Once you have begun your nutrition science career, you’ll find that many people think of “diet” as a dirty word, as it is frequently associated with depriving oneself for the sake of weight loss or as a means of correcting an imbalance like high cholesterol or diabetes. “Diet” simply refers to the kind of food you eat, and it is a synonym of “nourishment.” Rather than thinking of dieting as deprivation, think of it as a means for feeling and being healthier. Heath experts agree that there’s a nutrition-based science behind taking care of our bodies, and it requires our continuous dedication. On the other hand, we are also inundated with fad pill-based diets. Try to avoid giving into those, since they are usually based more on quick-fixes (and sapping money from you) than science.
One thing is certain, a typical diet in the United States is loaded with processed foods, high-fat dairy products, red meats, and sugars. All of these in concert can pave the way to an early grave, or at least a load of health problems. Whether you are looking into a nutrition science degree program or are a seasoned professional, it is important to expand your knowledge of long-term dietary lifestyles and preferences. Who knows? A client you could have may be interested or already participating in a special diet plan, and come to you looking for advice and guidance. To help you learn more, check out these popular dietary lifestyles.
#1: Mediterranean Diet
The inhabitants around the Mediterranean Sea are vaunted for their long life spans and low rates of cancer and cardiovascular ailments. Their diet tends to be low in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat. Instead, they eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices. Seafood is preferred over other types of meat, and a moderate enjoyment of eggs, cheese, and yogurt is encouraged. Sweets and red meat are reserved for special occasions, but red wine and exercise are daily components.
#2: Weight Watchers
It is the ultimate brand name in structured, weight loss-oriented diets. Weight Watchers has been around since the 1960s, and boasts a legion of enthusiastic followers. The cornerstone of this program is its points system. Every food is allotted a certain number of points, and you’re allowed to eat a certain number of points a day. The system is designed to achieve a calorie deficit of 1,000 calories a day, meaning you’ll lose two pounds a week if you are faithful and stick with tracking your points. No foods are off-limits, and the Weight Watchers website catalogs 40,000 foods with their point values (no points for fiber-loaded fruits and veggies, high points for things like candy).
The biggest benefit of Weight Watchers is the support network that encourages members to attend in-person meetings a few times a month. Of course this is how the company makes money. A monthly pass to attend unlimited in-person meetings is $39.95, which also includes access to their eTools, or you can pay as you go. Meetings are $12 – $15 per week, with a one-time $20 registration fee. To only follow the meetings online, a three-month plan is $65. Weight Watchers teaches their participants how to choose between nutritionally dense foods and those with little value. This is a long-term lesson that can stick with you, should you decide to leave the program. Exercise is encouraged, plus you get bonus points (that allow you to eat more) for enough activity.
#3: Mayo Clinic Diet
This diet, developed by one of the country’s leading medical groups, is focused on breaking bad habits and picking up good ones. For the first two weeks, the Mayo Clinic Diet book instructs you to focus on the 15 key habits that are outlined by the authors These habits direct you to restrict certain foods, but allow unlimited snacking on fruits and vegetables. After two weeks, you shift your focus to calorie-counting, learning exercises, and nothing is off-limits. The idea is that during this time you’re supposed to develop a pattern of healthy eating consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, high-fiber whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Alcohol is somewhat restricted, and exercise is part of the plan.
It’s pretty simple, vegetarianism is when you stop eating meat. This diet allows you to lose weight and fend off chronic diseases. Of course some non-healthy items, like French fries, birthday cake, and ice cream, are perfectly compatible with a vegetarian diet. It’s really up to you to make good choices. This may be a difficult switch for hardcore carnivores, but if you’re already not putting meat at the center of every meal, going “veggie” shouldn’t be too stressful. Plus there are some pretty convincing meat substitutes available such as tofu and seitan. With vegetarianism becoming more popular, nearly every restaurant has a vegetarian option. There are even hundreds of cookbooks and websites that exist to support vegetarian lifestyles. Exercise isn’t an inherent element of a vegetarian diet, but it’s encouraged for everyone.
Veganism, or a vegan diet, means you do not eat any animal products and is touted as the more hardcore version of the vegetarian diet. It’s more of a philosophy or lifestyle than a diet. Vegans are often animal rights activists, and do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, any foods made with lard (refried beans), whey (margarine), or Jell-O (gelatin, which is made from animal bones and hooves). True veganism requires serious planning and commitment.
The theory behind volumetrics is that people tend to eat the same weight (as in literal poundage) of food each day, regardless of the number of calories. For example, a pound of low-density carrots contains as many calories as an ounce of high-density peanuts. So if you fill your plate with foods that are less energy dense, meaning they have fewer calories per gram, then you’ll be eating fewer calories without eating less food. It’s about making smart swaps, like sweet potatoes for white potatoes.
This is more of an eating pattern than a structured diet. The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet book is a good guide, developed by the diet’s original pioneer, Penn State University nutrition professor Barbara Rolls. The plan focuses on eating, and Rolls also recommends walking for 30 minutes most days of the week. This can be achieved by parking farther from the store, or getting off the bus a few stops early.