One big reason most diets tend to fail is that people aren’t able to stick with them for the long term. This is usually because they are unnecessarily restrictive and ultimately not very enjoyable to be on. When it comes to the food we eat most of us can only live with making ourselves miserable for so long, regardless of the health benefits we may see down the road.
That said, diets and the practice of dieting aren’t going away anytime soon. What I’ve decided to do in this inaugural Nutrition 101 column is take a look at some of the current bestselling diets and suggest some simple healthy tweaks that will help to make them more sustainable.
The vegan diet is a form of a vegetarian diet where all products that come from animals are avoided, including dairy products and eggs. People most often choose to go vegan for moral reasons or because of the negative health effects associated with eating certain animal products. The vegan diet is actually very healthy if done right, but many who attempt it can find it too restrictive to stick with for the long term.
As long as your opposition to animal products isn’t related to moral reasons, it can be perfectly healthy (and add welcome variety) to incorporate lean animal products into your diet from time to time.
Diet Tweak –Try including chicken breast, fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel or tuna) and/or eggs into your meals a few times per week.
Popularized by the recent bestseller, Wheat Belly, the grain-free diet is exactly what it sounds like – a diet void of grains and grain products. The theory goes that over the years, wheat and other grains have undergone modifications, whether through selective breeding or genetic manipulation, such that the grains we see today no longer resemble the grains our hunter-gatherer ancestors encountered millennia ago. And that these changes in the grain are responsible for many of the health issues common today including, obesity, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, ADHD and more.
There is little scientific evidence to suggest that grain products can’t be incorporated into a balanced healthy diet but you don’t have to throw all of their advice out the window.
Diet Tweak –Continue to avoid any processed and/or packaged grain products (ie. cookies, crackers and cakes, etc.), particularly those that are made with white flour, but reincorporate whole grains, including brown rice, bulgur and quinoa, back into your diet.
The Bulletproof Diet
This diet is most notable for its signature coffee infused with butter, but in reality The Bulletproof Diet has a lot more to it than that. The brainchild of a self-professed Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur, the creator of The Bulletproof Diet claims to have spent 15 years “hacking his own biology” with this diet as the end result. Other features of The Bulletproof Diet include eliminating sugar, gluten, grains, legumes, synthetic additives and processed dairy, and only consuming organic fruits & vegetables and meat from animals that have been grass fed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly this diet requires a bit more tweaking than the previous examples.
Diet Tweaks: First don’t bother with any of the Bulletproof brand supplements as their use is completely unfounded. Despite the diet’s claims, it is okay to incorporate whole grains into your diet and unless you are gluten intolerant there is no need to explicitly avoid gluten. Also, loosen the restrictions on the allowable servings of fruits per day (diet allows for a max of 1-2 per day).
As you may have noticed many of the tweaks made above involve incorporating a bit more balance into these bestselling diets. This will hopefully allow you to stick with them longer (ideally indefinitely) so that you’re able to see lasting results, whatever your goals may be.
Keep in mind, there is no perfect diet for everyone. Anyone claiming otherwise isn’t being truthful. Ultimately, you need to figure what works best for you, while at the same time trying to make the healthiest choices you can.
*originally published on www.dietitianabroad.com on February 6, 2015