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Some of the country’s leading nutritional specialists tell us what diets we should avoid and which ones actually work
That new diet you're trying may not be a diet at all.
“I’m on a diet;” common words heard spoken from another’s mouth, especially at the start of a new year. While dieting to lose weight will never fade, diet trends come and go. These days, between Atkins, Jenny, and the Cave Man, there are more and more weight loss programs to choose from, and sometimes the truth behind each one can get lost in the shuffle.
Read More: Too Good to Be True Diet Trends (Literally) and What You Should Try Instead
Human beings’ bodies all work in different and mysterious ways, but there is one thing that we thrive on when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle: food. Along with exercise and dietary supplements, most popular diet trends revolve around developing a strategy for eating the right foods that will help you lose weight, but the truth is that some of them don’t work, and that’s where The Daily Meal’s Cook editors come in. To help you decide what food diets are right for you, we asked some of the country’s leading nutritionists to weigh in on popular diet trends and inform us when some are, quite literally, too good to be true.
Bacon lovers: did your eyes light up and taste buds sing when you heard about the Atkins diet? We’re sorry to have to tell you that the meat-heavy diet is only effective in the short-term. Think you’re doing yourself a favor when you skip the pasta at dinner? You may be avoiding some heavy carbs, but you’re also missing out on important and essential nutrients, too. From longstanding diets that you know well (and very well could have tried) to under the radar ones that are just arriving on the scene, our experts shared their thoughts on each one and told us which were in, and which were out. If you’re starting out 2013 on an optimistic note and are looking to shed some pounds this year, make sure you know which diets you should be avoiding.
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce
10 Top Trending Diets of 2019, According to Google
People in 2019 were obsessed with fasting, weight loss supplements, and a diet created by a reality TV power couple.
Today, Google is putting out its annual Year In Search report, which includes the top trending diet searches of the year in the US. You’ve probably heard of most of them, if not tried a few yourself. Some are actually sound, nutritionists say, while others don&apost necessarily have much scientific backing. and a few are a little off the wall. Here&aposs the entire list of the top trending diets of 2019, starting from the top.
1. The snack with your daily coffee
If only all financial problems were as easily as giving up the daily coffee. Personally, if my coffee expenses were the only thing bringing me down, that would be impressive. However, adding a snack — even a healthy one — usually does the trick. The catch-22 of getting a snack at a coffee shop is that the healthy things like fruit or hummus are usually things that could be brought from home at a fraction of the price. The other guys (muffins, bars) are more expensive, and are things that won’t fill you up, leaving you crashing mid-afternoon (look, I don’t think sugar is the devil, but I’m not going to pretend that a Starbucks muffin is anything other than a tiny piece of cake). After just one week of telling myself to drop the snack from my coffee-and-snack routine, I actually craved them less and barely went back to the habit, and started bringing far more snacks from home, like carrots and crackers.
The Invisalign Diet Is The Best Diet. Here’s Why.
Atkins. Weight Watchers. Paleo. Zone. South Beach. Mediterranean. Whole30. Chances are that you’ve heard of at least a couple of these popular diets. There’s also a strong likelihood that you’ve tried one or two of them over the years. Perhaps you even managed to lose some weight along the way. Good for you. I’m here, however, to tell you about the past two serious pound-shredding months of my life, during which — get this — I haven’t had to follow a single dietary restriction or workout routine. Does this all sound too good to be true? Allow me to explain the Invisalign diet.
There was no ulterior motive behind my decision to begin wearing Invisalign. I had always sported a sizable space between my top two front teeth and my dentist had recommended at each annual visit that I undergo six months of Invisalign treatment to correct this unsightly gap (his words, not mine). I finally acquiesced late last year. Call it the smallest of quarter-life crises, a delayed reaction to years of half-hearted mockery from friends or a knee-jerk adherence to an opened fortune cookie around that time proclaiming I would soon undergo a “big transformation.” Invisalign, for those of you unfamiliar, is best described as invisible braces of sorts, removed during the day only during meals.
The side effects of wearing Invisalign are immediately apparent. (Note: Upon the first visible sign of gap shrinkage, a large number of acquaintances came out of the woodwork to express their sudden affinity for and wax poetic about the same attribute they once ridiculed. But I digress.) With a requirement stipulating that the trays be worn for around 22 hours per day in order to achieve the desired results and the arduous process of removing and cleaning the Invisalign each and every time it is removed, there’s very little wiggle room — no pun intended. As such, eating food becomes less of a timely necessity and more of a general burden.
Let’s be real here — no piece or two of plastic is going to come between a food writer and his unwavering desire to chow down heartily at a hot new restaurant. But those midday snacks lying around the office? They turn, almost like clockwork, into more of an imposition than a convenience. The mere idea of a lengthy, multicourse lunch becomes unthinkable, lest it compromise the long-term goal. Much like a more conventional diet, the stomach takes just a few days to adapt to these new eating patterns.
Invisalign is a less painful, less visible alternative to braces! But that’s not what we’re discussing today. (Photo: Steve Alper/Flickr.)
Perhaps best of all, the Invisalign diet encourages laziness: Shall I get up from my desk, head to the bathroom to remove my aligners and carefully place them in a container, just to enjoy one of the bagels delivered to the office, knowing all the while that I’ll have to dutifully undo all of this “damage” in a matter of minutes? Or shall I simply remain seated and continue living my life? It’s a no-brainer. I’ve even spared you the unsanitary details that only strengthen my case to skip out on the extra grub.
The most basic of principles really are the most effective, sometimes. Just like parents might apply a bad-tasting lacquer to a child’s nails to discourage biting or a dog might be fitted with a shocking collar to eliminate excessive barking, a plastic insert can — both literally and figuratively — come between you and your overeating. And in today’s world, where essentially any food item can be purchased or delivered with one click of a button, that piece of plastic just might be the easiest way to avoid clicking.
For those of you that are driven almost entirely by numbers, I’ve lost close to 15 pounds in the past two months — and I have yet to notice any cravings or increases in appetite. Simply put, the Invisalign diet is the most effective “diet” I’ve ever been on, and I’ve spent my fair share of time following stringent nutritional guidelines.
Of course, despite the impressive and instant results, several questions remain. This product is, after all, designed with a genuine dental purpose in mind, and not as a tool intended for dieting (though we imagine your dentist would have no problem agreeing with you on some sort of excuse to spring for it, considering it runs in the neighborhood of a few thousand dollars for an entire cycle, dependent on length of treatment and other factors). Would it be somewhat ridiculous to invest in it with a primarily dietary motivation? And will the eventual completion of treatment coincide with inevitable post-diet weight gain? Yes. To all. But then again, isn’t the whole fad-diet craze just one big ridiculous premise?
5 'Healthy' Things You Should Stop Doing, According to a Registered Dietitian
As a registered dietitian it is my job (and passion!) to help clients meet their health goals. And I know from personal experience just how hard it can sometimes be to meet the goals we set for ourselves. There are some "healthy" things I see my clients doing because they think they’re making the healthier choice, but really they’re just setting themselves up for more challenges, if not failure. And I can’t blame them—there’s so much messaging out there about how to eat (which foods, what time, which amounts) that it can be tough to know what will actually help us. I chose the top five mistakes I see people making and listed them below along with my suggestions of what to do instead.
Yes, you read that correctly, not eating dessert is actually backfiring on you. Being healthy is about mental health too. And that means having stuff you want to have without feeling stressed, anxious, or guilty. In my experience with clients, the anxiety that comes with not allowing themselves to relax when it comes to their food choices is actually way worse than just eating the thing they want to eat. Being too restrictive and not listening to your cravings will also likely lead to overeating later on. That bingeing will then lead to more stress and anxiety. Let’s take a hard pass on that. Life is already stressful and anxiety-inducing enough—your food shouldn’t be.
Try this: Instead of following strict food rules or straight up depriving yourself, try the “most of the time” rule, which means that most of the time you eat minimally processed and whole foods that are nutritious and satisfying, and then the rest of the time you have the things you really love that might be lower in nutrition but way higher in deliciousness. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to reach your health goals when you aren’t feeling anxious about eating a thing you love. If you’re finding your anxiety over food choices is overwhelming, consider seeking nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian, who can help ease that stress and change your relationship with food.
Whether you’re scrolling through your social media feeds or watching your favorite A.M. news show, it seems like every single day there is a new superfood, ingredient, or fad diet (looking at you, keto!) that you need to incorporate to be healthy. Ugh, the media can make eating healthfully so much more complicated, annoying, and confusing than it needs to be! Don’t believe the hype. First of all, there’s no quick fix, magic pill, one-ingredient-wonder that will address all your health and diet needs. If you’re looking to healthify your life or diet, first, silence all the weight loss white noise and questionable health claims.
Try this: When you’re scrolling through all those trending posts and searching those diet hashtags on Instagram, remember that social media isn't real life. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. And if a diet sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, it likely is. Block out the social media mavens and the conflicting morning news reports, and remind yourself that you know better than some stranger what is best for your health and your body. What’s best for me (and what I tell my clients to do) is to eat a variety of veggies, fruits, whole grains and protein, listen to my sweet-tooth and cravings, double down on sleep, and keep the booze in check. This will always get you where you want to be, never go out of style, and never feel like torture.
As a dietitian, there’s nothing I love to see more than my clients reaching their goals, and feeling empowered, energized, and excited, which I am thrilled to be able to share with them. But the one thing that has been consistent in all my clients’ health successes, is that we don’t use the go-hard-or-go-home attitude towards reaching these goals. That type of hyperfocused mentality usually leads to feeling disconnected from whether or not these changes are meeting your needs, whether they're making you feel good, and how they're impacting your self-confidence, your focus at work, your sleep, and your relationships. Staying connected to how you're feeling can only happen when you're able to relax, loosen the reins, and take a little self-inventory.
Blood Type Diet
Founded on the principles of a naturopathic doctor, the diet recommends plans for each blood type.
Bottom Line: "Although many people swear by this plan, I find that those who follow it have a hard time eliminating certain foods forever. And I can hardly find a reason not to eat cantaloupe simply because of someone's blood type," says Bella.
#1. Flexitarian diets
Plant-based diets are nothing new, but we might see a shift from the more extreme vegan way of eating towards 𠆏lexitarianism’ (read: flexible vegetarianism). In my opinion, that’s a very good thing – most people could benefit from eating less meat and more plants, and without any strict exclusions, it’ll be more sustainable for a lot of people.
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Plant-based diets are nothing new, but we might see a shift from the more extreme vegan way of eating. Image: iStock. Source:BodyAndSoul
The Carnivore Diet: What You Need to Know
Is this new all-meat diet philosophy a dream come true for steak lovers? Or is it too good to be true?
Restrictive diets are not new to the weight-loss world. The cabbage soup and grapefruit diets are as famous as the Master Cleanse (a juice fast of water, lemon juice and-if you can stomach it-cayenne pepper). But among these mono diets, the carnivore diet is the newest kid on the block. In the shadow of the more popular keto and paleo diets, the carnivore diet has quietly emerged with a dedicated following and big promises. Here we take a look at what the diet entails, what the health benefits and downsides are, and if it&aposs safe to try.
What Is the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet, also known as the zero-carb diet, is an eating style that incorporates animal products only. That means there&aposs room on the plate for meat, organs, butter and eggs, but vegetables, fruit, grains and other plant foods are off-limits.
Some dairy products are also allowed, such as yogurt and milk, but strict carnivore dieters may eschew them because they contain lactose, a naturally occurring sugar that does add carbs.
"The carnivore diet consists only of animal-derived foods and nothing that comes from plants," says Summer Yule, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian in Connecticut.
If the carnivore diet sounds like the popular keto diet to you, that&aposs not surprising. In reality, the two diets do share some characteristics: both involve eating very limited or no carbs. Plant foods are almost, if not entirely, eliminated too.
Unlike the carnivore diet, the keto diet emphasizes eating high amounts of fat and moderate amounts of protein. The carnivore diet does not make that distinction and does not encourage daily goals for any particular nutrient.
"While both diets are low in carbohydrates and high in fat, keto allows for non-animal foods from plant sources, such as nuts, seeds, some fruits-avocado and berries mainly-and nonstarchy green vegetables," says Molly Devine, R.D., L.D.N., founder of Eat Your Keto.
Carnivore Diet Food List: What You Can and Cannot Eat
The list of approved foods for the carnivore diet is short. The foods primarily fall into one category: meat. Some carnivore diet plans also allow for dairy foods, such as milk and yogurt.
Foods You Can Eat on the Carnivore Diet
- beef and red meat
- bone marrow
- chicken and poultry
- fish and seafood
- organ meats
- bone broth
"Organ meats are a vital way to get vitamins and minerals you might miss since you&aposre not eating fruits and vegetables," Devine says. "Organ meats, such as liver and heart, provide essential micronutrients that would otherwise be lacking due to the absence of plant products like fruits and veggies."
Foods You Might Eat on the Carnivore Diet
"Some versions of the diet also allow some dairy products since they technically come from animals," Devine says.
However, these foods contain lactose, a type of sugar. That means these foods have some carbohydrates. For dieters aiming to keep carbs as close to zero as possible, dairy foods may be not worth the carbs.
Foods You Cannot Eat on the Carnivore Diet
- any source of carbohydrates, such as sugar
- artificial sweeteners
Some carnivore dieters believe that grains, legumes and seeds contain "antinutrients," plant compounds that prevent the body from absorbing vitamins and minerals. Research says antinutrients aren&apost harmful, and most are destroyed in the cooking process or by your gut during digestion.
Some carnivore dieters also believe all fruits and vegetables are toxic to the body.
"The carnivore diet leaves out plant-based foods that contain important nutrients like fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin C, which are important for gut, heart and immune system health," says Staci Gulbin, M.S., M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N.
That&aposs why many nutrition experts and dietitians do not support the carnivore diet.
"Vegetables and fruits are essential to a healthy diet because they are packed with electrolytes like magnesium, iron, calcium and fibers to support healthy digestion and intestinal flora, plus all the vitamins and antioxidants," says Luiza Petre, M.D., a weight-loss and weight-management specialist and board-certified cardiologist. "While starches are not necessarily essential, fiber- and vitamin-rich vegetables should not be excluded."
Health Benefits of the Carnivore Diet
Shawn Baker, an orthopedic surgeon and author of The Carnivore Diet, is credited with much of today&aposs meat-only diet hype. (Baker had his medical license revoked in 2017.) Mikhaila Peterson, daughter of lifestyle guru Jordan Peterson, is also an advocate for the plan. She says following this diet relieved her symptoms of depression and eliminated her arthritis.
These two are among a chorus of individuals who believe in the carnivore diet. They suggest that the diet can eliminate symptoms of chronic and inflammatory diseases and provide more energy and greater well-being. Other proposed benefits include:
• Feeling better. Many carnivore dieters report greater energy and concentration after several days on the diet. (This is a common benefit ascribed to the keto diet as well.) "The elimination of all processed foods, sugars and refined carbohydrates is a big pro," Devine says. "However, this is a very restrictive way of eating that is not sustainable for most people."
• Cleaner diet. Sugar, refined carbs and processed foods are out with the carnivore diet. "The carnivore diet cuts out processed and refined carbohydrates, ensures plenty of protein intake and promotes water consumption," Gulbin says. That&aposs still not reason enough for Gulbin to recommend the diet. "It leaves out plant-based foods that contain important nutrients like fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin C that are important for gut, heart and immune system health."
• Fewer food sensitivities. If you believe you have food allergies or sensitivities, you may find they disappear with the carnivore diet. That&aposs because the diet does not contain food groups that are most likely to offend allergies or food issues.
You could. Eating very few or no carbs will naturally put your body into ketosis, a state in which your body is forced to burn fat for fuel instead of relying on available carbohydrates. You&aposll lose water weight at first. Then, the increased demand on fat could lead to real weight loss.
"Ketosis has its own health benefits and leads to weight loss," Petre says.
But in order for ketosis to be done properly, you have to eat a wider variety of foods without noshing on burgers and brats alone.
"Even though protein is one of the most important nutrients you consume daily, it has consequences when overdone. Protein is required to repair and build muscle, boost immunity, give us energy, help process nutrients, and it keeps you feeling full," Petre says. "The problems arise when you get too much of a good thing. Eating too many proteins and going above the calories needed on a daily basis can lead to weight gain, as the excess intake gets converted into fat and stored."
For example, red meat is pretty high in fat and calories compared to lean protein options like fish and chicken. One ounce of red meat can be 75 calories. A 6-ounce steak sirloin has 450 calories.
Petre adds, "High-protein diets will satiate you, but if you consume too many animal proteins, you could tip the scales the wrong way."
Featured Recipe: Roasted Chickens
Currently, there are no studies that have looked at the effects of this diet. Most reports of success (or failure) are anecdotal. That&aposs the case with Shawn Baker and Mikhaila Peterson.
"There are no long-term studies on humans using this diet," Yule says, "so I am not comfortable recommending this diet at this time."
In fact, to find any science about this style of eating, Yule says you have to look back almost 100 years to 1930 to a report in which two men ate an all-meat diet for one year.
"They did not lose weight on the diet except some initial water weight," she says. "Neither developed vitamin deficiencies, but they were consuming items such as calf brain and liver. Unlike most meats, these organ meats contain a fair amount of vitamin C, which could have helped protect these men from deficiencies."
An earlier report from 1886 documented a man who lost weight and reported decreased indigestion after a six-week carnivorous-style diet.
However, Gulbin cautions, it&aposs unclear what long-term effects this diet has on overall health.
The Health Risks of the Carnivore Diet
Without research to determine the effects of this diet, the benefits as well as the risks are based largely on anecdotes and previous research around heavy meat consumption. Possible health risks include:
• Risk for nutrient deficiencies. Vitamins, fruits and other plant foods are chock-full of nutrients that research says help you live a longer, healthier life. It&aposs unclear if vitamin-rich meat sources can adequately make up for this lost nutrition. "This diet lacks phytonutrients, many of which are associated with reduced risk of chronic disease," Yule says. "It is also lacking in prebiotics. Prebiotics help support the good bacteria in our gut."
• Potential kidney problems. "Dehydration occurs when your kidneys are overworked by removing nitrogen waste and excess proteins from metabolizing the protein, causing you to urinate in excess," Petre says. She says this process will eventually ruin your kidneys. Kidney stones are also a concern. When your kidneys are stressed from the extra work, it can slow calcium absorption. That can lead to kidney stone production, if you&aposre already prone to the problem, Petre says.
• Risk for constipation. Fiber is important for digestion and regularity. When you replace fiber-rich foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans with animal proteins that have virtually no fiber, it is nearly impossible to get the recommended 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. "You will wind up feeling bloated, gassy and constipated," Petre says.
• Risk of developing an eating disorder. The focus on eating such a restricted diet could lead to disordered eating. In other words, you may become so focused on the diet that you develop an unhealthy dependency on your regimen.
• Too much saturated fat. We know now that fat isn&apost the great nutritional villain we once believed it to be, but we do know that the approach to fat isn&apost one-size-fits-all. Some people do produce more cholesterol after eating high-fat foods than others, so they may need to eat less saturated fat to manage their risk of cardiovascular disease. This diet may have too many fats for some individuals.
Who Should Avoid the Carnivore Diet?
"A diet this restrictive could be particularly hazardous to persons with eating disorders, pregnant or lactating women, and children or adolescents," Yule says. "People with certain undiagnosed metabolic disorders may also be putting themselves at risk by extreme-and not medically indicated-diets."
Yule sites an example of a case report in which a woman with an undiagnosed urea cycle disorder (a condition that prevents your body from removing waste) died after consuming a diet very high in protein.
Elimination diets are routinely used to help you and your doctor detect food sensitivities, and this diet could be used in that manner. However, it&aposs advised that you work with your doctor to construct an elimination plan that suits your needs and the foods your doctor is looking specifically to test.
Likewise, people who have chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are advised to consult with their doctor or a dietitian before beginning this diet. Anyone with any form of kidney disease should also avoid this diet.
The Bottom Line
The carnivore diet may be successful as short-term weight-loss tool, but you will also give up a lot of freedom in this highly restricted form of eating.
Indeed, many social traditions involve food, from holiday parties to celebratory lunches. Sticking with this diet may be increasingly difficult over the long run, and you may find it&aposs either too tricky to maintain or too isolating.
Without research to support the claims of carnivore diet proponents, it&aposs impossible to say if this diet could be successful in the long run. As with any diet plan, some diets work for some individuals but not for others. And experts urge caution, citing its lack of fiber and other important plant nutrients.
"If a person is trying to cure an underlying medical issue with this diet, I would recommend that they explore all available options with a physician first so that they are better able to make an informed choice," Yule says. "I want to support self-determination by encouraging people to eat in a way that helps them feel better, but at the same time, I am concerned about the potential negative consequences of this diet over the long term."
The smarter, healthier approach to diet, meal planning and weight loss is to find a well-balanced eating style that encompasses healthful foods, including fruits and vegetables, with filling nutrients like protein and fat. This allows you the most freedom in choices, and it gives you greater flexibility to eat foods you enjoy and crave.
What Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy Says
The Atkins diet is one of the best-known low-carb diets, and the research shows it can work. If you fill your day with processed carbs like white bread, pasta, and white potatoes, and you don’t eat many fruits and veggies, then this diet may be the jump-start you need to lose weight.
You can quit your usual go-to foods and start with the Atkins food list. The initial phase in the Atkins 20 plan is limited in food choices but focused on protein, fat, and vegetables that are low carb and not starchy. In each phase you add back food groups: first nuts, seeds, and berries then fruits, starchy vegetables, beans, and whole grains. With the Atkins 40 plan you can choose from a larger variety of foods and carbs but still little to no starchy foods.
With Atkins 20, the closer you get to your weight loss goal, the more variety of foods you’re allowed. Ideally, you’ll stick to their healthy list and not go back to your old ways.
If you like variety in the foods you eat, the Atkins 40 plan would likely be better for you. Of course you'll still need to keep your portion sizes under control, which may be easier as a low-carb diet can help tame hunger.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
When you’re overweight, shedding pounds can improve your health, and we know the Atkins diet works. But it’s still unclear how the higher amounts of animal protein and fat in the Atkins diet affect long-term health.
Recent research suggests that people on the Atkins diet who chose foods rich in plant fat and protein did better with their health than those who went with the diet rich in animal fat and protein.
This makes sense to me, and the Atkins 20 and Atkins 40 diets reflect this idea. They focus more on getting fat and protein from heart-healthy choices like olive oil and protein like soy and lentils.
If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or high cholesterol, talk to your doctor before starting this diet to make sure the balance of carbs, fat, and protein is right for you.
For the person who needs structure in their diet, limiting starchy, sugary carbs will help cut calories and allow for weight loss. And focusing on proteins and fats that are plant-based is the healthy and smart thing to do.
For your long-term health, you have to move on from the initial Atkins 20 diet. It’s the later phases of the diet, especially the Atkins 40, that give you the variety of foods that are important for health. You have to exercise and keep portions small while you start eating nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains again.
Atkins, R. Atkins for Life. St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Atkins, R. Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution: Revised and Updated. M. Evans & Company, 1999.