There is an overwhelming amount of data and advertising these days about every sort of diet out there. From gluten-free, low-carb, vegetarian, or vegan, to Paleo, or Atkins...it is enough to make anyone's head spin. How are you supposed to know what is right for you? Well I took the approach of trial and error; I have tried a myriad of diets to figure out what my body responds to and makes me feel my best. I believe there are general guidelines that can apply to lots of people, but there really isn't a one-size-fits all diet. Everyone is a unique individual with different needs, schedules and health requirements; therefore a diet should be specific to each person.
When I speak in terms of "diet" I am referring to the fuel that one consumes on a daily/weekly basis as part of their lifestyle, NOT a state of deprivation solely to lose weight. My goal is finding the right combination of healthy foods that will sustain and energize me.... and I hope to shed some light on that for you too.
Types of Popular Diets:
- Gluten Free
- definition: a diet that excludes gluten, a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten causes health problems in sufferers of celiac disease (CD) and some cases of wheat allergy.
- consumes: lots of fish, lean proteins, vegetables, nuts, potatoes, quinoa
- excludes: gluten (wheat and related grains, including barley and rye)
- benefits: high in protein and avoids the processed breads and pastas; ideal for those who would be sick upon consuming gluten.
- challenges: a gluten-free diet can lack the vitamins, minerals, and fiber which are found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut, and other gluten-containing whole grains. Processed gluten-free foods are often higher in salt, sugar, glycemic index, transfats and other processed fats.
- combating the challenges: Although the lack of vitamins, minerals and fiber can be mitigated through the consumption of brown rice and quinoa.
- definition: a plant-based diet that excludes meat, but still includes dairy. Some adopt this diet for religious reasons, animal activist reasons or for personal health choices.
- consumes: lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and dairy
- excludes: meat (beef, poultry, pork)
- benefits: consumes lots of real foods from the earth which yields great health benefits. A nutrient-rich diet high in fiber, vitamins and minerals and lower in saturated fats and cholesterol.
- challenges: can lack proper amounts of protein, healthy fats, and vitamin B12.
- combating the challenges: consume enough nuts and legumes, walnuts, chia seeds, olive oil, and fortified dairy products respectively. can also take whole-food supplements if needed.
- definition: a plant-based diet that abstains from eating animal byproducts. Some adopt this diet for religious reasons, animal activist reasons, or for personal health choices.
- consumes: lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and soy
- excludes: any foods derived from animals, such as: meat (beef, pork, poultry), fish and seafood, and dairy; including eggs, milk, cheese and butter.
- benefits: high in fiber, vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables.
- challenges: Can lack protein, healthy fats, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
- combating the challenges: consume enough nuts and legumes, walnuts, chia seeds and olive oil, and fortified dairy products respectively. Can also take whole-food supplements if needed.
- definition: a gluten free diet also known as the cave-man diet because it is based on the food humans ancient ancestors might likely have eaten; such as meat, nuts and berries. A very popular diet for weight lifters focused on protein consumption and gaining muscle.
- consumes: lots of animal protein (beef, pork, poultry) seafood, vegetables, small amounts of fruit, and healthy fats likes olive oil, and nuts.
- Excludes: It excludes all food to which cavemen had not yet become familiar with, such as: all dairy products (like milk, cheese, & butter), legumes (beans, lentils) grains (wheat, rye, barely, quinoa), starchy vegetables like potatoes, refined sugar, alcohol and coffee.
- benefits: high in protein and fats
- challenges: nutritional deficiencies from lack of calcium, and vitamin D.
- combating the challenges: drinking orange juice or almond milk fortified with calcium and taking whole foods supplements if needed.
- *side note: my digestive system did not agree with this diet as it was too much meat for my system and not enough carbs...my body needs less meat and fat, and likes legumes, quinoa, small amounts of dairy and of course chocolate!
- Whole Foods diet
- (*What I have found works best for me personally.)
- definition: a diet focused on consuming real foods in healthy proportions and in their natural form.
- consumes: vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, pork, fish/seafood, whole grains, legumes, and dairy.
- Excludes: processed foods, refined white pasta, white bread, foods high in sugar, or man-made chemicals (like high fructose corn syrup...a manufactured form of sugar)
- benefits: a nutrient-rich and well balanced diet that avoids processed foods. Lots of flexibility for each individual to scale up or back on specific food groups based on personal needs.
- challenges: finding the right combination. It can take lots of trial and error learning what fuel your body likes. Some people find they need to scale back on dairy, red meat, or even certain grains, fruits or vegetables that may cause them to not feel at their best.
- combating the challenges: take it slow and make small changes at a time. increase your vegetable intake. if there are any foods you feel upset your system, cut it out for two weeks and then see if it still has negative effects when you work it back in..if it does avoid it for a while.
- *side note: I believe on this diet there is not a "never" scenario; meaning things on the exclusion list can still be consumed, but encouraged to consume less frequently, and when doing so keeping it in moderation. for example if you choose to have a decadent spaghetti dinner or dessert, let yourself enjoy it without going overboard on portions. Offset your splurge with extra vegetables at your other meals that day.
Signs Your body may need a change of diet:
- chronic fatigue
- skin irritations or rashes
- chronic headaches
- constipation or diarrhea
- joint pain
How to know what is right for you
- What lifestyle am I living now, and does it reflect the lifestyle I want to live?
- Do I feel my best now, or is it time to institute some changes?
- How do I want to feel and show up each day?
- Am I highly active and need to fuel properly support my training?
- Do I have a health condition I need to take into account?
- How do I typically feel after each meal I consume? (for ex: energized, strong, lethargic, emotional, sleepy, ect.)
Put your plan into action!
- You are not alone, we are here to support and answer any questions you may have about diet changes and what could be best for you.
- Based on your lifestyle and how you feel on your current diet, decide what changes you think would be best for you and try it out for two weeks. See if you notice an changes, both positive and negative and begin to adjust accordingly.
- Remember there is an adjustment period as your body acclimates to the new diet, but hopefully after two weeks you will be able to detect how your body is responding and if you are on the right track.
- As you can see in the examples above vegetables are the common denominator in most diets... if anything else, simply try adding some more vegetables into your diet and see how you feel.
- Adding in more vegetables can increase the amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber you consume. I recommend shooting for 5-7 servings per day. The added fiber may cause bloating at first, but once things "getting moving" you should feel fine. Doing a combination of cooked and raw veggies can help your digestion adjust and break down the food as well.
Be patient with yourself; no one said change was easy, but it is always worth it!
Health is wealth.
~ Julie Jones