For many of us, we use January as a way to reset our diet and exercise regimen. New year, new me – right? There are so many different diets and ways of eating it can get really overwhelming when trying to determine which is the best for you.
Jennifer Ostman is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner based in Dallas. Along with some friends, I worked with her last year on a six-week sugar detox. I reached out to her for her advice on clean eating and her opinion the Paleo, Whole30, and Keto diets. “As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I believe the most important thing anyone can do for their health is eliminate processed foods and eat a properly-prepared, nutrient-dense diet made of real whole foods. While a New Year’s resolution to eat healthy and exercise is admirable, many people try to jump from a SAD diet (Standard American Diet) right into a fairly extreme diet such as Keto. And while I do think these diets have great benefits, I do not think it is realistic to expect real lasting results if you currently eat a lot of processed food,”
Three of the most talked about diets is the Paleo diet, Whole30, and the Keto Diet. There are some similarities among these diets and there are a lot of differences between them, as well. The Paleo diet is more of a lifestyle change, where the Whole30 is short term diet designed to kick-start healthy eating and weight loss. The Keto diet can be controversial, as it promotes a low carb, high fat eating which isn’t necessarily the healthiest in the long term.
How do you know which way of eating is right for you? Here is a breakdown of these three diets.
The Paleo diet is more of a lifestyle than a diet. Developed by Loren Cordain, PhD, the Paleo diet is also known as the “caveman diet”, since it focuses on food eaten by hunter-gatherer civilizations.
Foods that are allowed:
Foods to avoid:
The Palo diet may be beneficial to people prone to internal inflammation, have been diagnosed with PCOS or another auto-immune disease, have insulin resistance or need to regulate your blood sugar due to diabetes or pre-diabetes, have high cholesterol or heart disease, or are looking to lose weight (or maintain weight loss). Like the Whole30, the diet eliminates processed foods, processed sugar, gluten, and dairy. Unlike the Whole30, you can enjoy a glass of wine (in moderation, like on a Friday night after a long week at work). This diet is also easier to maintain long-term since it’s not a rigid as the Whole30 or the Keto diet.
Developed by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig in 2009, the Whole30 is an elimination diet. Foods that contain sugars and sweeteners, gluten, dairy, and legumes may be causing you to have internal inflammation or leaky gut, have low energy levels, poor sleep quality, and cause your blood sugar levels to spike. The idea is to eliminate these foods and food groups for 30 days, allowing your body to heal and reset.
This elimination diet doesn’t require you to count calories, carbohydrates, or macronutrients like the Keto diet. You can eat as much as you want – as long as it is a Whole30 approved food. The rules of the Whole30 are very strict. No cheat days are allowed; if you slip up, the program expects you to start all over again at day 1.
What you can eat during the 30 days:
What you can’t eat for 30 days:
I did the Whole30 back in 2015 when I first moved to Dallas. I had been on a two-month goodbye tour of New Jersey and I was so ready to detox. I’m not going to lie – it was hard. Not being able to have a glass of wine on a Friday night was brutal. But, I got really good at reading labels and learning how to make better food choices. To this day, I avoid legumes as much as possible and try and limit the amount of rice and corn I consume. The Whole30 has become very popular over the past few years. As a result, there are a lot more options availablefor people wanting to partake in this diet.
The Keto diet is basically a low-carb diet, high-fat diet like Atkins. When you drastically reduce the amount of carbs eaten, your body goes into ketosis, a type of metabolic state. When you reach ketosis, your body is relying on burning fat instead of sugar for energy.
The standard keto diet contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs. This can help reduce blood sugar spikes and helps keep insulin levels regulated. However, there is a lot of controversary around the Keto diet, as there are some dangerous side effects.
Diabetics are advised not to follow this diet, unless under close doctor supervision. Acids are produced as a byproduct of burning fat – too much of this buildup causes the blood to become too acidic, which damages the liver, kidneys, and brain. Ketoacidosis can develop, which can become fatal if left untreated.
Another concern doctors and nutritionists have about the Keto diet is people going overboard on the high-fat foods. Bacon is delicious but you shouldn’t eat it at every meal. As a result, people who follow the Keto diet may be prone to weight gain, not weight loss.
The keto diet has been found to be beneficial for people suffering from seizures or epilepsy.
Foods that are allowed:
Foods to avoid:
“Paleo and Whole30 are very similar; are you the type of person who needs a “program” with an official start and end date? Then Whole30 is a great option. Are you a rebel who doesn’t want to be tied down by those strict rules? Maybe exploring Paleo feels better to you. Keto is a therapeutic diet that can be very beneficial, but needs to be thoroughly researched and executed correctly, in my opinion. Ideally with the guidance of a practitioner,” said Jennifer.
At the end of the day, you need to determine what is sustainable for you and your family. Maybe one specific diet doesn’t fit into your lifestyle but a combination of two works best. We follow a combination of the Paleo diet and the Whole30. This allows us to eat clean while still being able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on occasion.
“The bottom line is that we must respect bio-individuality. We are each very unique, and cannot expect that one diet will heal everyone,” said Jennifer. “Personally, I know that I do very well with high fat and low carb. I also have family members and clients who have more energy, better digestion, and better overall health with more carbs. You must find what works best for you. Give Paleo a try for 30 days. Try the Whole30. Test out a few Keto recipes. How do you feel? Trust your instinct!” she concludes.
As always, if you are starting out on a new diet and/or fitness regime, you should consult with your doctor, healthcare provider, or nutritionist. He or she may recommend you start your diet a specific way or advise against one versus another based on pre-existing health issues.
Jennifer Ostman is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner based in Dallas, TX. She is creating an online program called The 30 Day Real Food Challenge: a fully online course that provides a complete 30-Day Meal Plan (grocery lists, meal prep guide & recipes), nutrition education, kitchen skills, and practical tips. This program is designed to help you cultivate new habits that will last you a lifetime. Coming April 2019!