March is National Nutrition Month, and to observe this awareness initiative, we’re breaking down all the education out there into information you can trust.
If you’re looking to lose weight or manage your weight, you may be wondering if there is one diet that works better than all the rest. And if you’ve listened to all of the “dietary gurus” out there, it always seems like their diet is the best and we should all be following it!
The Right Diet is …
In fact, research shows that most diets generally work the same with similar results. Whether it’s the popular Ketogenic (Keto) Diet, Weight Watchers diet, Jenny Craig diet or the Zone diet, most diets work relatively well as long as we follow them consistently (1, 2, 3).
We all want some magic diet that will make the extra pounds we’re carrying melt off easily. But in reality, healthy weight-loss takes time — so we should really be looking for a way of eating that can become our lifestyle. That means finding food that is delicious and nutritious.
So, when it comes to choosing a diet to meet your goals, I recommend focusing on what is most nutritious and appealing to you. You are the one who is going to be eating the food you choose, so you better enjoy it or else you won’t be able to sustain those behaviors.
Some General Advice
Whole Foods are a Win-Win
From a health perspective, the only “rules” I strongly urge all of my own clients to follow are those which choose a way of eating that emphasizes whole foods over processed foods. You should also make sure you get enough protein, fat and fiber at every meal or snack.
Yes — processed foods are convenient, but they don’t pack the nutrition or flavor punch that whole foods do! Opt for foods with fewer ingredients and ones you recognize.
Any time you can replace processed foods with whole foods, do it! For example: you can eat processed cold cuts or you can grab fresh roast beef slices that are a lot less processed from your supermarket deli. This is the healthier option.
Your Right Balance of Nutrients
To discover how much protein, fat and fiber your body needs, you need to experiment.
If you prefer more fat- and protein-rich foods, maybe the Keto-type diet will work for you. If you absolutely LOVE eating veggies, maybe a Pescatarian diet is more your style. If you love eating everything and you’re not picky, perhaps a Mediterranean diet will work best.
Let’s face it — the name of the game in weight management success is sustainability. If you like the food you eat, and it’s good for you, it’s so much easier to keep going.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices and how you’re going to eat, pay attention to how your body is reacting to those foods. It won’t help you if you enjoy what you’re eating but you feel cranky, tired and hungry all the time. Or, if you’re constipated.
Is Your Right Diet Working?
Here are 6 key factors to observe if a diet is working well for YOUR body:
Your Hunger Levels
If you feel more hungry on a new diet, it’s either not for you or you need to tweak it. Maybe you need more protein, fat or fiber to fill you up.
When you eat enough protein, fat and fiber, your cravings should decrease. If you find yourself with more cravings, it’s time to reassess your diet.
Your Energy Levels
A healthy diet that suits your body should leave you feeling energized throughout the day.
Your Mental Clarity
A healthy diet that suits your body should give you better mental clarity and focus.
Your Digestive Function
If you feel any worsening of digestive function such as constipation, diarrhea, pain, nausea, bloating, gas or acid reflux, you may need to change your diet. If any of these issues linger, it’s a good idea to consult a trusted healthcare professional.
I always guide others away from thinking they have to suffer or feel deprived if they want to lose weight and gain health. That’s a miserable way to live! Instead, focus on building a lifestyle that is nutritious and delicious. That way, it’s sustainable and you can find long-term success.
1. Johnston, BC, Kanters, S, Bandayrel, K. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults: A Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014;312(9):923-933. Pubmed
2. Truby, H, Baic, S, deLooy, A, Fox, KR, Livingstone, MBE, Logan, CM, Macdonald, IA, Morgan, LM, Taylor, MA, Millward, DJ. Randomized controlled trial of four commercial weight loss programmes in the UK: initial findings from the BBC “diet trials”. BMJ. 2006 Jun 3; 332(7553): 1309–1314. BMJ.
3. Naude, CE, Schoonees, A, Senekal, M, Young, T, Garner, P, Volmink, J. Low carbohydrate versus isoenergetic balanced diets for reducing weight and cardiovascular risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLos One. 2014; 9(7): e100652. PLoS One
About the Author:
Jill Cruz, MS, CNS, has a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, CT, and is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist. Jill specializes in weight-loss, metabolic syndrome, fitness nutrition and health optimization. She combines her strong science-based background with tons of practical nutrition, fitness and lifestyle guidance, and a special emphasis on mindset, accountability and building a pile of healthy habits.