Just What Is A Healthy Diet?

Just What is a Healthy Diet?Over the past few years we have been inundated with “new diets” and healthy lifestyles.  From Gluten Free, to Paleo, to Carbs and Fats…it can make a person quite crazy trying to figure out how to have a Healthy Diet.  What does it all mean?  Is any of it right for me?

What is a Healthy Diet?

My own Weight Journey has led me down many roads.  From trying to eat a low fat diet in the 90’s to trying the Atkins Diet.  I have come to a place where, regardless of the latest fad, I seek to nourish myself with the healthiest food possible.  The problem is that we can’t seem to agree upon what constitutes a Healthy Diet.  So, with that in mind, I would like to discuss a few of the trends out there today and what they mean.

Gluten Free Diet

I stumbled upon a gluten free (GF) diet, due to the prevalence of gluten allergies in my husband’s family.  We have had a gluten free house for almost 10 years.  While I don’t have the severe allergies to gluten that others in our family do, I do maintain a gluten free diet.  There are a large number of people who have gluten allergies and intolerance, there are others who choose to eat a GF diet of their own accord.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It is what makes breads hold their shape, and is the glue that holds them together.

What is a Gluten Free Diet?

In short, a GF diet is one that is is without wheat, rye, barley and other grains that have gluten.  Things to avoid on a GF diet include anything made with any kind of grain, unless specifically marked as GF or Gluten Free.  Today there are a lot of options for substitutions, that taste just as good, or even better than the originals.  So, you would want to avoid breads, pasta, cereals and anything breaded to start with.  No beer, or malt based beverages (malt is made from barley).  Most salad dressings, commercially prepared sauces and condiments have a high rate of glutenous additives.  Unless you are willing to make your own, check your labels carefully for items marked GF.

It pays to do your own homework, and decide what works best with your own body.  However, grains such as rice, oats (if specified as GF) and corn are all GF.   Of course, meat (double check anything that is prepared or processed), dairy, nuts, fruits and vegetables are all naturally GF.

Healthy Diet: Gluten Free

Paleo Diet

If you start doing research into a Healthy Diet on the internet, Paleo is bound to be one of the first things that comes up.  The premise of Paleo is only eating those things which our paleolithic ancestors would have eaten.  Basically, it includes meat, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables and nuts.  A Paleo diet omits all grains and dairy, as well as refined sugars.

As with most “fads”, the food manufacturers have jumped on this bandwagon too.  Today you can find Paleo bars, flour mixes and other treats.  The market for all things coconut (flours, oil and even sugars) have also sprung up in recent years. As well as a society wide fetish for bacon.

As with any other diet, you need to make sure that what you are eating meets your health goals.  Personally, I have found that I really don’t want to give up dairy.  Otherwise, we eat a fairly Paleo diet.  We do not miss eating grains at all, but have learned that we still have to watch our intake of starches and sweeteners.

Healthy Diet: Paleo

High Carb, Low Fat Diet

This is the government sponsored/promoted diet that became popular in the 80’s.  There are many, many people who believe that this diet has led to huge increases in diabetes, auto-immune diseases, autism, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

The premise of this diet is that you should eat as much as 6-11 servings of grain based foods, followed by 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, 2-3 servings of dairy and proteins and “sparing” use of fats and sweets.  Since these recommendations have, at a minimum, 15 servings of food per day, you will have to eat around the clock.  Plus, over half of the servings in your diet would be carb based.

High Carb, Low Fat
Graphic courtesy of the USDA

Low Carb, High Fat Diet

My first exposure to this type of diet was through Karl Denninger, The Market Ticker.  Karl writes about money and financial stuff, the state of the country and eating healthy.  He follows a no nonsense Low Carb, High Fat diet.  My husband stated following his advice, and is back down to a weight he hasn’t seen in over 10 years.  My biggest success on this type of diet is that I’m not hungry all of the time.  I used to be the kind of person who would have to drop everything to have lunch.  Now, I can eat a late breakfast, and skip lunch if I choose.

Low Carb

The premise of this diet is that it is Carbs (sugars) that make us fat, and not fats…contrary to popular belief.  When you pause to think about some of the biggest diseases facing our society today it is really hard to argue with this logic.  Carbs, which are found in all grains, starchy vegetables, fruits and sweeteners, are easily linked to diseases such as Diabetes.  Unfortunately, the common belief is that we just need a good sugar substitute and we’re good to go.  However, keep in mind that wheat is still made up of 70% carbs (sugars).

High Fat

The other side of this diet is High Fat intake.  Keep in mind your brain and other organs need fat to function.   Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble, meaning that your body can’t use them unless there is fat to help make them available.  Also, fat makes you feel satiated, thus you don’t feel hungry all the time.

After years of believing that a Low Fat diet was the only healthy way to live, it took me a while to digest the idea of a High Fat diet.  What really did it for me was considering how foods come in their most natural state.  Most of our meat and fish are naturally fatty.  Eggs, almost a super food, are also high on the fat scale.  Dairy products are naturally fatty.  Nuts are also naturally high in fat.  It takes a great deal of processing to make most foods low in fat.

Healthy Diet: Low Carb, High Fat

So, Just What is a Healthy Diet?

Well, I can’t answer that for you. For me, a Healthy Diet is one that leaves my body feeling good.  So, for me a Healthy Diet is one that starts with foods in their most natural, least processed state.  I look to foods that provide nourishment, not just calories.  I have gotten over my fear of fat, and enjoy bacon and sausage regularly for breakfast.  To reduce our carb intake, we substitute veggies for pastas and rice as side dishes.  Although, one of my favorite things to do is baking.  In order to reduce the carbs, I often substitute coconut and almond flours, as well as automatically cut the sugar in half.

For additional information check out:
  • The Wheat Belly
    • Dr. William David explains how wheat and other grains are processed in the body, as well as tips on living a grain free lifestyle
  • Against All Grain
    • Danielle Walker tells her story of healing from an autoimmune disease, and shares many of her recipes (I own two of her cookbooks)
  • The Nourished Life
    • Elizabeth Walling writes about natural living, and reducing stress.  In her book “The Nourished Metabolism” Elizabeth wrote about how the foods we eat can actually cause undo stress on our bodies, slowing down our metabolism.
What is your healthy diet?

This is merely a brief list of what is currently out there in the Diet Fad world.  In the process of learning to listen to my body, I have made the choice to stop listening to all of the other “experts” out there with their “studies”.  So, the question I ask is “Does this choice nourish me in some way?”  There are many ways to nourish.  For example, having a cup of coffee in the morning is nourishing to my soul, as I really enjoy it.  I love the whole process of making it, listening to it perk and smelling the wonderful early morning smell of coffee.  Then, there’s the feeling of the hot cup in your hand, and that first sip that wakes up my sleepy senses in the morning.

So, what is your healthy diet?

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