What's the best long-term diet for me? Wow, what a loaded question! Every person's diet is unique, even if you and your partner, friend, or family all follow a paleo, keto, or other "named" diet. The most important thing to remember when picking an approach that works for you is that YOU are in control. You make the rules. You can borrow principles from a number of diets, but you get to decide how to organize them into your plan.
That said, there are some key things to consider when deciding what makes up your personalized diet. Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
Can I see myself staying on this plan for the foreseeable future, or is it only doable if I have a goal in mind (example: lose weight before a vacation)?
If you find yourself struggling to make it through the day eating a limited number of foods or dream of "cheat" days, you may want to consider some adjustments to your plan. A sustainable diet should pass my F.E.A.D. test: functional, easy, affordable, and delicious!
Is your diet:
FUNCTIONAL? Can I prepare and eat the meals and snacks in a way that jives with my life schedule? Am I eating real foods?
EASY? Do cooking and eating provide satisfaction without taking over my life?
AFFORDABLE? Am I struggling to afford foods that are "supposed" to be on my diet?
DELICIOUS? Am I enjoying my food? Do I look forward to eating the foods that I prepare?
Do the principles of my diet support permanent healthy habits?
Think about bumper bowling (you know, the kids bowling with the foam bumpers in the gutters that keep the bowling ball traveling down the lane toward the pins). Healthy habits are like the foam bumpers that keep us from falling into the gutter and making unhealthy choices. Actions that influence your diet like meal prepping, intermittent fasting, meal timing, grocery shopping, and dining out should be done mindfully and support the success of your diet plan.
Does my diet exclude macronutrients?
Just say no to diets that exclude carbohydrates, fat, or protein. The human body thrives on having all three of our macronutrients. The percentage of macronutrients will vary from person to person, but their presence in the diet is very important. For example, I feel that a long-term carnivore diet that excludes all plant fiber (and therefore carbohydrates) will not be sustainable or support overall health in the long run.
When I eat this way, am I hungry or satiated?
I always think of the protein shake diets when discussing this question! In an effort to lose weight, people often try the Slim Fast diet or other plan that uses a liquid meal replacement for two meals per day. Liquid meal replacements, especially the ready-to-drink products, do not contain the fiber, fat, and protein that the body needs. You will most likely be hungry, and hunger is a sure sign of an unsustainable diet. Real food - veggies, fruit, minimally-processed protein and plant-based fats - will fill you up. A plan with real foods - even if you turn one meal into a smoothie! - will give your body the fuel to work efficiently.
Next week: What is one thing all good diets have in common?