,          note: black pepper is okay

Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, eggs, chocolate, alcohol, dairy, coffee

Culinary herbs: cumin, mustard, fennel, nutmeg, dill, cardamom, caraway, fenugreek



Whole30 is a month long program designed to transform your health, your relationship with food and your eating habits. The idea is to reset your metabolism, transition to a whole foods diet and reduce cravings for snacks and sweets.  The Whole30 diet’s food list is similar to the Paleo diet and can be viewed as an elimination diet. Eliminating potentially inflammatory foods for 30 days can let your body recover from certain ailments and can indicate whether or not eating this way makes you feel better. For those looking for a food allergy, possible ‘problematic foods’ can be added in one at a time gradually after the thirty days. This diet plan is a little more than just the foods eaten (or not) as it is also directed at weaning the person from sweets and over snacking thus reducing cravings. Good solid meals are encouraged with minimal snacking in between. Baked goods such as pastries and cookies are also not allowed even if they are made with Whole30 approved ingredients as they take the place of other foods you are trying to stay away from and just replace common craving foods. In addition to a reduction of food cravings, potential benefits of the Whole30 diet include more energy, better sleep, and ,an improved metabolism by regulating blood sugar and balancing hormones.

Whole30 foods to eat

Meats, seafood, eggs, most vegetables, fruits

Natural fats, such as olive, avocado, coconut, ghee

Whole30 foods to avoid

Grains, legumes, dairy, any type of sugar or sweetener, alcohol, or processed foods


Primal Blueprint

The Primal Blueprint more or less follows the Paleo diet concepts in terms of diet but considers some lifestyle factors in its approach.  Neither the Paleo nor primal diet is followed exactly the same by any given two individuals but the underlying principals, as well as the foods allowed (or not), is virtually the same. The Primal Blueprint diet suggests that we need quality exercise that is more specific to our ancestors such as moving around every day at a reasonable pace, such as walking, hiking, or gardening, etc.  Occasionally lifting heavy objects or taking part in more strenuous exercise and making sure to spend some time outdoors each day is also important. In addition, working on mental health is important as is a good night’s sleep.

Primal Blueprint foods to eat and avoid, see: Paleo Diet

Beef, lamb, chicken, pork, game meat, organ meats, salmon, tuna, oysters, shrimp, bone broth, eggs

Olive oil coconut oil, grass fed butter, ghee, duck fat, lard, nuts, fermented foods

Apples, blueberries, bananas, raspberries, plums, cranberries, lemons, oranges, melons, apricots, figs

Avocados, carrots, kale, spinach, onions, garlic, cucumber, yams, cauliflower, leeks, beets, mushrooms

Paleo Foods to Avoid

Cereal grains, wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, teff, millet, quinoa, legumes including peanuts

Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, dairy, processed foods


Vegan Diet

The vegan diet philosophy is simple, just eat plants. The vegan diet is not to be confused with the vegetarian as vegans eat no animal products or byproducts (ex. milk, eggs) whatsoever. The plant kingdom does contain a large group of ingredients, including, fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, beans, grains, etc. Some consume honey others on this diet plan do not as honey is a byproduct of animals (bees). There are a few vitamin considerations when on a vegan diet, the most important of which is vitamin b–12. This vitamin is best absorbed from animal sources and although is found from some plant sources, fermented foods, and nutritional yeast, these sources are not as bioavailable in the body when ingested from plant material. It may be necessary for those on a vegan diet to supplement with this vitamin. Vitamin D and iron are also common deficiencies to pay attention to on a vegan diet.

Vegan Foods to eat

All vegetables and fruits, nuts seeds, grains, legumes, mushrooms, pickled & fermented vegetables

Vegan Foods to avoid

All meats and seafood, eggs, dairy, cheese, honey



A gluten-free diet eliminates the protein gluten found in wheat, barely, and rye. Gluten has been used to give the dough its elasticity, in fact, the word gluten is Latin for glue. The gluten-free diet is mandatory for those with Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system has an adverse reaction to this protein. Gluten can be problematic for others without Celiac to different degrees. Some may have a “gluten sensitivity” or even a low level of inflammation that continues for years, possibly unnoticed. It’s difficult to always determine if a particular person has an adverse reaction to this protein and often trying a gluten free diet for a specific period of time and then reintroducing the protein is the best way to check.  

The primary foods to avoid when following a gluten-free diet are wheat, rye, and barely which is simple enough to remember however they can hide in a lot of curious places and this is the crux of following this diet. After a while, anyone following a gluten free diet will realize and memorize where gluten may be hiding but it is not always straightforward at first. Wheat is added to a lot of foods so check the ingredient list to make sure. Soy sauce, for example, is usually brewed with half soybeans and half wheat. There is a simple solution though. Buy Tamari, which is soy sauce brewed only with soybeans. In general, the number of gluten-free options  at restaurants and grocery stores appears to be increasing all the time so following this diet is much easier than it used to be. At this point here is a gluten-free version of every food imaginable. Remember to check labels for hidden sources of gluten.

Usually eliminating gluten for those with an allergy or sensitivity solves the problem, however, some may be sensitive enough to necessitate removing any related grain in this plant family. These do not contain gluten but are a protein that is a close relative, including rice, wild rice, oats, millet, and teff.

Gluten Free diet Foods to Avoid

Wheat, barley, rye,

Foods with potential gluten include: soy sauce, beef jerky, beer, pasta, bread, crackers, cereals, baked goods, gravy mix, some soups, processed foods, some seasonings, starches, colorings, baking powder, and flavorings

Other potential irritating foods include: rice, oats, millet, teff


The DASH Diet

The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet was invented by Marla Heller as a way to abate hypertension, reducing blood pressure and blood cholesterol. It is now also used to treat diabetes and as well as a weight loss plan. This diet is based on the Mediterranean diet with a few changes. First of all, like the Mediterranean diet, it includes fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes. So, it is obviously a whole foods diet but it also specifically reduces sodium and saturated fat intake as well, which is not so clearly defined in the Mediterranean diet. The DASH also limits red meat, full-fat dairy, sweets, and sugary drinks. The DASH diet is commonly suggested for those who specifically are at risk for heart problems or already have elevated hypertension.

DASH Diet Foods to Eat

Apples, bananas, berries, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, squash, onions, garlic, lettuce, oranges, lemon, mushrooms,

Oats, brown rice, wild rice, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, beans,

Low-fat dairy, chicken, fish, eggs, lean red meats, olive oil.

DASH Diet foods to avoid

Sugar, salt, pastries, alcohol, caffeine


Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

This diet was first introduced to treat conditions related to the stomach, such as Celiac disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and other GI disorders. In fact, this diet is usually only followed by those that have been diagnosed with a condition related to the gastrointestinal system. The foods to avoid on this diet are grains, sugar, processed foods, and starches. The premise of this diet is that not everyone is capable of digesting and breaking down complex carbohydrates. If these carbohydrates are not completely broken down they become food for the bad gut bacteria as well as yeast. This can lead to stomach aggravation and inflammation. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet hopes to break this cycle by eliminating or limiting carbohydrates, these unwanted gut microbes will be starved off and in turn healthy bacteria will take its place thus repairing gut homeostasis and overall health.

Specific Carbohydrate Foods allowed:

Meats such as fish, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.

Eggs, butter, clarified butter, yogurt and kefir

All fresh fruits

Non-starchy   vegetables

Nuts, legumes, honey, and spices

Specific Carbohydrate Foods to avoid:

Processed deli meats, hot dogs, ham

Yogurts with added sugar, soft cheeses

Canned fruit & fruit juices

Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, yams, starchy tubers

All cereal grains, sugar



FODMAPS is similar to the specific carbohydrate diet and is usually used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome, especially when excess gas and bloating is an aggravating and ongoing symptom. FODMAPS stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are the primary short-chain carbohydrates that are not well absorbed by some people. This may sound confusing but these are all sugars. Oligosaccharides are found in breads and grains, disaccharides are found in milk and dairy products, monosaccharides in fruit juice and polyols are sugar alcohols that are frequently used as artificial sweeteners. Like the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, FODMAPS looks to reduce bad bacteria and yeast such as Candida, both of which thrive on undigested carbohydrates. This diet is usually first introduced for a trial period to see if symptoms diminish. This diet really is not simple and there are a lot of foods that need to be avoided but it can bring much needed relief to those it applies to.  I would encourage someone considering this diet to consult your Dr. or nutritionist and get a full list of foods as well as a good game plan. FODMAPS is very specific and it helps to have someone monitoring progress.

FODMAP foods to eat:

All meats, fish and seafood, nuts, bananas, grapes, raspberries, oranges and citrus fruits. Broccoli, lentils, squash, carrots, cucumber, green beans, kale, yam, tomato

FODMAP foods to avoid:

Oligosaccharides:  beans and legumes, grains, onion family, soybeans

Disaccharides: ice cream, yogurt, cheeses, sugar

Monosaccharides: apples, pears, peaches, canned fruit and fruit juice

Polyols: artificial sweeteners ended in “ol” for example mannitol, sorbitol


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