Which Diet Fits Your Lifestyle?

These days, it seems as if there’s a new diet plan being created every week. With so many new options constantly being thrown in our faces, it’s hard to choose a plan that will fit your lifestyle. But fear not my fellow food lovers, I am here to give you the facts about these new diets, in simple terms, and will even provide an example of a typical meal that fits the parameters of each plan.

Vegetarianism

Let’s start with a big category of diets: Vegetarianism. There are many “spin off” versions of vegetarianism. Some people claim to be a vegetarian when really; they’re a pescatarian or a Lacto-ovo vegetarian, or a vegan, etc. Here’s the scoop on the different vegetarian diets:

The Vegan diet has been gaining in popularity ever since researchers started making claims about how animal products may not be as healthy for us as we once thought. To follow the vegan diet, you simply exclude all animal products including eggs, all dairy products, fish, meat, and poultry. A typical meal on this plan would be a chickpea and broccoli barley salad topped with olive oil and lemon.

A Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet still excludes the meat products like the vegan plan does, but it allows for dairy and eggs. A further breakdown could be just a Lacto vegetarian (allows dairy products) or an Ovo vegetarian (allows eggs). A great meal on this plan would be a vegetable frittata with peppers, potatoes, onions and a side salad.

The Pescatarian diet excludes dairy, eggs, meat, and poultry, but allows fish. A delicious seared tuna over quinoa with a pineapple salsa fills the belly of a pescatarian dieter.

Flexetarians enjoy a largely vegetarian diet but do consume small amounts of meat products occasionally.  Any of the meals above would work for a flexetarian, hence the “flex” part of it. Another example would be spaghetti squash with a vegetable and ground chicken ragu. The emphasis here should be on infrequent meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy consumption.

PROS

  • Plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains mean lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber
  • Can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer

CONS

  • Possible macronutrient imbalances, specifically with protein
  • Possibility of eating too many processed foods or foods with refined flour and sugar when focus should be a plant-based diet

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet became mainstream in the 90’s. Much like vegetarianism, it also focuses on plant-based foods like nuts, legumes, fruits, grains, and vegetables; however, it also suggests replacing butter with healthier fats like olive oil. Mediterranean dieters limit red meat, salt, and sweets while making fish a part of their diet at least twice a week. This plan allows for the occasional glass of red wine and urges people to get plenty of exercise. A typical meal on this plan would consist of salmon over cannellini beans and escarole.

PROS

  • High in fruits and vegetables
  • More flexible than other diets
  • Low risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies

CONS

  • Does not exclude processed foods
  • May be difficult to control sodium intake

Paleolithic Diet

The Paleolithic diet, or “Paleo” for short, is extremely popular at the moment. This diet promotes “eating like a caveman” which means no processed foods, lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats. Paleo dieters are not allowed to consume dairy, wheat, legumes, salt, refined sugar, or potatoes. Grass-fed strip steak with a kale and walnut salad would fit great into this diet.

PROS

  • Great for cutting back on salt intake
  • High in fruits and vegetables
  • High in fiber
  • Low in common allergens like wheat and dairy

CONS

  • High in meat, seafood, and eggs
  • Ingredients may be expensive
  • Easy to skimp on fruits and vegetables/overdo meat portion which may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies

Pegan Diet

The Pegan diet is basically the Paleo diet plus a Vegan diet. This diet recommends consuming 75% of your food intake as fruit and vegetables. Fats should come from foods like avocados, nuts, and coconut. Like the Paleo diet, it also restricts grains, diary and legumes. The Pegan diet does allow for small amounts of grass-fed, sustainably raised meats but only used as a condiment. An easy meal on this plan would be an avocado, arugula, almond, and tomato salad with homemade red wine vinaigrette.

PROS

  • High in fruits and vegetables
  • Low in processed food
  • Good for the environment
  • Little room for error, which makes it easy to stay on track

CONS

  • Ingredients, especially organic, may be expensive
  • Can be time-consuming to prepare everything from scratch

Regardless of which plan you choose, a common theme in every healthy diet plan is an emphasis on vegetables. Most of the diets above do share this theme, but consist of a variety of other components that make them unique. You can’t be too aware of what you’re putting in your body. Finding a dietthat is healthy and sustainable is what’s really important. One common misconception many people have is that a diet is only temporary. This is simply not true. A diet should not be a short-term change in eating habits aimed at meeting a goal; it’s a lifestyle. Once you find one that works for you, stick to it. Nothing feels better than being healthy. If you’re having trouble getting on track, try our 21-Day Challenge to kick-start that healthy lifestyle.

Anastasia Conover graduated from West Chester University with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She continued her education receiving a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Now she teaches nutrition classes, does nutrition counseling, and develops healthy recipes and diets to help people reach their health and wellness goals. She also devotes her time to community outreach focusing on kidney disease education.

Anastasia Conover MS, RD, CSR

Anastasia Conover graduated from West Chester University with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She continued her education receiving a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Now she teaches nutrition classes, does nutrition counseling, and develops healthy recipes and diets to help people reach their health and wellness goals. She also devotes her time to community outreach focusing on kidney disease education.

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