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How to Choose the Best Eating Plan for Your Goals

by | Feb 4, 2021 | EATING/FASTING

You want to eat healthier so you can feel better, have more energy, and live a long life. Although that is a great goal, if you have ever tried to learn what it means to “eat healthy” you will likely quickly become confused with all the different theories and opinions of what constitutes a healthy diet.

 Is keto the best diet? Vegan? Paleo? Fasting? Should you avoid meat? Are carbs bad for you? Trying to figure out what diet is best with all of these different opinions can make you want to give up before you even get started.

 So, we thought we would make it simple. The best eating plan is the one that meets your personal goals, preferences, and lifestyle. Ignore what all the “experts” and “gurus” say and find what works best for you.

Identifying Your Goals

The first step to figuring out which eating plan is best is to ask yourself about your personal goals. Knowing why you want to eat better can help direct you towards the diet that works best for you. Here are a few questions start with:

  • Why do I want to eat healthier?
  • What are my current biggest health concerns?
  • Do I have any health conditions that should be considered?
  • What types of health problems run in my family?
  • Do I want to lose or gain weight?
  • Do I want to build muscle?
  • What are some of the diets I have tried in the past? What worked/what didn’t work?

These types of questions can help you start thinking about what type of diet might be best for you. Once you have answers to these questions, consider speaking to your doctor to see if dietary changes are right for you at this time. This is especially important if you have any current health conditions. Your doctor can also help guide you in the right direction.

Evaluating Your Lifestyle

No matter which diet you choose, you won’t be able to stick with it unless it fits into your lifestyle.

For example, if you are a busy parent trying to get dinner on the table every night, a diet that requires complicated recipes or meal preparation likely won’t work for you. If you are someone that has more time, sourcing high-quality ingredients and cooking them from scratch may not be a huge problem.

A few questions to ask yourself about your lifestyle might include:

  •  How much time do I have for cooking?
  • How much time do I have for shopping?
  • Am I willing to meal prep on weekends?
  • How often do I eat out? Does this need to change?
  • What does my family eat? Do I need to prepare different food for them?
  • Do I have time to eat three meals per day?
  • What type of budget do I have to spend on food?

Finding a plan that can fit naturally into your lifestyle can help you stick with it more consistently.

Consider Your Personal Preferences

Finally you want to consider your personal preferences around food. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: 

  • Are there any foods I don’t like/won’t eat?
  • Are there any foods I can’t live without?
  • Do I have any food allergies or intolerances?
  • Do I want to include alcohol in my plan?

These can help guide you towards the type of eating plan that might work. For example, if you love bacon, a vegan diet is probably not going to be optimal or satisfying for you. If that is the case, a lower carb diet that allows animal products might work better.  If you could easily avoid meat, but can’t do without carbs, then maybe vegan is a reasonable option.

What a Healthy Diet Looks Like

Although there are hundreds of diet “theories” out there about the best way to eat, there are a few principles that always hold true when it comes to healthy eating. If a diet does not meet these criteria, you should consider looking elsewhere: 

  1. Provides adequate protein. Protein is the most essential nutrient. It can come from plant or animal sources, but should always be adequate in any diet. There is emerging evidence that too much protein, especially animal protein, may increase risk of certain diseases and negatively affect longevity, so you may want to consider figuring out the correct amount of protein for you.[1], [2]
  2. Focuses on plants. Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest foods you can eat. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Although fruit may be limited on some diets, there is no reason to eliminate it all together.
  3. Includes healthy sources of fat. Fat is not the enemy. Extremely low-fat diets can lead to hormonal imbalances, nerve problems, and an inability to absorb fat soluble vitamins. [3]
  4. Reduces ultra-processed foods. Highly processed foods are generally loaded with sugar, salt, and other undesirable ingredients. A healthy diet should limit the intake of those foods.

Any eating plan can meet these four criteria. The exact foods you choose to omit or include will depend on what works best for you.

Choosing the Best Eating Plan for Your Goals

The purpose of evaluating your personal goals, lifestyle, and preferences is so that you can develop a healthy way of eating that works for you. Although starting with a “prescribed” diet like keto, vegan, Paleo, etc. may be a good jumping off point, the best diet for you will never fit exactly into one of those specific molds.

Any diet can be healthy, if they are well planned and balanced. The goal is to use these dietary guidelines as a jumping off point for designing your own ideal way of eating. As you begin to design your own approach, here are a few things to consider:

  • Flexibility. A sustainable eating plan should not eliminate all the foods you love. A flexible plan allows for occasional indulgences without going overboard. A flexible plan allows you to eat at most restaurants or go to a friend’s house for dinner without controlling what is being served. Your diet fits into your life, your life should not revolve around your diet.
  • Includes foods you enjoy. A diet consisting of just foods that you hate won’t last very long no matter how healthy it might be.
  • Any healthy meal plan includes an adequate amount of calories and all the essential vitamins and minerals required for health. Ensuring proper nutrition can be difficult when you eliminate entire food groups, which is why the healthiest diets include every food group in moderation.
  • Supports activity. A well-balanced diet will support the type of physical activity you love to do. If you are a runner, you may need a higher carb diet. If you prefer to lift weights, you might need more protein. Your healthy eating plan should take your exercise routine into consideration.

Finally, check in with yourself and constantly re-evaluate. If a way of eating or a specific food isn’t making you feel great, choose something else. Diets are not static and are meant to evolve over time. Be flexible with yourself and listen to your body. If you pay attention to the signs your body is sending, it will guide you towards the best way to eat so you can feel your best.

Read More:

[1] Dietary intake of total, animal, and plant proteins and risk of all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

[2] How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

[3] Is an Ultra-Low-Fat Diet Healthy? The Surprising Truth