Preface: I don’t really enjoy using the term ‘diet’ to describe how you are eating for a period of time; instead, we should try to think of the word ‘diet’ as an overall picture of how you eat all of the time.
How someone eats can be influenced by a lot of different factors like your lifestyle, activity level, where you live, who you live with, your mood, how much time you have, allergies/sensitivities, etc. Prescribing to a popular way of eating, such as being plant-based (vegan), keto, using intermittent fasting, paleo, etc. will also greatly affect one’s food choices. So, if there are a million different factors at play when considering someone’s diet, then how could we possibly have a “best diet”?
I’ll tell you.
The best diet is a diet that is centered around whole food sources and works for you.
These two factors are equally important for different reasons. I’ll start with why it’s important to eat whole foods. Humans evolved eating a variety of different foods in their most natural sources, meaning that 500 years ago we didn’t have Clif Bars or hotdogs. (Five seconds of Google research and it looks like hotdogs weren’t around until 1871). Whole foods are great because they provide our body with the most nutrients while eliminating excess calories, sugar, sodium and other preservatives found in processed foods that may appear to be similar to their whole food counterpart.
Let’s consider eating an apple versus drinking a glass of apple juice. Whole apples contain not just the juice but also a number of other nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants found in the skin. Apple juice on the other hand is made by juicing multiple apples, removing several nutrients while also likely adding sugar, which is problematic in a society facing an alarming number of individuals who develop Type II diabetes. Apples and apple juice may seem like an obvious example, but I think It’s a simple and valuable lesson in how we lose many of the healthy benefits of foods when we process them. A simple game to play with yourself at the grocery is to ask, “was it made, or did it grow” as a way to lead towards making better food choices.
The second rule of thumb for my “best diet” is that however you are currently eating needs to work for you. Meaning that you shouldn’t have to tell yourself, “I’m going to eat this way until I lose 20 pounds and then I’ll just eat whatever I want.” This is why people yo-yo diet and constantly lose weight, only to gain it all back plus some. If you want to go keto, that’s totally fine and can be a very effective way to lose weight but you need to understand that making large, wholesale changes to the way you eat can be very difficult to maintain. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but if may be easier to make small changes over time to more easily form lasting habits.
If it isn’t a sustainable plan, then it isn’t going to provide you with sustainable results.
When you combine these two rules together and begin to dig deeper and think more critically about your food choices, the rules can bend and shape to nearly everyone. If you want to go vegan because of a moral stance on how animals are treated, I commend that! But, don’t go vegan just to eat vegan ice cream and Oreos. If you want to eat a ketogenic diet that revolves around protein and fat as your main macronutrients, do it. But don’t confuse keto brownies as being ‘healthy’ or assume all carbs are bad. If you don’t want to prescribe to any one type of diet and just want to eat what you like, you can that too! Just make sure you’re getting most of your food in its most natural form.
Nutrition and ‘dieting’ can be overwhelming. If you’re currently struggling with your nutrition or would like help losing weight, I’d love to help! Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org.