“The old adage of ‘If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,’ is a good gauge for a major fail!” advised Laura Buxenbaum, a registered dietitian and assistant director for food and nutrition outreach for The Dairy Alliance.
Buxenbaum encourages consumers to avoid setting themselves up for “diet disasters,” short-term approaches that promise fast weight loss, or those that sound healthy but aren’t ultimately sustainable. “What’s more,” Buxenbaum added, “these weight loss methods may be harmful to our health.”
First, she advised, steer clear of fad diets. “If a diet offers a quick fix, cuts out a whole food group and is not based on science, it is a fad diet. While it may not seem harmful to do a quick-fix fad diet, continually yo-yo dieting slows your metabolism and, according to research, most people gain the weight back, plus more. Cutting out entire food groups can result in a shortage of essential nutrients, which can cause serious health problems. For example, cutting out dairy foods can result in under-consuming vitamin D and calcium, which could lead to osteoporosis.”
Instead, she said, enjoy a variety of foods and adhere to a lifestyle, rather than a diet. “Think of it as ‘undieting,’” she said, citing the Mediterranean Diet. “This food approach emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil, as well as nutrient-rich dairy foods like cheese and yogurt. The Mediterranean lifestyle is realistic, and it is easy to find on restaurant menus or cook at home.”
Secondly, “don’t fear foods, especially fat,” Buxenbaum emphasized. “Too often we assume that foods that contain fat are too high in calories and need to be replaced with low-fat or fat-free options. However, when fat is removed from foods, manufacturers often replace it with sugar to improve taste. Fat is important because it is a major source of energy. It helps our body absorb certain nutrients and produce hormones. It also helps curb hunger.”
Buxenbaum recommended maximizing meals and snack times by adding foods with staying power like avocados, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish and full-fat dairy products.
“People may shy away from fat in dairy foods because they are concerned about saturated fat, but recently exciting research suggests saturated fat consumption is not linked to poor heart health. Furthermore, observational studies show that dairy food consumption, regardless of fat content, does not increase heart disease risk.”
Lastly, she said, be wary of any eating plan that calls for skipping meals, like intermittent fasting. “Skipping meals can lead to over-eating at the next meal and making poor food choices in between. If you have underlying medical conditions, skipping meals can be dangerous.”
Instead, she said, try “smaller meals with planned snacks, which spread calories throughout the day, rather than during a restricted time frame—and that starts with a protein-rich breakfast.”