Few topics are as controversial as the American diet. The United States has one of the most obese populations in the world, and despite spending over $50 billion every year on diet products, books, and videos, Americans are not only fatter on average than ever but suffer an increased rate of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other “diseases of affluence.” In our never-ending quest to lose weight, stay healthy, and/or reverse disease, we are in search of nutrition facts and often fall prey to weight-loss fads.
Is that a fact?
The human body is an amazingly complex system, and the relatively young field of nutritional science doesn’t understand it all that well yet. Nutritional advice is therefore often confusing and conflicting, and plenty of pseudoscience and quasi-religious conviction exists about what we should—and shouldn’t—eat. Political, environmental, and social factors can leave us wondering whether to choose what’s good for our health or what’s good for the planet.
In light of all this, how do librarians know which diet and nutrition resources to purchase and retain? For obvious reasons, websites such as the ones on this list are often the best sources for up-to-date nutrition science and balanced reviews of popular diet plans. When it comes to books, consider the source. Is the author a nutritionist, doctor, journalist, scientist, or something else? Books from all these avenues have valuable information, and libraries should offer a balance of differing perspectives.
Although the science changes and contradicts itself, there’s no reason to despair. Many good diet books retell how experts have been advising people to eat for a long time (e.g., eating whole instead of refined grains and watching portion size). Other perennially useful books provide advice about mindful and emotional eating.
Is it just a fad?
Librarians should be wary of spending too much of their budget on material covering fad diets. Plans that promise rapid weight loss (more than one to two pounds per week) are suspect, as are those that have entire franchises built around them (remember Atkins?). Another red flag is severe restriction of a macronutrient—usually fats or carbohydrates. Keep in mind, however, that just because a diet is popular, doesn’t mean it’s a fad; Weight Watchers has long reigned as the most popular commercial diet, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Libraries must follow the trends to a certain extent. Fad diet books will be requested even though they’ll be forgotten when the next big thing comes around. Many diet plans—not just fads—offer companion volumes on cooking, fitness, and/or treating specific health conditions. Selectors should consider purchasing any of these that supplement high circulating diet books.
Fad diet tomes should certainly be weeded as they fall out of favor. Rely on circulation statistics to determine when the time is right. Consider retaining the primary book of a fad diet (e.g., blood-type diets), while weeding any low-circulating supplemental volumes.
For your consideration
Perhaps because the dieting industry is big business, most diet books come out of major publishing companies. Great selections can also be made from the catalogs of specialty companies like Rodale, BenBella, Da Capo, Hunter House, Square One, and smaller independent houses.
Given the sheer number of such books available with differing viewpoints and opinions, any recommendation list must be limited. This selection includes diet and nutrition resources that promote general wellness, healthy weight, and disease prevention, rather than those that treat specific diseases or food allergies. The selected DVDs are entertaining and give a glimpse into some of the controversies. The app is a useful tool for anyone on a weight loss journey. Many of the authors represented are well respected in their fields and have written other books. As selectors develop their collections according to their community’s taste (pun intended), additional works by popular authors should be added.
Starred  titles are core purchases for most libraries.
Bailor, Jonathan. The Calorie Myth: How To Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better. HarperWave: HarperCollins. 2014. 314p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062267337. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9780062267344. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062267351.
All calories are not equal, says personal trainer Bailor, and the key to weight loss is eating more of the right kinds of foods and exercising at a higher intensity for shorter lengths of time.
Bittman, Mark. VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 To Lose Weight and Restore Your Health…for Good. Clarkson Potter: Crown. 2013. 276p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780385344746. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780385344753.
A food writer lost 35 pounds and reversed his prediabetes by eating vegan before 6 p.m. (without relying on processed faux meats) and in moderation after that. (LJ 6/1/13)
Chopra, Deepak. What Are You Hungry For? The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul. Harmony: Crown. 2013. 292p. ISBN 9780770437213. $26; pap. ISBN 9780770437237. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780770437220.
Physician/endocrinologist Chopra helps the reader identify and overcome triggers for overeating, using a mind-body approach to weight loss.
Fuhrman, Joel. The End of Dieting: How To Live for Life. HarperOne: HarperCollins. 2014. 368p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062249326. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062249340.
Written by a physician, this book shows how eating nutrient-dense and higher calorie foods can eliminate cravings for fat, sweets, and carbohydrates and end the vicious cycle of dieting.
Junger, Alejandro. Clean Eats: Over 200 Delicious Recipes To Reset Your Body’s Natural Balance and Discover What It Means To Be Truly Healthy. HarperOne: HarperCollins. 2014. 342p. photos. index. ISBN 9780062327819. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062327826.
A cardiologist presents gluten- and dairy-free recipes in this companion cookbook to the Clean diet programs. Many recipes are appropriate for cleansing, gut health, and vegan diets.
Ortner, Jessica. The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss & Body Confidence: A Woman’s Guide to Stressing Less, Weighing Less, and Loving More. Hay House. 2014. 312p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781401945114. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781401946616.
Ortner, a weight-loss coach, explains how to tap acupressure points to reduce stress, overcome overeating and cravings, find joy in exercise, and, ultimately, lose weight.
Perlmutter, David & Kristin Loberg. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Little, Brown. 2013. illus. bibliog. index. 336p. ISBN 9780316234801. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316234825.
Carbohydrates create inflammation and ultimately degenerative disease, says neurologist Perlmutter; the book focuses particularly on the brain. (LJ 11/1/13)
Robbins, John & Ocean Robbins. Voices of the Food Revolution: You Can Heal Your Body and Your World—with Food! Conari: Red Wheel/Weiser. 2013. 265p. ISBN 9781573246248. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781609258689.
A food activist and his son interview 21 thought leaders in food and nutrition and ask them what to eat and why it matters. (LJ 11/1/13)
Sanfilippo, Diane. The 21 Day Sugar Detox: Bust Sugar & Carb Cravings Naturally. Victory Belt. 2013. 240p. photos. index. ISBN 9781936608119. pap. $34.95.
Meal plans and recipes focused on quality proteins, healthy fats, and good carbs, all from a nutritionist.
Teicholz, Nina. The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. S. & S. 2014. 479p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451624427. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451624441.
According to this journalist, everything we think we know about dietary fat is wrong. She suggests that eating more saturated fats is the key to health and wellness. (LJ 5/1/14)
Wilson, Sarah. I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program & Cookbook. Clarkson Potter: Crown. 2014. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9780804186018. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804186025.
A journalist/self-proclaimed sugar addict shares her experience in overcoming her dependence on sugar and guides others in doing the same.
Wolfe, Liz. Eat the Yolks: Discover Paleo, Fight Food Lies, and Reclaim Your Health. Victory Belt. 2014. 288p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781628600193. $26.95.
From a nutritionist who knows, why fat and cholesterol are crucial to your health and counting calories doesn’t help you lose weight.
Best of the Backlist
Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet Revised. Houghton Harcourt. 2010. 288p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780470913024. pap. $14.95.
A nutrition scientist explains how to lose weight and prevent disease by living as the hunter-gatherers did, eating only meats and fish, fresh fruits, snacks, and nonstarchy vegetables.
Davis, William. Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. Rodale. 2014. 304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781609611545. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9781609614799. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781609617417.
Wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic, explains cardiologist Davis, who claims that elimination of the grain is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health. (LJ 6/1/13)
Guiliano, Mireille. French Women Don’t Get Fat. Knopf. 2004. 272p. index. ISBN 9781400042128. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9780375710513. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781400044801.
One of their own explains that French women stay slim and healthy despite enjoying bread, wine, and cheese on a regular basis. (LJ 11/1/14)
Hyman, Mark & Mark Liponis. UltraPrevention. Atria. 2005. 352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780743448833. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780743249720.
Two physicians who both survived catastrophic illness present a program for identifying and eliminating the cause of disease. (LJ 9/15/03)
Kessler, David A. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Diet. Rodale. 2009. 320p. bibliog. index. ISBN 1605297852. $25.95. pap. ISBN 9781605294575. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781605295053.
A pediatrician claims that overeating is caused by the way our bodies and minds are changed when we eat foods that contain sugar, fat, and salt. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 4/13/09)
Lustig, Robert H. Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. Hudson Street: Penguin. 2012. 336p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594631009. $25.95. pap. ISBN 9780142180433. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101606582.
An endocrinologist argues that exercise won’t help you shed pounds and fasting only worsens weight gain. By readjusting the hormones that regulate hunger, reward, and stress, permanent weight loss can be achieved.
Moore, Thomas J. & others. The DASH Diet for Weight Loss: Lose Weight and Keep It Off—the Healthy Way—with America’s Most Respected Diet. Free Pr. 2012. 416p. photos. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 1451669364. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451669374.
A team of scientists present a program for general health and weight loss, based on a well-respected diet designed to lower blood pressure. (LJ 12/11)
Nestle, Marion. What To Eat. North Point: Farrar. 2006. 611p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780865477384. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781429934473.
This molecular biologist/nutritionist offers a comprehensive guide on what to eat, walking readers through the supermarket aisle by aisle. (LJ 3/1/06)
Ornish, Dean. Eat More, Weigh Less. HarperTorch: HarperCollins. 2002. 480p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780061096273. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062024831.
You can eat more if you eat the right things, says Ornish, a physician. The program offers a spectrum of choices that reflect an individual’s goals, rather than hard-and-fast rules.
Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Penguin. 2008. 244p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594201455. $21.95; pap. ISBN 9780143114963. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101147382.
Journalist Pollan argues that we should only eat the sort of things that our great grandmothers would recognize.
Robbins, John. Diet for a New America. HJ Kramer: New World Library. 2012. 464p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781932073546. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781932073553.
A vegetarian diet is the best thing for the health of individuals and the planet, says this journalist in his Pulitzer-nominated title.
Thich Nhat Hanh & Lilian Cheung. Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. HarperOne: HarperCollins. 2011. 304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780061697692. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9780061697708. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780061981456.
A Buddhist monk and a nutritionist combine nutrition with the practice of mindfulness to help you find a healthy weight and general state of well-being.
Weil, Andrew. Eating Well for Optimum Health: The Essential Guide to Bringing Health and Pleasure Back to Eating. Morrow. 2001. 320p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780060959586. pap. $14.99.
An integrative health physician promotes a commonsense approach to healthy eating, emphasizing a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed foods, and small amounts of meat and dairy products. (LJ 4/1/00)
Yudkin, John. Pure, White, and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do To Stop It. Penguin. 2013. 256p. illus. bilbiog. index. ISBN 9780143125181. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780698141889.
A physiologist/nutritionist explores sugar and how it is hidden inside our everyday foods and damaging our health.
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. color. 97 min. Passion River, www.passionriver.com. 2010. UPC 804879167693. $19.99.
An Australian entrepreneur, on a mission to get off the steroids he takes for an autoimmune condition, travels across America talking to average people about health.
Food Matters. color. 80 min. Passion River, www.passionriver.com. 2008. UPC 094922971029. $24.95.
Through interviews with leaders in nutrition and natural healing, viewers are challenged to rethink the belief systems created by our modern medical and health care establishments. (LJ 7/10)
Forks over Knives. color. 90 min. Virgil FIlms, www.virgilfilmsent.com. 2011. UPC 829567076026. $19.99.
Examining the claims of a nutritionist and a cancer surgeon that most “diseases of affluence” can be controlled or reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.
Super Size Me: A Film of Epic Portions. color. 96 min. www.sonypictures.com. 2004. UPC 829567014721. $9.99.
Morgan Spurlock investigates the hazards of fast food by subjecting himself to a steady diet of McDonald’s for 30 days. (LJ 2/1/05)
Harvard University—Nutrition Source
Evidence-based diet and nutrition info for clinicians, health professionals, and the public.
Mayo Clinic—Nutrition and Healthy Eating
Nutrition basics, healthy diets, healthy cooking, menu strategies, and supplements.
Nutrition Facts; nutritionfacts.org
Results of the latest in nutrition and health research in a way that is easy to understand.
US News & World Report—Best Diets 2014
Reviews for the 32 most popular diets.
MyFitnessPal; app store or at fitnesspal.com
The leader of an Internet start-up created the diet tracker he really wanted. With common brands and restaurant chains, it will help users count calories.