If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a diet and exercise student for almost 30 years, it’s that experts can’t seem to agree. If they can’t get on the same page, how can we possibly be expected to put together a healthful diet plan? To wit, I listened to a diet debate on Thanksgiving Day, one where each party was taking a pretty aggressive stance in his own particular beliefs. One was a vegetarian, the other a devout Paleo follower. While the two couldn’t be more diametrically opposed, I waited for a pause to point out the commonalties (yes, there are some) between the two.
Since there are so many diets that seem to take advantage of a single principle (low carb, low fat, high protein, etc) I wanted to put together a list of the few agreed upon tenets of healthful eating.
- Reduce refined carbohydrates. Whether you’re an Atkins follower or a vegetarian, it makes great sense to reduce (if not eliminate) the refined carbohydrates in your diet (think white pasta, white rice, white bread, cookies, cakes, etc). These carbs have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients (so that it blends smooth and tastes better) and quickly turn to glucose, resulting in a spike in blood sugar and the eventual crash. Grains should be whole, and should read as such on the food label. Be careful, though, some wheat breads still use refined flower. I recommend sprouted grain breads.
- Reduce saturated fats. While it’s true that low-fat diets are a thing of the past, the type of fat you consume matters greatly. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are extremely beneficial while trans-fats and saturated fats should be limited (or, in the case of trans-fat, removed). Also remember that each gram of fat carries 9 calories (only 4 for protein and carbs), so foods high in saturated fat will naturally be high calorie foods.
- Eat your vegetables. No diet that I’ve come across has said to avoid these nutrient dense wonder-foods. Eat a huge variety of colors and make them a staple of your diet. Getting your daily allowance of recommended vitamins and minerals will help with cravings and create satiety. And let’s be honest, a lot of our diet gripes are gone when we feel full.
I desperately wanted to include fruit on this list but there are diets that want you to remove fruit (to be fair, some only want you to do so in the beginning but re-introduce them later) due to the high sugar content. As a student of nutrition, I’d rather you eat nutrient dense foods with natural sugar and find other ways to cut added sugar and calories.
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