Let’s consider some of the common diet trends currently out there:
Some of these share completely opposite philosophies, yet, people follow them and appear to do well.
But why did it not work when you went on it last year? Or, why did it appear to work initially but then your progress stalled?
That’s hard to say.
While these diets are different, most of them usually share some commonalities. Those that typically have greater success, regardless of the diet they follow, is due to this factor.
We are meant to eat real food!
There are many nuances, as no two people are the same, but this is an important starting place.
Obtaining protein from foods such as:
Protein not only provides us with amino acids that our bodies use to build/repair tissues, create messengers, assist in acid/base & fluid balance, contribute to our immunity, but more. Refer to my article “What is Protein & What Role Does it Play in Our Health?“ for more info.
These foods also provide additional micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. While you may think of fruits and vegetables as supplying the majority of our micronutrients, there are actually nutrients in animal proteins we cannot get from plants.
Protein supplements and bars can be helpful when in a pinch or if we have goals that require an intake of protein that is challenging to meet through whole food sources. But, keep in mind we are missing out on the micronutrients and the satiety (fullness) effect.
A variety of vegetables, prepared in various ways; raw, sautéed, roasted, boiled, and fermented (kimchi & sauerkraut) are a great way to get vitamins and minerals.
Again, there is nothing bad about adding a greens or vegetable powder as a way to cover any possible gaps in your diet, but this should not be your only vegetable intake.
By eating vegetables, as opposed to a powder or juice, you are also consuming fiber. Soluble fiber is consumed and fermented by the bacteria that live in our gut, and the healthier our gut health is, the better our overall health is. Remember, ~70 to 80% of our immune system is in our gut.
There is a caveat, what may work for one person’s gut may not work for another’s.
While vegetables are usually more difficult to “get wrong,” carbohydrates and fats, on the other hand, often present a problem.
It isn’t your fault.
We are designed to seek out food that provides a large amount of energy (Calories), while trying to conserve as much energy as possible.
Traditionally, we needed to work for our food. Now we have access to calorically dense food at every corner and because our brains are wired this way the combination of carbohydrates and fats is nearly impossible to deny.
Knowing why foods such as chips, desserts, french fries and crackers are so tempting and delicious is helpful.
We still want them, but this is where keeping them away and filling your home with more whole food carbohydrates and fats, instead, is key. For example, doing a kitchen clean out and swap.
Easy to digest carbohydrates such as:
These foods are what should make up the majority of people’s carbohydrate intake. Try consuming these in a form that is as minimally processed as possible.
Whole food fat sources can include olives, avocados, coconut, fats from animal protein and dairy, and even healthy cooking fats such as:
Because fat is calorically dense being mindful of the portion size is important, depending on your goal.
Whole sources of these foods not only provide our bodies with an energy source, but micronutrients, and in the case of carbohydrates, fiber and resistance starch.
While we have been taught to fear and avoid fat, remember, fat is essential. High quality sources of fat provide essential fatty acids which are responsible for making up our cell membranes, creating hormones, and more.
Start eating more real food. Limit the protein bars, juices, crackers, granola bars and the like.
If the ingredients list consists of words or ingredients you cannot identify, it is probably safe to avoid that food.
Instead, opt for meats, seafood, eggs, high-quality dairy, easy to digest carbohydrates, and healthy sources of fats.