foods

How to Pick a Specialty Diet that Works for You

By: Ashley Martinez, RDN, LD, Kroger Health

Ready to take on a new way of eating? We’ve got options for you! Selecting a specialty diet to follow can be overwhelming, especially when there are so many options out there. It’s important to ask yourself exactly what your nutrition goals are to see how they align with a particular eating style. Maybe you have other mouths to feed in the household, are on the go, or enjoy cooking more complex meals. Let’s take a look at some of the most common specialty diets and see if there is one for you.

Plant-Based

A plant-based diet, or plant-forward eating, focuses on consuming mostly plants. On a plant-based plan, the majority of your diet should include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, oils and grains. Meat, fish and dairy are typically consumed in smaller amounts or used as garnish instead of representing the center of the plate. One rule of thumb to get started on this diet is to fill half of your plate with produce. Typical proteins that are consumed instead of meat include soy, beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu and plant-based meat alternatives like plant-based patties made of pea protein.

Some things to consider:

  • Flexibility – Since plant-based eating is a trendy diet that’s here to stay, now more than ever, brands are developing products that are plant based, nutrient dense and convenient for on the go. There are tons of produce items to choose from and fun recipes that you can experiment with to learn which food swaps work best for you!
  • Work/life balance – This eating style is probably the best diet for work/life balance. You can easily juggle a lot while simply eating more plants! Plant-based eating also provides plenty of energy for your busy lifestyle, as you are consuming more nutrient-dense foods that provide fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Preferences/likability – There’s definitely no lack of flavor with a plant-based diet. Spices and fresh herbs are used quite often to bring out flavors similar to meat and dairy in produce items that provide umami flavor (tomatoes, mushrooms) and dairy flavor (nutritional yeast). Experiment with different spices and ingredients to find the perfect match for your preferences.
  • What works for your body – Consuming more fiber at once can cause some gastric distress. Pay attention to the produce items that you may be a bit more sensitive to and reach for more of the items that work well with your body.

Paleo

The Paleo diet, formally called the Paleolithic diet, is based on the concept of eating foods that were readily available to our ancient ancestors. A few phrases to describe this diet are “hunter-gather” and “the caveman diet,” all of which represent our ancestral past. The core of this eating style encompasses whole foods like vegetables, meat, fish, fruits, nuts and seeds. Quite simply, the premise of eating this way is said to optimize foods for your body that have been programmed into your DNA. The theory is that if our ancestors ate this way, our modern bodies will respond better to the same foods. Some foods that are not a part of the diet include whole grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugars and oils, salt, potatoes and processed foods. Paleo followers believe that these foods are inflammatory, causing stress on the body. This is not, however, a statement supported by science. It comes down to whether you personally prefer to eat this way or not.

Some things to consider:

  • Flexibility – Paleo is a bit more of a hands-on diet, typically requiring more cooking than other eating styles.
  • Work/life balance – Produce, nuts and seeds are easy foods to grab and go.
  • Preference/likability – Many traditional recipes will need to be swapped with almond flour, coconut or almond milk, cauliflower rice or almond butter to meet the expectations of the diet.
  • What works for your body – While trying out this new eating style, pay attention to how your body reacts by assessing your hunger level, energy and overall physical tolerance.

Keto

Keto, formally known as the Ketogenic diet, is a high-fat, moderate-protein diet that is low in carbohydrates. When carbohydrate consumption is rather low, the body goes into ketosis, which breaks down stored fat for energy. This diet was originally designed for those with epilepsy, however, in today’s day in age, it has become a very trendy diet as many have had significant success with it. A typical ketogenic diet contains only about 5% intake of carbohydrates, although the more “modern keto” diet strives for carbohydrate intake shifting between 10% and 15%.

Some things to consider:

  • Flexibility – When starting a keto eating plan, it can be a bit of an adjustment as your grains, bread, fruits and pasta are either eliminated or consumed in very small amounts. Once a goal is reached in terms of nutrition, weight or energy, many people are more flexible with their carbohydrate choices.
  • Work/life balance – There are many convenience-centric products that can help you stick to keto while juggling your job and home life.
  • Preference/likability – Most people who follow keto enjoy the diet because it is high in fat, which in turn is typically higher in flavor.
  • What works for your body – Starting the keto diet can be a bit overwhelming, as you make a large shift to consuming much less carbohydrates. Pay attention to your hunger cues, stay hydrated and consult with a dietitian for more expert advice. You can schedule an appointment here.

Explore more New Year, Fresh Start inspiration.