Given that March is nutrition month there could hardly be a better time for a professional opinion piece on some of the most popular diet trends of the year ahead.
A recently conducted survey of my dietitian colleagues carried out by Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian identified the keto diet, plant-based eating (veganism) and intermittent fasting as the three trends anticipated to be the most popular in 2023.
In today’s post I’ll provide my professional opinion and offer up some advice relating to all three, while also discussing the Mediterranean Diet.
Everything I have to say here stems from years of research, writing and 1-on-1 client work and so I’m confident the insights to come will be valuable to those of you who are curious about these trends.
With that said, let’s get to the good stuff.
The Ketogenic Diet
The Keto diet is essentially an ultra-low carbohydrate diet wherein you are directed to consume less than 50 grams of carbohydrates daily (<10% daily calories from carbohydrate in a 2,000 calorie diet) with 70+% of your caloric intake coming from dietary fat and the rest from protein.
This style of eating is inherently restrictive because it omits most carbohydrate containing foods which on the one hand means most conventional baked goods & treats are out, but also means that the intake of healthful carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes must also be limited.
While my baseline nutrition philosophy is that no one got healthier by omitting apples, lentils and sweet potato – I also appreciate that there will be people out there for whom the ketogenic diet resonates.
With that said, here’s my advice for anyone wanting to pursue one.
- Make The Most Of Your Limited Carbohydrates – Fruits like strawberries, raspberries and kiwi are quite low in carbohydrate while being incredibly high in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.
- Diversify Your Fat Intake – Given that dietary fat is the primary fuel source on a ketogenic diet we want to make the most of this fact by including foods such as nuts, seeds, olives and seafood.
The Vegan/Plant-based Diet
This style of eating entirely excludes foods of animal origin and focuses exclusively on foods of plant-origin.
The pursuit of a vegan diet may stem from different places including ethics, the environment, economics or general health.
As it relates to the latter, it’s important to acknowledge that a vegan diet is not automatically healthier than an omnivorous one.
When done in a well-planned, strategic manner, however, it has incredible potential to be among the most nutrient-dense styles of eating possible.
With that said, here’s my advice for anyone following a vegan diet.
- Understand The Potential Gaps: Certain vitamins and minerals may be more challenging to get ample amounts of on a vegan diet. These include iron, B12 and Vitamin D – among others. Make sure you look into this and plan accordingly.
- Plan For Protein: On a plant-based diet your access to protein is more limited so be sure to make the most of items like beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk – among others.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet, or Med Diet, is pretty much the midway point between a ketogenic and vegan diet.
It offers up an exceptional balance of inclusivity of all food types with tangible guidance in terms of which should be prioritized.
In my professional opinion, the Med Diet is the optimal choice for the vast majority of people and for this reason it is the style of eating I nudge my clients towards.
When you understand broad diet trends amongst the general public and the foods that most of us could benefit from eating more of, you quickly realize that the Med Diet perfectly fulfils that model.
My best advice for anyone pursuing a Mediterranean Diet is the same advice is to simplify the principles into key themes.
Here’s the two I come up with:
- Diversify Your Protein Intake: A key underpinning of the Med diet is that it asks you to emphasize fish and seafood over more conventional protein-rich foods like red meat.
- Eat Legumes & Nuts Daily: While the notion that fruits and vegetables should be consumed daily won’t be new to anyone, the big (& smart) thing that the Med diet calls for is the daily inclusion of nuts and legumes ( lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans) – two families of foods that are often underappreciated and contribute greatly to overall health.
Intermittent fasting is actually quite different than the subjects discussed above because it’s only concerned with meal timing and not really the content of the meal itself.
IF, as it is known, does not discriminate between keto followers, omnivores or vegans and instead essentially asks how long you are going from your last bite one day until your first bite the next.
The most popular form of IF is likely 16:8 or something similar whereby an individual is going about 16+ hours fasted such that if I finish dinner at 8pm on a Tuesday I would not eat again until at least noon on Wednesday.
I’m personally intrigued by intermittent fasting as someone who has written a book on it, researched it extensively and practiced it to varying degrees.
Even though I have a personal/professional fascination with it, I’m not biased in its assessment.
Here are my views:
- It Will Never Be More Important Than What You Eat: Whatever potential benefits intermittent fasting may provide, it will never offer you more than a strong, balanced diet will. This is of a fundamental importance because if you are bending over backwards just to do intermittent fasting and your diet quality suffers as a result, it probably isn’t worth it.
- It Can Enhance Your Routine Or Be The Cherry On Top Of A Strong Routine: For some people the paradigm that intermittent fasting entails can lead to an improvement in diet and daily life. I quite enjoy waiting until later in the day and eating more at that time, but I also have the benefit of a strong foundation of nutrition knowledge and a balanced diet to afford me that luxury.