What’s the Best Diet to Follow in 2020?
I wanted to put together a blog post all about my food philosophy, how I eat, what’s important to me when choosing foods and ultimately what my philosophy is around healthy living. Overall, the world of health and nutrition has started to become a very confusing place and if you’re someone who’s wanting to make some health changes, knowing where to start and what to believe can be very overwhelming. There are so many different styles of eating and everyone believes they’ve finally cracked the code and discovered the best diet out there. (Spoiler alert: I don’t believe there is one perfect way to eat.) I think there are multiple healthy ways to consume food and I think what it really comes down to is what your health goals are and where you’re starting from.
Before someone books in for an appointment with me, I always encourage them to book a free 20 minute discovery call to get an idea of how I might be able to help them work through their health goals. More often than not, the two most common topics clients want to discuss are: how to become vegan, or how to start the ketogenic diet. Or, they’ve already started one of these diets and they’re wanting more guidance. I love chatting with potential clients on where they’re at and how I can help them reach their health goals, and I love it when people are ready to make a lifestyle change and put their health first! I think it’s more important than ever to be conscious about what we put into our bodies and make sure our health is our first priority and I admire anyone who is ready to take that leap. What I find problematic though, is this idea that these trendy diets are the quick “fix” to whatever problem clients are currently facing.
I’ll start with the ketogenic diet. Deciding to start following the keto diet can be very therapeutic and may, in fact, aid in weight loss, help maintain blood sugar balance, help manage type 2 diabetes, and have other overall health benefits. The problem I see with this diet is that people are doing it half-assed and are not taking the integrity of the diet seriously. This is not an eating style you can just commit to a few days a week when you’re feeling “on it,” or just during the week and then binge on the weekend. It’s also not a good idea to make it as convenient as possible for yourself and just eat copious amounts of meat and cheese. I’m not suggesting that this diet can’t be helpful for some people and I have a few friends in the health and wellness industry who are doing a fantastic job on keto. They’re eating whole foods, balanced meals and are very committed to the lifestyle. It can definitely be done and offer some great results, but again, please understand that for this to be a successful tool for weight loss and other health benefits, it needs the proper attention and you must fully commit to making it a lifestyle.
The other eating style I often get questions about is going vegan (no animal products at all). This is probably one of the most polarizing topics in the nutrition space and there are die-hard supporters on both sides. Whatever side of the fence you want to support, you can find an unlimited amount of information supporting why it’s the “right” way. I really believe that the truth of this matter lies somewhere in the middle. I believe that both plant and animal foods can be a great source of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that make our bodies thrive. When asked about animal products in the diet, I remind my clients that the most important point to keep in mind when it comes to eating animal foods is quality. Eating good quality, grass-fed, free range and organic foods is ultimately what you want to look for. Animal products can become problematic and cause adverse health effects when poor quality meat, eggs, and dairy are consumed on a regular basis. I really don’t see a problem with meat or other animal products if you are an informed consumer and know that you’re purchasing high quality. From a nutritional standpoint, animal protein can often be much more bio-available (more easily absorbed by the body) than some plant-based proteins, which is why I generally don’t advise a fully vegan diet. I also tend to see clients struggle with digestive distress when relying heavily on plant-based proteins such as beans, grains, and legumes. Overall, my philosophy on this topic is that eating both plant and animal foods is the optimal way to fuel the body for overall health. Again, there are people who eat a vegan diet and totally thrive! This isn’t my area of expertise though, so if this is something you’re passionate about I encourage you to work with someone who specializes in vegan diets for the best advice nutritionally.
If you’re like the majority of the population and you have some general health goals like weight-loss, improved energy, better quality of sleep, improved digestion and an overall feeling of well-being, this is what I recommend you prioritize in your diet before doing anything extreme like going ketogenic, vegan or overhauling your entire life.
- Prioritize quality. Choose organic fruits and vegetables, and when buying animal products look for organic, grass-fed, and free range labels.
- Understand what’s listed on the ingredient list. Overall, you want to have very few packaged foods in your diet (that way you won’t even need to worry about an ingredient list). When you do need to purchase a packaged food, make sure you look for simple ingredient lists you understand.
- Sugar should be mostly eliminated from the diet. Read my post about how to quit sugar if this is something you struggle with.
- The food you eat should support a healthy psychological response. Indulgences should be mostly planned and deliberate and therefore shouldn’t cause guilt or stress afterward.
- Food should support gut health. Everything starts in the gut and if the food you eat causes any type of digestive distress you must get to the bottom of what foods are causing it (Hint: gluten, dairy, grains, and inflammatory foods are usually the main culprits). Beyond that you may need to dive further into foods high in FODMAPS and beyond.
- Eat more greens! Even though there are countless ways you can eat (paleo, low carb. vegan, keto etc.) experts never debate the fact that greens and vegetables are important in the diet.
- Honour the seasons and eat seasonally grown fruits and vegetables when possible.
- In general try to choose warming foods such as soups, spices and root vegetables in the winter and cooling foods such as smoothies and salads in the summer.
- Eat foods you enjoy! If you don’t like a certain food, don’t force yourself to eat it just because it’s healthy for you. Food is meant to be enjoyed and there are countless healthy foods for you to choose from.
- Don’t fall for “healthy” versions of junk food. Some examples are baked potato chips, gluten-free cupcakes, frozen yogurt, or anything labeled fat-free. For the most part, if a label is trying to tell you something is healthy – it’s probably not that healthy.
I hope this makes sense and helps you understand that you don’t need to do anything extreme to live a healthy lifestyle and feel your best. The hardest part of making these changes is actually adopting them into your lifestyle. I recommend starting with just one or two things you can commit to over the next two weeks and then add more as you feel comfortable. If you’ve never given up sugar before, I would recommend you start there! If you need someone to hold you accountable, or a step-by-step action plan designed specifically for your unique needs, let’s chat on how I can help you reach your goals this year 🙂