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Experts: No fad diet can beat basic healthy eating

Amid trendy diets that emerge over the years, one plan has withstood the test of time, experts said: basic healthy eating.

There’s no glitzy ad campaign, extensive product line or celebrity spokesperson, but local registered dietitians say it can promote a lifetime of benefits.

Brian Smith, clinical nutrition operations manager at UnityPoint Health Des Moines, encourages folks to eat a variety of foods, select as few processed foods as possible, and be careful with salt and refined sugar. He admits the idea isn’t terribly sexy and sounds like nagging.

“It’s been fairly much the same for 50 years,” he said.

Following the concept can help reduce reliance on medications or the need for other health interventions.

Fad diets tend to set people up to fail twice, Smith said. Feeling like a failure prompts them to start a “diet” in the first place. If that doesn’t work, they feel they’ve failed for the second time, he explained.

Katie Paulson, clinical dietitian at Mercy Weight Loss and Nutrition Center, steers patients away from the “diet mentality.”

“Diets can be more of a short-term, quick-fix type of thing,” she said. “When you try to find a specific diet, that puts you on a roller coaster of yo-yoing and frustration.”

Diets also tend to be restrictive, which may be more detrimental to your overall health, she said. It’s important to make healthy modifications and keep a balance, turning to whole foods, lean meats and healthy fats.

The philosophy of registered dietitians is to adopt a consistent, healthful lifestyle, Smith said. With healthful choices, there should be no reason for a cleanse or other short-term, fad diets.

The process revolves around having a healthy relationship with food and recognizing the role food plays in our lives. Paulson and her colleagues encourage “mindful eating” and lifestyle changes. If clients want to eat toward a certain diet, they can tailor a plan to meet their needs and structure can be helpful.

“What works for one may not work for another,” she said.

One major struggle is learning to shop for and cook food, said Smith, who was trained as a home economist and taught at the Iowa Culinary Institute.

“Good groceries cost a heck of a lot less than medication,” he said, adding that one of the best things you can do for yourself is plant a garden.

People are often overwhelmed when shopping and don’t know what to do when they get to the grocery store, Paulson said. Preparing meals at home is another challenge. She suggests searching for recipes on the Internet and watching YouTube videos to learn how to prepare them.

Clinical dietitians can provide individualized plans to improve the quality of your diet. If you’re struggling, dietitians can also provide feedback, reinforcement and accountability, Paulson said.

A look at some current diets:



Vegetarian/vegan diet

Whole 30

  • Summary: Focuses on “clean eating” for 30 days — meat, vegetables, fruit, and good fats such as oils, nuts and avocados. No sugar, dairy, grains, legumes or alcohol. No cheating or scales allowed.
  • Benefits: The idea is to cut out the food that could be making you sick without realizing it, said Meghan Moorlach, a nutritional consultant who works with members of the CrossFit community. “It’s a reset for your system to repair itself,” she said.
  • Drawbacks: Takes discipline. Makes socializing more of a challenge. Moorlach admits the first week is difficult because your body is detoxing and experiencing withdrawal. By the third week, she’s felt more energetic and the plan is easier to follow.
  • Get started: Go to whole30.com. Can be done once or twice a year. Reintroduce foods you like over 10 days to see how they make you feel. After Moorlach’s first Whole 30, she added dairy back into her diet and found it made her sick to her stomach. She’s since switched to almond or coconut milk.

Live Healthy, Cook Healthy, Be Healthy Class

5:30 p.m., YMCA Healthy Living Center, 12493 University Ave., Clive.

March 20: Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle

March 24: Cooking with Quinoa

Hosted by Mercy Weight Loss and Nutrition Center and open to the public.

March is National Nutrition Month. Learn about healthy eating from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and see a timeline of fad diets at www.nationalnutritionmonth.org/nnm/games/timeline/index.html.

RECIPE: Better Mac and Cheese



Nutrition information

Source: Eatright.org, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

RECIPE: Steamed broccoli with coconut oil and pink Himalayan sea salt

Cut fresh broccoli into smaller chunks or purchase already cut up. Steam, or place in steamer basket once water is boiling, for six to seven minutes. Remove from heat and then drizzle with desired amount of coconut oil and sea salt to taste. Coconut oil tastes great on vegetables and sweet potatoes.

Source: Katie Paulson, Mercy Weight Loss and Nutrition Center

RECIPE: Quick pickled rainbow carrots



  • Cut rainbow carrots in diagonal coins and add to jar. Add seasoned rice vinegar to cover and 1 to 2 tablespoons of salsa, about 1 tbsp per cup sliced carrots. Allow to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight and enjoy plain as a snack.

Source: Katie Paulson, Mercy Weight Loss and Nutrition Center

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