Paleo? Vegan? Gluten-Free? Which Diet is Best.
When talking about “diet”, the word can have two different meanings:
The way a person eats on a regular basis.
A set of foods someone might restrict themselves to for a set period of time in order to attain a certain goal, usually weight loss.
Today I am talking about everyday diets that we have adopted, or might be considering.
It can be confusing to determine which diet is best for you with so many different recommendations and equally confusing outcomes. My goal is to help you develop the skills and knowledge to be able to make choices on which diet works best for your lifestyle, goals and overall health.
Current popular diets include; paleo, gluten-free, ketogenic, raw food, vegan and vegetarian.
Paleo – aka the “caveman diet” – think hunter and gatherer – meat, fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables
Gluten Free – omits the protein gluten from your diet
Ketogenic – Low carbohydrate and high fat
Raw Food – Uncooked, completely unprocessed, less meat and more plant-based
Vegan – Plants only, absolutely no meat or meat derivatives and byproducts
Vegetarian – Does not eat meat, customizable to include or exclude items such as fish, eggs and animal byproducts
So, which one is the best? It truly depends on the individual. Every person is different from a physiological standpoint, nutrient requirements depend on activity level, height, weight, and even genetics, which all play a role in how quickly your body turns food into energy (or not). Another determining factor is ones social and cultural stance. Does your job require travel? Does your religion limit your dietary options? Are you wanting a more balanced life? Less stress? A menu that is kinder to animals? Or, the number one reason, weight loss?
It is important to factor time management, personal beliefs, and finances into your routine. All of these elements have an impact on mental health, which contributes to better overall health. Your physical health can be improved by eating whole foods, paying attention to hunger cues, being prepared, and knowing your body’s nutritional needs. All the while eliminating processed foods and beverages from your diet. As a result, you will naturally eat less and this can result in desired weight loss. The best part is, all of these goals CAN be achieved through any diet.
Because individual goals vary, there is no one size fits all method for “the best” diet. You can lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle no matter which diet you follow by following your body’s hunger and satiety cues. This will naturally lead you to consume the optimal amount of calories. For example, a great rule of thumb when eating without having to count calories is a plate half full of vegetables, one-quarter full of protein and one-quarter full of carbohydrates. Snacks should be a combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrates to keep you more full for longer. A healthy balance of the macronutrients and food groups will contribute to overall health.
There are pros and cons to every diet no matter which way you spin it. I firmly believe it comes down to 3 key points:
Honor Your Beliefs
Don’t eat a certain way because it is trendy, or you think you will lose a ton of weight. Do your research, know what your beliefs are. Just because you grew up in a meat and potatoes household doesn’t mean that is the only way to eat nutritiously and get protein. Similarly, if the latest celebrity diet is gluten-free, but bread is your best friend, stick to what makes you happy. You can keep the simple pleasures in moderation.
Be as Stress-Free as Possible
We have enough distractions, raising a family of 4 while working 2 jobs might not be an ideal time to experiment with a ketogenic diet. Mental health is just as important as physical health, if you find yourself exhausted and overworked trying to keep up with a diet then it might not be the best option for you. Freshly prepared meals are always a great way to go as well, as long as you know where the food is coming from.
Eat Whole Foods
No matter how you choose to eat or what you choose to omit from your diet, make sure that you are eating enough calories, getting a healthy balance of macronutrients, and whatever you are eating has the least amount of processing possible. Eat fresh fish, poultry, game, meat, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. There is enough variety in nature that we don’t really have a reason to turn to processed foods in the case of boredom. There are enough resources that preparing meals made of whole foods shouldn’t be as difficult if you have the time.
As for myself, I follow my own set of rules. I like to call my style of eating, “The All-Inclusive”. Nothing is off limits, I eat what I love and rotate through various food groups and sets of macronutrients throughout the day. This ensures I am feeling satisfied and my mind is not preoccupied with what I just ate, or what I will eat next.
If you are leading a lifestyle that you are proud of, makes you feel energized and happy on most days, then you are doing it right. Just listen to your body, and good things will follow.