When looking into the all the diets out there, the number of options can be overwhelming. It seems as if a new idea takes the nation by storm in every new year.
In the early part of the year, it is not uncommon for conversations around dinner tables or in the breakrooms to focus on changes in our eating habits. New diets emerge primarily from a few key sources—research by doctors and dietitians who discover something beneficial to the body, food trends that gain public interest, and modifications to existing diets that propose to extend the intended effects using more or fewer options.
How to Choose a Diet
First, when choosing a diet or eating plan, it is important to remember not every diet is not for every person so it is best to consult with a professional. Your doctor or dietitian may consider your size, weight, gender, activity level, and metabolic rate, as well as chronic diseases you have or for which you may be at risk.
Katie Greenhill, RD/LD is a registered and licensed dietitian with a wealth of experience with styles of eating that provide the greatest benefits for the average person. The following diets promote long-term health and weight loss that is sustainable over time, and may curb the onset of some chronic diseases.
It is important to notify your doctor that you are considering a change in eating habits Katie explains. “See your doctor to get blood work done and share updates about chronic conditions or anything similar. Then take that information to a dietitian and communicate what your goals are. The dietitian can make educated suggestions based on body type, lifestyle, and the physical data and blood work from the doctor.” She says these consultations are especially crucial when considering more restrictive or elimination diets such as Keto or Whole30. It is also important to keep up with routine monitoring to track nutrient levels.
The Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet is a long-term style of eating that is considered sustainable and is linked to various health benefits. Most people who follow a vegetarian diet do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Others may include or exclude eggs, dairy, and other animal products. According to healthline.com, the most common of these include:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Eliminates beef, fish, and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto-vegetarian: Eliminates beef, fish, poultry, and eggs but allows dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarian: Eliminates beef, fish, poultry, and dairy products but allows eggs.
- Pescetarian: Eliminates beef and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
- Vegan: Eliminates beef, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, as well as other animal-derived products, such as honey.
- Flexitarian: A mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional beef, fish, or poultry.
To avoid possible negative effects of switching to vegetarian, it is important to consume enough plant-based protein, maintain a healthy level of B12 (mainly found in meat—an over-the-counter supplement may help), and avoid using too many meat analogues or meat substitutes as these may be highly processed and could contain a large amount of additives.
The Mediterranean Diet
Katie’s preferred diet is Mediterranean. “The Mediterranean diet consists of mainly whole foods—including lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Research has proven that a diet high in these foods decreases your risk of developing chronic illness such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer. The Mediterranean diet also closely aligns with the U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines, which are backed by years of evidence-based research.” (dietaryguidelines.gov)
In countries that border the Mediterranean Sea—Greece, France, Spain, and Italy—researchers took note that the people in these areas were exceptionally healthy and had a low risk of many chronic conditions. There are no rules for how to follow the Mediterranean diet, but it focuses on foods traditionally eaten in these countries. There are, however, a few general guidelines to help you establish a new routine that incorporates these foods. Some of the basics are listed at healthline.com.
I’m Ready. How Should My Plate Look?
Katie and the FDA both recommend using Myplate.gov as a tool to help ensure you are getting the correct amount of nutrients from each food group based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. See our story on “new FDA rules” to review possible changes the FDA is proposing regarding what qualifies as a “healthy” food and the labeling of those products. We also have vegetarian and Mediterranean recipes here.
- Eat: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Eat in moderation: poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
- Eat rarely: red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods.