Every diet, no matter how extreme, has something valuable to offer. Likewise, every diet has its flaws.
If a universally perfect structure for eating existed, you would have heard about it by now, and it would never go out of style.
With options ranging from vegetarianism to paleo and everything in between, knowing where to start can be both overwhelming and defeating. The following guidelines will help you navigate thorough a jungle of information and ever-changing food fads.
First, we must embrace one undisputed truth: The human diet should consist primarily of whole foods. Whole foods are unrefined or minimally processed foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meat and fish.
Understand that what makes a diet effective is often what you are not eating, as opposed to what you are eating. For example, the grapefruit diet, which is obviously absurd and totally unsustainable, does succeed in getting the dieter to take out processed foods, fast food, soda and so on.
Recognize that we are all different and what works for your friend may not work for you. Some people will do well with a high-protein and -fat diet, while others thrive on a light and lean plant-based diet. Listen to your body to learn what works best for you. Select foods that give you long-lasting energy, an alert mind and sustained satiety and that digest easily. Avoid foods that make you feel tired, groggy, heavy in the gut, craving sweets and caffeine or hungry shortly after or that give you digestive upset.
Don’t be fooled by catch phrases like “gluten-free,” “organic,” “low carb,” or “high fiber.” Though any and all of these can indicate a healthier food, none of them guarantees it.
A whole industry of processed food products has evolved by capitalizing on these trends, such as gluten-free cookies, organic soda and high-fiber breakfast cereals.
That said, apply the universal truth of eating primarily whole foods to these trendy phrases and you could be well on your way to improving your health and reducing your waistline.
Be wary of any diet that sells you something. Many programs will allow you to eat only the dessert-like products they sell or require that you take XYZ supplements, which, conveniently, they sell.
Instead of eating a dry, cardboard-like “brownie” that you are permitted to have everyday — which, in all honesty, is probably more processed than the real thing — indulge less often and choose something truly delicious.
As for supplements, while they have their place, you should seek to acquire your vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the foods you eat, most notably whole foods.
Become a critic of the up-and-coming fad diets and food trends. Ask yourself what the virtues are and what the flaws are. Integrate the virtues, do away with the flaws and make adjustments in response to your body’s feedback.
When you get it right, your body will naturally move toward optimal health, body weight and energy.
- Julia Blanton is a nutrition, fitness and wellness coach. An avid runner, she keeps a health blog at www.juliablanton.com.