A modified diet is any diet altered to include or exclude certain components, such as calories, fat, vitamins and minerals, according to “Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice” by Susan G. Dudek. Diets are typically modified for therapeutic reasons, including treatment of high blood pressure, low body weight or vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Talk to your physician about diet modifications that may help your condition, and follow up with a nutritionist to help you make the best dietary choices.
Any diet can be modified, but Dudek explains that common therapeutic modifications include lowering fat intake, increasing or decreasing caloric intake depending on weight, and increasing certain nutrients, such as iron, calcium or potassium. Modified diets used to treat food allergies include those that eliminate gluten, dairy products, tree nuts and artificial ingredients, such as food coloring or preservatives.
A modified therapeutic diet is designed to be part of an overall treatment regimen to combat a potentially serious condition. Diets low in fat and cholesterol, for example, may help avoid clogged arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Several studies performed by Dr. John Freeman and Dr. Eileen Vining during the mid-1990s at John Hopkins University found that a less restrictive modified Atkin’s diet reduces the occurrence of seizures in adults with epilepsy.
Although modified therapeutic diets carry little risk if followed properly, self-modified diets, such as those that encourage eliminating carbohydrates and significantly increasing protein or those that drastically limit your daily calorie intake, can be more risky. MayoClinic.com explains that diets high in protein can worsen liver or kidney problems and create nutrient deficiencies. Drastically limiting your calories can lead to unhealthy body image, anorexia and rebound weight gain.
A modified diet requires strict compliance to remain beneficial. Although the rare treat most likely will not derail all of your progress, frequently cheating on the diet by sneaking an extra dollop of butter here or a handful of chips there can add up over time. Diets for those with food allergies or sensitivities require complete compliance and cheating can have dangerous consequences. If you are having a hard time following a modified diet, talk to your nutritionist for ways to comply without feeling deprived.
Read ingredient and nutrition labels carefully while on a modified diet, keep a list of potential choices while dining out and look for key menu terms that may indicate an off-limits food. For example, if you are on a low-sodium diet, MayoClinic.com recommends keeping an eye out for terms that indicate a meal is high in salt, such as “pickled,” “broth” or “cured.” If you are on a reduced-calorie diet, keep in mind that a product labeled “low-fat” does not necessarily mean that it is also low in calories.
- “Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice”; Susan G. Dudek; 2007
- MedlinePlus: Heart Disease and Diet
- John Hopkins Medicine: Modified Atkins Diet Can Cut Epileptic Seizures in Adults
- MayoClinic.com: Are High-Protein Diets Safe for Weight Loss?