Summer is almost here. Bring on the tanks, bikinis, and pretty much anything to shows off those ab... wait... where did the abs go?
With Summer on the way its time to get rid of that winter blanket that you developed to keep your abs nice and warm. Which means its time to start a Fad Diet right? WRONG! At the center of most of these diets exists a healthy truth, but I'm going to dig in and debunk a few Fad Diets in order to save you and a friend from making the wrong choice.
#1 The Paleolithic Diet
What is it? Based off the hunter-gatherer eating pattern of our stone aged ancestors, this diet cuts out all added sugars (think all desserts, sodas, coffee drinks, mixed drinks), potatoes, grains (that’s right, bread and pasta!), legumes, dairy, processed food, and refined oils. This basically leaves you with meats, eggs, nuts, non-starchy veggies, non-refined oils, and fruit.
Positives: This diet eliminates all added sugar, refined grains, and processed foods from your diet, which any Joe Schmoe can tell you are the typical foods recommended to get a six pack. Your fiber intake will likely sky rocket if you eat all the fruits/veggies recommended, which keeps you happy and healthy because fiber is amazing, and if you aren’t getting at least 25 grams/day, your body will thank you when you do!
Negatives: The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines recommend 45-65% of calories come from carbs, 20-35% of calories come from fat, and 10-35% of calories come from fat. A typical paleo day, on the other hand, provides approximately 5-10% of calories from carbs, 40-60% of calories from fat, and 40-70% of your calories would come from protein!* Too much protein can put strain on your kidneys, not to mention your body can only absorb a limited amount protein at a time (s/o to all the protein bars with like 70 gms of protein). Everything allowed on this diet can be very expensive. If you’ve ever glanced at a paleo approved shopping list, you know what I’m talking about. Convenience is not a selling point for this diet either. Of course, on the website they have many recommendations on how to pack lunches, etc, etc, but there is no getting around the fact that this regimen requires cooking meat and vegetables often.
Basically, kicking it paleo style can help you get rid of all the excess sugar and processed foods we love in America, but because of the skewed breakdown of calories (like too much protein), expense, and inconvenience, I would not recommend this diet for an extended period of time.
#2 Gluten free Diet
Poor Gluten. He’s gotten such a bad rep lately, but why? So many are kicking Gluten to the curb, but unsure of the science behind it. Check out this video courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel to see what I mean.
What is it? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Eating gluten-free means that you are avoiding all foods with these grains in it. If you are truly intolerant to gluten, you are also avoiding everything that these grains have contacted. Celiac Disease** and the lengths folks with this disease must go to avoid gluten is another story for another day, but basically it’s very difficult to totally avoid gluten. Those who are following a gluten-free diet for health, trendiness, or diet purposes likely just means they are steering clear of any foods with added gluten or with wheat, barely, and rye as one of the ingredients.
Positives:Many desserts contain gluten, because any baked, delicious, goodness is going to contain flour. That can be a positive if you are trying to cut out the unnecessary calories in your life. A lot of processed food also contains gluten, and a lot of whole, unprocessed foods do not, but of course this is not always the case.
Negatives: Breads, tortillas, cereals all contain essential nutrients which you could find in other foods, but if gluten does not irritate you, then why make finding healthy foods which fit your lifestyle more difficult than need be? And cookies, brownies, cakes, and pies are out, which is also just pretty sad. =(
Basically, if you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, then yes definitely keep gluten out of your diet. If you have discovered, through keeping a food diary or whatever way you deem fit, that consuming gluten truly does irritate your stomach, then of course, following a gluten-free diet is the best option for your health and well-being! But if not, then I say don’t limit yourself by eliminating gluten. There are many ways to build muscle, lose weight, feel better, eliminate bloat, [insert your health goals here], which do not involve saying Goodbye to Gluten.
What is it? This one is pretty self-explanatory: you get a gigantic helping of fruits and veggies, blend them up in a high powered blender, and get rid of the fibrous bits to leave you with a thin juice to sip on.
Positives: Fruits and veggies have vitamins, minerals, and fiber galore, and most juice recipes call for at least 1 pound of fruits/veggies! An added benefit is that many people only taste the fruit, so you can get your leafy greens in even if they aren’t exactly your jam. Plus many juices have ginger, garlic, chia seeds, lemon, or other herbal supplements which may have beneficial effects on a variety of ailments.
Negatives: The downfall to juices came when “juice cleanses” became a thing. Replacing one meal with a juice, that should be fine. But any more than that, especially days worth, is just a recipe for high blood sugar + blood sugar crashes + episodes of hangriness+ eating like you just ran a marathon after the juice cleanse is finally over because you are so damn hungry. Think about it, juices are basically just the sugars and some nutrients, without any of the fiber to keep you full or balance out all that sugar from hitting your blood stream too quickly.
Basically, treat yourself to that expensive juice to get a healthy dose of fruits/veggies in, but don’t fall for those juice cleanses. Yes, you will lose weight because you are only drinking juice for days at a time! But you will be salty the whole time, and let’s be real, you will likely gain all the weight back after the cleanse is over.. yes.. making you even saltier.
Fad Diets are not always the best option. Can they be a jumping off point for a healthy diet? Of course! If you feel like you need a hard core diet to follow for a set number of days to get you back on the wagon, then go for it! But a healthy lifestyle involving a diet filled with a variety of real foods is the best way to keep your body happy. I would be elated at the chance to meet with you to discuss what “healthy eating” is all about and how it can fit your lifestyle. Basic rule of thumb, if came from the earth or had a momma then go ahead and feast!
**If you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, please contact me or a Registered Dietitian to discuss how to completely avoid gluten in your diet!! It is the only disease which can be completely treated by altering your diet!!