As another year comes to an end, Google reveals the most searched for "eating plans." This year, I am happy to report that I can actually get on board with many of the "diets" that make the list, nutritionally speaking. But of course, it wouldn't be quite the same if it weren't for some of the others that I hope are not around for another year.
1. Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet promotes eating like our ancestors did, mainly back to the "caveman" era. The diet encourages lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, fish and healthy fats, which is a good thing. However, it also advocates for eliminating all processed foods, like dairy, whole grains, beans and legumes, since cavemen were not farmers but rather hunters/gatherers.
Eliminating some of these very healthy foods from our diet is where I cannot agree with the diet. Research will support numerous benefits to a diet rich in whole grains, beans and legumes, especially to help prevent heart disease. What I find most amusing is that some restaurants are starting to offer "Paleo" menu items. Hmmm ... since when did cavemen dine out?
2. Juice Cleanse Diet
To think that a juice cleanse diet is the second most popular in the past year is disturbing. There is absolutely no research to support that consuming only fruit and veggie juices for anywhere from three to 14 days has any benefits at all as opposed to a well-balanced diet. Plus, "fasting" can cause side effects such as dizziness, fatigue and irritability.
[Read: Why Juice 'Cleanses' Don't Deliver.]
Anyone choosing this diet for weight loss will surely lose weight, but it will only be for the short term, since he or she would not have learned anything about a healthy eating lifestyle. With the opening of another chain of Organic Avenue in my neighborhood, unfortunately, I don't think the popularity of these diets is going anywhere soon.
I love that the Mediterranean diet has grown in popularity. It is a heart-healthy eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. In other words, this diet is plain old healthy eating – really nothing new, just what most people should be doing. But portion sizes do matter, because too much of almost anything can equate to too many calories.
4. Master Cleanse Diet
Honestly, who would want to forgo chewing actual food for a cocktail made of water, lemon juice, Grade-B maple syrup and cayenne pepper? This is a diet plan that should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, celebrities have made it very popular over the years. Maybe in 2014, a celebrity will make eating a well-balanced diet the latest trend.
5. Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic diet recommends getting 60 percent of your calories from fat, 35 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbs. This plan puts the body into ketosis, a state the body goes into if it needs to break down body fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
Complications can include chronic constipation and high cholesterol. I was shocked to see it on this list because I was familiar with this eating plan solely from my work in a hospital, specifically for use in children who have epilepsy, where, in my opinion, this diet should remain.
6. Okinawa Diet
The Okinawa Diet describes a weight-loss diet based on the eating habits of the natives of the Ryukyu Islands who typically live past the age of 100. Traditionally, they eat a low-fat, low-calorie, nutrient-dense diet, made up mostly of vegetables and legumes, especially soy.
Most of the carbs come from vegetables, with only a small amount of grains or seeds. There is no sugar or refined sweets, only a little red meat, a minimal amount of dairy, fish in moderation and alcohol limited to an occasional drink. I can't really find anything wrong with this eating plan, except that it might be hard to follow. As for whether you will really live past 100, who knows.
7. Omnivore Diet
I'm not even sure how this got on the list as a "diet." There is not an actual book or defined eating plan that is associated with it. The term "omnivore" has been made popular due to the huge success of Michael Pollan's 2006 book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Pollan makes us question our food choices and the many ways the foods we eat actually get to our plates; it is a powerful read.
8. Fruitarian Diet
I am a huge fan of fruit as part of a well-balanced diet; however, to eat a diet of mostly fruit can be dangerous. This past year, Ashton Kutcher wound up in the hospital after eating this way in preparing for his role as Steve Jobs. There is no doubt you will lose weight, but meanwhile, you'll be putting yourself at risk for malnutrition. Enough said.
9. Pescetarian Diet
The Pescetarian Diet is a vegetarian diet with the inclusion of fish. A totally healthy eating plan, but of course, that really depends on how your food is prepared. A grilled piece of salmon is the perfect addition to a meal, however an order of "fish and chips" – not so much.
The Flexitarian Diet is a diet in which you predominately eat plant-based foods with the ability to be flexible when it comes to indulging in meat. The term was coined by my good friend, Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, in her book "The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life."
According to Blatner, you don't have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism – you can be a vegetarian most of the time, but still chow down on a burger or steak when the urge hits. I couldn't agree more.
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Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, - is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.