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Healthy Eating vs. Fad Diets

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

Happy New Year! It is that time of year where people want to reset after the Christmas holidays and have a fresh start. It is 2020, the beginning of a new decade and I completely understand why some people will want to turn over a new leaf.

Like every year, many new years resolutions are centred around losing weight and this is the perfect time a new FAD diet comes out. So if you have your heart set on trying a new FAD diet to lose weight and to get healthy, I think you should read on; Healthy Eating vs. Fad Diets explained.

What is a FAD Diet?

A Fad diet by definition is a diet that is popular at this moment of time. They are usually marketed as a quick way to lose weight. There are many Fad diets out there all claiming that you will lose weight fast. Examples of fad diets you may have heard of are: juice cleanses, slimfast, intermittent fasting, keto, or low-carb to name a few. There are some strange FAD diets out there where you only eat bananas for 3 days, or drink green tea with every meal.

How to spot a fad diet:

-Some foods on this diet will be completely off limits and you will have to restrict certain foods or food groups

-The diet will claim that you will lose an unrealistic amount of weight in a short amount of time

-The diet will claim that it will work without exercise (but exercise may be recommended)

-The diet plan is something you can only do temporarily and is not recommended to do long term

-The diet refers to certain foods as 'good' or 'bad'

Do they work?

Being completely honest, I have done a fad diet in my lifetime, (I'm sure many other people also have, without knowing what a fad diet is) and when done properly, yes a fad diet can work and help you lose weight fast. However as soon as you go off the fad diet and go back to your normal eating regime, you put the weight back on and are back at square one. This is because most fad diets work on limiting the amount of food you are allowed and restricting certain foods. With these restrictions a person will be able to lose weight fast, however it creates a distorted mindset with food, where a person may become obsessive with their eating habits or start to label certain foods as 'good' or 'bad'. This can be detrimental to a person's relationship with food, leading to food guilt and binge eating. A fad diet may work in short term however at some point, a fad diet cannot be sustained and a person will have to 'give up' leading to a range of emotions dealing with food.

Why Healthy Eating is better than a FAD diet in the long run

Eating a healthy balanced diet will help a person achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. You will not have to cut out any foods as you can eat all types of foods in moderation. By eating a healthy balanced diet and practising portion control, you will be able to still lose weight and sustain your weight loss long-term. With healthy eating it is possible to reach the healthy weight you have been aiming for and to maintain it without tweaking your diet too much.

The difference between FAD diets and healthy eating is that with a FAD, certain foods and/or certain food groups are off limits while with healthy eating, no foods are off limits however you learn how to eat a balanced diet. This builds a much better relationship with food. A person doesn't feel restricted or guilty for eating a certain food.

How do I achieve a healthy diet?

A healthy balanced diet consist of eating a variety of foods from all food groups, this includes:

-Eating a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables

-Cereals and grains, preferably wholegrain such as rice, quinoa, oats, bread, pasta

-Beans, pulses, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and other sources of protein

-Milk, dairy or calcium-fortified alternatives

-Fats such as olive oil, butter (in moderation)

-Small amounts of sugar as treats on occasions

The key word in this type of diet is 'balance'. Portion control is very important, so what does a healthy portion size look like? Here are some guidelines to go by giving you an idea of what 1 portion looks like (British Nutrition Foundation and NHS) :

- A portion of fruit should be no larger than your fist

- 3 heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables

- 3 heaped tablespoons of beans or legumes

- 2 handfuls of dried rice or pasta

-A baked potato the size of your fist

-3 handfuls of breakfast cereals

-A piece of grilled chicken breast about half the size of your hand

- A piece of cheese the size of 2 thumbs together

-1 tablespoon of peanut butter

And how many portions am I allowed a day? It is recommended to eat:

- 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day

- 3-4 portions of carbohydrates a day

- 2-3 portions of protein a day (animal or plant based)

-2-3 portions of diary (or calcium-fortified alternatives) a day

With a healthy balanced diet, it is best to prepare your food yourself from scratch as it will be easier to keep on track with portion sizes on a daily basis. By keeping the amount of processed food you eat down and replacing it with fresh food made from scratch; this will aid your weight loss and body's health.

By eating a healthy balanced diet paired with some exercise (around 150 minutes each week if you are new to exercise), drinking plenty of water and limiting your alcohol intake, a person will be able to lose weight and maintain their new healthy weight.

Benefits of eating healthy compared to doing a FAD diet

Due to the elimination of certain foods or food groups in a FAD diet, over time a person can become deficient in certain nutrients. This is one main reason why a FAD diet cannot be sustained for a long time. A person is not fuelling their body correctly which may lead to other health problems, lack of energy, tiredness and low mood. A FAD diet is not a healthy way to live.

With healthy eating and portion control a person fuels their body correctly so it can perform all the functions it needs. A healthy balanced diet gives the body all the nutrition it needs from a variety of foods to perform effectively. With good nutrition, the body will be more susceptible against illness, be able to perform better physically, have more energy and in a better mood.

A balanced healthy diet can be sustained long-term. It is a life changing life choice that any person should aspire to to help maintain a healthy body and mind.


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