A new term in the world of diets is the Flexitarian Diet. The mission of the Flexitarian Diet is to add more plant-based foods to your diet. Flexitarians eat less meat than they used to, but don’t give it up completely. The Flexitarian Diet has benefits like those seen with vegetarian diets—a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The American Heart Association encourages the Flexitarian Diet as a good compromise to promote heart health. This way of eating can be fun—and may save you money!
Try these simple tips:
- Find ways to replace meat at your meals with legumes or soy products. For example, have a black bean burger instead of a hamburger.
- Start out small, by making just one meal each week meatless. You may find you enjoy the variety.
- Visit the Extension Store to download a free copy of Dried Beans, Peas, and Lentils Can Help You Save $$.
- Find vegetarian recipes on the American Heart Association website.
- When you do eat meat, select a lean cut. Lean cuts of meat include the words “loin” or “round.” After cooking, rinse ground meat with water and drain to reduce fat content. Limit your daily intake to 6 ounces.
Melina V., Craig W., Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016;116(12):1970–1980.
American Heart Association. Vegetarian, Vegan and Meals Without Meat. Last Reviewed January 27, 2017.
Intermittent fasting (IF)—the practice of abstaining from food for limited periods—is growing in popularity as a dieting fad. Two main types of IF are the 5:2 diet and time-restricted feeding. On the 5:2 diet, a person eats normally five days of the week and then eats just one meal a day on two nonconsecutive days. Time-restricted feeding involves fasting for about 16 hours a day, with an 8-hour eating window, usually from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Some people are attracted to IF as a way to lose weight because it doesn’t require calorie-counting. However, fasting can cause headaches, fatigue, and lightheadedness. Fasting at certain times may lead to overeating at other times. This practice is dangerous for people with certain health conditions, such as diabetes.
In the short term, according to the American Heart Association, IF does not help people lose weight or lower their cholesterol levels any more than conventional methods of dieting do. The long-term effects of this way of eating are unknown.
If you are interested in exploring proven and safe methods of weight control, visit the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). Consult your doctor before beginning any weight-control program.
Sources: www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0218p34.shtml; www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/intermittent-fasting; www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/not-so-fast-pros-and-cons-of-the-newest-diet-trend
The claims sound believable, so it can be tempting to try the latest diet you hear about. While a diet plan may sound tempting, an eating plan should be the goal. To manage your weight and maintain a healthy nutritional status, it would be wise to consider these questions:
QUESTION: Does the plan promise weight loss without exercise?
For most healthy adults, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends the following exercise guidelines:
- Aerobic activity – Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity.
- Muscle-strengthening exercises – Two or more days per week.
Keep activity exciting by doing different things you enjoy.
QUESTION: Are there particular foods, or food groups, excluded or consumed excessively?
Use MyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov) to guide your food intake. All food groups are important.
QUESTION: Does the plan require you to purchase pills, bars, or shakes?
A sustainable eating pattern is based on food readily available in grocery stores and farmers markets.
QUESTION: Does the plan promise weight loss of more than 1–2 pounds per week?
Losing 1–2 pounds or less a week is gradual, healthy weight loss. Weight lost more rapidly than this tends to be regained even faster.
QUESTION: Does the plan sound too good to be true?
If it does, it probably is.
A new trend showing up in the cereal, bread, pasta, and snack aisles is products made with sprouts. Most people have heard of bean sprouts, but other foods that can be sprouted include grains, legumes, radish seeds, broccoli seeds, and nuts.
The health benefits touted include being higher in vitamins such as B and C and minerals such as zinc and iron, as well as increased digestibility. Currently there is little research on sprouted foods, and the results of these studies show the benefits to be small compared to nonsprouted foods. The few studies that have been done show that vitamin C is slightly higher in sprouted grains, and iron and zinc may be more easily absorbed. In regard to digestibility, sprouting does break down the seed, which means less work for your digestive system.
If you are considering adding raw sprouts to your diet, first look at food safety. To reduce the risk of a foodborne illness, the Food and Drug Administration recommends the following:
• Children, elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts.
• Refrigerate any sprouts you buy.
• Cook sprouts thoroughly to kill any potentially harmful bacteria.
Sources: chnr.ucdavis.edu/faq/, www.webmd.com/food-recipes/sprouting-food
A popular trend making headlines is the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet, also called the “Caveman” or “Stone Age” diet. This diet is based on the belief that if we eat like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago, we’ll be healthier, lose weight, and have less disease. The table below compares the Paleo diet recommended intakes to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the typical Western diet.
The Paleo diet promotes a higher intake of protein and fat. The carbohydrates included with the Paleo diet are not from grains, but rather from fruits and vegetables (not including white potatoes or dry beans). The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends eating carbohydrates from grains, fruits, dairy, and starchy vegetables. Excluding key food groups like dairy and grains makes it likely that key vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D, will be missing. Decreasing the intakes of added sugar and process foods have health benefits; however, there is no scientific evidences showing the Paleo diet prevents disease.
Since the Paleo diet omits foods from different food groups (e.g., dairy, peanuts, legumes, cereal grains), its long-term sustainability is questionable. We live in a society where it is not possible to eat exactly as our ancestors ate. You might consider a modified Paleo eating plan like lowering your intake of added sugars and processed foods while eating more fruits and vegetables. Balance is best whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or stay just as you are. For more information, visit Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Jan 2015, and http://www.webmd.com/diet/paleo-diet?page=2.
Many crazy diets appear in the headlines. Some recent offerings include the feeding tube diet and the tapeworm diet. The latest diet to make headlines is the cotton ball diet, and the science behind it resembles the structure of cotton—unsupportive fluff.
The diet involves consuming five cotton balls dipped in orange juice, lemonade, or a smoothie. The claim is that you will feel full without gaining weight. Some dieters consume these before their meal to limit calorie intake, while others rely exclusively on the cotton balls as their “food” intake.
Medical experts agree that nothing good can come of this diet, and in fact it is very dangerous for the following reasons:
- Cotton balls may not be cotton—most are bleached polyester fibers that contain lots of chemicals
- Eating synthetic cotton balls is similar to eating cloth, or even buttons or coins
- Risks include choking, malnutrition, or even worse, a blockage in the intestinal tract, which can be life-threatening
A healthier and safer approach to feel full is to make sure you get plenty of fiber in your diet. Follow these tips to get the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day:
- Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas), which are all good sources of fiber
- Look at the Nutrition Facts Panel for a product’s fiber content—20 percent or more is considered high
- Include fiber-rich foods with meals and snacks
For more information on how to safely achieve and maintain a healthy weight, visit MyPlate.
Want to know more about choosing high fiber foods? Check out these resources:
October is Vegetarian Awareness month.
A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and adults. It starts with the menu and ends with enjoying tasty foods. MyPyramid and MyPlate www.choosemyplate.com are helpful tools for a healthy diet, whether or not it is vegetarian.
People following vegetarian diets may do so for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, people can obtain all the nutrients they need from a vegetarian diet. However, they must be careful to eat a wide array of foods to meet their nutritional needs, paying close attention to protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.
There are three main types of vegetarian diets:
1. Vegan: excludes all meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, and any foods that contain these products.
2. Lacto: excludes meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products are allowed.
3. Lacto-ovo: excludes meat, fish, and poultry, but allows eggs and dairy products. It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. For more information on eating healthy, visit www.eatright.org.