Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one size fits all” diet, which I’m sure you’ve heard before. It’s a little more complicated, especially with all the fad diets, social media transformation posts and supplements out there. Just because your friend lost a ton of weight on a diet, doesn’t mean it’s sustainable or right for you. Weight loss marketing and inaccurate healthy food claims can make meal planning tricky.
Let’s start with the balanced diet basics.
Increase produce: Make sure you are getting enough fruits and vegetables in. Really think about each meal and strive to include produce. Breakfast is a great meal to start with. Try a veggie egg scramble or adding some vegetables to a smoothie.
Focus on lean protein sources: Try mixing it up with lean meat options or plant-based proteins to keep you full and to replenish those hard-working muscles.
Include the “good fats”: Focus on monounsaturated fat sources including olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, nut butters, etc. These fat sources are nutrient dense and may help with preventing multiple chronic diseases.
Think about quality versus quantity: This includes when you are eating out. Drop the mentality of getting the most food for your money and redirect your focus to the quality of food with more nutrition.
Enjoy treats as treats: Address emotions related to overeating or eating habits involving excessive sugar or alcohol.
So what diets have credible research behind them?
The DASH Diet
What it is: DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, which makes it the recommended diet for all those looking to lower blood pressure.
Pros: By focusing on calcium, potassium and magnesium (minerals that help counter balance sodium), DASH emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole-grains, low-fat dairy and reducing processed food intake. It’s beneficial no matter what your blood pressure is.
The Mediterranean Diet
What it is: Based on the traditional diet of those who live by the Mediterranean Sea, this diet includes high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, complex carbs, fish, seafood and olive oil. It suggests moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt and only eating red meat rarely, and limiting processed foods and sweets.
Pros: The Mediterranean Diet is a winner for reducing both chronic disease risk and weight loss.
The Healthy Eating Plate
What it is: The sections of the plate include vegetables, fruits, complex carbs, healthy protein, fats and water.
Pros: The sizes of the plate sections suggest approximate relative proportions of each of the food groups to include on a healthy plate. It is not based on specific calorie amounts, and it is not meant to prescribe a certain number of calories or servings per day, since these numbers vary from person to person but it displays a great visual.
Cons: Healthy Eating Plate does not tell consumers that whole grains are better for health than refined grains. The proteins section does not differentiate between high quality proteins and fats are not displayed on the plate. Some guidance may be needed to explain the most nutrient-dense food options.
If you are looking for more in-depth diet recommendations to meet your health goals, I suggest reaching out to a registered dietitian to help you assess your nutrition needs. Health conditions, activity, lifestyle, mental health and multiple other factors should always be considered and addressed with your doctor before choosing a diet.