These days, the word ‘diet’ has a bad reputation. Some associate the term with a feeling of dread, and others accept it as an extreme measure to achieve their results. It doesn't have to be either one!
A diet can simply be a plan you're trying to stick to or a curated list of foods that work best for your specific needs. After all, the word is said to come from the Greek word “diaita," which means “way of life."
Not all diets are created equal, but even though there's no one-size-fits-all to nutrition, you have to find the right one for your needs. Working with a dietitian you trust can help you find that some can benefit insulin sensitivity, metabolism, and even your mental health.
However, even if you find the right one, sticking with these diets can be challenging! The good news is that it is possible to stick to health-promoting diets. Read on to find out a little more about some diets people have the most challenging time sticking to, and learn some tips to stick to them.
How Some Diets Can Help You Reach Your Health Potential
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved regulation of autoimmune responses
- Healthy fat loss
- Promoting a healthy gut microbiome
- Boosting cognitive or brain functioning
These benefits can help anyone in their health journey—whether you have a chronic condition or simply looking to optimize your health. To ensure you're making the best choices for your body, you have to be careful not to eliminate or add foods without consulting with a professional like a doctor, credentialed dietitian, or nutritionist.
3 Popular Health-Promoting Diets People Give up On
While the following are popular diets, they can be pretty challenging too. Here's a little more about each one so you can see why!
The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet, as well as the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet (a modified version of the paleo diet), are traditionally followed by those with chronic conditions such as (but not limited to) PCOS, endometriosis, autoimmune disorders, or a leaky gut.
The idea behind the paleo diet is to encourage people to eat whole foods that our human ancestors would have eaten in the paleolithic era (explaining the name).
On the paleo diet, you can eat foods such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- High-quality meats such as lean meats, organ meats, seafood, eggs
- Good fats such as avocado, olive oil, olives, and coconut oil
- Nuts and seeds
The paleo diet suggests eliminating the following foods:
- Processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Vegetable oils such as canola oil or sunflower oil
- Trans fats such as margarine
Research suggests that the paleo and AIP diets provide a variety of health benefits such as:
- Improved insulin resistance
- Healthy weight loss
- Reduced blood pressure
- Significantly lower HbA1c
- Increased HDL or "good cholesterol”
- Lower triglycerides
The Autoimmune Paleo Diet
On the AIP diet, you’re encouraged to adopt a whole foods approach and consume anti-inflammatory foods. The AIP diet was created for people who have autoimmune conditions, as many find they react best to typically healthy foods such as nuts, seeds, and eggs.
While it is similar to the paleo diet, the AIP diet takes it a step further by discouraging the consumption of the following additional foods:
- Nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers
- All sugars (including artificial sweeteners)
- Butter and ghee (clarified butter)
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs made from seeds
Research shows that this diet can improve autoimmune conditions (such as IBD) by reducing inflammation. You can create any dish using paleo or AIP-friendly ingredients (including pizza!), making them a little easier to stick to.
The Keto Diet
On the keto diet, 60 to 80 percent of the calories you consume should come from fats (no restrictions on what type of fat), 10 to 30 percent from protein, and 5 to 10 percent from carbohydrates.
Usually, people can eat 20 to 50 grams of carbs a day on the keto diet, although many opt to keep that number under 20 for maximum health benefits. Unlike the previous diets, there are no rules about what specific foods you can or cannot eat with keto.
However, because the range of how much carbs one can eat is so narrow, many people swap processed foods like bread for more whole foods such as vegetables and low-sugar fruits.
- Improves blood glucose levels
- Lowers LDL
- Lowers triglycerides
- Increases HDL
One thing to keep in mind is that everybody is different. It's especially true if you’re on the keto diet. You may want to play around with those percentages to find the specific percent to help you reach your health goal.
For example, if you’re looking to lower blood glucose levels on the keto diet, you may want to experiment with how different amounts of carbohydrates impact your blood sugar.
You can self-monitor your blood glucose levels using a continuous glucose monitor until you find the right amount and type of carbohydrates to help your blood glucose stay in your goal range. Working with a dietitian can be especially helpful in this regard.
Lesser-Known Diets for Specific Health Conditions
Some other diets that are less popular but still deserve a shout out, as they can help with specific conditions:
- Low histamine diets can be helpful for people who have histamine intolerance.
- Low FODMAP diets effectively resolve gut conditions such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO).
- Low oxalate diets are recommended for people who have kidney stones or are prone to kidney stones.
- Low protein diets are for people with a kidney disease in which they cannot process protein properly.
How to Stick to Big Dietary Changes
With what feels like a laundry list of rules, diets can feel difficult to stick with, even if they're to benefit a specific health condition.
However, you can make your diet enjoyable and realistic with the right tools and some planning. So, before you think about quitting, try putting these tips into action and reap those health benefits.
Tips to Stick to a Diet
- Reframe Your Mindset
- Prepare in Advance
- Understand Your Eating Habits
- Stock Up On The Right Foods For Your Body
- Plan Delicious Recipes Using Your Food List
1) Reframe Your Mindset
One of the most important parts of choosing and starting a diet is knowing your why, as it can be a big lifestyle change. Keep your health goals in mind, but remember there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to nutrition.
What dietary changes help you achieve your health goals may not be helpful for another. It’s all about personalized nutrition and making changes that are right for you and aligned with your goals.
Aiming to lower total carbohydrate intake to address concerns such as insulin resistance? A lower-carb eating style may be best. . Or maybe you have an autoimmune condition you want to improve. The AIP diet may help with that.
Even if they’re specific, write down your goals, like achieving a certain HbA1c level or lowering your LDL by a particular amount. If you’re working with a credentialed dietitian or nutritionist, discuss your goals with them.
It’s easier to stay on track when you can envision how the lifestyle change can help you achieve your health goals and thrive. Keep that vision in mind when you feel like quitting.
Doing so will switch your mindset out of scarcity mode and into a growth-oriented one. Instead of thinking of what you’ll be losing, like a specific food, focus on what you're gaining. You may gain benefits such as improved energy, healthy weight loss, or saying goodbye to food comas for good.
2) Prepare in Advance
One of the biggest hurdles to sticking to a big lifestyle change is preparing your plan of what and when you'll eat.
Tack a list of foods you want to consume more of (along with meal ideas) onto your fridge or store them on your phone. Just keep them somewhere you look at regularly. This way, you don’t have to memorize each detail and can simply pull up the list when you’re eating out or grocery shopping.
Another way to use these guidelines would be to look at them when making dinner plans with friends or family members. Suggest a restaurant or cafe you know will have options that are aligned with your health goals. .
3) Understand Your Eating Habits
Another critical piece to sticking with a diet is understanding your eating habits and how they may sabotage your efforts to stick with your lifestyle change.
It’s important to remember that while reframing your mindset is helpful for a long term lifestyle change, it’s equally as important that you’re choosing dietary changes that feel sustainable to you. Part of doing that is understanding your eating habits.
Take a minute to grab some pen and paper or open a blank document and make an exhaustive list of potential eating habits that you think would make your lifestyle change challenging to stick with.
Next, come up with one to three solutions for each perceived obstacle. For example, if you have a sweet tooth, you could search for recipes with foods that use naturally sweet foods like sweet potatoes or fruits. You can bounce ideas around with your dietitian or nutritionist.
4) Stock Up On The Right Foods For Your Body
Remember, it's always a good idea to consult with a health professional before eliminating foods from your diet.
When making big changes in your eating habits, it's important to know your personal tendencies. Some people do better with abstaining from foods (ie keeping them out of the house), whereas others do well with moderating their intake to minimize cravings. The important thing is to know yourself and your limits, and set yourself up for success.
If you live with other people and this isn’t a realistic option, you can keep a designated cupboard or fridge shelf for the foods you want to include.
Remember to stock up on easily accessible foods for your meals and pre-prepped nutrient-dense items (think chopped veggies, pre-cooked protein foods, ready-to-eat yogurts, etc.) you can grab when you’re in a pinch.
Make sure to reference your prepared food list whenever you’re creating your grocery list or planning to stock up on certain items.
5) Plan Delicious Recipes Using Your Food List
It may seem simple, but it's the most straightforward way to stick with a big lifestyle change—plan delicious meals and snacks that you know you’ll enjoy!
Make sure to base these on your food list and your eating habits and preferences. Meal prepping will take the panic out of figuring out what to eat at each meal, especially when adhering to specific rules.
Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense
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With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.
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Carlee's training at Western Illinois University and an internship at the Memphis VA Hospital lead her to a career in outpatient counseling and bariatric nutrition therapy. In these positions, Carlee realized many of the disease states (upwards of 80%!) her patients experienced were actually preventable. She knew she had to dig deeper into preventative health and has since been passionate about helping people translate this complex glucose data into actionable changes anyone can implement into their everyday lives.