Eating Plans: So Many Diets, Which One Is Best For Me?
Eating plans are everywhere you look. For example, there is low carb, low fat, Mediterranean, keto, vegetarian — and many, many more. It seems that not a day goes by without someone coming out with a brand new diet plan. To say this is confusing is an understatement. Meanwhile, Americans are getting fatter and fatter. Obesity in America is at epidemic levels, says the Center For Disease Control and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The latest estimates by NIH are that approximately 34% of adults and 15–20% of children and adolescents in the United States are obese.
So how do you make a decision on a diet that will work for you? First, let’s define the issue.
Healthy eating is one of the best ways to prevent or delay health problems. Eating well, along with getting enough exercise, can help you lower your risk of health problems. Serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more.
According to the NIH, the best diet(s) are ones that are science based. Moreover, the diet should not contain foods that you don’t like to eat.
The main source of science-based nutrition advice is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines describe which nutrients you need and how much. They also point out which ones to limit or avoid.
The guidelines are regularly updated, because our scientific understanding of what’s healthy is continuously evolving. These changes can be confusing, but the key recommendations have been consistent over time. In general, healthy eating means getting a variety of foods, limiting certain kinds of carbs and fats, eating salt in moderation, and being aware of your portion sizes.
Eating Plans: Watch That Sugar!
Added sugar is the extra sugar added to foods and drinks during preparation. Corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, and honey are examples of sweeteners added to foods and drinks, especially regular sodas.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest a daily limit on added sugar of no more than 10% of calories. That’s about the amount in 16 ounces of regular soda (190 calories). You can find information about added sugars on most Nutrition Facts labels now.
Too much sugar can increase your risk for to Type-2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
Anybody can improve their diet by substituting fruits and vegetables for sugar as their snacks, as part of their dessert, or as part of their meals.
Eating Plans: How Much Fat?
Fat is high in calories. Getting too many calories can contribute to obesity, which raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems. But there are different kinds of fats.
Fats that are liquid at room temperature, or oils, are generally healthier than those that are solid. Solid fats are found in high amounts in beef, chicken, pork, cheese, butter, and whole milk. Solid fats have more saturated fats than liquid oils. Liquid oils—such as canola, corn, olive, or peanut oil—have mostly unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
The dietary guidelines encourages consuming liquid oils rather than solid fats. Read the fat content on the Nutrition Facts label. The label shows how much saturated fat a product contains. Experts suggest that you aim for getting less than 10% of your calories from saturated fats.
For example, a small cheeseburger may have 5 grams of saturated fat, a typical cheeseburger may have 13, and a double cheeseburger with bacon may have 24!
Salt In Moderation Is A Good Thing
The Nutrition Facts label also shows salt, or sodium. Experts advise you to limit salt, which tends to be very high in processed foods.
If you eat salty, highly processed food, you can quickly go over the daily limit of one teaspoon of salt (2,300 milligrams, or mg, of sodium). Two hot dogs might have 900 mg of sodium. A can of ravioli might have 1400 mg. Other examples of salty, highly processed foods are bacon, frozen pizzas, and salad dressings.
Along with a lot of added salt, processed foods might have preservatives, sweeteners, and other substances added during preparation.
Stuff that comes in a box or a bag that has a whole lot of different ingredients—many of which you can’t read and understand or pronounce—those things are highly processed and generally bad for your health,” explains Dr. David C. Goff, Jr., a public health expert at NIH.
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