Diets Demystified

written by Lisa Maguire and Nicolette Rovet

The list of fad diets is quickly growing longer and the importance of knowing what you’re eating and how it effects you is as important as ever. Typically, when people think of “diet” they think of weight loss, short-term changes, and food that doesn’t “taste good.” The word diet can absolutely mean a short term change to eating habits to get weight loss results. It also refers to your long term eating habits. We all actively have a diet. If your main source oChicken.jpgf calories is pizza and beer, then your diet is pizza and beer.

There is generally one of two main reasons behind the decision to change a diet. One is weight loss, and the other is to better your health. The latter houses an array of prompts, but ultimately if you are concerned about gluten, have diabetes, heart issues, or just want to feel better, it’s all in the name of being healthier.

So, you know you want to be “healthier.” You know you want to eat “better.” But what does that mean? The most common problems in figuring that out are what to eat, and who to trust in helping to make those decisions. Unfortunately, our knowledge about what we’re eating and how it affects us long term is still developing. There’s no cookie cutter diet that fits all needs, and everyone is an expert these days. The number one rule in changing your diet is to be educated. Listen to sources you can trust – your doctor, a nutritionist, your own good sense. Read about different foods, different diet trends, stay up to date on the most recent trends in eating, and attempt to understand why they’re moving in that direction. The more you know, the better you’ll be at making on the fly choices about what to eat, and the more successful you’ll be long term.

So, keeping in mind that there is no one size fits all in dieting, and also that you should always consult your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet, (replacing that second slice of pizza with a side salad probably doesn’t warrant the visit or the copay!), here is a list of some recent dieting trends and general practices that HAC supports. Please remember, HAC recommends pulling elements from many styles of dieting to offer more balance and create a plan that will truly work for you long-term.

Paleo Diet

What is it? The Paleo Diet is based upon everyday, modern foods that mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors. Following the guidelines in this diet, protein, fiber, and healthy fat intake is increased while carbohydrate intake is decreased. Typically Paleo-friendly foods are unprocessed, natural foods, as they are easy for our bodies to digest.

Main Palette: Animal Protein (beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc.) Plant Protein, Nuts, Seeds, Eggs, Fruit, Vegetables.

Main Avoidances: Grains (wheat products, rice, corn, etc.), Dairy, Beans/Legumes, Refined Sugars, Artificial Sweeteners


Best Uses: You are likely to see weight loss or changes in your body if switching from a diet that is drastically different in nature. If you are living on pizza and beer, expect to see rapid changes. Remember, the Paleo Diet is most effective as a lifestyle change, not a temporary diet. For a shorter term commitment with results that are still likely to last, try the “Whole 30” diet, which is a strict 30 day commitment to Paleo-style foods, and follow it with a looser form of Paleo. For help designing a Paleo-based follow up meal plan that incorporates other food items, consult a nutrition coach.

More Information:200253637-001
Paleo Diet:
The Whole30 Program:
Nutrition Coach at HAC:


What is it? The vegetarian diet mainly excludes animal based protein, including eggs or dairy products, though some vegetarians do eat fish, eggs, and dairy.

Main Palette: Plant Protein, Nuts, Seeds, Fruit, Vegetables, Grains (wheat products, rice, corn, etc.)

Main Avoidances: Animal Protein (beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc.)

Best Uses: Most vegetarians either have a difficult time digesting meat or they have a moral aversion to eating animal protein. Just excluding meat from your diet is unlikely to produce dramatic health or weight loss results, using Vegetarianism as a baseline is a good way to get yourself in the habit of ingesting more fruits and vegetables. Adding the principles of avoiding processed foods, refined sugar, and artificial sweeteners when possible will help you move in the right direction. It is important to speak with your physician or a nutrition coach prior to taking on a major diet change such as removing meat entirely.

More Information:
Nutrition Coach at HAC:


What is it? The vegan diet excludes animal based protein, as well as any animal by-product. It is much more strict than vegetarianism with regard to any consumption or use of animals or their by-products.

Main Palette: Plant Protein, Nuts, Seeds, Fruit, Vegetables, Grains (wheat products, rice, corn, etc.)

DV_sb10062327ai-001.jpgMain Avoidances: Animal Protein (beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc.), Eggs, Dairy

Best Uses: Like vegetarians, many vegans have a moral aversion to eating animal protein and it is important to speak with your physician or a nutrition coach prior to removing all animal products entirely from your diet.

More Information:
Nutrition Coach at HAC:

Gluten Free

What is it? The Gluten-free diet began as a prescription for people with Celiac disease, and as more people began to test negative while showing classic symptoms of Celiac disease, it became a prescription for what’s now known as gluten-sensitivity.

There is a very fine line between enjoying a healthy gluten free diet and an unhealthy one. Just because a product is “gluten-free” doesn’t make it good for you. If you do decide to hop on the gluten-free bandwagon, try cutting back all grain consumption and eating gluten-free replacements when necessary, while increasing your intake of naturally gluten free items such as meat, dairy, vegetables, and fruit.

Main Palette: Animal Protein (beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc.) Plant Protein, Nuts, Seeds, Eggs, Fruit, Vegetables, and Dairy

Main Avoidances: Gluten

Best Uses: To reduce bloating and various causes of discomfort in some cases or to pave the way to eating a lower-carbohydrate style of diet. People who decide to go gluten free and see differences in their physique or on the scale usually have begun avoiding grain rather than replacing their normal gluten products and eating habits with gluten free substitutes.

More Information:
Nutrition Coach at HAC:


What is it? The Mediterranean Diet has been getting recent rave reviews for its claimed health benefits. According to the U.S. National Library of Health Medicine, this diet can lower the risk of heart disease and other ailments due to lower triglycerides and cholesterol, as well as stabilizing blood sugar.

Main Palette: Plant Protein, Nuts, Seeds, Fruit, Vegetables, Grains (wheat products, rice, corn, etc.) Fish and Other Seafood, Olive Oils, Healthy Fats
** Red meat is included in the diet but limited to just a couple of meals each month.
** Dairy is also included in limited amounts, usually in the form of cheese or yogurt.

Main Avoidances: Eggs, Butter, and Refined Sugars

Best Uses: To improve overall health.

More Information:
U.S. National Library of Health Medicine:
Mediterranean Diet as Explained by
Nutrition Coach at HAC:


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