Editor’s note: If the pandemic or other life events have you feeling overwhelmed or stressed, now might not be the time to make sweeping dietary changes. Others might find that more time at home is ideal for establishing healthy habits. Please take care of yourself and do what feels right to you.
Fad diets lead you to believe that eliminating entire food groups is the secret to weight-loss that you’ve been missing your entire adult life.
Nutrition experts, however, disagree and stick with the unflashy advice that the most effective way to maintain a healthy weight is to eat moderately and get some exercise.
For most people, that means making your diet:
- 45 to 65 percent carbohydrate–mostly in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- 10 to 35 percent protein–primarily lean protein like low-fat dairy, beans, lentils, white meat chicken and fish.
- 20 to 35 percent fat–make most of your fat unsaturated from nuts, seeds, plant oils.
Eating a variety of foods, but not too much, should leave you properly nourished. Not eating too much means nothing is off limits. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just in moderation.
Quick reminder that weight-loss diets aren’t recommended for people who are pregnant, still growing, have a history of eating disorder, or have certain medical conditions. If that’s you, talk to a professional who knows your situation before starting a new eating plan.
For the rest of you, here are five diets considered safe for most people. They are flexible with no food-group restrictions. The focus is on what you can eat, not what you can’t.
What you want to look for is a healthy eating pattern you can stick with for life. That means paying attention to how the foods make you feel. Feeling tired, nauseated, or irritable is generally a sign that your eating style isn’t giving your body what it means and it might be worth exploring another.
5 diets that let you eat what you like
The Mediterranean Diet promotes heart health and is linked to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. It can also be followed for weight loss. The diet is based on ingredients growing near the Mediterranean, but it can be adapted to incorporate Pacific Northwest produce.
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, olive oil and moderate amounts of wine, fish, lean meat, eggs, and dairy. Limit processed foods. People with a sensitivity to alcohol or a history of alcoholism should skip the wine.
Weight Watchers (WW)
Weight Watchers is a commercial diet approach that has followers reduce calories from their typical intake. It is flexible, nonrestrictive, and easy to manage. Followers tend to maintain weight loss beyond a year. Healthcare providers often recommend it. No foods are off limits, but food choices must be budgeted to stay within the personalized limits.
Intermittent fasting is a form of calorie cutting. Some versions have followers only eating from noon to 8 p.m. Others reduce calorie consumption to about 20% one or two days per week. The idea is that frequently shifting prevents the body from adapting to calorie restriction, which has been shown to prevent future weight loss.
During eating periods, there are no restrictions on what to eat, just advice to be mindful about food choices. In studies, intermittent fasting was about as effective as other calorie-restricting diets. Frequent snackers tend to find it more challenging than people who stick to eating at meal times.
Mindful Eating Diet
Mindful eating is the intentional practice of listening to internal cues about hunger, fullness, and what the body needs. Our eating cues are typically external (the clock, a routine, food still on the plate, our dining companion). Mindful eating followers pay attention to their food, and notice colors, smells, flavors and textures. The only restriction on this diet is distracted eating. That means no eating while watching television, working, or driving.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) was designed to limit salt, which in turn lowers blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. The diet can be difficult to follow in the American food culture. It says to limit red meat, sweets, processed foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Followers should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts.