The definition of diet: “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”
We name diets: Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Whole30, DASH, South Beach, Mediterranean, etc., and then go round and round about which one is “best”.
Maybe by now you’ve read something or heard someone say “the best diet is the one that works best for you”. Finally, some straight talk in the discussion.
There are many factors to consider when determining the best dietary approach for any individual, (not the least of which is acknowledging what you want your diet to do for you):
- Body type (tall and thin? short and stocky?)
- Age and gender
- Activity level (athlete, working professional or sedentary?)
- Budget and availability
- Dietary preferences and exclusions (meat/no meat, dairy/no dairy, etc)
- Nutrition knowledge
Don’t let all the considerations confuse you. Honestly, all those diets with names accomplish much of the same things, which is what accounts for their success for some people:
- They raise your awareness and attention. Research shows that simply paying attention – not fretting about proteins, fats, carbs – is a key factor in whether you’ll lost fat, feel better, and improve your health. What you focus on may not matter as much as simply caring more about what you’re eating in the first place.
- They focus on food quality. Pretty much every approach recommends eating minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods.
- They help create balance, which addresses nutrient deficiencies. This is huge because we often look, feel and perform terribly when our diet is low on nutrients.
- They help control appetite and food intake. When we’re more aware of what we’re eating and choose satisfying, higher quality foods, we almost always end up eating less total food.
So this is why there’s no such thing as one, universally best diet. It’s also worth noting that approaches that take a broad brush and try to overhaul everything about your eating at once have a high failure rate over the long term. That speaks to these commonalities:
- It is hard to change our habits,
- Discipline can be used up when relied upon too heavily,
- If it’s not right for us on many levels, we don’t stick with it.
The good news: you don’t have to change everything to feel better in the short term and improve your health profile over the longer term.
How to get started with improving your diet? First, keep it simple. Here are three suggestions (and there are lots of ways):
- Pick one meal and improve it. Example: if your current breakfast is a drive-thru coffee drink, switch to a regular coffee with a single cream and sugar and grab a yogurt on your way out of the house. Whichever meal you choose, think of how you can make it just a bit better, not perfect.
- Enjoy your food. Slow down. Stop multi-tasking. Savor each bite. (And if it’s not delicious enough to be savored, ask why you’re still eating it?) This is proven to reduce the amount we eat, and that helps avoid excess calories that end up as body fat.
- Eat more plants. Not just salads (boring!), but anything from the plant kingdom and prepared any way you like; grilled, roasted, baked, steamed or raw. A Google search or browsing a favorite recipe sight will open up a world of possibilities. (And remember cookbooks?)
Starting small and simple to transform your diet makes it easier to manage and stick with it. Doing the “all or nothing” or getting too obsessive about food is exhausting and unnecessary. Keep it simple, do it most days, and build on your success.