Updated: Nov 7
We live in a world where diets are everywhere: Keto, intermittent fasting, paleo, vegan, raw, gluten free, and other diet plans are hot topics and conversation starters. There’s hardly a product in the grocery store that isn’t labeled “(insert diet here) approved.”
And with all the constantly changing information swirling around, it’s no wonder people are confused, overwhelmed, and left to wonder:
What diet should I be following?
What is the “best” diet?
But I think the real question we should be asking is: Is there really one “best” diet you (or anybody) should be adhering to?
In a word: no.
Let’s clear up some of the confusion and look at why there is no one "best" diet you should follow - and how you can figure out what actually does work best for you. (And if you'd prefer to watch a video on this topic, check out my YouTube channel! https://youtu.be/9F4PF0G_3nE)
(On a side note: as a nutrition and health coach, I don’t *love* the word diet...While
technically your “diet” is just the foods you eat on a daily basis, I think the general
connotations that come with the word are more negative than positive. In the real world,
we don’t eat “diets” or macronutrients or calories or points...we eat food, we eat meals,
and we eat for a lot of reasons other than just to reach our health, fitness, or aesthetic
There are several reasons why I think there’s no one diet that can be labeled the "best," and why you will have to determine what works to fit your unique body and lifestyle:
1) Humans can thrive on a lot of different diets – and be healthy, happy, and
reach their goals.
If you look at different cultures or parts of the world, there is a huge variety in dietary practices, and there are healthier and less healthy people in all of them. (This of course will depend on your definition of health, but for today let’s assume healthy means a general state of physical and mental well-being.)
There are places in the world where high-fat animal protein and very few vegetables is standard, or where white rice is a staple at most meals.
There are cultures where the diet varies according strictly to what is available or in season – whether that is nuts, seeds, and fruit, or meat and grains.
There are areas where food is eaten in small quantities regularly throughout the day, or only in one or two larger meals.
Even if you just look around at the people you know there is probably a wide variety in terms of their diet: you might know someone who is strictly vegan, or someone who seems to eat only meat and potatoes.
You might have friends who consume a ton of carbs or one who avoids all fruits and starchy vegetables.
Maybe you know someone who has Celiac and has to be strictly gluten free, or someone who swears intermittent fasting has changed their life.
Bottom line: humans can adapt to and thrive on many different kinds of diets, and there is not right or wrong answer if it works for you and your goals.
2) Most diets actually have a lot in common, and where they overlap is a great
place to start.
Whether you’re talking about low-carb, high-fat, or anything in between, most diet plans emphasize eating mostly whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies, getting enough protein, and avoiding highly processed foods.
You don’t have to follow any one strict plan to get the benefits of general good eating practices. (And for the most part, I’d argue that trying to follow a strict plan is probably going to cause more stress and therefore less wellness in the long run.)
Focusing on these basic principles and modifying as needed to meet your needs will help you find what fits your life, while also allowing you to adapt along the way as you or your goals shift and change.
Which leads us to...
3) Your best diet will be compatible with your particular lifestyle and goals.
The endurance athlete might have a completely different dietary preference to the person who works the overnight shift, or the breastfeeding mother, or the person trying to manage an auto-immune disease.
The single person living alone and working from home might have very different food prep habits than someone with three kids and a long commute, which might be very different from the broke college student.
Taking into consideration how much time and energy you are willing and able to put into your daily food choices is also an important factor to consider. Do you want to cook most of your own meals from scratch? Or does it make sense to use some prepared foods, grocery delivery, or takeout options?
There’s more to your diet than just the actual foods you are eating, and finding what works best for you means looking not only what makes you feel great, but also how food fits into your real life.
With all these things in mind, you may have to experiment a bit to figure out what suits you, and your goals and lifestyle. In the end, your best diet should help you enjoy food, feel great, reach your goals, and fit into your daily life the way you want.
If you’re constantly trying to fit a square peg into a round hole in terms of your food and eating choices, it’s not likely to bring you a sense of health and well-being.
If you get cranky and can’t focus if you don’t eat in the morning, skipping breakfast is probably not the best choice for you.
If eating grains or raw vegetables makes you feel bloated and uncomfortable, then a high-carb or raw vegan diet is probably not the way to go – even if someone else you know or admire loves that way of eating.
If you sleep great when you have a little snack before bed, then trying to stop all eating at 6pm might not be the answer.
On the other hand:
If you feel great when you eat a big breakfast and a smaller lunch and dinner, awesome!
If you find your workouts are amazing when you eat more starchy carbs, go for it!
If your allergies seem to disappear when you skip the dairy products, great!
You get the idea. When it comes to diet, you do you.
One last important note: only considering *what* you are eating without considering the larger context means we are missing a big piece of the puzzle.
If you’re eating the “perfect” diet for you, but you’re not getting enough sleep or are super stressed out all the time or you are missing out on important social relationships, your health is going to suffer.
No diet can overcome an unstable foundation, and creating a solid base allows
you to experiment and discover what will help you create a sense of “deep health” –
where you are at your best physically, mentally, emotionally, and in all areas of your life.