It seems like a new diet becomes popular every time we turn around. As a health professional, I find the use of the word "diet"—as in a fad or short-term solution—really rubs me the wrong way. I don't believe in diets. What I do believe in are healthy lifestyle upgrades, which allow for occasional indulgences while creating a realistic roadmap to health.
Food has gotten a bad rap lately due to our current food supply being highly processed and loaded with GMOs, so I want to set a couple of the common diets straight for people who work in the fitness business since your members and clients likely turn to you for advice about many of these.
First, there is no one way to eat for everyone. Each body is unique. Some common baselines need to be included when recommending a healthy approach to food, but many people find their individualized healthy balance through trial and error. (Of course, having a personal health coach can help your members by offering accountability, education, guidance and support.) Diets do not work long-term, but healthy lifestyles do.
Here are five of the most common diet types talked about today:
Idea behind this way of eating: If cavemen didn't eat it, we shouldn't either.
So what do paleo-friendly foodies eat? Plenty of quality animal products, such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, fowl, organic (preferably pasture-raised) eggs, as well as raw nuts and seeds, natural oils (olive, coconut, avocado), fruit (limited amount due to sugar, although natural is still sugar), tubers (sweet potatoes and yams), healthy fat, leafy greens and seasonal, local vegetables.
What to avoid: Grains, legumes, pasteurized dairy (some say all dairy), sugar, processed food, alcohol.
Idea behind this way of eating: Based around how people eat in regions of Southern Europe with an emphasis on plant foods, dietary fat, moderate amounts of fish and poultry.
What do Mediterranean foodies eat? A lot of plant foods, fresh fruit for dessert (instead of cookies, cakes, pies, etc.), beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil as the main source of dietary fat, some dairy (quality cheese and yogurt are the most common), moderate amounts of fish and poultry, eggs, small amounts of red meat and, of course, moderate amounts of wine.
What to avoid: Processed food, excess sugar.
Idea behind this way of eating: Veganism is really more of a complete lifestyle, whereas vegans do not eat or use anything animal based, from food to clothing to beauty and home products.
What do vegan foodies eat? Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, legumes.
What to avoid: Anything animal based, including meat, dairy, eggs, even honey.
Idea behind this way of eating: Eating as close to the earth as possible to provide the most nutritious form of nourishment by consuming foods in their natural state.
What do raw foodies eat? Fruits (dried and fresh), vegetables, herbs, soaked or sprouted nuts, seeds, legumes, seaweed, milk from young coconut, and raw foods that are fermented, juiced, blended or dehydrated.
What to avoid: All foods cooked over 118 degrees.
Note: There are different types of raw foodies, including vegetarian, vegan, omnivore and carnivore.
Idea behind this way of eating: Eliminating a common allergen, while reducing inflammation, thus reducing disease (to keep it simple). You do not have to be diagnosed with Celiac Disease to have an intolerance to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
What do gluten-free foodies eat? Similar to paleo with the exception of consuming non-gluten grains (seeds) such as brown rice, millet, amaranth and quinoa (seed).
What to avoid: Wheat, rye and barley and for some, oats as well. (Although oats are gluten-free by nature, they are highly cross-contaminated. Because of this, gluten-free oats are available.)
As you can see, all of these diets have a common theme: Eat real food, as close to the source as possible and eliminate or decrease the amount of processed food, sugar and alcohol you consume. We tend to over-complicate food in general, so taking a step back and reminding ourselves that food is fuel and should be enjoyed helps us navigate through all the fads and hip new trends pertaining to diets and focus on the purpose of food in the first place, which is to nourish our bodies for optimal health and quality of life.
Keep it simple with these five tips for your clients:
1. Include protein at every meal, whether it be plant or animal based. This helps keep you full longer and helps reduce cravings for sugar and carbs. (Your body's signal that it needs energy, which protein provides.)
2. Eat within an hour of waking to rev up your metabolism. And be sure to include protein and healthy fats for optimal hormonal balance. A serving of eggs and avocado is one of my favorite go-to breakfast options.
3. Eat your vegetables. Your grandmother was right, yet again. Vegetables not only provide vitamins and minerals, but they also provide fiber, which we need to carry out the toxins lurking in our bodies from the air we breathe, certain cleaning products, many beauty products, as well as our food and water supply.
4. Fat doesn't make you fat, sugar does. Instead of choosing table sugar, opt for healthier sweeteners such as stevia, coconut palm sugar, raw honey and medjool dates. And remember, sugar is sugar is sugar. Even fruit should be enjoyed in moderation. Sugar leads to inflammation, which leads to disease. Too much of a good thing becomes a not-so-good thing.
5. Drink plenty of water. Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces daily. Grab a BPA-free water bottle to eliminate unnecessary endocrine disrupters, commonly found in plastic water bottles. Bored with water? Sass it up by adding fresh berries, cucumber, mint or any combination you like to keep it fresh and enjoyable.
Sheree Trask is a certified holistic health coach and the founder of Lemons & Laughter - Positively Appealing Holistic Healing. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than 100 dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Trask helps her clients create a personalized "roadmap to health" that suits each unique body, lifestyle, preferences and goals. She offers one-on-one personal coaching, group programs and corporate wellness, as well as personalized programs based on her clients' needs. She can be reached at (858) 531-2785 or [email protected].