This diet became all the rage after it aired on the BBC during the 2012 London Olympics, and The Fast Diet book has become a best-seller. But is frequent fasting the healthiest way to lose weight, stay healthy and live longer?
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Many experts recommend eating small meals frequently throughout the day. However, a new school of thought has emerged that recommends eating larger, less frequent meals. So how often should you be eating?
Eating Smaller, Frequent Meals
The Theory: Nutrition experts tend to recommend eating 3 balanced meals (350 to 600 calories each) and 1 to 3 snacks per day (between 150 and 200 calories each). The calories for each meal and snack depend on a variety of factors including, height, weight, age, gender and activity level. The philosophy is to make sure you don’t go longer than 5 hours or so without eating. After going without food for a prolonged period of time, folks tend to become ravenous and their decision-making skills plummet. They end up choosing any food they can find, including fast food or high-calorie treats.
Pros: Having a small, healthy snack between meals (like cut veggies and hummus or half a PB&J on whole-wheat bread) can curb hunger until the next meal and enable people to make sensible food choices.
What if I told you that there was a “pill” that, when you consumed it, helped you get a better workout, which of course leads to more strength and better calorie burning? The same pill would also help you focus at work or home so you could get the important things in your life done better and faster. Oh, and by the way, it’s been shown to lead to an increased metabolism, lower calorie intake at meals and better weight loss. How much would you pay for that pill? $10 a bottle, $20, $40? How about free?
#1: Paleo Diet
This plan recommends you eat like your caveman ancestors, emphasizing lots of fruits, veggies, lean meats and seafood. Dairy and grains aren’t allowed on the plan—omitting two important food groups and numerous important nutrients in your diet. This diet was ranked last by US News and World Report on their list of Best Weight Loss Diets. Their expert panel determined that there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that long-term weight loss can be achieved.
#2: Dukan Diet
Although celebs like Gisele Bundchen and Jennifer Lopez have reportedly followed this diet post-baby to shed pounds, it was ranked second to last by US News and World Report’s Best Weight Loss Diets. This updated version of the Atkins diet eliminated carbs, fruits and veggies (especially during the very strict first phase), while allowing unlimited amounts of lean protein. It’s a very restrictive plan that will have you losing weight rather quickly—actually too quickly according to safety guidelines set up by the National Institutes of Health. The end result: You’ll probably end up regaining your lost weight plus more.
From the editors of Prevention magazine, the Flat Belly Diet claims that followers can lose up to 15 pounds in 32 days. Researched in part by a registered dietitian (always a good thing), the plan focuses on taking in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) from foods like oils, nuts and seeds, olives, avocado and dark chocolate. The author promises that dieters will want to follow this type of eating for the long haul.
This 32-day plan includes a “Four Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart” followed by a 4-week program. The jump start banishes caffeine and most sources of sodium from the diet to help promote a loss of water weight. The four-day meal plan is made up of low-fat foods, a minimal amount of starchy carbs and lots of lean protein and fruits and vegetables. Dieters must also guzzle “Sassy Water,” a concoction of water flavored with ginger, lemon, cucumber and mint created by contributing dietitian Cynthia Sass.
# 1 Think Long Haul
Your state of mind plays a huge role in weight loss success. Instead of crash dieting by starving yourself, commit to making long-term diet and exercise changes that you can actually stand to stick to from here on out. The weight loss might be a little slower but that means you’ll have a better chance of keeping it off.
#2 Include, Don’t Exclude
Instead of cutting out major food groups, a move that can lead to nutrient deficiencies, allow yourself to eat all of the foods you enjoy, even if that means splurging sensibly from time to time. Allowing yourself a little freedom will keep you on the right path.
One of the most difficult barriers dieters face are folks who try to sabotage their weight loss efforts. These are the folks who will shove an over-sized piece of cake in your face at a party or insist on having fried food at every meal. Every dieter faces them; your best defense is to be prepared.
Those sweet little ones can be a dieter’s worst nightmare! Yelling for candy at the check-out aisle or insisting on eating chicken nuggets at every meal. Oftentimes you end up giving into their whining for processed foods and end up becoming the garbage disposal for their leftovers.
Your best defense: Both adults (dieting or not) and kids should be eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy foods. There are many deliciously healthy recipes that everyone can enjoy; get the kids in the kitchen to help choose and prepare healthy recipes and the whole family will benefit.
There’s always one office pal who brings in the basket of baked goodies, insisting on watching you eat it. Then there are office-mates who go in groups to pick up the latest fancy coffee drinks, some with no less than 350 calories a pop. And if you try and explain that you’re watching your weight—that’s the center of conversation for the next 2 weeks.
Your best defense: Stick to your guns (and your plan)– overcoming office buddies is all about mind over matter.
Did you know popcorn is a whole grain? One cup of air-popped popcorn has between 30 to 55 calories and 5% of your recommended daily dose of hunger shielding fiber. Snack on 2 cups with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese or 1 tablespoon of whipped butter with ¼ teaspoon sea salt. You can also make your own in the microwave in a flash.
#2: Greek Yogurt
With more protein than traditional yogurt per ounce, nonfat plain Greek yogurt can fill you up so you’ll be less likely to mindlessly snack. Not sure which brand to choose? Check how popular brands fared in Dana’s taste test.
These crustaceans pack a protein punch for very few calories. One ounce (4 large shrimp) has 30 calories, 6 grams of protein and has minimal fat. Shrimp is also a good source of vitamin D and selenium and even contains several energy-boosting B-vitamins. If you’re allergic to shellfish or just don’t care for shrimp, choose skinless, boneless chicken breast which has 46 calories, 9 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat per ounce.
Recipe: Robin’s Coconut Shrimp
What’s the pH Diet?
The theory behind this plan is that if you consume loads of acid-producing foods it will lead to a metabolic imbalance. The body will try very hard to regain its equilibrium, making you sick in the process.
The diet claims that if you eat more alkaline and less acid-forming foods, it will help reduce inflammation and increase your resistance to disease.
According to the diet, you should be eating 80% alkaline-forming foods and 20% acid-forming foods. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association determined how different foods affect the urine’s acidity. The results found that the most acid-forming foods included poultry, fish, dairy products, meat, caffeine, sugar and salt. Grains were found to be slightly acid forming. The most alkaline-forming foods were fruits and vegetables.
What Is Moringa?
Also known as the “Drumstick Tree” moringa oleifera is grown in the Himalayas, as well as throughout India and Malaysia. The bark, leaves, fruit, seeds and root are edible and are used to make teas, oils, extracts and other supplements.
Peddlers of morgina products claim it can boost energy, suppress appetite, lower blood pressure and improve mood.
Morgina products range from teas and oils, to capsules and liquid extracts. And these supplements aren’t cheap! A bottle of 120 capsules costs about $30 to $40.