Last week a report came out ranking the best and worst diets of 2020. According to the report “to be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.”
The best diets included the Mediterranean, DASH and Flexitarian while the two worst diets were Keto and Dukan.
When it comes to studies like this, instead of getting lost in the rules (which can become overwhelming) I like to look at the common themes among the best diets and the worst diets.
Worst Diets Common Themes
These tend to cut out either one or multiple food groups. They are founded on the idea that it is you vs. food or you have to trick your body in order to lose weight. A good rule of thumb is if a diet is trying to get your body in an altered state or trick it in some sort of way, it is most likely a fad and unsustainable.
Best Diets Common Themes
These all are founded on mostly plants, some animal protein, healthy fats and flexibility. A good rule of thumb is if a diet incorporates flexibility and is ultimately teaching you what works best for your individual body, it is more of a long term solution.
How do you use this information?
So let’s talk about what that means and easy ways you can incorporate this into your 2020 goals. For each common theme I have both a beginner and advanced application so you can begin to use this information no matter where you are in your nutrition journey!
All of the healthiest diets as well as the blue zone (areas where people have exceptional health & longevity) are mostly plant based. That does not mean that it excludes animal protein but plants are the foundation. Fruits & Vegetables are where we get the majority of our vitamins & minerals as well as fiber. If you don’t like the taste of vegetables, roasting or grilling is a good place to start because it makes them sweeter.
Beginner: incorporate a full serving of vegetables at 1 of your meals each day.
Advanced: have a fruit or vegetable every time you eat.
They healthiest diets also incorporate more vegetarian protein sources that we currently tend to do in our society. This includes fish, eggs, beans & lentils. This is an added source of omega-3 fatty acids which is great for depression and brain health and fiber, which is important for heart and digestive health.
Beginner: try a vegetarian meal once a week. Try options like lentil pasta or toasted chickpeas if the idea of beans or fish is too big of a step.
Advanced: have fish 3 times per week and one plant based meal every day.
Healthy fats not only have health benefits and flavor, but focusing on healthy fats helps remove the more unhealthy fats from our diet. These are fats found in fried food, vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated oils.
Beginner: swap out your vegetable oils for olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil.
Advanced: have 1-2 thumb sized source of fat at every meal.
Wine & Chocolate
Yes wine and chocolate have anti-oxidants but I feel the real reason this is a common theme in the best diets is because it represents pleasure and community. The two biggest reasons that people fall off track is they don’t enjoy the food they are eating or they can’t function in social situations. Many diets cause us to isolate and fear social eating and that goes against human nature.
Beginner: incorporate one small pleasurable snack every day.
Advanced: practice social eating at least once a week without considering it an off day.