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The Great Debate: Navigating Through Today's Popular Diet Trends

Posted by Jeanne Reilly on

New diets are constantly emerging in the public domain, each one promising to be better than the last. In the U.S., weight loss is a multi-billion-dollar industry, which is the primary motivation of businesses and authors to develop the latest and greatest products and books. Before you begin a popular new diet, become an informed consumer. It’s important to set yourself up for success with a sustainable approach to eating well. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular diets today from a nutrition perspective.

Paleo Diet

This primitive and fairly limited diet–which alleges many of today’s chronic ailments are due to what we eat–is modeled after what human ancestors (think: hunter-gatherers) consumed: animal protein, animal products like eggs, some full-fat dairy, vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, and a smattering of legumes. There’s no restriction on spices, so go bananas (this potassium-filled fruit also okay)!

Pros

  • It’s wholesome: This eating plan focuses on minimally processed foods, which is recommended and a big departure from the average American diet.
  • It’s healthy: It cuts out refined sugars, simple carbohydrates like breads, and processed vegetable oils.
  • It’s increasingly popular: Which means paleo-friendly options are popping up on restaurant menus to keep up with demand.

Cons

  • It’s a hypothesis: There’s no hard science to back up the claims and assumptions of this diet.
  • It’s selective: Even though Paleo promotes eating nutrient-dense foods, it leaves a lot of healthy foods off the shopping list. These include whole grains, beans, and most dairy.
  • It’s a challenge for the meat-free: Since beans and rice are a don’t for Paleo purists, it can be challenging for vegetarians (and vegans) to get adequate protein on this diet.

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Ketogenic Diet

In the world of Keto, fat is fuel! But also, fat burns fat (not a bad deal!). That’s why this high-fat, moderate-protein, super low-carb diet helps followers drop weight fast (mostly from the abdomen).

Pros

  • It’s recommended for epileptics: According to research, a ketogenic diet can seriously reduce seizure episodes in those with epilepsy.
  • It’s low-carb: In fact, highly processed carbs are a big Keto no-no.
  • It’s heart healthy: Surprisingly, Keto has shown to drastically lower Triglycerides and bump up “good” cholesterol levels, both of which are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease.

Note: Very high fat diet can negatively impact cholesterol and inflammation levels and decrease energy levels.

Cons

  • It’s low-carb…like really low-carb: Super slim on the carb count (only 5% of total calories can come from carbohydrates), so the struggle is real when it comes to sticking to carb-challenged Keto.
  • It’s restrictive: There are many high-quality, nutrient-dense foods on the don’t list, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and many others.
  • It’s extreme: These kinds of intense food restrictions can make eating at restaurants or a friend’s place a little annoying (for you and your host!).

Want more health hacks and wellness insight? We got you covered.

The Military Diet

This 3 day on, 4 day off diet plan professes a 10-lb pound weight loss in just a week. Not a bad deal, but the downside…there isn’t a lot of variety and it can leave you feeling hungry. In fact, many nutrient-dense foods fall outside the Military Diet.

Pros

  • It’s manageable (sort of): This program prescribes a short 3-days on the diet, followed by 4 days of healthy, unrestricted eating.
  • It’s hydrating: On this diet, you’ll be drinking lots of water…lots and lots of water.
  • It’s slimming: People on this diet are known to drop weight…fast.

Cons

  • It’s limited: Strange meal combinations might make your head turn (or stomach).
  • It’s constipating: With little fiber, like fruits and vegetables, you might not be as…productive.
  • It’s unbalanced: Because it’s low on the nutrition scale and lacks a diversity of foods, this diet is not a long-term program.

Clean Eating

As its name suggest, this straightforward diet relies on eating wholesome, minimally processed foods, with lots fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Pros

  • It’s logical: Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just want to establish healthy eating habits, incorporating natural, wholesome foods into your everyday diet is the way to go.
  • It’s balanced: While weight loss is likely to occur on this diet, it can also help eliminate nutrient deficiencies and reduce inflammation.
  • It’s satisfying: There’s no limit to the variety of healthy foods you can consume on this diet.

Cons

  • It’s rigid: This diet’s guidelines can seem inflexible at times, making the clean eating approach come across as extreme for the long term.
  • It’s strict-ish: This diet can possibly trigger a deprivation mindset for those strictly adhering to the philosophy.

HMR Dietvsco_081014

Not for the faint of heart, this ultra-low-calorie diet relies on shakes, nutrition bars, cereals, and soups with some fruits and veggies to round things out. Designed for those wanting to lose larger amounts of weight and fast, it may not be a good fit if you’re just wanting to drop a few lbs.

Pros

  • It’s medically-based: HMR supports weight-loss programs at hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities across the country.
  • It’s effective: For those seeking rapid weight and fat loss, this diet might be worth checking out.
  • It’s supportive: Diet counselors ensure program members have a solid shot at success.

Cons

  • It’s not wholesome: The foundation of this weight loss program is meal replacements that are chock full of processed ingredients.
  • It’s hard to sustain: Given the limited 1200-calorie/day intake, chances are your metabolism will slow down, making it harder to keep the weight off post-program.
  • It’s costly: This diet isn’t cheap, and may not be a realistic option for some once weight goals are achieved.

Following a plan that promises weight loss and and an improved quality of life can seem like the best course of action when you’re not feeling great about your body or health. However, the vast majority of diet plans are not designed to be healthy for us long-term and they do not make transitioning to a sustainable eating approach easy. In fact, most diets tend to instill a state of mind that makes us feel deprived and either “on track” or “off the rails”. They can lead to irregular eating patterns and behaviors that do not support a healthy relationship with food. If the promises of a diet sound too good to be true, they probably are. Increased restrictions with food rarely ends well.

Despite all the prescriptive, restrictive options out there, the simplest approach of all is best: listen to your body. Set realistic goals, keeping in mind if your objectives are not extreme, your eating plan does not need to be either.

  • Eat when you’re truly hungry.
  • Stop when you’re satisfied.
  • Have a flexible approach to your nutrition and choose a wide variety of minimally processed foods.