Most people enter the New Year wanting to lose weight. So, before you opt for a juice cleanse or the keto diet, dietitian Melissa Meier wants you to try one of these 5 sustainable diets first.
Have you thought about your New Year’s Resolution yet? Chances are, you’re considering starting a new diet on January 1st – after all, 1 in 3 people vow to lose weight at the beginning of every year. To save you starting off on the wrong foot, here’s my thoughts on five popular diets that actually have some nutritional merit (and no, the keto diet is certainly not on this list!).
What happens when you want to be a vegetarian some of the time, but not all the time? You become a flexitarian, duh. The flexitarian diet has a strong focus on plants, but doesn’t completely eliminate meat and animal products – so you eat loads of fruit and veg, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and occasionally include meat and/or fish. Research has shown it’s not just good for weight loss, but your overall health, too – the flexitarian diet has been linked to improved metabolic health and reduced risk of certain diseases.
Although most people hope for a never-ending supply of pizza, pasta and red wine, a true Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based, with fruit and veg, legumes and wholegrains making up the majority of what’s on the menu. It’s also high in heart-healthy fats thanks to the addition of olive oil, oily fish and nuts. These foods are all super satisfying, which means you’ll ultimately eat less (hello weight loss).
Not so much a diet in the traditional sense of the word, intermittent fasting (or IF, for short) is more concerned with when you eat, rather than what. There’s a few different ways to do it, but the most common are 5:2 (where you have two very low kilojoule days each week but eat normally the rest of the time) and 16:8 (where you have an eight-hour eating window each day, and fast the rest of time time). This way of eating could help you lose weight – but if you struggle to cope with incessant hunger, it probably isn’t for you. On the plus side, IF has been linked to improved metabolic health, protection from diseases and better gut health.
Have you heard of energy density? It’s the founding principle of the volumetrics diet. Basically, you focus on consuming low-kilojoule foods (think: fruit and veg, wholegrains, lean protein and reduced-fat dairy), and pay careful attention to portion sizes of more energy-dense foods (like pizza and chocolate). Over time, you’ll consume less kilojoules and therefore lose weight. The best part? You’ll be more likely to stick to it because it’s not overly restrictive.
An acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the DASH diet is proven not only to reduce blood pressure, but help with weight loss and reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, too. Low in sodium but high in potassium, calcium and magnesium – fruit, veggies and reduced-fat dairy are cornerstone to the DASH diet. Legumes, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, lean meat and fish are included as well.
And there you have it! Five diets that actually have some legs to stand on. But before you commit to one or the other, here’s my word of warning: just because these diets could be worthwhile, doesn’t mean you should go hell for leather. As contradictory as it sounds, as a dietitian, I’m not a fan of ‘diets’. That’s because they lead to the inevitable dieting cycle, in which you’re bound by a set of rules and then feel guilty once you eventually ‘slip up’.
If weight loss is your goal, rather than starting another ‘diet’ that’s going to overhaul your entire way of eating, I’d encourage you to focus on small, realistic changes you can stick to, for good. Take your pick of elements of each diet listed above that will suit you, and work towards them, gradually. That way, you’ll build up a repertoire of healthy habits over time, and be far better off in the long haul.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.