Which diet should I choose?
There is so much information out there on nutrition and so, so many diets to choose from. It all becomes very confusing and sometimes because there is so much information out there, we don’t know what information we should be listening to.
My philosophy on food is to adopt the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Eat as many foods that are as close to nature as possible i.e. whole vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, the least process grains (brown rice, oats etc.). Scrutinise food labels with a microscope for sugars, fats and chemicals. Have protein at every meal. Bulk out your meals with heaps of non starchy vegetables.
I believe that many diets on offer are unsustainable long term. If you are overweight and need to lose weight, more often that not, it is because you need to make permanent changes to your food plan. Changes that you can live with and be happy with FOREVER!!!
Long term changes will not be achieved by following a “diet” that is unsustainable.
Here’s the low down on a few of the more popular ones:
The Paleo Diet:
The basic principle of this diet is that we should be eating foods available during the Palaeolithic era, before the introduction of agriculture and domestication of animals.
So basically this excludes all grains, sugar and processed foods, dairy products, alcohol and coffee.
The good – This diet promotes eating good whole foods, as close to nature as possible
The bad – Totally excludes dairy products which are a good source of calcium, protein, vitamin D (assisted with absorption of Calcium), B group vitamins (which assist in many metabolic processes including carbohydrate metabolism)
The 5:2 diet
This is diet involves reducing your calorie intake by 25% of your daily consumption two days a week and eating normally the rest of the time. The philosophy being that as you are consuming less calories, you will lose weight.
The good – It is thought that this diet may help your body repair it’s cells which may help prevent heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and cancer (this is not study evidence based). Many people also report improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol. Fasting may help to make you aware of your overall consumption of food what, when and how much you are eating.
The bad – Not suitable for Type 1 or 11 diabetics, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children or teenagers, people with eating disorders. It is questionable as to whether this diet is sustainable long term. There may be a temptation to eat calorie dense/”bad” foods on the non fasting days. This would negate the positive effect of the diet.
Lite N’ Easy
This is the diet for the “busy” person. Where all meals are pre packed and brought to you.
The good – It is easy and all meals are “balanced” with the appropriate portion size of Protein, Carbs and fats. It is convenient. If you are not a cook, there is variety so you don’t get bored.
The bad – It is expensive. It doesn’t teach you to change your habits. It doesn’t teach you about making good food choices when shopping and preparing food. It doesn’t teach you about changing your relationship with food. The majority of their meals are highly processed.
Weight Watchers operates on a points system. You are allocated a certain number of points for a day and each food you eat has points allocated to it. The catch is that the “bad” foods have high points and the good foods and minimal or no points and you can earn points by exercising.
The good – This diet teaches you to make good choices because the good foods have low or no points. It also encourages you to exercise by giving you bonus points for exercising. It is supported with recipes, offers variety and tips along the way.
The bad – It doesn’t teach to about balancing protein, carbs and fats. It is expensive. Processed snacks, high in artificial products are acceptable and marketed to the participant.
The principle of “Clean” eating is to eat produce that is as close to nature as possible. Organic produce is best. It emphasizes whole grains, lean meat, healthy fats and lots of fruit and vegetables all in balanced quantities.
The good – The principle of whole, nutritious, unprocessed foods and a balance of protein, carbs, fruit & vegetables along with good fats is basic good nutritional advice, easy to adapt to for the majority of people without too much to think about.
This diet has the potential to improve your food plan without too much effort.
The bad – Clean eating advocates that calories don’t matter which is very contentious advice. The adage of “calories in, calories out” still applies and the temptation when creating “clean” meals/snacks is to forget about the calories therefore they can be loaded with things like nuts/seeds/honey/dates/oats/coconut or other healthy oils. All good in moderation and taken into consideration over your day’s calorie intake, but not ok if a good percentage of your daily food intake includes an excess of these things. Calories are calories at the end of the day, whether they are “clean” or otherwise.
Low fat diet:
This diet operates on the principle of reducing all fats from your diet, both good and bad. The ethos being that excess fat makes you obese and also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health issues. This thinking has now been thoroughly disproven.
A whole industry of Low Fat products have flooded the market over the past few decades, making it easy to follow a low fat diet.
The good – This diet, along with any other, may make you more conscious of what you put into your mouth, thereby assisting in reducing your overall calorie intake
The bad – Full fat products are essential to help absorb fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K.
Some studies have shown that low fat diets can adversely affect important risk factors for heart disease such as LDL pattern, HDL and triglycerides.
The market has been flooded with “low fat” products that whilst they have reduced the fat content, to compensate and broaden their appeal to the consumer, they have increased sugar, salt and artificial chemicals.
So at the end of the day, there are diets, something you stick to in order to reach your goal and ultimately once you reach your goal, you go back to your old eating habits. Or there are eating plans. These are forever; sustainable food plans that you adopt when you are prepared to make permanent changes that will help you achieve your goal and more importantly, KEEP YOU THERE for the rest of your life.
If you follow the principle of as many whole natural products in your diet as possible, choose lean meats, low GI carbs, good fats, eat lots of vegetables and use the following portion guide, you should be able to reach your goal.
While you are trying to lose weight, keep your treats to once a week and make it either a treat meal or a treat glass of alcohol (not both).
It’s your choice – short term change for short term gain, or long term change for long term gain.