Keto, Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, Mediterranean, Carnivore, Plant-Based, Whole30, Dolce Diet, Gluten-Free, Heart Healthy, Diabetic, Low-Carb, Low-Fat, Juicing, No Sugar, Fasting, Intermittent Fasting, High-Protein, Zone, DASH, South Beach, SMASH, Atkins, Alkaline, Blood-Type, WW (formally Weight Watchers), IIFYM, and, and, and...
Dieting these days is so stressful. With so many fad diets, social media, "challenges", etc. it's easy to get overwhelmed in just thinking of starting a diet...let alone following a plan and sticking to it. But is there an easy-to-follow, common sense approach to health and well being that doesn't have to be so demanding or restrictive? Can't a person just eat without worrying about a scale, macros, calories, social perspectives, and "falling off the wagon"?
The simple answer is YES! (And I've got some information that will help!)
First...let's look at an overall "diet" perspective.
In Jan. 2020, US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT released its "Best Diet Rankings 2020" and for the 3rd year in a row stated that the Mediterranean Diet as the Best Overall. This report's panel includes experts in the fields of diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes, and heart disease (but not in fitness, which surprises me).
The report also ranks diets in other categories as well.
BEST OVERALL: Mediterranean Diet (fish, chicken, fruit, veggies, nuts, oils)
BEST WEIGHT LOSS DIET: WW (formally Weight Watchers, point-based system)
BEST COMMERCIAL DIET: Jenny Craig (prepackaged, low-calorie, with support)
BEST FAST WEIGHT LOSS DIET: HMR (meal replacement shakes with fruits/vegetables)
BEST HEALTHY EATING: Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
EASIEST DIET TO FOLLOW: Mediterranean Diet
BEST DIET FOR DIABETES: Mediterranean Diet
BEST HEART-HEALTHY DIET: Ornish Diet (low in fat, refined carbs, and animal protein)
BEST PLANT-BASED DIET: Mediterranean Diet
Diets like Keto placed 34th Overall (out of 35 plans) and Whole30 placed 33rd Overall. The experts on the panel claim that these diets are too restrictive and not sustainable over the long term, which caused their ranking to plummet.
One RD (Registered Dietitian), who wasn't tied to any of the diets specifically, reviewed the rankings and commented: "I was pleased but not surprised...We all know that the diets that are going to keep you healthy are the ones that are balanced, and that is what you see at the top of the list." -Connie Diekman, RD *former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, food and nutrition consultant in St. Louis.
So...the key takeaway is...BALANCE!
Let's look at the key factors to the reigning champ Mediterranean Diet:
1. NO CALORIE COUNTING
-Stick to healthy fats like olive oil, fruits, veggies, bean, fish, and chicken. Limit grains and alcohol to moderate amounts.
2. FRESH FOOD
-Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Only shop on the outer isles of the market (avoid cans/packages)
3. YOU CAN HAVE BREAD
-Stick to whole grains, sourdough, and avoid refined "whites".
4. FAT IS NOT BAD
-Eat the "good" fats like nuts, olive oil, fish, etc.
5. VARIETY OF CHOICES
-All types of cuisine from Italian, Greek, Spanish, etc. Balance your menu!
6. TONS OF SPICES
-Add all kinds of flavor like cilantro, rosemary, garlic, cinnamon, etc.
7. EASY TO PREPARE
-You want easy...snack on a plate full of nuts, cheeses, and olives! *w/ wine of course
8. YOU CAN HAVE WINE
-Studies show that red wine in moderations is actually heart-healthy!
9. NO STARVING
-These fresh, healthy-fat foods are very satiating. So you won't be going hungry.
10. WEIGHT LOSS WILL HAPPEN
-The satiating effect helps you stick to a regular plan...and that means your ideal weight is coming!
11. HEART HEALTHY ALSO
-Olive oil and nuts (eaten frequently with this diet) helps cholesterol levels, Fish (also eaten often here) helps with triglycerides and blood pressure.
12. YOUR BRAIN STAYS "SHARP"
-These foods are also known to be anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich which means your brain will keep firing on all cylinders, all day.
BALANCE IS KEY! You don't need to necessarily count calories, restrict entire food groups, or starve yourself to achieve a healthy diet (and subsequently a healthy lifestyle). You simply need to eat fresh, earth-grown nutrients. Keep everything in moderation. And if you have to have that cookie, or chocolate cake...do it!
I personally try to live by an 80/20 Rule: 80% of the time I eat the nutritious foods below; 20% of the time I indulge on my favorites (also below)!
ROCK'D HEALTHY CHOICES (80% of my diet):
Vegetables (bell pepper/zucchini/squash/brussels/asparagus/mushrooms)
Fats (ghee/olive oil/coconut oil/nuts/olives/bacon fat)
Dairy (milk/cheese/cottage cheese)
Water (*at least 1 gal/day)
AND TONS OF HOT SAUCE (Tabasco should sponsor me...)
ROCK'D FAVORITE INDULGENCES (20% of my diet): Beer, chips, bread, Oreos, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, boneless wings, pizza, and did I mention beer? ;-)
I'd love to hear your thoughts, stories, etc. about your healthy choices! If you have questions, comments, or just want to share some successes, feel free to contact me here.