Three Practical And Tasty Diets That Won't Make You Hate Healthy Eating
Being on a diet doesn't have to male you feel deprived of some of the best food experiences there are!
We're a little done whining and crying about life under lockdown after doing 13 consecutive months of quarantine, and instead, we've refocused our energies on how to make the most of this time!
For one thing, we've thought about investing in our health a lot these days—health in terms of protecting ourselves from COVID and health in terms of hitting body goals we didn't have time to figure out until we spent so much time within the confines of home.
Now that we actually the time to pay closer attention to what we put in our bodies and what we can do to stay fit, we took our time exploring what diets we can try out and more importantly, stick to even when our lives have returned to their pre-pandemic states.
Now we're not fans of crash diets or those that intimidate diet newbies with stringent rules and severe punishments on days when you just can't get your hands off a piece of chocolate, so we picked out three diets in particular that are practical, enjoyable, easy to begin, and the whole family can do.
Check out our recommendations below!
The flexitarian diet
No, we're not only recommending this because of all the Netflix documentaries that talk about how human consumption of meat is harming the world. The flexitarian diet—which essentially encourages you to eat plant-based meals for most days of the week with only the occasional addition of meats, seafood, and other animal products—is good for you! It works for most people of all ages and with different health conditions, and what we like most about it is that it's flexible. It has no prescribed days or number of meals for when you should or shouldn't consume animal products, but it's recommended that you do two to three days maximum in a week where you allow yourself to.
Given that the flexitarian diet is mostly vegetarian, expect to be eating more fiber-rich foods (which should keep you feeling full for longer) and alternative sources of protein and good fat (think tofu, chickpeas, different kinds of beans and lentils, nuts, seeds).
Perhaps the only thing that the flexitarian diet strongly advises against is the consumption of processed food—even though there are claims that it's "all-natural" or made from purely veggies and fruit. That means staying away from chips made from veggies (which are never healthy because of their preservatives and saturated fat and sodium levels), vegetable patties/hotdogs (again, think of the preservatives used), snack bars made with dried fruit (it's sugar that's the enemy this time), sweetened cereals despite the nuts, seeds, and fruit in them, and other similar foods. You get the point.
Often, what people who have shifted to eating more veggies and fruits and less animal products have noticed is hastened weight and inch loss, especially when the diet is accompanied by regular exercise, improved bathroom movements, less bloating, clearer complexions, and just a general sensation of feeling "lighter" and more mobile and energetic throughout the day.
The Mediterranean diet
It's almost impossible to talk about healthy eating and diets without mentioning the mother of all of them—the Mediterranean diet! Since interest in this diet first came up in the 60s, decade after decade and year after year, it's come up as many people's favorite among the many, many other diet options out there.
Don't be fooled by the word "diet" in its name. This isn't really a prescribed nutrition plan with stringent dos and don'ts about what you put on your plate, but rather, it's all about mimicking the cuisines enjoyed by people who live in the Mediterranean region. The Mediterranean sea connects the coastal areas of the countries Spain, Italy, France, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Morocco, Greece, Turkey, and Tunisia, which means that there's a seriously massive array of flavors, condiments, sauces, and cooking styles to explore!
Now all these countries have distinct cuisines, that's true, but they do share commonalities that allow the rest of the world to group many of their dishes under the Mediterranean diet umbrella.
For one thing, you'll see that the Mediterranean diet does without many red meats and replaces them with fish and very occasionally, include poultry and dairy. For flavoring, the standard is almost always olive oil, salt and pepper, and whatever fresh herbs and spices are available in the day. There is little to no sugar, even in desserts.
Carbs are welcome in the Mediterranean diet, so rice lovers can rejoice! The only difference, however, is that carbs here (which can include bread, pasta, and rice) are always whole grain. You won't find a lot of white rice, but you will see barley, brown rice, quinoa, and oats. What makes whole grains superior is that they retain all their nutritional value, and they're heavier on the tummy. You're not only reaping more health benefits, but your hunger pangs are kept at bay for longer.
Some of the major pluses afforded to us by the Mediterranean diet include better heart health (it can be a shield against common cardiovascular diseases), increased brain functioning (it helps your brain regenerate cells more quickly, which could improve concentration, learning and memory), improved mood (it helps ward off depression and anxiety), and of course, weight loss, most evidently when you get enough physical activity, too.
The DASH diet
DASH stands for "dietary approaches to stop hypertension," but in reality, anyone (even those without a hypertension diagnosis) can get in on it.
Though it follows the same principles as the two other diets mentioned earlier, what sets it apart is that there are specific goals to reach but followers of the diet achieve them gradually. It's a gradual process that's adjustable to individual lifestyles, an element that increases the likelihood of adhering to the diet long-term and helps followers avoid a relapse into old, unhealthy eating habits. This is definitely not for those hoping to see "results" within days as it is not a crash diet (and really, you shouldn't be doing any crash dieting in the first place!).
The basics of the DASH diet are simple: think of everything your mothers and doctors tell you to eat and not eat every time you see them. It discourages you from consuming foods with high saturated fat content, excessively sugary and salty drinks and dishes, and full-fat dairy. Like the flexitarian diet, have more days in a week when you eat more veggies and whole grains than animal products. Note that the diet doesn't restrict you from certain dishes, but rather, is stricter when it comes to what goes into them. You can still have a steak once in a while, some fried chicken, and a pancake (or two) for breakfast, but you must be watchful of all the flavoring that might turn an otherwise harmless meal into a deadly recipe.
Some of the more technical considerations of the DASH diet include being especially mindful of your salt intake. The recommendation is reducing it 2.3 grams a day as you're starting out, then eventually hitting 1.5 grams maximum when your palate has gotten used to things.
There's also learning how to plan daily meals according to your caloric intake. For those aiming for weight loss, this is what you need to pay attention to. In general, women consume 2,000 calories a day and men, 2.500, but these values change depending on your overall health. To achieve weight loss, what you do is to eat a calorie deficit. That is, you use more calories in a day than you eat so that your body turns to burning your fat reserves (not just calories from food) for energy. A daily 500 calorie deficit is considered sustainable.
So what are some of the things you can do to get started on the DASH diet? You can:
- Introduce one serving of fruit and/or veggie with each of your meals.
- Switch out white rice with a whole grain alternative.
- Start with one meat-free day a week, then gradually increase the frequency until you can do four to six days of meat-free eating.
- Stop buying processed snacks at the grocery. Buy nuts, seeds, and fruit instead to satiate between-meal munchies.
- While reducing salt, food can taste bland, but you can still enjoy flavorful dishes by experimenting with herbs and spices.
- Go for short walks after meals to get started on your calorie deficit training.
There are other diets projected to be popular this year, but they require more advanced knowledge about nutrition and some formal guidance from your physician, fitness coach, or a licensed dietitian and nutritionist.
There's the WW (Weight Watchers) diet that assigns "points" to food to guide you on how much of a food you can eat within a timeframe (there is a paid app for this that gives members access to a personal coach and a daily food plans), the Volumetrics diet that trains you to fill up with foods with the most nutrients and least amount of calories, and the Noom diet that lets you know what you can afford to eat given your daily tracking of meals and exercise (Noom is not complicated, food-wise, but is loved by many because it's official app connects you with coaches that provide real-time feedback and advice).
No matter what diet you subscribe to, there are always two golden rules to follow: balance is key, and always pair diets with an exercise regimen you can stick to.
Don't push yourself to see big changes from the get-go. The mantra is slow and steady, and then maintain. And more than what the mirror and tape measure tell you, it's always how you feel about your progress and initiative to care better for yourself that matter most!
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