I was talking with my mom the other day about our eating habits and we ended up discussing the different styles of eating for people who diet. It’s an age old story, we all know someone who is constantly talking about the latest diet trend. While we were on the phone, she asked me, “So what is paleo and what does clean eating mean and what’s the difference?” Since she brought it up, I figured that if she has the question, she’s probably not the only one. The 5 main styles of dieting that I hear the most about are Low Fat, Low Carb, Clean, Paleo and Gluten Free. I have laid out a little background and common diets associated with each style. All eating plans have their own benefits and drawbacks. It’s really up to you as an individual to figure out what works best for your body and lifestyle.
Low Fat diets are exactly what they sound like and the most recognizable in the group. They’re eating plans that restrict calories from fat and are basically what most Americans consider “Healthy Eating.” It is recommended that the average person have 30% or less of their daily calories come from fat and these diets adhere to that standard. Components of a low fat meal would include vegetables, low fat dairy, pasta, whole wheat bread, fish and other lean meats. No-no’s are egg yolks, butter, cheese and fried foods.
Low fat dieting became very popular in the 80’s when experts began to recommend reducing saturated fat as a means of healthy eating. Low fat diets have been proven to reduce cholesterol, improve heart health and help people lose weight. (Just stay away from the processed foods.)
Low carb diets grew in popularity with the advent of the Atkins diet. Characterized and popularized primarily by excluding bread, pasta, sugar and starchy vegetables and allowing seemingly endless amounts of meat, cheese, and other fatty foods to lose weight. Remember when this was oh so popular in the early 2000’s? I’ll admit, I tried it. I couldn’t give up bread though. Me and low carb diets were just not meant for one another.
Severe low carb diets like the original Atkins program cause your body to go into a state called ketosis, which causes rapid weight loss but has been proven to have other possibly harmful side effects. Today, most low carb diets have been altered and include more healthy carbohydrates and focus on lean proteins instead of meats high in saturated fat.
Clean eating meal plans are less about controlling what specific macronutrients you put in your body and are more about being mindful about where your food is coming from. The idea is to eat “real” foods in their state that is closest to how they are found in nature. This means eliminating processed and refined foods. As I talked about in my last post, processed food is basically anything that comes in a can or a box. Examples are pasta, hot dogs, frozen pizza, etc.
Acceptable foods are, non processed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, farm fresh eggs. Minimally processed foods are unrefined grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice, frozen fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meat; wild over pastured, pastured over grain-fed, hormone-free dairy and oils. The key here is to avoid weird stuff in your food. Think yes to tomatoes, no to ketchup. No preservatives, no additives, no hormones. Keywords to looks for are free-range, organic, grass fed, and hormone free.
Clean Diets: Eat-Clean Diet
The paleo or paleolithic style of eating is similar to clean eating in that it’s an attempt to return to eating natural foods. Paleo takes it one step further and encourages people to “eat like cavemen,” which essentially means that you wouldn’t eat anything that a caveman wouldn’t have access to. The idea is that agricultural process has come so quickly to the human race, our bodies haven’t had enough time to evolve and adapt to eating processed foods like sugar, wheat and processed oils. People who eat this way believe that that inability to adapt is what is causing many of our common “food related” diseases like cardiovascular disease, type-II Diabetes and obesity. Good foods are the same as clean eating, just take out anything that’s not meat, vegetables, or nuts. The same keywords that apply to clean eating apply here as well, free-range, organic, grass-fed and hormone free.
Gluten Free is the buzzword-iest diet in the list I think. Gluten free diets came to the nation’s attention because of a disorder called Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People who have Celiac disease can’t eat things like bread, pasta, or beer without having a severe intestinal reaction. (What a bummer!) So, specific gluten free diets were created to tailor to Celiac patients. Somewhere along the line, people figured out that if you don’t eat gluten, you will lose weight. This actually has more to do with the fact that you aren’t putting a lot of processed, simple carbohydrates in your body than your body’s ability to digest gluten. As with any popular diet, the food industry has blown the gluten craze way up, creating lines of gluten free cookies and cakes and pasta and pretty much every processed food you can imagine. I’m going to give you my honest opinion here. Unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor and you have Celiac disease (trust me: if you did, you’d know it), there is no reason to pretend you are allergic to gluten. If you feel better when you don’t eat a ton of processed food and grains? That’s because you’re a normal human.
Gluten Free Diets: Gluten Free Living
Have any of you ever tried these eating styles or the specific diets? Have questions? Let me know how in the comments!