Searching for the healthiest diet can be exhausting, one minute your favorite body builder on Instagram tells you that eating a low-carb diet is your best chance of being healthy and obtaining your dream body.
The next minute you find yourself watching a movie that says carbs need to make up 40-70% of your diet for optimal health, and then a few days later you’re talking to some trainer in the gym and they tell you to eliminate ALL carbs if you expect to live past the age for 40.
With all of this “expert advice” and these waves of diet trends, you find yourself changing your diet every 3-6 months, trying to keep up with the opinions of health and fitness experts based on their opinions and personal results.
I can tell you first hand, it’s exhausting.
Not only is it mentally exhausting to have to learn about all these new diets, but it also is extremely exhausting on the body to go from one extreme to the other.
Being in the Nutrition field, people are constantly asking me about these diets and which one I think is the best.
So I’m here to give you a simple rundown of the most popular diets, and share with you, what I believe is the healthiest.
PALEO: AKA The Caveman Diet
This diet is exactly what it sounds like, eat like a caveman. Meaning you’re allowed to eat anything that you’re capable of hunting or gathering; meats (including fish), nuts, fruits and veggies, eggs, healthy oils, and seeds.
This also means you aren’t supposed to eat grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, potatoes, processed foods, refined vegetable oils, and salt.
Basically, carbs and grains were not a staple food in our diets before, and we don’t need them now. It touches on how gluten-intolerance is a thing and how the body can run suffice on low carbs.
The Paleo Macro recommendation usually looks like:
- 40% fat
- 30% protein
- 30% carb
Again the name is pretty self-explanatory, this diet excludes the protein found in wheat, gluten.
This diet is most used for people who have celiac disease, which is the inability to digest gluten. Which in celiacs, gluten damages the small intestine.
Celiac disease is a serious, genetic autoimmune disease. The only treatment for this disease is strict adherence to a gluten free diet for life.
The diet has become more of a trend over the years to cut gluten out of diets for weight loss or from some misconception that gluten free foods are healthier than foods containing gluten.
There is no specific macro breakdown/recommendation for this diet.
KETOGENIC Diet aka Low Carb
The Keto diet is a very low carb diet. Similar to the Atkin and LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet, turns your body into a fat-burning machine.
In a diet where carbohydrates are consumed at 40%-70%, the body uses glucose as it’s the main source of energy. The body burns the glycogen stores, and when they are depleted it uses ketones as its backup energy source (stored fat.)
In the keto diet, fats are consumed at 60-75%, so that the body begins to use ketones as it’s main energy source (ketosis)
Because fats are calorie dense foods, you end up consuming at significantly less amount of food, and your body will then look to stored fat as energy.
I won’t lie, this diet is really a great way to burn fat, it takes about a week for the body to switch over to ketosis, but when it does you can just see the fat disappear.
Although, the diet is not safe for everyone. They recommend pregnant women, those on medication for diabetes and high blood pressure, or breastfeeding contact their physician before making the change in diet.
The Macro breakdown looks a little something like this (but not for everyone)
- Carbs: 5-10%
- Proteins: 15-30%
- Fats: 60-75%
Vegetarians do not eat meat, land or sea.
It has been up for debate if eggs are vegetarian-friendly foods, but most vegetarians will also consume eggs and dairy.
Also, there are several types of vegetarian diets:
- Lacto-Ovo (will eat milk products and eggs)
- Pescatarian (vegetarian diet with the exception of seafood)
- Semi-Vegetarians (no red meat but include chicken, fish, plant food, dairy products, and eggs)
I like to think as the types of vegetarianism as stepping stones to full vegetarianism (no meat). Many people on these diets do them for health and ethical reasons. Again, there is no specific macro breakdown.
Veganism, in the addition to vegetarianism, does not consume animal products.
Anything that comes from an animal, dead or alive, a vegan does not consume.
They rely on plant based sources.
Veganism is not only a diet but a philosophy. Man vegans adopt that “do no harm” lifestyle that veganism represents. Making it not only a diet but a political statement and spiritual belief.
People choose to become vegans for many reasons, some as animal rights activists, the immense health benefits, sustainability/economic reasoning, philosophical reasons, etc.,
Again again, there is no specific macro breakdown for this diet.
Now that you have a general idea of the most popular diets, whether you’re currently on one of these or you are looking into beginning this lifestyle change, let’s talk about the HEALTHIEST diet.
As I said, my current diet is vegan, but I’m not here to talk to you about why you should all go vegan and how meat is terrible for your health, etc etc. I’m here to give you my conscious opinion on how you can live your healthiest life via food.
So what, in my opinion, is the HEALTHIEST DIET??
Conscious Eating; a whole foods diet.
And no I don’t mean eating at Whole Foods.
I mean REAL FOOD.
Now, it sounds simple….but let me elaborate on this diet.
A whole foods diet, meaning no matter what the food source is, as long as it is a WHOLE/REAL FOOD, that is approved for your consumption.
What is a partial/fake food? A partial food is junk food, your chips, your frozen TV dinners, your foods that when you pick them up have these food labels with a paragraph of ingredients that you can’t pronounce. They are foods made in laboratories, where nature has been altered, or pumped with these fake ingredients/hormones.pesticides to come to an unnatural size.
The HEALTHIEST DIET in terms of which of these foods you should or should not eat, is different for everyone. We all have a completely different genetic makeup, we have different levels of stomach acid, the way our body absorbs nutrients are different, and the foods in which we are able to consume are different.
So it is unrealistic and unfair for ANYONE to tell you that you cannot eat a certain FOOD/Food group, whether it be a fruit, vegetable, grain, or meat, in order to be healthy.
Because there are people who live to 100 years old and eat meat every single day, and there are people who eat fruits and vegetables every single day, and diet at the age of 30. There is no one size fits all diet. But there is one thing we can all do to find what diet fits us the best.
Be conscious; consume consciously.
Don’t mindless buy your foods. Don’t just buy it because it’s in front of you. Understand where it comes from, know what’s inside of it, understand WHY these ingredients are inside of it and find out why they’re necessary!
Your body is your temple, You don’t want to fill it with trash. You want to fill it with the best.
So don’t feel bullied into eating a carb free diet, because carbs are not bad for you (source and moderation are key), don’t be frightened into a meat-free diet, because meat isn’t always the issue (the source of your meat, how the meat is raised, and the quantity/quality of the meats you choose to eat are.)
Gluten isn’t always the bad guy (if you aren’t a celiac), it’s the quality and quantity in which you consume it. Also understanding, WHY we eat. Food is FUEL. Yes, food can be fun, but it isn’t a way to make yourself feel better or a way to celebrate an accomplishment. Understanding your relationship with food is also key!
So the first step to being on the healthiest diet is eating real food.
Once you can detox the sugars, preservatives, and fake foods out of your system, you can decide which foods make you feel the best. Whether it be gluten free, paleo, vegan, or just eating whatever you want.
Don’t feel guilty for your food choices. Love your body, get more interactive with the foods you eat and just enjoy your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are professionals out here, like myself (shameless plug) who can help you to understand your current relationship with food and how you can change that relationship so that you are free from the shackles of food shaming!
You are what you eat, stay away from the fake and processed.
Love your body and it will love you!
Feel free to contact me for a diet consultation and take the first steps to a healthier you <3
Guest Post By Brittany Bucey
A twenty-something wellness blogger, Nutrition Grad-Student, yoga instructor, vegan who creates easy-to-follow content for every, and anyone who has an interest in taking a holistic, carefree approach at life.
From my favorite lifestyle practices, tips for plant-based eating, favorite products, recipes, and more!
I’m here to show people, it’s not so intimidating being comfortable in your own skin.