If you are like one of millions of people, you plan to go on a diet sometime this year. With so many diet strategies available, how do you know which one is right? Aren't they all different? Don't they conflict? To avoid these questions and diet smarter, stop comparing differences in diet strategies and start comparing similarities.
Image remixed from Dmitry Lobanov (Shutterstock).
Diet by consensus
For this approach, examine the diet plans that you are considering. Base your meals around the foods generally agreed upon as "Safe" and avoid the foods generally agreed upon as "Bad." This alone will determine about 80 per cent of your food choices. The remaining details then become much simpler to sort out.
As an example, I compared 14 popular diet plans and diet strategies (see below), resulting in the following lists.
- Lean meats (except vegan/vegetarian)
- "Healthy" plant oils: olive, coconut and others high in monounsaturated fats
- Whole grains
- White refined sugar (table sugar)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Processed grains (white flour, white rice, etc)
- Processed grain products (white breads, pastas, etc)
- Processed food (cheese spreads from a can, snack cakes, etc)
- Processed meats (pre-packaged lunch meats, pepperoni and the like)
- Saturated fats
- Trans Fats
- Additional sodium (table salt)
You may be asking "That's it? Where is the earth-shaking insight?" There aren't any -- not in the sense of surprise items, that is. Instead of surprise, the insight is that many commonly touted "health foods" are the basis for many popular diet strategies and diet plans. These "diets" may differ in calorie counts and food proportions, but their shopping lists are largely based on the above.
Where to go from here
Using this information, you can begin to answer much simpler questions. Instead of asking "Which diet plan is best?", you can ask more specific questions like "Should I limit my dairy intake?" or "Should I include eggs?" These simple questions will be easier to research and -- more importantly -- easier to "trial-and-erorr" on your own.
Advice by Consensus
While putting together the list of foods for these 14 "diets", a list of general tips also arose.
Track Your Nutrients: When starting out, track your basic nutrients and calorie intake using a service like Calorie Counter by FatSecret. This will help ensure you are on track for both nutrition and weight loss. As your eating habits change, you will be a better judge of proper intake and can track your food less often.
Use organic when possible: When possible, look for organic foods. This can help avoid the risk of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals in your food.
The less processed, the better: When in doubt, go with the foods that seem to be less processed. Processed foods often contain less nutritional value than their "whole food" counterparts. Processed foods also tend to contain more of the undesirable ingredients listed above.
"Whole" grain varies: When in doubt, go with a visual -- can you see grains or pieces of grain? If so, good. Some "whole wheat" breads, on the contrary, are essentially just white breads with a little brown flour thrown in.
Look up the Glycaemic Index: Research the glycaemic index to gain understanding about what it is and how common foods rate on its scale. This will help explain why high-sugar fruits, sugar and processed flours should be limited or avoided in your new diet.
People diet for many reasons, including weight loss, medical concerns and a desire to have more energy. Some people require a support structure and others happily go it alone. Regardless of your particular needs, the strategy of "diet by consensus" should alleviate the uncertainty you feel about diet choices. The food lists and advice given here are a start for many of us, but please consider your personal needs and adjust as necessary. Keep in mind that I am neither your doctor nor dietitian: this is advice, not a prescription!
To see Mark's complete breakdown of 14 different diets, check out his full post here.
Diet Smarter in 2012 -- By Consensus [Elusive Life]
Mark Bosma Mark Bosma is a consultant who helps others discover the information they need to improve their health, personal life and careers. He writes about these topics and more on his website, ElusiveLife.net.