Motivated to change your eating habits? Whether you hope to lose weight or just focus on healthy eating (after all, March is National Nutrition Month), here’s the scoop on some of today’s trending diets and what following them entails. Learning more about what a specific dietary change involves can help you decide if it can be adapted to your current lifestyle. Remember, what is good for one person might not work for another, so we recommend consulting a doctor or nutrition professional before making significant dietary changes. Read on to learn more about three trends: Whole 30, Keto, and intermittent fasting.
About Whole 30: The premise of this diet is that certain types of foods may be disrupting blood sugar, increasing cravings, and damaging the gut by causing inflammation. Whole 30 requires eliminating foods that could cause inflammation (such as sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) from your diet for 30 days, giving your body a chance to reset from any inflammation you maybe experiencing. The founders of Whole 30 claim that following their recommendations could result in increased energy, decreased pain, and potentially improving skin and digestive issues. Those who participate in Whole 30 are encouraged not to measure their success by numbers on the scale, instead focusing on making good food choices for 30 days and feeling great.
What can you eat? “Real” food, which in the Whole 30 program means less processed foods and more fresh (or freshly made) foods. As a rule, the fewer the ingredients something has, the better. Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood and eggs, lots of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of natural fats, herbs, spices and seasonings.
What can you not eat? No grains, legumes or dairy. Avoid alcohol — in any form — not even for cooking. Sugar—real or artificial—is also prohibited. This includes maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, Splenda, Equal, Stevia, etc. This means no “treats”, especially from the bakery.
Pros and Cons? No calorie counting and proponents of this plan say that after 30 days you’ll be on your way to forming healthy habits, like label reading. However, this diet plan could limit your sources of dietary fiber, and nutrients such as potassium and calcium, found in whole grains, legumes, and dairy products
About Keto: This is a high fat, low-carb diet. Instead of burning glucose, or energy from carbohydrates, your body switches to burning ketones, the energy produced by fat. The premise is that by burning ketones your metabolism will speed up, hunger is lessened, muscle mass increases, and one study showed decreases in both blood pressure and heart disease risk profile. There are several different approaches to the keto diet, but the most common breaks down daily calorie intake this way: fat (75 percent), protein (20 percent) and carbs (5 percent). Most people choose keto for weight loss, but it has also been associated with improved blood sugar levels and neurological conditions.
What can you eat? True ketogenic diets focus on getting calories from unsaturated fats in foods like nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds, avocados, tofu, and olive oil. Protein from meats can also be part of the eating plan, but in moderation, since excess protein is converted to glucose, making it harder to get into ketosis. Oils, eggs, high-fat dairy without added sugars, and low-carb vegetables (mostly leafy greens and cauliflower) are also allowed.
What can you not eat? Carb-rich foods including legumes, sugar, and starch—so bread, pasta, potatoes, and juices are out. Fruits like berries can be eaten on occasion, but generally other fruit contains too many carbohydrates and natural sugars to support ketosis. Alcohol is also prohibited.
Pros and Cons: Most keto dieters experience quick weight loss, less hunger, and more energy. On the other hand--as with other low-carb diets--people may experience flu-like symptoms during the initial 1-2 weeks of adaptation. The highly restrictive nature of the keto diet makes it challenging to follow, and long term use may have negative, undesirable outcomes such as reduced muscle mass and increased risk of heart disease.
About intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting focuses more on the rhythm of eating rather than the exact composition of your meals. There are a number of different time frames for fasting, with the most popular being the ratio of 16:8. What this means is that for 16 hours—starting after you eat your last meal in the afternoon/evening—you fast. This is designed to change the metabolic activity of your body to, in concept, promote increased metabolic function and increase sensitivity to hunger cues. After the 16 hour fast, you eat for a period of 8 hours—maybe from 10 AM to 6 PM, then the cycle starts over again.
What can you eat or not eat? As we mentioned, foods aren’t necessarily restricted or recommended for this diet. It’s all about timing.
Pros and cons: Along with possible weight loss, several small studies have found lower blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels associated with fasting. A major drawback of intermittent fasting is that skipping meals can be dangerous for those with certain medical conditions or those who struggle with disordered eating.
Making positive dietary choices may come in the form of a diet, but it might also come in the form of simple habit changes, like adding an extra serving of vegetables to your day, or getting half your body weight in ounces of water to stay hydrated. A healthy lifestyle is a balance of positive food relationships and healthy activity that fits your body’s needs.
Remember to consult with a healthcare provider before embarking on significant changes to your lifestyle--including nutrition and/or exercise—to make sure that any changes you make will be beneficial and safe for your individual health needs.