Align Eating Style with Your Life
January is often the time of year people consider making health changes like eating healthier, losing weight or exercising more. I often hear conversations about the weight loss someone has experienced by following a certain diet. The listener is often intrigued, asks questions and is thinking about whether to adopt this type of diet, too. Sometimes I have the opportunity to share my knowledge and insight, but sometimes...not so much. (A concern here is the nutrition expertise of the one sharing about the weight loss; see blog on RDN: The Nutrition Expert.) This article is one of those opportunities.
Contemplating making a change to better your health is always a good thing. It is vital to choose an eating plan that can become a lifelong habit, coordinates well with your lifestyle and takes into account any health issues you may have.
Discussing the multitude of diets that are trending would be too extensive for this article. So for brevity's sake I will highlight three of the eating styles that are frequently in the news and on social media. My hope is that by the end of this article you will have the information necessary for you to choose an eating style aligned with your health goals. Please note that this article is not intended to replace medical advice from your primary care physician.
One of the diets that is still often talked about is the Ketogenic or Keto Diet. This diet was originally used and is still sometimes prescribed to treat people who have epilepsy. Due to its high fat and protein content, the diet has been found to reduce seizures. Today the Keto Diet (or modified Atkin's Diet) is often used for weight loss. Instead of glucose being the primary fuel, the body uses fat as the preferred fuel source. The foods that comprise this eating style are meats, fish, butter, coconut and olive oils, cheese and other high fat dairy, eggs, nuts, berries and low carbohydrate vegetables. Some people choose to avoid carbohydrates altogether such as most fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, grains and cereals. People may achieve weight loss with this eating plan and may feel more satisfied due to the high fat content. However, with the Keto diet comes the challenge of following this diet for life and to maintain the weight loss achieved. With the exclusion of most carbohydrates, the intake of fiber, Vitamin C and other micronutrients may be insufficient. High protein intake may also overwork the kidneys and/or kidney stones may develop.
Another eating style that remains very popular is Intermittent Fasting or IF. There are numerous versions of IF, but the overall philosophy is to eat whatever you want for certain hours of the day and refrain from eating for a specific portion of the day. Some IF eating patterns include a low calorie day or two (500-600 calories per day) followed by regular consumption of meals for the other days of the week. Intermittent Fasting allows for a variety of foods to be consumed with no food groups being omitted, therefore, there is less likelihood of nutrient deficiencies. Weight loss may occur. However, the question needs to be raised whether this eating style can be adhered to for life and the effects the diet may have on the body's metabolism.
Probably one of the oldest and most-recognized eating styles is the Mediterranean Diet. The focus here is on more plant-based eating. A variety of foods are included namely, whole fruits and vegetables, rather than processed ones, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fish with small amounts of dairy and meat with moderate to no alcohol. Studies have shown eating a Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the development of Alzheimer's disease. Additional evidence has shown that choosing the foods found in the Mediterranean Diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, overweight and some types of cancer.
When people come to me for nutrition guidance, I encourage them to choose a style of eating that works with their lifestyle and considers their medical history. Is the diet realistic? Does this meal plan help to manage already existing health issues? Does this eating style work with their current lifestyle/family life? What eating plan best aligns with their health goals?
Knowing what current studies are reporting about eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods to stave off many of the diseases that result from being overweight or obese is vital. Choosing an eating style for better health is a decision we all get to make. So now that we are one week into the New Year, what health changes would you like to make? Think variety of nutritious foods, habit and lifestyle...your body will thank you for it!
Please note this article is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health condition. Please check with your doctor before changing your diet, taking supplements or beginning a new exercise/fitness routine.
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