The Skinny on 11 of Today’s Popular Diets

The Skinny on 11 of Today’s Popular Diets
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In this day and age, we hear diet promises nonstop: “Eat your favorite foods and still lose weight!” or “Look and feel your best in 10 easy days!”

It seems that there are new eating trends emerging every minute. Whether it be for weight loss, social, cultural, religious, or environmental reasons, many people are making significant changes to their eating habits.

Can’t keep all the diets straight? We’re right there with you – it’s nearly impossible! To help you stay in the loop, we’ve done a little research and have got the scoop on some of the most popular diets out there that you need to know. We’ve also included websites or blogs for each type of diet so that you can find out more information.

Vegetarian

This well-known diet choice focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains – anything except meat of any kind, including red meat, poultry, seafood, and foods that are derived from animals.

Beware: there are several processed and packaged foods out there that contain animal products, like some beers and cake mixes, so this can be tricky if you’re not sure what to look for (although some vegetarians sometimes allow for these foods to be eaten).

Don’t think you could go without some of these foods? No worries – there are many variations of vegetarianism, including lacto-ovo vegetarians who still eat dairy and eggs, and pescetarians who eat fish but not other types of meat. Many vegetarian food alternatives also exist; substitutes for meat, eggs, and dairy aren’t too hard to find, although they are generally more expensive than the real deal. Vegetarianism has been shown to have many benefits, including helping people lose weight and keep it off, living longer, and having more energy. However, vegetarians may be missing out on key vitamins and nutrients if they do not have a reasonable diet plan.

Learn more: Vegetarian Society is a website dedicated to all things vegetarian, with articles on how to become a vegetarian, hundreds of recipes, and ways to get involved with the vegetarian movement.

Vegetarian Society

Vegan

A strict form of the vegetarian diet, this excludes the consumption of absolutely all animal products.

Vegans stick to fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Being a vegan means a strong commitment to the lifestyle, as vegans also do not use or support the use of animal products such as fur, leather, and silk. Veganism can assist in weight loss, but can have similar health downfalls as vegetarianism if a smart food plan is not made.

Learn more: Check out Vegan Housewives, a blog consisting of all kinds of helpful vegan info, from delicious recipes, to how to cook tofu, to vegan fashion.

 Vegan Housewives

Flexitarian

If you’re interested in the vegetarian lifestyle but not quite ready to eliminate meat from your diet, never fear; there’s a variation for you!

A flexitarian is someone who maintains a vegetarian diet the majority of time, but occasionally eats meat. As the name of this diet gives away, this is a rather flexible eating choice; you can continue to benefit from the vitamins and minerals found in meat (and the foods you enjoy, like burgers!), as you add more fruits and veggies to your diet.

Learn more: The Flexitarian is a blog that addresses many aspects to the Flexitarian lifestyle: reasons to adopt it, how to get started becoming a flexitarian, and recipes to make.

 Flexitarian

Organic Food

Many people begin eating organic foods with the desire to be healthier and more sustainable.

Organic foods are grown differently than their ‘conventional’ counterparts – this includes no synthetic pesticides and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) for crops, and the use of 100% organic feed and no growth hormones for raising livestock.

A topic of debate, some speculate as to whether organic foods are actually better for you. Some foods are certainly better to buy organic, including apples, grapes, spinach, and potatoes, due to the sheer number of pesticides used when growing them organically. Other foods such as avocado, mango, and onion have relatively low pesticide levels when grown conventionally. Organic foods are usually more expensive than conventional foods, and be sure to check for USDA Certified Organic labels when shopping.

Learn more: Head over to Delicious Organic, a blog that focuses on making meals using only organic, unprocessed foods. This useful source tells how to buy organic food on a budget, and gives sample meal plans for weeks of organic eating.

 Delicious Organic

Locavore

A locavore is someone who is committed to sustainability and supporting locally by eating foods that are produced within a 50 to 100 mile radius of their town.

Locavores frequent the town’s farmer’s markets, know the area’s farmers, and often have gardens or farms of their own. Not only does buying food locally help to support your nearby neighbors and farmers, but it also can end up being cheaper since you often times cut out the middle man (aka grocery stores, with their transportation, packaging, and operational costs). Being a locavore gives you peace of mind knowing where your food came from and that it’s fresh. Depending on where you live and your region’s climate, this could be a tricky nutritional habit to uphold.

Learn more: To catch a glimpse of what it’s like to take up the locavore diet, go to Boulder Locavore. The author of this site lives in Boulder, Colorado, and shares her favorite recipes for foods that she is able to get from around her city.

 Boulder Locavore

Gluten-Free

For those with celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten, this diet is necessary.

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. When one is on a gluten-free diet, (yep, you guessed it) they do not consume products with gluten in them. Fortunately for people with celiac disease, food options are growing in abundance; many companies are jumping on the trend and making breads, pastas, and other types of foods without gluten.

Although relatively few people in the U.S. (about 1%) actually have celiac disease or an allergy to wheat, many have taken up this diet because it they think it is a healthy eating option. However, it is argued that the whole grains that contain gluten offer a wide array of vitamins and minerals, and can help to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Be sure to check with your doctor to see if taking up a gluten-free diet would be beneficial for you.

Learn more: The author of Gluten-Free Goddess has celiac disease, and shares her favorite gluten-free recipes, as well as helpful tips on food substitutions and how to begin a gluten-free diet.

 Gluten Free Goddess

Paleo

Short for Paleolithic diet, this involves taking one’s eating habits back in time to the days of being a hunter-gatherer.

Paleo dieters only stick to foods that our early ancestors would have eaten: fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, grass-fed meats, fish and seafood, and healthy oils such as olive, walnut, avocado, and coconut. This means that processed foods, refined sugar, dairy, potatoes, grains, and salt are all no-nos, among other foods.

The Paleo diet is said to increase the intake of protein, fiber, potassium, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, while lowering the intake of sodium and carbohydrates. Critics argue that Paleo dieters miss out on the nutrients provided by grains and dairy. This diet can be quite expensive due to the costs of fresh produce and meat.

Learn more: Nom Nom Paleo is a blog that offers delicious Paleo recipes and answers to common questions about the diet. There is even a Nom Nom Paleo iPad cooking app and cookbook!

Nom Nom aleo

Mediterranean

Here’s awesome news — with the Mediterranean diet, you won’t have to sacrifice taste in order to eat well!

Known for generally having a longer lifespan, the Greeks seem to be on to something good with the way they eat. The use of olive oil and many herbs and spices is encouraged when cooking, to add lots of yummy flavor. The Mediterranean diet places an emphasis on eating lots of fruits and veggies, as well as whole grains, nuts, fish and seafood. Be sure to minimize the consumption of meat and dairy. This diet is great for lowering the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, in addition to lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and potentially weight.

Learn more: To discover tantalizing Mediterranean recipes, check out Olive Tomato. The author also addresses many commonly asked questions about preparing Greek foods.

Olive Tomato

Juice Cleanse/Detox

Juicing is when one consumes primarily fruit and vegetable juices for a short period of time, usually a few days.

Sometimes controversial, these cleanses are done as an attempt to detox, or rid, one’s body of toxins such as caffeine, alcohol, or fatty foods, and reset the metabolism.

Juicing requires either a fancy juicing machine or a blender. Juicing machines separate the juice away from the skin and pulp of whole fruits and vegetables, which is where many of the vitamins and minerals are found. Blenders, on the other hand, allow for whole fruits and vegetables to be turned into juice, allowing for you to keep those most of those valuable nutrients (although for some veggies and fruits, you’ll want to remove those skins and seeds – they would not be a good addition to your juice!).

There are several companies who sell bottled juices that you can use as part of a 1-day, 3-day, or 5-day cleanse. Both pre-made juices that you can order or juices that you make yourself tend to be expensive, given the large quantity of fruits and veggies that you need for the cleanse.

When you do a juice cleanse, you may miss out on some of the key nutrients found in other foods. The idea with juicing is to make smart choices with the fruits and vegetables that you use. Additionally, you’ll be ingesting a lot sugar from the fruits you are juicing, so make sure to include lots of vegetables and keep those sugar levels low for health benefits. It is important to remember to not rely entirely on the juice, and don’t forget to actually eat your fruits and veggies. You may also want to add in some lean protein – it’ll give you something to chew on.

Juice cleanses aren’t right for everyone; they can often backfire if approached for the wrong reasons. Do your research beforehand to see if doing a juice cleanse would be beneficial for you.

Learn more: If you want to learn more about juicing, read these blog posts about two women’s different experiences doing a juice cleanse: What’s Gaby Cooking, and Carrots ‘N’ Cake.

 What's Gaby Cooking

Weight Loss Diet Programs

You’ve probably seen the commercials or ads in magazines for diet programs such as Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig.

Often boasting promises of “lose weight or get your money back,” these programs have helped countless people achieve the look and weight they want. However, that kind of success does not come without a rather hefty price tag. In order to reap the benefits of the program – which in most cases includes consultations, personalized meal and activity plans, and tools to track your success, be prepared to shell over big bucks. A lot of these programs also have their own lines of food that you are required to order separately.

Luckily, many diet programs offer discounts for first-timers so be sure to ask when you chat with a program representative. It may prove very helpful to compare a variety of programs and read dieters’ honest reviews on various online forums before signing your name on the contract.

Learn more: Head over to Health Magazine’s site to compare up to three weight loss diet programs side-by-side.

Fad diets

Spend 10 minutes Googling the word “diet” or looking around Pinterest, and you are bound to find all kinds of supposedly ‘tried-and-true’ diets.

Often with alluring names to try to capture your attention, these diets can be quite outrageous. Many suggest that you only eat one type of food for so many days, or only eat at certain times of the day. Approach these diets with caution. They often lack scientific backing, and can make you miss out on valuable nutrients that you could be eating otherwise. With a little common sense, you’ll probably be able to tell when something sounds too good to be true.

Learn more: SparkPeople suggests these 12 ways to recognize a fad diet.

As with considering any diet, it’s important to do your own research before you start. Make sure that the information you find is coming from credible sources, and ask your doctor before you begin. And, of course, incorporating consistent exercise into your routine is a great way to assist you in living a healthy lifestyle.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user diekatrin.

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About the author

Katie Dobbs Precor

Katie grew up under the Big Sky of Montana, but she has since moved to the beautiful city of Seattle. She is a self-proclaimed food connoisseur who loves playing in the great outdoors, travelling, and learning new things.

View all articles by Katie Dobbs

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