Whether it’s weight loss or improved health, diet plays an important role. However, there is no one diet that works best for everyone.
Registered dietitians get asked about the latest trends in diet all the time. While they generally guide people toward eating plans that focus on nutritious whole foods, they also know that not all dietary approaches are created equal.
A flexitarian diet is a meal plan that blends the benefits of a vegetarian eating style with the flexibility to add in meat, dairy and seafood. This type of diet can help you eat a variety of whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and plant-based proteins.
When incorporating animal protein, it’s best to choose options that are low in fat and sodium. You can also look for organic, grass-fed, free-range and wild-caught choices.
A flexitarian diet also allows for eggs, milk and cheese, which can be a good source of protein and the vitamin-rich minerals calcium and zinc. Unlike other restrictive diets, a flexitarian approach to eating can provide a balanced and satisfying meal plan. However, it’s important to talk with a registered dietician about how this eating style can meet your needs. They can recommend ways to make nutritious meals that suit your taste preferences, health goals and lifestyle.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet focuses on unprocessed plant-based foods and heart-healthy fats from olive oil. It also limits the amount of less-healthy saturated fat found in meat. It has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and improve other factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Oldways, a food and nutrition nonprofit, offers a variety of resources to help you get started with this heart-healthy eating plan.
The main foods in this diet are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts (including peanuts), fish and poultry and olive oil. It also includes low amounts of red meat and processed foods. It can also include dairy products and wine in moderation.
This type of eating pattern is linked with reduced heart disease, cancer and overall death rates. It is also associated with a lower risk of diabetes because it helps improve blood sugar control and can lower the amount of oxidative stress that occurs in your body.
The Low Carb Diet
Any diet that limits the amount of carbohydrates a person eats is considered a low carb diet. This type of diet is gaining popularity, and many people are finding it to be very effective for weight loss. However, there are some pitfalls to this diet that can prevent it from being effective in the long run.
One of the most common mistakes people make on a low carb diet is forgetting to add healthy fats to their meals. This helps them feel full and keeps their metabolisms going strong. Another mistake is cutting out foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals like potassium. When you cut out foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals, it may lead to a deficiency of these nutrients.
A lot of people also find it difficult to follow a low carb diet in the long run because they do not feel good for a few days, which causes them to give up on the diet.
The Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet restricts carbohydrate intake and emphasizes protein, healthy fats and nutrient-rich vegetables. Like the keto diet, Atkins promotes weight loss and may improve health outcomes. However, it is more restrictive and not as nutritionally balanced.
During the introductory phase, called Induction, Atkins limits carbohydrates to 20 grams per day. Then, the diet moves into a weight-loss phase that gradually increases carbohydrate intake by 5 grams per week. Finally, the Atkins diet ends with a maintenance phase that allows you to fine-tune your carbohydrate levels for lifelong weight management.
Like any diet that eliminates a food group, the Atkins Diet can cause deficiencies in some nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin C and potassium. It also can lead to dehydration because carbohydrates hold on to water. To avoid these issues, you should consult with a registered dietitian before starting the Atkins Diet. An RD can assess your nutritional needs and provide meal plans that meet your goals.