The latest and most comprehensive nutrition recommendations are contained in the so-called Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). DRIs were created in 1997 and have changed the way that diets are evaluated. The primary goal of these guidelines was to not only prevent nutrient deficiencies but also reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. DRIs have been set for macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), electrolytes and water, the role of alcohol in health and disease, and bioactive compounds such as phytoestrogens and phytochemicals.
If you are struggling to eat enough or are eating too much, nutrition counseling may help you get essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals into your diet and maintain a healthy body weight. Ask your health care team for a referral to a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Dietitians and other members of the health care team work with people to meet their nutritional needs.
Though not always followed for weight loss per se, an anti-inflammatory diet is rich in whole foods (including fresh fruits and veggies), and low in packaged, processed ones (like french fries and pastries), so there is a chance you will still shed pounds with this approach. But usually, folks follow this diet to help prevent or treat chronic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. And that’s smart, considering there’s a bounty of research to support this notion. Adopting this diet is relatively simple. It isn’t focused on counting calories or carbs, or following any sort of specific protocol. Instead of constantly thinking about the quantity of food you are eating, an anti-inflammatory is all about prioritizing the quality of what is on your plate.
“Don't like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don't be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
Before starting, ask yourself what is really realistic for you, Mattinson suggests. Then get your doctor’s okay. You may also work with a local registered dietitian nutritionist to limit potential nutrient deficiencies and talk about vitamin supplementation, as you won’t be eating whole grains, dairy, or fruit, and will eliminate many veggies. “A diet that eliminates entire food groups is a red flag to me. This isn’t something to take lightly or dive into headfirst with no medical supervision,” she says.
This principle involves eating low-energy-dense foods and can help you lose weight by feeling full on fewer calories. Healthy choices in each of the other food groups in moderate amounts make up the rest of the pyramid — including whole-grain carbohydrates, lean sources of protein such as legumes, fish and low-fat dairy, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
The award for the most bizarre trend in 2018 goes to this plan, which eliminates some of the healthiest foods, including fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, beans, and grains (including whole grains). What’s left? Beef, chicken, fish, eggs, turkey, butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese. I’m typically open to any eating style that’s practiced in a healthy way, but since this plan is virtually devoid of beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, from plants, I can’t give it any props. And in fact, even if you’re losing weight eating nothing but animal foods, there’s still a good chance this plan will do some long-term damage. One study found that within two days of shifting to a mostly meat-and-cheese diet, your microbiome shifts in a way that promotes inflammation and intestinal disease. Plant foods are key to optimal health, as we know from studying people who live the longest, good quality lives, so let’s hope this diet trend gets dropped come the new year.
After about two to seven days of following the keto diet, you go into something called ketosis, or the state your body enters when it doesn't have enough carbs for your cells to use for energy. That's when you start making ketones, or organic compounds that your bod then uses in place of those missing carbs. At this point, your body also starts burning fat for more energy, says Beth Warren, R.D., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living A Real Life With Real Food.
Take action: To maintain an even blood-sugar level, eat five to six times a day, or about once every three hours. In addition to your main meals, fit in two to three 200-calorie snacks. Ideal snacks contain lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates—for instance, yogurt with granola, an apple with low-fat cheese, or peanut butter on crackers with a banana. Frequent eating can also help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression (both of which can influence energy), since low blood sugar can increase your level of the stress hormone cortisol.
To fuel the body's basic energy needs, calories are of course paramount. Yet many people find it difficult to take in the right amount—as well as the right kind—of fuel. No matter how many dietary guidelines are handed out, people still crave what is definitively bad for them. And in an era where sugary and fatty snacks are often within arm's reach, resisting those cravings has become exceedingly difficult. There is also more to food than nutrition, because what a person eats also carries cultural, social, and economic weight. Holidays and gatherings, for example, highlight food as the main event, which can complicate the meaning of a meal. Eating the right foods can help prevent many problems—cardiovascular issues, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis, to name a few. No doubt many people behave in unhealthy ways around food; they overeat, eat the wrong things, or think about eating far too much. A healthy relationship with food means a healthy lifestyle overall.
In a recent study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Weiss and his colleagues found that participants performed worse on high-intensity cycling and running tasks after four days on a ketogenic diet, compared to those who’d spent four days on a high-carb diet. Weiss says that the body is in a more acidic state when it’s in ketosis, which may limit its ability to perform at peak levels.
These types of back-and-forth weight fluctuations can contribute to disordered eating, Kizer says, or can worsen an already unhealthy relationship with food. “I think this diet appeals to people who have issues with portion control and with binge eating,” she says. "And in many cases, what they really need is a lifestyle coach or a professional counselor to help them get to the bottom of those issues."
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight. But when you're hungry all the time, eating fewer calories can be a challenge. "Studies show people who eat 4-5 meals or snacks per day are better able to control their appetite and weight," says obesity researcher Rebecca Reeves, DrPH, RD. She recommends dividing your daily calories into smaller meals or snacks and enjoying most of them earlier in the day -- dinner should be the last time you eat.