It’s the new year which means chances are high that you’re either on a new diet or contemplating starting one. This month we are talking about some of the top trending diets. Each is often promoted as the end-all-be-all, but none of them are perfect. Have you ever considered why a diet works for some but not all?
In most cases, the “success stories” are less about the diet’s rules and more about what they stopped doing. For example, if you were eating a bagel for breakfast and snacking on chips all afternoon, the Atkins diet is going to “work” for you because you’re starting to consume protein and aren’t living on refined carbs.
For some people, the accountability of having a community can be all they need to see results. It doesn’t matter if they do Keto, Paleo, or just cut out sugar. By having a group of people to connect with, they can eat healthier consistently and notice improvements in their health.
So before you go and stock up on all of the “approved” food items for a new diet, here are the top two things we want to see in ANY way of eating:
1. It’s based on eating whole food
2. It’s sustainable.
Just prioritizing nutrient-dense food is going to be an improvement from a diet filled with processed foods, empty calories, sugar, and alcohol. Plus, consistency is going to create long-term changes. You can eat the healthiest diet, but if it only lasts for 2 months, there’s no point. Let’s take a look now at a few of the most popular “diets” you might be considering.
Whole30 is a popular diet that involves cutting out specific foods to determine which ones may be causing unpleasant symptoms. It requires removing all sources of sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, and desserts of any form for 30 days.
The positives of Whole30:
- By removing all of the foods listed above, you’ll naturally consume whole foods (hence the name) that are rich in nutrients. Removing processed foods and sugar from your diet will always improve the way you feel.
- It takes the focus off of calories and highlights the importance of eating high-quality food
- Whole30 is a strict diet and will likely help you curb your sweet tooth.
The downsides of Whole30:
- As an elimination diet, it restricts foods that may be part of a healthy diet for some people, such as legumes and high-quality whole fat dairy products.
- Whole30 is thought of as a temporary solution, without attention to how to make it sustainable. What happens on day 31? It can be hard for people to transition into a maintenance style of eating.
- Eliminating inflammatory triggers is an essential part of healing food sensitivities and repairing the gut. Without testing, there’s no way to know if healthy foods included in Whole30 might be problematic for you.
We love that Whole30 reinforces the importance of consuming a nutrient-dense diet, which many can benefit from. However, we think there’s a more precise way. At A Balanced Table, we use food sensitivity testing to identify which foods are causing your reactions, so there is no guessing involved. As a result, we can help clients find a way of eating that is sustainable in the long run.
Paleo is an “ancestral” way of eating that focuses on consuming meats, fish, eggs, plants, nuts, and seeds. It eliminates grains, legumes, and dairy, which are foods that couldn’t have been found by hunter-gatherers millenia ago.
The positives of Paleo:
- Paleo prioritizes whole foods and a balanced intake of protein, carbs, and fats.
- It removes processed foods with poor-quality oils and refined sugar from the diet.
- Paleo emphasizes the quality of food, including grass-fed meat and organic produce.
The downsides of Paleo:
- Without general macronutrient guidelines, it’s easy to go overboard on protein and saturated fat consumption.
- High-quality sources of dairy can be a good source of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins for those who can tolerate it.
- Whole grains, fruits, and legumes can be important foods for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
The Paleo diet incorporates a lot of valuable principles for a nourishing diet, such as consuming whole foods that come from a high-quality source. Some of the foods it excludes could be a great way to add variety to your diet if you tolerate them. Following a Paleo style of eating can be a great start if you’re coming from a diet with lots of processed food and will provide a solid foundation for your health.
Atkins is the grandfather of low-carb diets. The diet involves four phases that start out extremely low in carbs and gradually increase until you reach a maintenance amount of carbs. You are allowed to eat as much fat and protein as you want as long as you keep your carbs within the limit.
The positives of Atkins:
- Emphasizing protein and fats is a great way to support overall health.
- Promoting fat consumption is helpful to continue removing the “fat phobia” that is causing people to undereat healthy fats.
The downsides of Atkins:
- Marketing for Atkins is big, and like many other popular diets, there are growing options for convenience foods such as bars and snacks that are “approved” by the diet but are still processed.
- Atkins trades the fat phobia for carb phobia. The emphasis on low-carb can negatively alter people’s view of all carbs, even nutrient-dense sources such as squash, beets, and legumes which can also be a great source of fiber.
- It is very focused on weight which is not the only measurement of health.
- Each phase requires tracking carbs which may not be helpful for people with disordered relationships with food.
In general, low-carb diets can be a great strategy for individuals looking to regulate their blood sugar and optimize their health. However, you don’t have to go as extreme as Atkins. Instead, consider your macronutrient ratios and prioritize getting in your protein and healthy fats first.
There are a lot of versions of Keto, but the main focus is to consume high amounts of fat, very low carbohydrates, and moderate amounts of protein. The goal is to get your body burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. Many of its principles are similar to the Atkins diet.
The positives of Keto:
- The focus on fat is great for supporting brain and hormonal health. It also helps to affirm that fat does not make you fat.
- Keto is a very satiating diet. By focusing on fats and proteins, you don’t have to worry about cravings.
- As a low-carb diet, Keto can be a valuable tool for addressing blood sugar imbalances and metabolic syndrome.
The downsides of Keto:
- It’s often used for quick weight loss, which is not ideal. Dropping a significant amount of weight in a short period of time is stressful for the body.
- Keto significantly reduces or eliminates nutrient-dense foods, including starchy vegetables and fruit, since they are higher in carbs.
- There is no emphasis on the quality of the fats and proteins being consumed.
- Females may really struggle on Keto, as it can affect hormone output and regulation negatively.
Keto is a popular diet, but it’s not for everyone and can be difficult to maintain long-term. We always prioritize plenty of protein and healthy fats for our clients, but some people don’t feel well on such a low-carb diet.
Ultimately, instead of going through endless elimination diets or randomly removing foods, we recommend testing to determine exactly which foods your body is reacting to. Once you know what food sensitivities are present, you can remove those foods temporarily, while we work on calming the immune response and reducing inflammation, to start experiencing relief from your symptoms. And if it’s simply weight loss you’re after, removing the foods that are causing you inflammation can be a tremendous place to start.