You’ve heard it before: “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!”
If research and nutritionists are to be believed, the chances of on-again / off-again dieting don’t have any permanent effects on a healthy weight. The trick is finding a “diet” that works for you — in terms of taste, cost, practicality, and so on — and making a true lifestyle change and sticking with it.
You must be thinking, “But there are so many out there that claim to be ‘the one’ — how do I know which is right for me?” Here are a few you should consider based on flexibility, cost and overall health benefits.
Clean eating is a lifestyle that — thank goodness — doesn’t rely on points, portions or calories. When you eat clean, you simply trust in good, healthy food. According to Lillian Downey of Livestrong.com, the idea is to eat as many whole foods as you can, closest to their natural state.
That means cutting out the TV dinners and packaged processed foods and replacing them with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. It also means trading bad fats for healthy fats. While it is not necessary to go organic, it is encouraged, particularly where meat is concerned, so that the resulting meal is free of hormones and additives.
So what might a day of clean eating look like? You might start off your day with a cup of coffee sweetened with stevia and egg whites scrambled with spinach or zucchini. A mid-morning snack might be an apple and a handful of almonds. Lunch might consist of sliced chicken or turkey on whole-grain bread with some carrots and hummus on the side. Dinner could be lean steaks made on the grill along with steamed broccoli and black beans. If you’ve been good, it’s okay to have a couple of Oreos for dessert.
When you eat clean, you don’t give up your favorite foods. You just learn how to balance healthy eating with an occasional “cheat.”
Weight Watchers has been around for 50 years, and for good reason. This program is designed for busy people and offers flexibility and convenience that traditional calorie counting just doesn’t do. On this plan, foods are assigned point values. For example, a Weight Watchers frozen meal might be seven points. Foods like kale and celery are zero points, and your favorite cereal might be four points, depending on the calories, fat and fiber content.
Depending on your weight, you have an allotted number of points for each day — say 25-27, for example. You plan your meals and choose your foods based on staying within your allotted points. Balanced with moderate exercise, this creates a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss. Weight Watchers online program and smartphone apps also make it easy for you to input your meals and points on the go.
The DASH diet, created by Dr. Marla Heller, has been hailed by the Today Show and Dr. Oz as one of the healthiest diets a person can adopt. It was originally created to help lower and maintain healthy blood pressure and had the pleasant side effect of weight loss.
Like other successful eating plans, the DASH diet is based on whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or non-fat dairy. However, meal plans are also arranged to provide more key nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as lower sodium intake, to help maintain lower blood pressure.
Heller’s book also includes additional guidelines to help lower blood pressure, such as moderation of alcohol intake and smoking cessation.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet
The TLC diet is about more than just picking healthy foods. The foods on the TLC meal plan are chosen specifically because they are heart-healthy choices.
This lifestyle is a food-based cholesterol-lowering treatment that lowers LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and raises HDL (“good cholesterol”) with the overall goal of reducing the risk of a heart attack or other disease caused by hardening of the arteries. The TLC meal plan consists of high-fiber foods like oatmeal, healthy fats like avocado and broiled fish, and heart-healthy desserts like sugar-free pudding.
The Zone, created by Dr. Sears, is a program that emphasizes a balance of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. You arrange your meals with “blocks.” If your breakfast has one protein block (such as some cottage cheese), then it must also have one carbohydrate block and one fat block (such as a piece of fruit and some nuts). Based on this balance, your body is getting the right amount of nutrients it needs for optimal functioning, including exercise. You’ll have so much energy that you’ll feel like the weight is just falling off.