At the beginning of every single year, we go through the same routine — like déjà vu. The holiday high eventually wears off, and with a calendar clear of seasonal festivities, you suddenly have plenty of time to notice that your jeans are fitting a bit snugger than usual. But before you beat yourself up for overindulging on a few too many pieces of holiday pie, know that you’re not alone.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average American gains five or more pounds during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, making January the perfect time to dust your shoulder off, hit the reset button and get back on track. So in the spirit of a healthier year (whether it’s January or September, it’s never too late), we chatted up several nutritional experts to get the low-down on the plans we should all have on our radar this year. Spoiler alert: no crazy crash diets on this list.
A 30-day challenge designed to rid processed food from your life, Whole 30 has become quite popular among dieters over the past couple of years — getting coverage in health pubs like Shape and Runner’s World. And according to Michelle Hoover, a nutritional therapy practitioner at Unbound Wellness, this diet is here to stay — mostly because it works. “The 30 days focus on eating a diet filled with vegetables, properly raised meats, healthy fats like coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and fruits in moderation, and omits grains, dairy, and processed foods and oils,” she told me in an interview. “Though strict, Whole 30 varies in sustainability for everyone and I believe that it’s a great place to start if you’re looking to fine tune your health in 2017.”
If you’ve already gotten on board with the idea of Meatless Monday, why not take it a step further and try a plant-based diet in 2017? “Produce, whole grains, nuts and seeds are no longer just for side dishes,” Kathy Siegel, a registered dietitian and nutrition communication consultant for Triad to Wellness, told me. She explains that as more millennials become interested in consuming sustainable foods, many are jumping on the trend to eat vegan or vegetarian. “They’re filling up with plant-based dishes, and feel good nourishing their bodies with nutrient dense foods,” she said.
Worried you won’t get enough protein when you ditch meat? Pam Nisevich Bede, registered dietitian with EAS Sports Nutrition, assures us there are plenty of plant-based proteins to choose from, including soy and pea protein. What’s more, these proteins have less saturated fat and cholesterol than meat.
The Flexitarian Diet
If the idea of completely cutting out meat makes you a little nervous (it’s okay, I’m with you), the Flexitarian Diet might provide the best of both worlds. “We are seeing a trend in ‘flexible vegetarians,’ which means you eat things like tofu, quinoa, tons of produce and vegetables, but you occasionally fuel up with meat protein,” explains Bede. The major advantage, she says, is that you don’t have to be pigeon-holed into one way of eating or another. “Some diets can be way too restrictive,” she says. “But the more flexibility you can introduce while on a diet regimen, the better.” The drawback, if there is one: cutting down on meat means having to be more strategic in planning out your day’s meals in order to prevent energy drops or a constant feeling of hunger. “Active women should aim for about 30 grams of protein per meal ,” Bede suggests.
Taking the top spot on U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 list of “Best Diets,” DASH stands for the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. “This is the seventh time that the diet is number one on the World Report’s list,” says Gisela Bouvier, a registered dietician and the face behind B Nutrition & Wellness. “This is due to the diet not only focusing on low sodium foods, but also focusing on healthy foods from all food groups.” With a strong focus on lean meats, whole grains, fruits, veggies and healthy fat, Bouvier explains, this plan provides a lot of options.
Taking the number two spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list was the Mediterranean Diet — one that Bouvier often recommends to her clients. “The Mediterranean Diet has been around for centuries,” she says. “The diet focuses on limiting red meat, sugar and saturated fat, while increasing healthy fats from fish and olive oil, and including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.” One thing to keep in mind, Bouvier advises: good fat is still fat, and portions are still important.
The Low FODMAP Diet
FODMAPS are short-chain carbohydrates that, if not properly digested, can ferment in the bowel and result in major digestive stress. The theory: by lowering your FODMAPS, you’ll essentially lower your digestive trouble. “This diet is geared to quell digestive symptoms in the 1 in 5 (25-45 million) Americans that suffer digestive woes, specifically IBS,” said Kate Scarlata, a Boston-based dietician with over 30 years of experience helping take control of their nutrition. “The diet modifies certain poorly absorbed carbs and is effective in managing symptoms in 75 percent of IBS sufferers,” she said.
What you could expect to cut out on the Low FODMAPS diet: wheat, rye, lactose (found in many cheeses and yogurt), honey, certain fruits like apples, onions, legumes and artificial sweetners. But it’s not all bad news. According to U.S. News and World Report, while on the program, you’re free to indulge on meat, poultry, fish, eggs and cold cuts, as well as lactose-free dairy, hard cheeses, nuts, seeds and wheat-free grains like oats and quinoa.
We’ve all heard of juice cleanses. But if you’re anything like me, 24-plus hours of consuming nothing but light liquids is bound to turn you into a ravenous monster straight out of an episode of The Walking Dead. Luckily, LA-based celebrity holistic nutritionist and cleanse expert Elissa Goodman told me that juicing is out and souping is in. “For lasting results, if you’re looking to cleanse, I always recommend a whole food cleanse program, and soup just happens to be a great way to pack in a ton of nutrients — including the fiber and protein that is often missing from juices — while keeping sugar content low and taking it easy on your digestive system,” says Goodman. “For consistent weight loss that sticks, it is essential that your vitamins, minerals, and food groups are all touched upon, and souping makes that part easy.”
She also explains that soups can simultaneously detoxify and nourish the body. They’re also extremely satiating, warm and comforting — all essential for long term success, according to Goodman. “I see soup programs pop up all over the place, as well as many online DIY versions that are easy to follow along at home.”
Matcha Meal Replacer
If you’re feeling a little lethargic, Goodman recommends trying a matcha meal replacer to boost your energy. “Drinking matcha has been shown to increase metabolism and help the body burn fat 3-4 times faster than average, without the negative side effects that coffee carries with it,” she says. “No raise in heart rate or blood pressure, and not taxing on the adrenal system.” Another weight maintenance benefit is matcha’s high level of chlorophyll, which makes it a powerful detoxifier, capable of removing toxins and heavy metals in our system. “Both which make you hang on to stubborn weight,” says Goodman.
If you’ve got baby-making on the brain for 2017, Bouvier recommends the Fertility Diet, which snagged the number eight spot on this year’s Best Diets list. “It focuses on dietary changes, weight loss, and increasing activity to help increase ovulation and aid in fertility,” she tells us. ” It focuses on healthy fats, whole grains, plant-based proteins, and full-fat dairy.” While many may question how this diet affects cholesterol levels (since it allows full-fat dairy), Bouvier notes that if portions are controlled, then effects on cholesterol can be minimal.
Can learning more about our genetic makeup actually help us lose weight? According to one company, it might. “Looking at DNA results and genetic predisposition tests can provide answers to questions about one’s weight, metabolism, eating habits and food intolerances,” says Carlo L. Chapelle of EasyDNA, a UK-based DNA testing company that offers diet and nutrition DNA testing, as well as wellness and lifestyle testing. “We know that there are certain genes which potentially affect how we view certain foods, which then influence our behavior.” According to Chapelle, being in tune with your genetic makeup could help you better understand your own relationship with food and work toward making mindful changes.
The secret ingredient to healthier living
There you have it — these are the diets that, according to the experts, will get you one step closer to your wellness goals.
But there’s one more important ingredient that’s key in any wellness plan — water. “Water is the single most important thing we can put in our bodies,” Rothenberg told me.”We need water for energy. We need water to metabolize water soluble vitamins (B + C).” So whether you decide to sip on soup, cut the carbs or load up on more greens, always remember to stay hydrated.
Cheers to healthier living, friends!